Reflection of a Recovering Guest Blogger, #4, Part 7

Although Cherie’s story is phenomenal from beginning to end, this part is, by far, my favorite part! This occurred many, many years ago, but I have also become very good friends with Angie, whom you will soon read about. Long before we met, this part of Cherie’s story created within me a very deep respect for this woman named Angie. As I continue to publish this story, you will see that this one selfless, reaching-out act of kindness and trust became the first step in many life-changing and life saving occurrences in both of these women’s lives. Let the following be the foundation of some truly inspiring experiences that have given me a whole new perspective on life.

The still anonymous young woman looked at me with compassion as I entered the room and sat down. Although she said nothing, I was bolstered by the caring concern in her glance. I told Bob after the meeting to set another place at the table. “That is if it’s still an open invitation for me to join you and the gang today. I could sure use some good company.” He smiled and winked.

Then, in turning to the woman of mystery, who was watching me from a distance, Bob said, “Angie you are expected at my place. No excuses.”

Neither of us spoke for what seemed like an eternity. We sat near each other and toyed with the food on our plates. But, despite the tension you could cut with a knife, something else was passing silently between us. She stood and readied to leave. I felt my heart sink. “I’m going for a ride. You want to come,” I barely heard her mumble.

“Oh yes, please, that would be wonderful,” I quickly replied trying to pull my broken body out of the chair.

“Wait here, I’ll get the truck and then, help you.” She had no idea how this simple extension of her hand in friendship had already helped.

A word here, a phrase there and finally, the deafening quiet was broken. Soon, we were ending each other’s sentences. We listened to music and drove around New Orleans for four, five, six hours. I was attracted to the long-haired hippie chick, but it went beyond that. She had an understated intellect and superficiality was totally alien in her persona. I felt in communion with her and sensed the feeling was mutual. Another couple of hours and many miles passed. Neither one of us wanted this interlude to end, but we knew with the approach of dawn it had to. She drove me back to my car and insisted on following me home to be sure I got there safely. I watched her leave and was overwhelmed with loneliness. I turned and slowly started to walk to my apartment with heavy heart not knowing when or if I’d ever see her again.

Angie and Cherie
(Sorry this picture isn’t bigger, but is the only size I have.)

I heard the sound of the Ford 150′s chugging engine getting louder and louder. A truck door slammed and before I could utter any exclamation of surprise Angie was back at my side, taking my elbow and giving me support. I was enveloped with gratitude and a true sense of hope for the future. If someone this honest and good and wise could take a risk on me, maybe she saw a glimmer of light I had never seen. Maybe I, indeed, wasn’t worthless and deserved saving, as I never quite believed. Angie never left my side or withdrew her loving support and so, began our ten years of life as a couple. And so began the true growth and recovery promised in the Programs.

In this the last installment of my story I will address how my life has dramatically changed in the past 30 years. Angie and I, first and foremost, made a promise to each other to be honest and open in our relationship. We continued to attend meetings jointly and individually at least three times a day, as was my practice for the prior years in the 12 Step groups. Our social life was mainly centered around sober and drug free events and get-togethers, although we also visited both of our families on occasions.

A legal battle manifested in regards to Beverly’s assault on me and I learned firsthand in dealing with this fiasco how vital it is to always place “Principles Before Personalities” and why “Anonymity” is so crucial in most individual’s recovery. I guess it came down to human nature and curiosity that made fellow members start snooping into the case and our private business. Needless to say, sides were taken.

I had decided to stay mum on the subject with my peers and did just that. I also made it a point to go to different meetings than Beverly since I was acquainted with all sorts of groups around town and she only felt comfortable in a select few (gay). Choosing this, rather than possibly invoking a confrontation where it had no place whatsoever, would cost me dearly. In my absence at those regularly attended meetings it was assumed I was running away out of pure cowardice or worse-guilty as accused. Stories began to circulate around the rooms and the French Quarter community. Half truths bloomed quickly into full-blown lies. I was shunned if I happened to see someone I knew or attacked verbally. On more than one occasion I was even threatened with physical violence by those in Beverly’s camp.

I’d go to a new group only to come out to find my tires slashed and vile notes taped to the windshield of my car. Phone calls were endless warning me not to attend this or that group or there would be retaliation. I’d arrive to speak at a meeting and with the snap of fingers the entire room would clear. It was mean, ugly, and almost cost me my sobriety. But, I knew that A.A. and N.A. was not a select group of people but the fellowship as a whole and I would not stop until I found a place I could safely go, share not vent, and be welcome.

Before it was all over lawyers stepped in and those harassing me the most were told that it cost no more to add their names to a law suit. I ended up winning the counter-suit against Beverly, but lost many so-called friends in the process and never ever felt comfortable within the rooms where I initially got sober. I was totally vindicated and Beverly’s ludicrous and blatantly false accusations against me were retracted. But it is very doubtful that to this day any of the individuals who saw fit to go after me have read the truth because I’ve yet to receive apologies.

Reflection of a Recovering Guest Blogger, #4, Part 6

Finally, I am going to post part 6. Part 7 will follow immediately after. At this point there is no need for an introduction. If you have been reading this amazing story from the beginning, you are ready to pick up where you left off. If you have not, please find links to the first five parts at the bottom of this post. I have been away for a couple of weeks and have a lot of catching up to do, but the update will be posted, of course, in a Just Me posting.

Ok, now on to Cherie and the next portion of her story:

Perhaps, I became too confident or lax in practicing the teaching of my Programs, but when I was three years sober, I really put all I had worked for in jeopardy. It should come as no surprise a woman was involved, and insult to injury, someone in N.A. and A.A.

The dark-haired, sexy, little Italian woman instantly caught my attention. She was not a familiar face around the tables, but she sure talked the talk and seemed to be pretty centered. I must have reached her also with what I shared because we made a b-line to each other as soon as the meeting ended. Within fifteen minutes we were laughing and talking over coffee and before the waitress came by with a refill we were in bed at her place. And what a place it was-pool, Jacuzzi, tennis court.

