Recollections, addiction and hope. These are true stories from my perspective. The names have been changed for anonymity.

It will all come together and I will get there, but right now I want to dance like no one’s watching me at my own pity party.  The way I show up in the world varies by what’s happening in my life.  I have periods where I’m extremely optimistic and only see everything as a good sign and I’m really happy.  I got into the laws of attraction and making vision boards a few years back.  I even taught a few vision board workshops.  I believed we create our reality. Thoughts become things. I really believed I was creating my own reality.  It was amazing, I wanted a partner, I wanted to build a tiny house, I wanted to live down a dirt road in the middle of nowhere.  I made a vision board about it and stared at it for over a year.  I took a magical road trip and voila, it started to look like it was all coming true.  I got all of those things I wanted and it seemed so amazing. I believed I had manifested it all into creation.  But over time it became more like a bad trip than a dream come true.   All the stories I want to share and everything I have to say right now feels so negative because the past 10 months have been filled with heartache, heartbreak, and disillusionment.  I’m usually a pillar of light and although my light isn’t gone, it is dim right now.  I left the relationship and the future I was literally building.  I lost my brother to suicide.  Because of his death, I was confronted again with childhood traumas I thought I’d cleared.  I might label it the worst year of my life.  But it’s just a label.  What is good, what is bad?  It’s all perspective.  I want to say that I’m finally able to see that nothing is done to me, it’s all done for me…. an opportunity to grow to my highest potential and to release what no longer serves me.  But damnit it all feels so shitty right now.  The past 10 years have been a spiritual whirlwind of yoga, meditation, sacred tea ceremonies, full moon gatherings….  and teaching these practices as well.  I understand the wisdom those things teach, but I am struggling to embody them right now.  I feel like a fraud.

I did not gloat when things were going well but I was super excited, can you blame me?   I believed we create our reality and I was living proof.  I wanted to show people I was an example that it was possible.  But now that the party balloons have deflated and I feel like I have finally binge eaten the last slice of humble pie, I can no longer promote the idea that we create our own reality.  These most recent events have shown me I can participate in my reality but I cannot control it.  I certainly did not manifest this past year. My ex-partner has free will and can choose how to behave.  It would be delusional of me to think I did anything to make him react the way he did.

All I can do now is love myself for being brave enough to walk away from a future trapped in a bleak tunnel of dwindling light, cradle myself like the hand of god supporting me in the long-held yin postures of life, and be patient.  The only constant in my life has been change, so I know this too shall pass.

I feel as though my brother and I were both destined to become addicts.  I’m very grateful that it stopped at weed for me.  My parents didn’t drink much and the alcohol in the house was more for guests we hardly ever entertained.  So, they didn’t notice that at 12 years old, my brother, Bill, was sneaking beers from the fully stocked fridge out in the garage. They didn’t notice all the watered-down bottles in the unlocked liquor cabinet either.

My parents didn’t do drugs.  My mom smoked one or two newports in the evenings and sometimes had a few more with cocktails on the weekends.  My dad has been smoking a pack of marble lights a day for as long as I can remember.  There is no known history of drug use at all on my Dad’s side, but my dad’s brother’s son who is 10 years younger than me is currently struggling with addiction.  Gauging by frequent suicidal comments he made and by the fact that he did kill himself, I think my dad’s father might have struggled with depression or some mental illness.

My mom comes from a large Irish Catholic family.  She was one of nine kids. Her brothers and sisters like to party but keep it contained to just alcohol and marijuana.  Except for one of my mom’s sisters, I would not say any of them have a bad problem, but several of them are mild weekend drunks.  They drink responsibly, don’t drive drunk, don’t ruin their lives, but they drink to get wasted all by themselves at home.  The one exception, my mom’s sister, moved out west after high school and cut ties with the family for many years.  We later learned she was a heroin addict and she died in her 60s of an addiction-related infection.  All of my cousins on that side smoke pot pretty regularly.

I’m not sure if any of that is evidence of a genetic predisposition, but I just somehow know we were both destined to become addicts.

