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[ Staff Picks ] [ Personal Narratives ]

The Tree of Life

I started dreaming again. Not just dreaming, but creating, envisioning, manifesting, writing. I flush my wounds and pain from the day in my sacred bath. The epsom salts melt and the Lush bath bomb explodes. I am cleansed. I am free.

I smell the scent of lavender and eucalyptus and whatever smell encompasses the frankincense essential oil, I smell that too. My worries melt into the drain and my mind and my heart remind me of how beautiful I am. That I have talent. As we all do.

Sobriety makes me question myself less. I don’t always wonder if I am good enough anymore. When I was deep in my addiction, I always, always questioned myself. It was a second guess. It was a wish for the end.

The once radiating light dissipated into the mountains of substances that pulsated through my veins. I was toxic.

I entered sobriety in surrender. I said yes. I had said yes, with hesitation and reservations many times before, but this last time, I just said yes. I was too tired to fight. I was broken, dying a slow death, because I could never do it quickly. And I tried the quick route, various times. But, I’d end up with half a prescription bottle down my throat, and then say no to the rest.

Something in me wanted to live.

It’s always a similar story, until it’s not. The homelessness, the life and nights in a car, the seedy hotel rooms, the theft, the drug, the deaths, the overdoses – you witness it all.

And you survive. You are a survivor.

I no longer take pity on myself. I don’t wallow in the past. I don’t cry over my mistakes. And I forgive myself, for everything. For, every fucking thing. Even my own part in the death of four lives. I forgive myself.

I wear the tree of life around my neck. It used to be a cross, until I became scared of Jesus. Not necessarily Him, but the idea and portrayal of him that existed in North Dallas.

I remember, being deeply involved with God, sitting through a bible study and wanting to rip my eyes out. A girl told me I was not going to heaven, until I protested my belief in Jesus.

I don’t believe that.

I sat in a church off Interstate 635, a megachurch, between friends. With my face in my hands and heaven in my heart, crying softly, so no one would see. They were comparing abortion to the holocaust and talking of homosexuality as a sin.

I couldn’t do it. I have faith, but not that kind.

It tore me away from church. But, I don’t find church in a temple. I find church in me, and in you. I see God in every human, regardless of their belief or not, it is mine. So, I wear this tree of life to represent my connection to every living, breathing, tiny, huge, thing that exists. I wear it to connect.

We are heart-centered. There was a time when all I saw was evil and Devils and demons and hell. That was it. That was all. But, I became. It is a hard process to become. But, I live. 

I am a survivor. 

So when people tell me how sorry they are that I went through everything I did, I smile politely and say thank you. Sometimes I tell them: “NO! Do not be sorry. Every bit of dirt and darkness led me to this moment. I am a miracle. A warrior. I fought and I fought, against something that few rarely live through. I survived.”

Do you get it? Do you see how magical and beautiful that is?

I don’t think of addiction as a disease anymore. I don’t know what it is, exactly. But, for me now, calling it a disease would diminish the fact that I had a choice and a part. I know after a time, my dopamine receptors hit so high that I was unable to feel pleasure. I know that my pre-frontal cortex was jeopardized and my addiction lived in my reptilian brain – the midbrain – the survival brain.

The part of the brain that says MUST HAVE food, drink, water. Give me. Give me. Get out of my way. Goodbye family. I need drug. I need drug. Goodbye job. I need drug. Goodbye home. I need drug. 

That’s what it was like. All cavewoman-esque. But, I can’t step out of the fact that I had a choice at one point. And I had the ability to quit, just as everyone does. As much as my moral compass was damaged, there was still a will to live.

To not die, in a hotel room in Burbank, named The Orange. To not die in the back of a police vehicle, handcuffed and on the way to another mental hospital.

There was will. A will to live.

I know you have it. Even if you think you don’t.

We can survive.