Holy Shit, I always attract the wealthy ones and this one was a psychologist. Jackpot! When she informed me she was just three months clean (I later learned she was using the entire time we were together) I faced a terrible dilemma. It wasn’t like I hadn’t 13th-Stepped in the past, but my affairs were always with women with over a year at least. This was a baby not even six months around the rooms. I gave in to my passions and let myself believe I could handle both my and her recovery. It wouldn’t take me long to learn my selfish decision would have dire consequences.

Our honeymoon existence was short-lived. Pointing to her credentials on the wall, gave Bev the authority, in her mind, to criticize my time in the Programs and quality of recovery. She was a Primal Therapist and decided the 12th-Step groups fell by the wayside in truly addressing all the maladies that plagued Cherie. She would sensory deprive me and then proceed with reparenting. As if my first parents from Hell weren’t enough, now I had her and the padded room to contend with where she did her thing.

The E.R. staff and the Police stood by the gurney as I was being worked on. “I count 13 stab wounds so far,” a nurse said, “There could be more, but the two at the bottom are the worst. They are deep and her intestines could be perforated.”

“Tell us who did this to you. Just say her name,” the officer whispered in my ear, “Don’t let her get away with this.”

“I fell. I fell. Please get Bev,” I pleaded. “No, no drugs. I’m in recovery. I refuse any drugs.”

“Yea she fell over 13 times on a butcher knife,” I heard the surgeon sarcastically say, “How can someone so protective of their recovery be so self-destructive?”

I was healing and threw myself into my work at the University. I went to breakfast, lunch and evening meetings outside of the Quarter and began to make new acquaintances.

The voice on the other end of the receiver sounded so weak, so fragile. “I have cancer, Cherie. Come home, please. I promise I’ll never hurt you again. I disregarded my sponsors’ objections. I reassured my concerned friends I’d be fine. I returned to Bev and a fate I could have never imagined.

It was devastating watching her deteriorate physically and mentally. I did everything in my power to make things easier for her, but to no avail. She was terrified and angry and I was the only one there for her to take her frustrations out on. It all culminated one morning when instead of having scheduled surgery she fled the hospital with her ex and mother. Upon my arrival at the house, the three of them, as a group, attacked me. They were in mass denial of the malignancies eating away her body and my concerned presence was the rude awakening they sought by any means to escape. They beat me and kicked me about the head, face, neck, stomach, and back. They went inside to get a gun, Bev telling her cohorts, “I’ll shoot her and say she was one of my crazy patients. It’ll be self-defense.” I crawled away as fast as I could and hid in a neighbor’s yard.

I was rushed to the hospital and was in very bad shape. I had broken ribs, large clumps of my hair were ripped from my scalp, my right eye was dislocated from its socket. I had a hair-line fracture in my cervical spine and another one in my lumbar region. But, I managed to refuse drugs again as the doctors and nurses did their procedures. I might be a total fuck up in every other regard, but I would not let anything or anybody get me to pick up again.

When I left the hospital I needed to be cared for and turned to a woman with whom I had had a brief affair over a year prior. She and her husband were both members of N.A. and were warned by Bev to steer clear of me or they would be sorry. When the cab dropped me off at their doorstep, I was met with a very cool and highly suspicious reception. I didn’t understand what was going on, but found acceptance in a mysterious young woman they had over for backup should trouble ensue with me. I decided it was better for me to be alone with the mess I had let happen and so, despite their transparent objections I prepared to leave. The quiet woman, who I had seen at many meetings but did not know, stepped forward and appeared to want to come to my aid. But, she was stopped in her tracks by a glance from the couple. I left and headed to my apartment with no earthly idea how I would survive the night.

I did everything, save take a drink or drug, to alleviate my physical agony. But, my mental and spiritual pain and anguish, at that moment, were beyond soothing. I had survived far worse atrocities in my 30 years, this I knew. As far back as I could remember fate dealt me cruel and near fatal blows. Perpetrators far more devious and maniacal had done their damnedest to annihilate the child, the teen, the woman I was. Yet, I had risen each time, perhaps not like a phoenix, but I did always manage to struggle to my feet and persevered. This time would be no different.

“That which doesn’t kill us makes us stronger,” I had heard said. I certainly didn’t feel strong, anything but. I was long past tired and totally disgusted, not with what others had done to me, but what I had done to myself.

No, this time would definitely be different. I felt something stirring within my ravaged body and throbbing brain. This time would be totally and unequivocally different. I felt a strange warmth in the pit of my belly and it was getting hotter with each passing second. By the time the fire consumed my being I realized I was angry. I was seething with rage. I was still around for a reason, I had no idea what, but I would damn well fight for my right to be, I would fight for Cherie. If I had to crawl on all fours I would be at Sunday’s N.A. meeting and then, I would join the members of the group and hang at Bob’s for dinner and fellowship. I was going to take a stand and defend my place in this world, my freedom to exist. And I could only do it fortified with my Programs.

To Be Continued…

~by Cherie Leahy Smith

Reflection of a Recovering Guest Blogger, #4, Part 5

I apologize that this post has taken so long to be finished. I have been very tired and think I may be getting sick. I am trying to get plenty of rest, but did not want you to miss the next installment. I believe the length of these posts have deterred many readers from taking the time to indulge, so for this week, I have shortened the post.

I, as always, encourage you to comment. Your thoughts and feelings really add more meaning and depth to Cherie’s lessons and learning, her troubles and triumphs. I realize I have not taken the time to respond to the comments already made regarding this guest blogger and again, I apologize. I give you my word, if I do not get to them this weekend, i will start with them next weekend.

Read and share, find strength and pass on the hope. Take care, my friends, and thank you one and all for your continued support of my blog. It gives me great joy to be a part of your world and for you to be a part of mine.