Bill was using alcohol, marijuana, and cigarettes all through middle school and no one noticed.  He made friends with a new guy- Jim- that moved from New York to Florida when they were 12 or 13.  I know Jim influenced bill, but at that time I didn’t know the extent.  Jim’s dad owned a phone sex service business.  When they were in high school, Jim would steal his dad’s ATM card every day and go withdraw hundreds.  Then Bill and Jim would go buy drugs with that money.  This was all happening in the mid-90s at the height of the FDA and Big pharma created opioid epidemic.  Bill and Jim had figured out some kind of scam to steal prescription pads and have them filled at a pharmacy after the doctor had left for the day.  The pharmacy would fill these prescriptions that night, give them to the ‘patient’ and then call them in the next day to the Doctors office only to find out they were fraudulent. They were smart and never had the same person hit the same store twice.  They never got caught.  They would upsell the pills to rich high school students and use the profits to buy more pills and get high for free.

By the time I was in tenth grade, Bill had dropped out of high school.  He wasn’t really going to school that often anyway and he was failing most of his classes.  He was not dumb. Bill was among the kids who were just too smart for school and could not be confined by its conditioning.  That and all the drug use probably made it hard to be in school.   He says he suffered from a lot of anxiety.  He said he was nervous around people but I always thought he was outgoing and confident.  Maybe the drugs gave him the confidence?  Maybe the drugs gave him the anxiety?

My parents didn’t care that he had dropped out.  They had a lot of other problems on their hands.  A few years earlier, my dad’s businesses had been shut down after he had been indicted on bank fraud charges.  He managed to find ways to support us and even bought a few cheap businesses with other people’s money after we lost everything.  They were stressful and unstable times; Foreclosures, moves, lost friends, rumors, and unwanted attention.   After bill dropped out our dad welcomed Bill to come work for him and we moved to Tampa.

Three years after my father’s indictment, he took a plea deal that included a 1-year sentence at a prison camp in Miami.  Even though Bill partied a lot, he could hold down multiple jobs.  After my dad went to jail his business went under and Bill worked at restaurants a few nights a week and did some phone sales during the day.  The rave scene featuring ecstasy was trending in Tampa, and Bill began doing MDMA regularly.  Several pills a night, several nights a week.  This scene also attracted heroin dealers who offered a field of poppies to bring these ravers back down from their intense night.   That’s about when the raging anger started with him.  He could be a pistol as a child but he never got violent before using H.

One Friday night I had my friend Suzie over.  I’m 15 years old, Bill is 18.  He has his girlfriend over.  Everyone is high on their respective substance (us weed, them heroin) and in a fantastic mood.  I am showing them this box I made in ceramics class.  It was 4” X8” X6” painted glossy black with a pattern of raised red dripping tendrils expanding several inches up above the lid and tendrils stretching halfway down the box.  Bill was admiring it and picked it up by 1 tiny tendril.  Before I could warm him to hold it lower in a more secure spot, the tendril broke off and the box cracked in half when it hit the floor. Bill felt so bad, he apologized profusely.  He and his girlfriend were so sympathetic to what happened it was hard to be mad about it.

The next morning Suzie and I were watching a movie in the living room, which was my bedroom.  This was a very cheap apartment and the door to Bill’s room was 2 folding closet doors right next to where we were sitting.  His alarm went off and minutes went by.  He didn’t budge, I peeked in and saw he was breathing.  20 mins go by and this blaring alarm is ruining our movie. I enter his room, I say his name, I call his name, I lightly shake him I really shake him hard, I shout his name right in his ear.  They are breathing, but neither he nor his girlfriend budge.    I turn his alarm off and figure he must have set it by mistake, it was Saturday, he didn’t work on Saturday.

I return to the movie.  At least an hour goes by.  The creatures begin stirring in the room.  The doors to the room crack enough for Bill’s head to appear.  His eyes barely open and using his junkie voice his tone indicated I’m already on trial, “did you turn my alarm off?”

