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

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Something Different

 

I love all things artistic and I consider myself an artist not just for the paintings and drawings, but in many ways. I do enjoy wood-burning, wood carving, glass etching, ceramics, and as you have seen, photography and so much more. I have done several pieces with wood in which I either carved or burned the image into a wooden plaque and then added color. The two I am going to share with you today are of my two sons when they were quite a bit younger. I also did one of my father which turned out really good, but I have not been able to find this third piece.

I took pictures of the plaques and the background you see behind them is simply the quilt that is on my bed. I had trouble get an even angle with the right light so that the detail could be seen. I think these two pictures turned out the best of all the ones I took. I have also done roses, shells, and a stained-glass cross/star on wood. I may post some or all of these in the future, but the ones with the boys are truly the best of the bunch.

So, take a look and please tell me what you think?

Jeremiah, age 8

 

Zachariah, age 5

 

 

Molly Gets Her Wings

Our Beloved Molly
2000-2012

As you may have noticed on the bottom of Molly’s picture above, I have some sad news. Our precious pup, Molly, passed away Monday, June 4, 2012 at a little after 10 AM. Hip dysplasia got the better of her and Cherie and Mary made the most difficult, but most loving decision to have her put to sleep. She could no longer run and play, could barely stand, and then only for seconds at a time, was almost completely blind, and had been clutched by a fear that could only be calmed if she could feel the loving hands of one or more of her family members petting her gently, but constantly. The vet was a very nice woman and took the time to explain that we were not only doing the right thing, but all the reasons why. She also shared her own experience in that she knows that her dog is still around on occasion due to some occurrences that could only be explained by his presence.

Molly was not alone; she had her mothers, Cherie and Mary, with her, and Steven and myself there to hug, kiss, reassure, and love her to the end. She was very brave and laid calm and peaceful through the short process and in the end, as her Mama Cherie said, “She looked so beautiful.”  Molly was born on July 25, 2000 and had the best 12 years of life that any dog could have. We all spent the remainder of the day sharing many great memories of Molly, laughing and crying, and supporting each other as a family.

I have personally only known Molly for a little over a year, but I grew to love her as if I had known her my entire life. Molly was a very special puppy. It was Mary’s first Valentine’s Day gift to Cherie very early in their relationship, some 11 years ago. Molly has been there to get them both through many hard times in their lives and has given them a lot of laughs, stories to tell, and memories to cherish and treasure until the end of time. Here are bits and pieces of Molly’s amazing life and journey that have been shared with me.

Mary had recently obtained a job in the World Trade Center towers. She had not been there long when she had a doctor’s appointment and at that appointment, she learned the devastating news that she had Multiple Sclerosis. The following week, as Mary was taking some time to adjust to the news and attend follow-up appointments with her doctor, she was astonished to see on the news the events of 9/11 as they were happening. Mary and Cherie lived in an apartment in New York City just a few miles from the Towers. What they went through that day and are still dealing with today is a story for only the two of them to tell. I mention it only because, it was the medical news and then the attacks that Mary was referred to a support group. I believe it was a 12 week program that helped individuals to deal with trauma and tragedy and so new groups would join previously set groups and these groups would cycle in and out.

Molly and Cherie Napping Together

Though Cherie had a very well established dog walking and pet care business in which she had 300 clients and was highly sought after, she did not at that time have a dog of her own. Cherie wanted (and still does) an English Bulldog. Mary knew she wanted to get Cherie a puppy for Valentine’s Day, so she was on the look-out and one day, she saw a poster with Molly’s adorable little puppy face needing a good home. Molly’s previous owner had learned she would be put on dialysis and would no longer be able to care for Molly. Mary knew that a Boston Terrier was not an English Bulldog, but she was just too cute to pass up and so she called and arranged to go meet Molly after her group session. As Mary sat in her chair, holding the poster of Molly in her hand, and sharing the news that she was going to go pick up her new pup, a woman spoke up, one of the new group members, and said, “That is my dog you are coming to get.” This new woman was in the group to find support in coping both with her dialysis and with having to give up her puppy who was not yet a year old. In that moment, both women knew that it was what was meant to be for Molly.