And now, the saga continues…

My first year of sobriety was far from easy. I was faced with many monumental obstacles and traumas, that without the 12-Step Programs and steadfast support of its members, I’d have certainly faltered and, in all probability, drank and drugged myself to death.

As I said in the first installment, I attended meetings upon meetings, never less than three a day, for the first decade. Often times I’d be half-asleep, sitting propped up in a folding chair in who knows how many church basements and school halls around New Orleans and Mississippi. But, I was willing to be there and some way, somehow the messages shared by my peers made a deep impression on my mind. I didn’t just listen with my ears, I listened with my heart and gut.

I voraciously read any and all material I could get in an earnest effort to learn and develop a better understanding of my disease and how I could better apply the steps and principles of Al-Anon, A.A., and N.A. (its Big Book came out in the early 80s) in keeping its deadly manifestations in check. I did journals, and workbooks, and written assignments as my sponsors directed me to do.

I was not permitted to moderate, let alone chair meetings, until I had over 365 days, a full sober year in the rooms, under my belt. I was allowed to share, but if I dared to lapse into venting, I was immediately silenced. You went to a sponsor with that type of personal verbiage. A meeting was not a dumping ground or place to feed my ego with ill-founded ideas I was profound or wise, since I was no more than a struggling newcomer with a lot to learn.

I was in constant contact with my sponsors, plural. There were times I didn’t think I could take a shit without checking with one of them beforehand. But, the phone calls, the one-on-one visits, the dependence on these caring mentors reinforced that I was worth saving and I did have a chance to make it as they had. I was not alone and never needed to be alone again. If I hesitated or balked at a suggestion made by them, you can be assured my obstinance was dealt with severely. I loathe to remember how many times I was made to clean the kitchen floor with a toothbrush because I made the mistake of saying, “But.”

One especially memorable occasion was when I threw a tantrum in front of the three drag queens, who were my first sponsors. I think I mouthed off perhaps a couple of minutes before they threw their boas off and butched up. From out of thin air they pulled a sleeping bag and zipped me up to the neck in its confines. To make matters worse, they broke off the zipper making it clear I wasn’t going anywhere. Then, if that wasn’t bad enough, I had to lay there and hear their tough love critiques of my behavior for hours and hours and hours. But, it was a lesson well learned. Perhaps, they didn’t have all the answers and maybe they too were capable of mistakes, but there was one thing they knew how to do and could teach me. They knew how not to pick up a drink or drug and for that I was willing to go to any lengths, no matter how bizarre.

“What’s a ‘slip’,” I casually asked the guys one day. I thought for a second my lips would be ripped off my face and whipped with my tongue.

“There is no such word in your vocabulary,” they screamed in unison. “Maybe there is a different definition in Webster’s, but in your dictionary, Cherie, and that’s the only one that counts, it means just one thing. Slip=Death. There is no going back out and strolling back in. You get no second chance. You’ll hear people say, if you can’t remember the last time you used then it wasn’t. Well, you better recall every detail of that nightmare on July 15th, because that was it for you. You may still have the luxury of being crazy, but you can never drink a drop or pop an aspirin again.” The men were livid, but through the ranting I saw the fear in their eyes that I would even broach the subject.

“Slip! How ridiculous,” they continued to yell, “You don’t just trip and fall and end up back out there. It’s a deliberate, self-sabotaging decision a person makes. A person that wants to run from the scary world of living sober and clean because it takes guts to follow the steps and be rigorously honest. It’s nice and Pollyannaish to throw around the slogans ‘One Day At A Time’ and ‘Just For Today’. But, you better wise up, Honey, this isn’t a 24 hour proposition for you. It’s forever. It’s a lifetime. Get that through your thick skull and you will never consider for a moment gambling with a ‘Slip’.”

If there was one thing that made the most of an impression with me throughout my years in recovery it was that lecture. Tragically, these guys couldn’t practice what they preached. Each went back out and never returned. I buried them all.

I was taught, from the beginning, the importance of giving back what was freely given to me. In the early days, I accompanied old-timers on hundreds of 12th-Step calls. I, likewise, joined them on visits to various hospitals and institutions in the greater metropolis. Of course, I was not permitted to personally deal with the patients and inmates because of limited experience in sobriety and chemical freedom, but I was allowed to set up chairs, dump ashtrays, and make coffee. After a year or so, I graduated and was given the honor of being a greeter at the door of Intergroup.

I watch people come and go in large numbers these days because they are rushed and expected to “get it” in a six-week period or god forbid, before their insurance runs out. I was told I was a work in progress and it took me a long time to get sick and it would take an even longer time for me to get better. I was once told by a newcomer that he had a month in treatment and that was equivalent to five years in the program. Needless to say, he didn’t make it.

Living in the solution and not the problem was making my life far different from anything I had ever experienced before. Of course, I still made many, many mistakes and used horrible judgment. However, I never picked up a drug or drink and learned from those transgressions and was constantly trying to be the healthiest and best person I could possibly be.

To be continued…

~by Cherie Leahy Smith

Reflection of a Recovering Guest Blogger, #4, Part 4

Finally, the weekend is here! Whew! I have had a long and exhausting week, but that is for another time and another post.

For those faithful and dedicated readers, here is part four in Cherie’s story. If this installment doesn’t touch you to your core and bring tears to your eyes at least once, nothing will. I encourage you to read this post, but more specifically, please do read it to the last paragraph. It is this paragraph that is most important and will encourage and inspire you, give you strength and hope, motivation and courage.

For those of you who have not yet read any part of Cherie’s story, please read this part and then, if you are interested in how she came to be an alcoholic and addict and what she went through during her active addiction and alcoholism, you can go back and read parts 1-3. All reflections can be found under Recovery Detours along the right side of my home page. If you choose not to read it, I assure you, it will be your loss.