“yes, but after 20 mins and I tried to wake you and you wouldn’t-“

“Oh my god,” he interrupts, desperation in his voice.  He throws his door wide open.   “We had a job interview and now we’ve missed it.  He flies into a rampage yelling obscenities, telling me how stupid I am, berating me for my actions.  He walked over to my ceramic box, which was still glueable, and smashes it till only dust was left. Then looks at me.  I could see the rage in his eyes and because it was not the first time I knew it was serious.  I ran into my mom’s room and slammed the door, locked it, and stepped back.  She was at work already.  The door handle is wildly rotating from the other side, the light in the crack of the door grows thick then thin, thick then thin as he attempts to break the door down. He slams into the door with his shoulder several times making a dent.  He tires after a few minutes and punches a deep hole in the wall next to the door before giving up completely.  I am so embarrassed my friend had a front-row seat to this horror flick.

When things calmed down and it was safe to come out, I sat near the pile of ceramic rubble and wondered what I had done to deserve this.  His girlfriend came over and was being genuinely sweet. She spoke like a fairy, airy and soft “You’re an amazing artist, you’re going to make so many more amazing things.” Then she left with Bill.   How could you romantically be with someone that you witnessed being so violent to his little sister?   She stuck around a few more weeks until my mom’s allergies started acting up and she realized Bill had allowed his girl and her cat to move in.  My mom made Bill give me his room and he had to sleep in the living room.   I had just gotten a job at McDonald’s and was the only one helping her with rent anyways.  He moved out and I wasn’t around him much for the next year.  We found out that the girl he moved in with us drove herself into a tree and died out in California a few months later.

Through a series of miracles, I managed to get myself into The University of the arts in Philadelphia on scholarship and financial aid.  Shortly after I started college my dad got out of jail.  He started a business and Bill started to work for him again.  Both of my parents would call me and tell me they thought something was wrong with Bill, he might be on drugs because his eyes were rolling back into his head when he would talk to them.  They would ask me what should they do?  Me, their daughter who lives a thousand miles away.  I told them he needed help and to get him some help.  They ignored it to his face and complained to mine.  I came home from college for Christmas in 2001.   My parents were separated or divorced by now.  I flew down and didn’t want to rent a car so Bill had to drive me between parents that week.  They lived about 30 mins apart, one in Largo, one in Palm Harbor.   It was difficult to see Bill in such bad shape. We’d leave largo, get almost to Palm harbor and he would get a phone call.  We would turn around and go back to largo.  He’d go inside a gas station and disappear for a while before returning and taking us all the way back to our destination in Palm Harbor.  I assumed he was dealing drugs but I didn’t ask.

It was Christmas morning, and we were switching parents for the day.  We were at that same gas station again and it had been 30 mins since he left the car.  I was wondering if he was ok but afraid to check on him.  When he returned to the van he offered no explanation and just started driving.  At the first stoplight, he fell asleep. I had to wake him up to start driving.  Later, at mom’s condo, he kept disappearing to go to the bathroom.  He’d be in there 15-20 min each time.  After mom went to sleep he looked at me at one point and said, “Hey, since it’s Christmas and all, I have a gift for you, would you like to do a bump of heroin?”

“NOO!” the words were out of my mouth before I could even say them. It was loud and it was powerful and we both sat back a little from its impact.   If ever there was a moment of divine intervention in my life, I am sure it was that moment.  I did not say no, something said no through me.  I have chills just typing this now.

My brother gave me almost every drug I tried for the first time.  This is the first time I said no.   I saw what it was doing to him and it scared me.  He continued down that path for another 20 years.  His cycle of opioid abuse ultimately took his life.  If we were both destined to become addicts, I’m so grateful my addiction stopped at weed.

You told me I gave up on us.

Gave up on us?

Is that really what you think happened.  You just said you were finally owning up to everything and that you weren’t going to twist words.  I am so curious how you came up with this idea that I gave up on us?  Because to me, it feels like you gave up.  Yeah, I’m the one that left…. But I was also the one being repeatedly hurt.  I am the one who continued to set boundaries that you trampled over.  I tried to show you how your behavior made me feel. I gave you many warnings but never ultimatums.  I loved you through treating me like that.