Molly (front left), Tucker (standing behind Molly and a client of Cherie and Mary’s), Mary (the human), and Katie (another client).

Molly was, to say the least, a blessing for Cherie and is in large part, what helped Cherie cope with the life-changing tragedy of 9/11. Molly also got Cherie through another very difficult time; that of the hurricane Katrina that turned New Orleans upside down. Not only is New Orleans where Cherie was born and spent the first 40 years of her life, but her son, Steven, was living there at the time the hurricane struck, and for nearly nine months after, she was unable to get a hold of him. She was certain that her son was dead, and try as she did to find him, she could not. He did finally call her and she was relieved to hear that he was safe and sound and alive. Cherie had a lot of support through this period of time, but it was Molly’s love and devotion that helped keep her going. Molly has been there for Cherie and Mary through several death’s of family members, through many sicknesses, and the times when Cherie was near death, more than her share, Molly continued to be a constant.

Molly was a comforter, a hero, a loyal friend, and dependable companion, but she was also a champion athlete. Her favorite thing to do was to run, chasing a ball, and playing until she was stopped against her will. She could find any ball, anywhere, and she did this to a miraculous extent. Mary and Cherie have taken Molly on many trips, including a cross-country trip from New York to California. Along the way, they, of course, made many stops for gas, to eat, and to use the restroom. On one such stop, at a gas station deep in the desert, they let Molly out to potty, and before they knew it, she took off like a jack rabbit. They couldn’t imagine what she was up to, but never would have expected exactly what had taken a hold of her. Moments later, Molly returned from the dessert…with a tennis ball in her mouth! Only Molly could find a ball in the middle of the desert. 

Another one of Molly’s favorite trips to take was to go see Angie, one of the family’s dearest friends, in New Orleans. Angie’s house is set on two acres and Molly couldn’t be happier than when she was chasing one of her many balls all over Angie’s large property. It is a rare treat when these ladies, Mary, Cherie, and Angie, can get together, sitting on Angie’s porch, drinking coffee and just enjoying each other’s company and long conversations. As they sat talking, Molly would chase the ball, return it to the porch and be at the ready for the next big throw.

On one of these occasions, time passed without notice, and someone realized that Molly had been running for hours and hours and should probably come in for a rest. After hiding the ball from Molly’s sight, they were able to get a hold of her and bring her inside. She drank long and was sure to get plenty to satisfy her thirst, immediately followed by peeing on the very spot she stood, on Angie’s floor. She then hopped up on the bed and with little strength left in her tiny, muscular legs, collapsed from exhaustion. As she rolled over on her back, everyone noticed that Molly’s belly was red and covered with red ant bites. Molly had proved, yet again, that nothing would keep her from having fun and chasing her ball; not hunger, or thirst, not exhaustion or pain, and not any amount of time. So much exercise Molly got on that trip that she lost nearly half of her body weight.

Molly’s love for her family was boundless, but the one person she was most excited to see was another dear friend of the family, Marlene, in New York City. Marlene is allergic, but risked any and all consequences when she hugged and petted and kissed Molly. Molly would get so animated when she saw Marlene that she would nearly have a coronary trying to escape from the car to get to her. Molly not only loved those in her life, but was deeply loved by many.

Cherie, being the fabulous cook that she is, has spent a lot of hours in the kitchen. Molly was always right there by her side waiting for any morsel of food to be dropped, spilled, or flown to the floor. She was also given many pots and pans to lick prior to their making it to the sink to be washed. During dinner, Molly would sit very still and quiet and stare at us while we ate. Her eyes would bulge out of her face and ears perked straight up, waiting for anyone of us to take our last bite, as she knew the plate would then be hers to lick spotless. Molly never begged, but occasionally gave a quick bark as a reminder if, for some reason, we were not paying attention or forget to set our plate under her nose. She was such a good girl!