For all others, here it is…Cherie’s first year in recovery. Enjoy and please do comment if time permits.

“WHAT HAPPENED”

It didn’t take me long to realize I could not fight this battle alone. Many of my acquaintances and friends were very encouraging and optimistic. But, the old adage “Misery Enjoys Company” couldn’t be disputed when I was met with sarcasm, scorn, and outright ill-will by other so-called friends. “You’ll never make it. You’re hopeless. Here let’s get loaded,” they repeatedly taunted. I divorced myself from these individuals and closed the door behind me on my former haunts.

I continued to entertain the thought, when the jonesing enveloped me and clouded my thinking, that if my lover only got her act together I could return to drinking and drugging, but only in moderation of course.

I picked up a Reader’s Digest and flipped through its pages. A story caught my eye written by Lois W., the wife of Bill W., co-founded Alcoholics Anonymous with Dr. Bob.

 Lois W. and Dr. Bob’s wife, Ann Smith, had started the group Al-Anon, which was for friends and family members of alcoholics. I hungrily read her message. Too bad I didn’t digest it. “I’ll go to one of those meetings and get some pointers from the pros. Once I trick Diana into stopping her crazy drunken sprees I’m home free. I’ve proven I can control myself. It’s been months since I picked up. I don’t have to go berserk and make an ass of myself anymore. I’ll be bellying up to the bar before Happy Hour starts on Friday. Please, please, please let my dealer be there.”

The Pillsbury housewives and execs in Brooks Brothers suits watched as I sauntered into the room. A chair was pulled out for me at the table and I was told to sit and listen. I was polite and I did appear to give full attention to the people speaking, often times it seemed directly to me. “Holy crap, what the fuck have I gotten myself into,” I mused, “These folks seem happy enough, but they are goddamn loons. And where are the tips? I haven’t heard one person go after their drunk. It’s all how we can get to be better and healthier people using the Steps. And what the shit are the Steps? Where are they? Maybe there is a more advanced group upstairs.”

“Amen”

“Amen,” I repeated. I was instantly surrounded and welcomed with pats on my back, extended hands, warm hugs, and phone numbers. Lots and lots of phone numbers.

“Don’t be afraid to call, Cherie. Reach out if you need to at any hour. Please come back and see us,” they sincerely urged.

I heard myself agree, I actually agreed to return. “What the hell. It appears these poor saps need a little excitement. I’ll grace them with my presence again. I’ve nothing better to do. Maybe next time they’ll get into how to manipulate the drunken bastard.”

Something clicked. I began to listen. Sitting by the coffee pot in the Jesuit Church Tuesday after Tuesday at the High Noon meeting was starting to have a positive influence in my life. I still couldn’t share with the straight-laced people who filled the room. I mean how could I tell them the drunk I was involved with was a seemingly demure “butter wouldn’t melt in her mouth” ex-debutante that beat me nightly and did everything in her power to get me back to using. They would boot me out in a second and I couldn’t bear the rejection. This group was becoming an increasingly vital part in sustaining me in my struggling existence.

Old habits die hard and this incurable flirt was always eyeballing the ladies and looking for her next conquest. I had my sights set on the woman who eloquently spoke each week at the meeting. She was older, stately and absolutely gorgeous. Maybe it wasn’t the message touching me, but my desire to touch the messenger that kept me coming back. I asked her to be my sponsor.

I had to get to the Gulf Coast and I had to without delay. I’ll find them. It can’t be that hard. But, then again that place is a mecca for trailer trash. Who’d have thought the grand dame would end up in Gulfport, Mississippi of all places. My son was living with my mother and step-father and I had not been in contact with any of them for quite some time. My lover forbid it. But, I sensed something was gravely wrong and it was imperative I check out things to ease my mind.

Call it maternal instincts. Call it being psychic. It hardly matters. I sat on the stoop outside the door of their dingy motel room and waited and waited for them to show up. Startling images coursed through my brain in the interim. I shook in terror. I almost puked with dread. My parents pulled up. Steven was not with them. But I knew he wouldn’t be. “Who told you,” my mother cried in astonishment, “How did you find out?” My glare silenced her questions. “Take me to him and take me now,” I screamed.

My 10-year-old son looked so tiny and helpless as he lay in the hospital bed in ICU. Wires connected to buzzing and humming apparatuses were attached to every inch of him and a machine was his only means of breathing. He appeared to be peacefully sleeping. “He died three times and it’s a miracle we got him back,” the neurologist informed me. “We had to induce a coma. His brain is severely swollen and without a doubt there is damage, most probably to a grave extent. I cannot in good faith tell you he will ever wake up, but if he does the prognosis is poor. You might have to make some very hard decisions.”

I shuddered and then felt a feeling of intense warmth and comfort overtake me. All fear vanished. “I can do nothing. I am powerless. I surrender. I trust what will be will be and a Higher Power, my Higher Power will continue to protect and guide both me and my son.”

The High Noon group, especially my sponsor, and an old-timer named Duke and a gay guy named Patrick took me under their wings. People consistently checked on me and made sure I was not alone for a moment in my anguish following Steven’s accident. He was still in a vegetative state and I was being pushed by the doctors to pull the plug. My mother adamantly refused to even consider that option and for once I was in total agreement. “When in doubt do nothing,” I was advised by my Al-Anon friends. I played the waiting game and filled any free moment I had with program people.

My sponsor would have none of my bullshit and nipped in the bud any of my hopes to bed her. I didn’t take kindly to her kicking to the curb my sexual advances, but was even more offended when she had the nerve to tell me if I didn’t go to Alcoholics Anonymous and pronto she was turning me over to someone else for sponsorship. “Granted it’s been a horrendous time for you with your son and the ongoing crisis’s at home with your friend. Not to mention, you aren’t even six months sober,” she said, “But unacceptable behavior is unacceptable behavior and I don’t take it from anyone, especially the likes of a dry drunk like you, Cherie. There’s a meeting in the Quarter and I know you will definitely fit in with these people. My friend is picking you up tonight. Be ready at 7:30 and don’t you utter a word, just nod your head yes.”