In the beginning, it was the most fun and loving relationship I have ever experienced.  I was so sure you were the one, I would have married you the first week we were dating.  Do you remember our second date when you took me to Meow Wolf?  After a 6-hour date, you still didn’t want the date to end and took me to that cafe to get tea before dropping me off.  You sat there and hugged me like you never wanted to lose me.  It felt a little desperate, I’ll admit, but it also felt so nice to be wanted.  No one had ever expressed desire like that for me, ever.  I kind of felt sorry for you but I knew what it felt like to want to be in a relationship and I wouldn’t hold desperation against you.    Maybe you were even being more authentic than me.  

On our 3rd date, we just cuddled at your apartment.  You told me you wanted to be in a relationship with me.  I started crying and told you how I had been jerked around by guys before and I couldn’t afford to be hurt again. The gun’s and rose song patience came on and you sang the lyrics to me.  You said you never want to take the twinkle out of my eye.  Do you remember?

You wanted me to move in so quickly.  You gave me a key to your apartment one week after we’d started dating.  It felt good.  Most guys I’ve dated never made me feel like I was even good enough to be dating them much less moving in with them. It felt magical to move into our house together just a few months later.  Had I met the one? You told me several times you wanted to marry me, even though you never asked, I believed you.

Ok… so, there were a few moments along the way that made me scratch my head, like, did he just do that, did he just really say that?  Is he being manipulative?  Nah…. Couldn’t be, I must have just misunderstood.  Like the time you wouldn’t give me any supportive feedback when I practiced some yoga teaching on you.  You were the sweetest, kindest, most loving guy and your intentions had to be pure I convinced myself.

I could no longer convince myself of that after my cousin’s wedding in Tennessee.  I thought the night of the wedding was the best night of our relationship.  You were so nice and outgoing when interacting with my family. It was the first time you met my dad and my brother and you all got along. You made sure the three of us got together for family photos since it was a rare occurrence that we got a picture when we were together.  You were chivalrous to my grandma giving up your seat for her.  You were so loving to me.  What fun we had dancing together!  Mindy, Joe’s wife, even commented that she could see how much you loved me by the way you stared at me from across the room.  I fell asleep in your arms that night dreaming about our future wedding one day and hopefully bearing your child.  If only I could bask in the glow of that night once again… sigh.  Then there was morning.

You asked me to get peaches with you from the market down the street.  I didn’t want to go, but I’m a people pleaser and I comprise my wants and needs for others… always have.  I make a simple request, could we stop for coffee at a gas station?  And we were off.  After peaches, we pass two gas stations both of which I ask you to stop at. Then you pull into a grocery store.  I look at you and say, I can’t get a prepared cup of coffee at a grocery store. You stare blankly ahead with repressed anger that tells me you aren’t going to move.  I exit the car perplexed, wondering what had provoked this behavior.  I enter the store to buy a bottle of water to give you a minute before returning to the car.  I repeated to you that I’d like to stop for a coffee and you said nothing.  You drove back to the Airbnb.  You collected your belonging and got in the passenger seat of the car an hour before we had to leave.  You are always the driver.  Is this a passive-aggressive punishment? I drove us one hour to the Atlanta airport.  I tried to talk to you several times.  To see what was happening to understand what you’re upset about.  “I’m not angry,” you said, arms folded, wearing a frown, you put your headphones on to shut me out.  “I told you how bad it could get for you” Your voice resembles a child being nasty to a parent.  “What do you mean, are we breaking up right now?” I ask.  “Do whatever you want” you reply coldly.

You are silent the whole drive.  You is silent walking through the airport, passing through security, the whole wait at the gate, the entire flight home, the drive from the Albuquerque airport to our house.  You won’t talk to me at home either and moves into the other room.  I am devastated.  I have never experienced behavior like this from a romantic partner.   I thought you was enlightened.  We did yoga together.  We sat in sacred tea ceremonies.  You wanted to stare into my eyes.  We were vulnerable, open, and honest with our feelings.  Now you is completely closed down, shut off, only darkness emanates from you.

Heavy hangs the head that last night wore the crown.  I think that’s a quote from Cinderella, loosely based on a quote from Shakespeare.