Molly at Pride NYC

Molly was a proud puppy. She has marched with her mamas in the New York City Pride Parade, wearing her Pride rainbow, frilly collar and held her head high, marching along as if she were a celebrity on a runway. Often during this 10 mile march, she would be offered water, but would refuse to drink it in front of her fans. It would be much later, once the crowd had begun to fade away, that she would finally indulge and quench her thirst with a rainbow, Italian ice. She was quite the Princess that way.

The Pride Parade was not the only place Molly would strut her stuff for the crowds. As I have mentioned, she has spent time in New Orleans, and she has shared in the festivities of Mardi Gras. Here, she would wear her pink tutu, and was the center of attention. Mary said she was a major chick magnet, as dozens of strippers would flock out to the street to ooo and ahh, pet and admire, and in some cases take pictures of Molly.

There are many more beautiful, fun, and happy memories to be shared about Molly, but her moms want to write some of these themselves. Once finished, I will share what they have written with you here, but for now, I will share one last memory of Molly that I was a part of. Last Christmas, Molly was on Cherie and Mary’s bed, Jingle Bells was being sung on the television and I sat beside Molly and began to sing along, but in a dog howl kind of way. Molly joined in and howled with me. She has been known to bark, but never has she howled until this moment. From that night on, whenever I would enter the room where she was, she immediately began to howl, letting me know that she wanted me to sing with her. Cherie, especially, was not amused and would thank me with sarcasm for teaching her this new noise. Cherie’s gratitude always made us laugh. I am going to miss that precious little pup!

Molly in her Tu-Tu with brother Steven (left), Mama Cherie (center), and Mama Mary (right) on Bourbon Street in New Orleans.

I find comfort thinking of Molly joining Manhattan (my kitten whom I lost a little over a year ago) on the Rainbow Bridge. I can see Molly running, chasing many balls, tongue hanging out and a smile on her face, blissfully passing the time until one of us comes to retrieve her. We love you Molly, so very much, and we will see you again!

No. 1 Billboard Hit, 1984

Karma Chameleon by Culture Club was the number one Billboard hit on my 13th birthday, February 15, 1984. I remember this song well. Maybe I am one of the weird ones, but I have always liked Boy George. Of course, this is one of those songs that until you get to know the lyrics, some of the words can be misunderstood and it gives the song a whole new meaning. If you do not know what I am talking about, then I guess you just had to be there among those I once called my friends…way back then. What kind of memories does this song bring back for you? That is, if you dare tell!

I’m Not the Only One

We have all heard and love Jon Lennon’s song, Imagine. How could we not? I mean, it’s John Lennon and it’s a feel good song with an equally good message. I have written many posts in regards to bullying, gay rights, and even freedom of religion, and I feel this song puts it all into a very clear perspective that really cannot be argued. The question is, though we may not verbally argue John Lennon’s lyrics, do we argue them through our actions?

Do we judge others for their choice of religion or for making a choice not to recognize any religion at all? Do we discriminate against those who are gay or of a different  race, or disabled? Do we, no matter how seldom, berate, belittle, or rebuke others because they have made a mistake, are not as smart as we are, or are just not getting the point we are so desperately trying to convince another person is the right way of thinking?

Think about it. Really think about your own opinions, thoughts, and actions. Do you see your fellow (wo)man as your equal? Is it only your partner or spouse that you see this way? Or maybe the people at work or in the class, the people in your church or in your community, or the varied social groups you belong to? Do you treat others with a different color skin or an accent or a foreign surname as an equal in the human race? How about those with disabilities, whether they be physical, mental, or both? Could you, would you be their friend or cringe and walk by, being tolerant, but escaping quickly?

You may say I’m dreamer. Are you a dreamer too? Can you imagine? And what are you doing in your life to bring this imaginative world to a reality?