“Right on time,” I cheerfully said climbing into the car, “What the fuck! It’s…It’s you.”

“Just shut up and get in. I’m not thrilled about being stuck with you either. But, a 12th Step call is a 12th Step call.” Hoppy and I had run into each other over the years in the bars, but were definitely not friends; in fact, we pretty much loathed each other. “You of all people in the program,” she snickered, “Well I never…”

“That’s obvious and you probably never will either,” I quipped.

“Try not to make a horse’s ass out of yourself like you usually do and maybe tonight you might learn something, Smart Ass,” she grumbled. We rode the rest of the way in silence.

I had been in this apartment hundreds of times. And usually not in a vertical state. My friend Rique threw wonderful mixers with the most eclectic variety of attendees. But, he was more known for his outrageously lavish gourmet dinners. With rare exception for desert a wild orgy was always on the menu that would last days on end. How ironic, how fucking ironic. This is where the meeting is that is going to change my life. “Get some cappuccino and doberge cake and park it, faggots. I don’t have all goddamn night. Ooooh, we have a few butches gracing our midst. Hoppy, have your friend introduce herself,” the effeminate man commanded. She nudged my elbow.

“Hi, I’m Cherie and I’m an alcoholic and…”

“And nothing. Sit down and shut up. You have nothing to say that we want to hear. You are here to learn not vent. You can’t give what you haven’t got. Oh and welcome, Cherie to your new family.”

Each and everyone was telling my story. Perhaps, they hadn’t descended to the depths I had, but I felt their pain and I knew I belonged, especially in the safe confines of this a strictly gay group. Once the Lord’s prayer was finished the real sharing began. In fact, we had a marathon gab session that lasted well into the morning. Exhausted but basking in a new exhilaration, I returned home with unfamiliar but fantastic new feelings. For the first time I truly felt optimistic and hopeful.

My clothes and possessions were strewn about the courtyard. I guess [Diana] made good on her threat. She warned if I went to one of those low-life loser meetings there would be hell to pay. My heart sank. Knowing her, this was just the tip of the iceberg. I was right. I stood in the doorway of my bedroom and watched for only a second before I let my presence be known. Both women immediately stopped their lovemaking and broke out in uncontrollable laughter. Obviously, I was the joke. “I told you, go hang with those drunk fucks and I’d replace you,” my lover sneered, “Now get lost you are cramping our style.” Diana’s guest passed me and snickered as I was carrying my things back into the apartment. My partner was drinking a martini and had a smug grin on her face. “Every time, Cherie. Someone will be in your bed with me every time you go, I promise you.” I must say she was a woman of her word, but by the third or fourth one-nighters I had decided I was done with the beatings and her other bullshit. My new love affair would be with A.A.

Steven opened his eyes after over nine months in a comatose state. He could not speak and only had movement in his right index finger. But, needless to say, we were encouraged. I was now working in the Emergency Room at the hospital where he was a patient. I felt it was the least I could do to show my appreciation to the staff that had saved my child. Every moment I could spare I was at a meeting. I attended never less than three a day and continued this practice without exception for the first 10 years of my recovery.

“Mama, I’m sorry,” my son whispered.

“About what? There’s nothing for you to be sorry about.”

“Me, Mama. Me. I’m sorry and afraid that because of me you will go back drinking and be like you use to be.”

I unballed his tiny fist and place something within it and closed his fingers around the gift. “Hold that tight, Steven. It’s more yours than mine. It’s my 1 year chip and it holds my promise to you. Mama won’t ever be that person again. Mama won’t ever drink or drug again. Mama won’t ever be anything but the best Mama she can possibly be.”

To be continued…

~by Cherie Leahy Smith

Reflection of a Recovering Guest Blogger, #4, Part 3

 

I know I said it would not be until tomorrow morning when I would post this, but I have been waiting anxiously all week for the weekend to arrive just for this reason, so I can’t help it that I am posting it now. Unfortunately, I do not have any photos of Cherie on my computer from this time, really, so her pics will have to be included in later postings.

I do have a song, Dying to Live by Edgar Winters, I will post at the end of this post though. I just learned this week that Cherie listened to this song over and over and over again when she first became clean and sober. I asked her if I could share the song as well when I posted this next piece of her story and she said I may. I enjoyed listening to it several times over while she proudly, and with some nostalgia, sang along with the lyrics. And as I am listening to it now, I feel this enormous swelling within, emotions once again rising. I hope you enjoy the song as well!

By all outward appearances I was still a little girl, but legally I was a woman. This newly acquired power coincided with the arrival of “Flower Power” in the city. With baby in tow, I established myself as a leader in the hippie community. That’s not to say I stopped hanging with the “Squares” and my beloved Bourbon Street strippers, but there were too many new things to try, and it could never be said I didn’t do something at least once.

I followed every big name band and was the main groupie at every festival and concert. Hang with me and you were guaranteed one helluva ride. I always had the best drugs in copious amounts and fulfilled the wildest of erotic fantasies to dudes and chicks alike. Fortunately, I was so fucked up at the New Orleans Pop Festival that when I shot up some heroin back stage with the Dead I got deathly ill. I equated the bummer to the horse and as a result never rode the pony again. But, there was no other drug I ever refused. And no amount was ever too much. My stomach was pumped so many times I gagged at the sight of a straw. I bounced off Charity Hospital’s 3rd Floor padded cells so many times in a straight jacket they called me “The Ping Pong Ball”. I was arrested a couple of times and carted off to jail, but by this point if I wasn’t fucking those who could cut me a deal I was their supplier.