Such an extreme high to such an extreme low.  One night I want to marry you and have your child, the next morning I am realizing I have a Jekyll and Hyde situation on my hands and wonder if we will make it through this episode.  I really wanted this.  I had been single for 10 years.  10 long years with patches of dating but never anyone to call my partner or even boyfriend.  It was a long lonely road just to get here, and now it might be over.  I should have left you then.  You did not apologize.  It took you days to even talk to me.

When we finally spoke, you told me the lady at the peach stand in Tennessee was prejudiced and threw your change at you.  You said you felt ignored by her and it upset you.  You felt ignored by me after you didn’t stop to get me a coffee and took me to a grocery store instead.  You made up a story that I was rude to a lady that handled our rental car reservation when we got to Atlanta, 3 days prior.  I admit I did not go out of my way to be nice to her but I was not mean.  She lacked customer service skills and that is the sole reason I was not bubbly, certainly not because of the color of her skin.  You said I was racist, and that’s why you were so upset.  You walked away.

I was now put on trial to defend myself.  Your whole defense for acting like a child and closing down on me is to prosecute me as racist over an incident that happened days before the incident at hand?  It doesn’t make any sense.  You turned the table on me and I felt I must now seek your redemption.

It takes a few weeks before I can almost see you through the rose-colored glasses I used to, but somehow I manage too.  This shocking incident is always in the back of my mind.  I’m always worrying about what I might do to cause that behavior again.  Because it was my fault right? I’ve somehow been conditioned throughout my life to believe that I can cause the reaction of another.  So it was only natural that after this outburst I tried to fix it, tried to find out what I did wrong, tried to understand how to never make it happen again.  Over the next few years, many more incidents like this occurred.  You never called me a racist again but also never apologized for using that as a scapegoat for your unreasonable behavior.  You very rarely took responsibility for your actions and only truly did when I pushed you to or when you thought I might leave.

Time and time again you repeated this cycle.  Make me fall in love using vulnerability and charm to create a false sense of connection.  This was often started with a trip.  The first time you took me to India.   You would be so loving and sweet and make me forget the monster.  Then you started pushing boundaries and withholding support.  It was subtle.  You didn’t come to my yoga teacher finals where I had to teach a 1-hour class and invite friends to attend.  I tried not to read into this too much but it was one of many unsupportive things you began to do. Then, just as my self-esteem started to wither you’d deal me a really big blow and completely overreact to the slightest little thing then secretly rejoice in the satisfaction of bringing me to my knees begging for reconciliation. Rinse and repeat.

Then we moved to the ranch.  Was this a move to isolate your victim?  Typical narcissist.  It was your idea.  You made me think all my dreams were coming true.  I wanted land to start an event and glamping business and to build our dream tiny home.    You said let’s do it.  I believed the stars were aligning to strengthen us into a power couple and pave a successful future.

But you just pushed me away as soon as we got out there.  Every day you crumbled off a piece of the dream I thought we shared till there was just a pile of dust left.  One by one, the leaves spawned in the spring of our relationship began to fall. I tried to tell you we didn’t have that many leaves left, but you kept shaking the tree until the last leaf fell.

You pushed me away and then you laughed at me as I finally stood up for myself and left.

I didn’t give up on us. I gave up on the hope you might want to change.


My older brother Bill gave me every drug I ever tried the first time. I vividly remember my first 2 experiences, a cigarette, and a joint. I remember how quickly the addiction progressed. I didn’t know anything about addiction. I didn’t know that I was a prime candidate because of all the recent turmoil my family had faced. I did not know my brother and I were genetically pre-dispositioned for addiction. I didn’t know my brother already was an addict. I didn’t know I was under a lot of stress or fully understand the anxious feelings I was starting to have. I just knew drugs felt good and I liked them, especially pot. It slowed things down, it calmed me down, it created a temporary quiet space inside my overactive ego-trained brain. It made life surreal.

I smoked my first cigarette with Bill at 9 years old. Our parents smoked in their bedroom and were careless about leaving their cigarettes lying around. We were usually alone for a few hours after school till they arrived home from work. We used to go into their bedroom and steal change from a huge jar to squander on the ice cream truck. Sugar was my original addiction. One day I went into their bedroom for some small change but I started to play with the pack of Newports I found on my mom’s bedside nightstand. I put an unlit cigarette to my mouth and felt the menthol tingle my lips. I liked it. I sat there fake puffing on the cigarette when Bill walked in. Oh no, I thought, I’m in trouble. We did not have a safe trusting relationship. We did not protect each other. Since early childhood Bill would throw me under the bus and blame me anytime for anything if it meant he might avoid punishment, be praised, or receive extra privileges. He would actually set me up to achieve this. Once when I was 4 years old he convinced me that a blue mail collection box was a trash can and I should throw my gum in it because we were going into a theater and I had to spit it out. I ignorantly complied. Then he immediately told my grandma what I had just done and I got in big trouble, and he was praised for telling on me.

Anyhow so here I am caught with a forbidden cigarette between my lips and certain he was going to tell on me. Instead, he said, “have you ever smoked one?” ”no”, I replied. “let’s smoke one then,” he said. I figured I was damned either way and I submitted out of curiosity. He lit the cigarette took a deep drag which told me this was not his first cigarette. After a few puffs, he handed it to me. “Draw it into your mouth and then take a really deep breath ” he instructed to insure I would inhale properly. I remember that first hit of nicotine being the worst feeling I’d ever felt at that young age. It felt like someone poured hot sauces into my chest which then expanded into a green spider web of mucus tightening its grip on my virgin lungs. I coughed, I hacked, I almost threw up, I thought I might die. He brought me water and encouraged me to keep going. I don’t remember if I took another drag that day but it wasn’t long before I was stealing cigarettes from my parent’s packs before they went out on Friday night so my friend and I could share one and run around the house with a nicotine buzz. I managed to quit smoking cigarettes about 5 years ago, but I still occasionally have one- if and only if- I’ve been drinking.

At 12 years old the only exposure I had to drugs was through the Dare program in 5th grade and the required reading Go Ask Alice in middle school. Both the program and the book were meant to prevent drug use but just like an advertisement, the repetition just increased my curiosity about these forbidden fruits. There were also those 2 commercials. “This is your brain” a deep narrator’s voice proclaims over a visual of an egg. “This is your brain on drugs,” he said as we watched the eggshell crack and the insides skydive to a sizzling demise in the frying pan. “Any questions”? And the other commercial stated, “no one ever says they want to grow up to be a junkie.” These things never resonated with me. Junkies were homeless people on the streets in my mind. These commercials did not apply to my life.

Bill was 3 years older than me and my only sibling. He already had extensive experience with many different drugs. The only way he’d even give me the time of day was if I asked him about drugs. He would stand and talk to me forever about the difference between each drug how it all affected the mind and body. He made it sound so great and I’d never seen him as passionate about anything else. I remember him once telling me that he would never stop doing drugs for the rest of his life. He was right.

A few years later my curiosity about marijuana had grown too strong to contain so I finally asked my brother one day if he could get me some weed. Bill told his best friend who had a brother named Steven in my class. Steven wanted me to meet him before school to smoke a joint. Bill gave me my first joint for free. It was rolled in purple and green striped paper and he told me where to meet Steven before the bus to school the next morning. I was worried…. “Bill, I can’t smoke pot for the first time right before school. Will you teach me how now, so I won’t feel stupid with Steven and so I know how it will affect me?” Bill took me out to our screened-in pool area in the back of the house. We had 3 different sliding glass doors that looked into the pool area, one from our parent’s room. Despite our parents being home, Bill sparked that joint right there and we smoked it poolside. He told me some people don’t get high the first time, I figured they probably didn’t know how to inhale. After a few drags, I asked how I would know when I was high. He said it would feel like the static objects were starting to move. Sure enough, the sink in my peripheral view suddenly appeared to be bouncing around in a little circle. “Whoa… I think I’m high,” I said. He put the joint out and guided me back into the house. He told me to go to my room and instructed me not to talk to our parents under any circumstances for the rest of the night.