I was the absolute best at what I did and what I was doing was destroying myself. Years and years of drinking and drugging were taking their toll. By the time I was 18 years old, I was a diagnosed a chronic alcoholic and addict. I was warned that if I continued using I wouldn’t make it six months. I had lost half the top of my stomach to ulcers and my liver was dangerously swollen following a bout with hepatitis. I had screwed well over a thousand men and the women’s count was a close match. I had three spontaneous miscarriages and one baby was terminated when a guy I was using with threw me down a flight of stairs and kicked the fetus out of me for messing with his girlfriend. I was shot in the arm while roaming the projects trying to cop some downers. (This skinny little white girl should have known better.) I was stabbed by a jealous lover, but was so stoned I didn’t know I was hurt until I woke up in the hospital days later. I buried my beautiful stripper after she killed herself. She had gotten married in an effort to get back her child (She had been incestuously raped by her father at the age of 13 years old), who was being raised by her parents. When the custody battle fell through she grew even more suicidal (I lost count of all of her attempts) and begged me to move in with her and Buddy and help with her duties as a wife, especially in the bedroom. Sadly, I hesitated and by the time I got to her house to tell her I would agree to becoming part of the open marriage, she lay with the gun in her hand and was dead. She was only 19. I was so grief-stricken Buddy insisted I stay with him and I did. We lived together during my period of mourning, but I finally left because I couldn’t take laying on the dried blood soaked and brain splattered sheets a second longer. Buddy loved for me to lay contorted within the confines of her police taped image when we had sex. That even got too weird for me and I was taking everything I could get to cope.

I decided a drastic change was in order and following my true desires and orientation I decided men were definitely expendable and would live my life as a lesbian from then on. Now even more doors opened to me and I walked through them without a care as to what was on the other side.

I still got beatings and suffered a broken jaw, broken ribs, broken shoulder, broken knuckles and more concussions than my joggled brain can remember, but it was well worth the pain. I loved women and they loved me in return. My ladies, young and old, certainly knew how to wine and dine me and lavished me with gifts. Whereas, I enjoyed the good life off and on in years prior, now I was in a totally different bracket. The high maintenance creature I am today can be blamed on the decadent indulgences my beautiful females bestowed on me. I jetted here and there to have a drink and could always be found bumping elbows and other parts of my anatomy at Studio 54 in New York City in its heyday.

Not only could I walk and chew gum, but I could go to college, get a nursing degree (not a physician, but what the hell!), and not miss a night out gallivanting and carrying on from Coast to Coast with my lovelies.

My son was living with my mother and she was trying to get permanent custody of him. (She eventually succeeded in stealing him from me and delighted in holding the papers over my head. But, I later found out I was tricked and it was solely custody of his finances she had and which she and her husband squandered.) If I was out of control before, now I was a whirling dervish. At this point my soul objective was having a good time and living in a constant state of being inebriated and high. I viewed life either in slow motion or at blinding speed. There was no in between. I started hanging with old queens at wrinkle bars attracting young straight guys into their web so they could pounce. I kept my habit well supplied by this little game. I remember Buzzy once saying, “You should be swigging down Aqua Velva the way you drink, but night after night it’s only the best you are knocking back. Chateau Lafitte Rothschild 1961!!! Honey, do you shit gold?”

“No, but you do Darling,” I chuckled, “You want that blond? Get another bottle and I’ll get you the trick.”

The chandelier lay in shambles on the floor. I guess it wasn’t made for swinging. I tried to run through the dining room wall. Funny, it always seems so easy for cartoon characters. The governor’s granddaughter wouldn’t listen to my pleas for help. I took the butcher knife and plunged it into my belly and started pulling it across hari-kari style. Perhaps, she was too drunk to notice. I took it out and plunged it again and guided the blade toward my hip. “Well, don’t think I’m taking you to the hospital, Cunt. You won’t embarrass me. You’re the genius. You’re the nurse. Sew it up yourself,” she commanded and topped off her drink. I grabbed the bottle, found a needle and thread, and did exactly that. I didn’t have a problem, she did and if she stopped drinking everything would be fine.

*I had been bleeding from both ends for some time, but if I knew I was up for a really wild weekend I made sure friends donated blood in advance so there’d be no problem with me getting transfused.* *I was still recuperating from flipping a brand new Camaro five times and nearly killing us both, but the cops only said I was driving recklessly and they saw the half bottle of Southern Comfort in my lap. “Where do you get off telling me I was loaded and have a problem, Mother Fucker!”* *One call and I’m ready to hit the streets and party hard. There’s no one, no how better than me. It doesn’t matter that I pee and shit on myself, I clean up good.*

I raised the German Luger to my temple, lowered it and aimed it at her instead. “Will you help me now? Will you get me help? I can’t take it anymore. I can’t live like this another day.” The apartment was totally demolished and I was equally broken and destroyed.

She shook her head and adamantly said, “No. I will not be embarrassed.”

I put the gun closer to her face for emphasis. “I mean it. I need help. Go and get me help, please. I’m begging you.”

“You’re pathetic. You’re a worthless loser. Fuck you, Bitch.” Instead of getting angry and firing off a shot I pulled her to her feet and threw her out of the apartment. I watched her circling the courtyard at a frantic, haphazard pace. She looked like a rat in a maze. I loved her once. Look at what we had come to. Me holed up about to bring my sorry existence to its inevitable end and Diana…

They rushed me and the gun flew from my grasp. I recall the rifles drawn and pointed in my direction-cocked. I was thrown to the floor and handcuffed roughly. In a weak and childlike wail I blubbered, “Arrest me. Commit me. Shoot me. Just make this all stop. Please. Please. Please.”

One of the SWAT team officers stepped forward. “I want to talk to her. It’ll be ok, guys. Leave us be.” He gently helped me raise to my feet and lead me into the bedroom. I repeated my lament over and over and over. “Who did all of this,” he kindly probed glancing about what was left of the once luxurious apartment.

“I did. I did it all. I’m insane. I’m crazy. She won’t help me.”

“And you threatened to kill her and yourself,” he went on to ask.

“Yes, I did it all. I can’t take this anymore. Just put me out of my fucking misery. Take me to jail or a hospital. Better yet just put a bullet in me. I can’t live like this anymore,” I cried.

“Look at me, Cherie and listen to me. I am here to help you and I will. You aren’t crazy and you aren’t insane. You are sick. You are an alcoholic and drug addict.”

“But, I can’t stop. I’ve tried so many times only to go back and use more.”

“Get on your knees,” he commanded.

What?”

“Get on your knees and ask God, or whoever you pray to, to help you.”

“But I don’t know how to pray,” I argued.

“Cherie, you have survived this long; someone or something is watching over you. Now, pray to that power and beg for help, beg like you’ve never begged before.” I closed my eyes and beseeched the Angels, the Saints and all I knew Holy to come to my assistance. I also called on St. Jude, the Patron Saint of Hopeless Cases, to aid me in my distress.

“You won’t hurt her if I let her back in here will you,” he asked.

“No. I would have never. I just wanted her to help me.”

“She can’t help you. Only you can do that and now you know how.” He removed the handcuffs and stood to go. “Cherie, I believe in you. Always remember that. And more importantly, I want you to know and this I promise you, you will never ever drink or drug again.” That was July, 15th, 1977. I never knew his name or could find him at the precinct to personally thank him for saving my life that miraculous day. But, my angel was right—I never did drink or drug again. As long as I live I hope to continue to honor him by remaining clean and sober one day at a time.

To Be Continued…

~by Cherie Leahy Smith

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Reflection of a Recovering Guest Blogger, #4, Part 2

I cannot promise a daily entry of this series of posts, but I did have some down time today and really want everyone to read about this remarkable woman’s life and many triumphs. I hope this post will get you a little more hooked as well as better acquainted with my dear Cherie. I realize that they look like long posts, but I promise you, once you start reading, you will finish long before you want to.

So far, Cherie has made it through some really tough circumstances with the aid of drugs and alcohol. Coming up, her sobriety begins, but life doesn’t get better for her for quite some time to come. Be sure to read the next post and see how her strength flourishes through many more tragedies and traumatic experiences, this time, without drugs and alcohol.

Until then, here is the next part to Cherie’s story. Comments are encouraged as I will be sharing them with Cherie along the way. Any and all thoughts are welcomed and wanted, so again, please do comment.

“””My mother was flying high and flitting around the Vieux-Carre herself. She had proven I was indeed raped by those men and was a one woman vigilante against them. They all fled to Mexico with charges of statutory rape looming over their heads. I believe my vindication was just a means to an end though. Her main objective was to party and she was having the time of her life. At around this point, she introduced me to a Senator and his “wife”. Even I was suspicious of the barely legal buxom blond in stilettos on the politician’s arm, but I said nothing. “They will help you get your life together,” my mother promised and left me at the Uptown mansion. To this day, I don’t know what her pay off was.

“What did you do to my wife,” Peter accused. I was groggy, disoriented, and felt totally depleted. I stuttered and stammered. “Well, you are going to have to stay here again and we’ll see what you do tonight. I can’t believe you would do such a thing. But, then you were locked up in that place with all those bitches so, it makes sense.” I had no idea what he was talking about, but whatever it was I was to be tested again later. Meanwhile, the party was fun and lots of people filled the house and danced by the pool. I drank and smoked and it was that night, in fact, I met the aforementioned judge. But, his advances were thwarted, the Senator would not have that. This prize was not to be shared, at least not for the moment.

Peter’s blame now fell on deaf ears. What I thought I’d imagined the day before I now knew to be fact. It wasn’t a dream, it was a nightmare. And I didn’t instigate it, they did. I was drunk and high, but still watched with heightened curiosity their little scenario. They came to me as I lay immobilized but fully conscious. They were both undressed and I, immediately, realized I was also. Judy began to fondle and orally seduce me first and then, after instilling a contraceptive deep within me, Peter mounted my limp body and finished. “No, I did nothing to Judy,” I argued, “But, if you let me stay, I will.” I didn’t realize at the time that was my coming out party, but a party was a party and the ones at the big pink house were amazing.

In my time with my new “family” I was well-indoctrinated into hedonism. I was a very quick study. Because of my youth, extremely good looks and willingness to please I commanded the attentions of A-list celebrities, high-ranking government officials, and my favorite-singers and musicians. No man was ever permitted to touch me except for the Senator, but they were allowed to watch. Judy tired of me quickly which was very disturbing because she was my first lesbian lover and I was totally smitten with her. (I came to learn she lost interest in all women almost as soon as they agreed to follow her upstairs.) It was joked I was a human vibrator because I would so often be called to finish for her paramours when she got bored while making love to them. Yes, my adventures with that couple, in and out of bed, could fill volumes.

Although, I never tired of the endless supply of booze and drugs at my disposal, even I had to admit I was living in total excess. It was a catastrophic ending, but when I was required to recruit other young girls for initiation into our home, I had to take a stand. I did, actually, bring a few exchange students over from my high school and watched as they were being led into the trap with drinks and pot and countless pills. But, before they reached the top of the stairs and fell prey to what fate I knew all too well, I stepped in, grabbed Judy by the hair, pulled her to the diving platform on the balcony and threw her in the pool. I grabbed a bottle of Courvoisier, a bag of dope, the three young Peruvian girls, kissed Peter goodbye, and made my getaway in a waiting limo.

English: French Quarter - New Orleans

English: French Quarter – New Orleans (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I was alone in the French Quarter, very little money and no more mansion to call home. While munching on a burger, in a dingy hamburger joint, stoned out of my mind and contemplating what to do with my life, an obvious pimp sauntered up to me. Before he could open his mouth I told him, “Beat it, I only like girls.”

“Then have I got a girl for you,” he quipped, grabbed my arm, threw money on the counter and led me down Bourbon Street. She was exquisite and I was mesmerized. It was love at first sight. She, on the other hand, was not quite so taken.

“Get that fucking kid out of here,” she demanded, “You’ll get us both busted.” He disappeared in a flash and she and I were left alone. “Well, you can only stay here until I get off work and then, you are gone.”

“What do you do? Where do you work?”

“I’m a dancer, a stripper. I work downstairs. It hardly matters. I’ll be back and then you are high-tailing it, I shit you not. But, hey kid, have some fun while I’m away.” She threw me a joint. I pulled out my large stash. “Well, maybe you can stay until tomorrow,” she smiled and closed the door behind her.

Little did I know I was being watched and all of my movements were being reported back to my father. Hippies had not yet infiltrated and made their mass presence known in the Quarter, so I was more visible than I could have ever imagined, especially to the spying eyes of the hired detective. I had met an old male acquaintance from my Row days and in retaliation to my stripper’s flagrant cheating decided to give heterosexuality a whirl. It, definitely, wasn’t for me, but the guy was entertaining and I had nothing better to do. It was also a better place for me to hide when I skipped school. I was now enrolled in an exclusive college preparatory academy. At first, the administrators wouldn’t hear of my being included in their prestigious school, but my admission test scores were through the roof and I was granted acceptance without any further protest. Not too many of my fellow alumni were ever invited to join MENSA, as I was in future years, it should be noted.

“I work for your father and you are up shit’s creek, unless you play by my rules,” the clean-cut man flashing a badge told me. “We can get it on or you’ll be in a blue jumpsuit before nightfall.” I really didn’t have much of a choice and so, followed the private dick back to his uptown apartment and let him do whatever he wanted with me. Comparatively speaking, he ended up being a nice guy despite holding all the cards and never letting me forget the deck was stacked against me. I had also found another obscure place to hole up.

Well, my mother sure snapped to attention when the doctor delivered the news. I heard the grotesque bastard’s diagnosis, but was more concerned with dodging his touches and snide comments. “Yes, she’s pregnant and if you plan on getting her an abortion you better get on it and quick,” he advised and jotted a number on a piece of paper and passed it to my mom. He looked down on me and sucked his teeth in disgust and shook his head.

“You think I’m just about nothing don’t you, Doc? Well, I was good enough when you forced me to give you blow jobs. That’s right, mom, the good doctor had me do him and not once, but every time you sent me here to get the B-12 shots. There will be no abortion. No giving up the baby for adoption. It’s mine and I’m keeping the kid.”

Pregnancy didn’t cramp my style or partying one iota. I, probably, drank and drugged all the more since I had another little being to get high. If anything, the hormones made me all the more desirable and I had dozens of guys competing to give the tiny bump a name. I made my choice and the drag queen was the winner. I’d give him the good news when he returned from offshore.

My father lay in the hospital bed, but continued to hold court even in his weakened state. He and my mother had divorced (my mother blaming me for the termination of the 20 year marriage) and he had seen me on only a couple of occasions since my release from OLR. “Make your decision and make it fast. I will provide you with the best education money can buy and all of this crap will be forgotten. You will be somebody. You are the best of the litter. You will be the one people hold in the highest esteem…”

I ventured to interrupt him, “But, daddy I can’t leave my mother. She has no one and if Jerry goes with you to Illinois she’ll be devastated.” I did feel a loyalty to my mom, but was more concerned that he would discover my pregnancy and not only would I lose the baby but my freedom for five years.

“Your mother is a two-bit lying, whoring drunk. I will make you somebody.”

“But, daddy I’m engaged.” “What? Who? You are barely 16!”

“His name is Steven and he works offshore and also on a tug,” I offered.

“My daughter with a low-life tugboat swabbie. Never. Make your decision and think hard because the wrong one will cost you dearly.”

“My mother,” I whispered choking back tears.

“Then, Cherie, I will tell you once again, and I promise you this is final, you are not my daughter. You will never be a Leahy. I disown you. Don’t you or any of your bastards ever show your face to me again. Now, get out of my sight. Get out. Get out.” I heard my father’s voice echoing through the hospital corridors. His last words to me resonated in my brain, in my heart for thirty-three long years. I often wonder, what if I would have said yes?

I married Steven Douglas Smith on October 23rd, 1967 in a rushed ceremony to avoid being committed to a mental facility by my father. As Steven’s bride I was emancipated, considered an adult and my husband, not my father, was now in charge. A large Catholic wedding was held in St. Louis Cathedral in November. Rita Alexander, the infamous Champagne Girl of the Sho Bar was my maid of honor and the founder of New Orleans Jazz Fest stood in for Steven. My father and little brother boycotted the service standing outside of the church in protest. Our reception was in Jackson Square and the vino and grass passed freely among the hippies, bums and tourists alike.

With my mother roaming around downstairs praying the goddamn rosary oblivious to what was happening, I prematurely delivered Steven Douglas Smith II (biological father is anyone’s guess) by myself in my upstairs bedroom on January 30th, 1968. I cut his cord, but it took some doing to get him breathing. Once I got him to take a breath, I crawled to the bathroom and flushed the stash of drugs I had on hand and had planned to sell. I couldn’t take any chances with the authorities coming to zip us to the hospital. It was always better to be safe than sorry. And I was quickly learning to be always one step above the law.

Cherie with Baby Steven

I left Big Steven at the end of March when the baby was about two months old. We lasted about six months altogether. But, my father was correct Steven was not Cherie material. He was sweet, a good provider and very doting, but not what you would call an intellectual challenge. The last straw was when he decided he really enjoyed married life and wanted to go straight. I gave him his one and only lay and left him the following morning.”””

To Be Continued… 

~by Cherie Leahy Smith

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