I turn 40 in 3 months. I haven’t taken a break from smoking pot for more than a few months since that fateful day. I managed to stay sober for 30 days last month, just to turn around and start smoking multiple times per day again. I guess it’s good to just clear it out once and a while. Nobody ever says they want to grow up to be a junkie. It just happens.

There are so many things I should be doing right now. I’m practically homeless. I do not have a job. I have a big dream that I have no idea how to accomplish. I should be making art. Somehow my focus has shifted to writing. I’m not a writer. I have no formal training in writing. Other than keeping a journal consistently for close to 10 years now, I’ve never shown much interest in writing. I just suddenly find it very therapeutic to spill my guts out right now anonymously in hopes that some strangers might read it and might find it helpful. I should be doing so many other things right now. Writing is helping me process all the grief of the past 9 months. I lost 2 of the most important male figures in my life in that short time. One was a breakup. One was a death.

“We never know what’s ahead of us,” my ex’s grandma always used to say. We all thought she’d live to 100, but the dear old woman passed away a couple of weeks ago at 92. 5 months ago, I was living in a state of shock but I still felt hopeful about the future I was building and the relationship I was in. I have accepted my reality but I have yet to completely pull myself together and move forward. My big dream is to buy land and build several structures from scratch. A tiny house to live in, a workshop/ garage, some outdoor showers, and bathroom facilities, and several RV hookups. I’d eventually like to have a few yurts and tiny cabins to rent out. I need to find a great location out in the wilderness but near some traveler destinations. I want to offer city folk the opportunity to disconnect from technology, reconnect with nature and see the milky way dust cloud at night. Long-term grand plans would be to turn this into an event space. Think destination weddings and yoga retreats. Maybe even small festivals. The idea of doing it alone is super daunting. So much so I might be better off buying an existing campground to start with. This was the path I was on with my partner. We were starting this on his land. Part of me wonders if I’m just still caught up in that dream or if I really want this. They were my ideas, he just happened to have the land to make it work.

The one thing I have going for me is what some people might call privilege. My dad owns a business. He put me on payroll a few years ago when I sold all my shit and took a giant leap of faith road trip with an undeclared timeline or destination. I didn’t ask him to. I was just planning to use up the money I had saved and grow roots somewhere when my money ran out. Guilt can do funny things to people. Maybe he felt guilty that he had been supporting my brother for over 10 years knowing that money was all just going up my brother’s nose or in his veins. The only people that money was benefiting were drug dealers, big pharma, and rehabs. Maybe he felt guilty about how unstable our childhood was. We went from poor to rich to poor again and moved 15 times in 18 years. He worked all the time. I barely remember him growing up. He was in jail most of my high school years for some business-related bank fraud. Maybe he thought this money could make up for all the lost time, the stupid arguments, the emotional abuse, the gaslighting. Oh, and how could I forget those 8 years in my 20s when I ran his business, put everything in my name so he could avoid paying restitution. I tried to be a good daughter looking out for her risk-taking father with a history of legal problems. I thought I could save people back then, or maybe even change them. Then he shafted me when I discovered how badly the salespeople were lying and tried to make things right. Our names and company were being tarnished across the internet. He essentially told me I was hurting the bottom line and if I didn’t like that he was allowing the dishonesty to continue I should pack up and leave. (Is anyone starting to see a pattern here?) Then he hired 2 of his new wife’s inexperienced children to take my place at a starting salary greater than my ending salary. I received no severance pay, all I wanted was my name off of everything and no liability.

I guess if you want to call this current guilt pay-off money ‘privilege’ go ahead. I feel guilty for taking it. And it’s not that much but it is a steady deposit into my account each week. It provided a stress-free way to travel. It allowed me to do my yoga teacher training and attend a permaculture and natural building school. It enabled me to walk away from a bad relationship. This last relationship has made me think a lot about abuse and how hard it must be for a woman to leave especially when she is financially dependent on her partner.

Emotional abuse can be very confusing as there is no real evidence of it and it usually has the abused thinking it’s all their fault. Edgar constantly tried to convince me that my issues with men were where all our problems stemmed from. He said I had daddy and brother issues. Not to say that I don’t but for him to say that it was my fault that he was acting in the same childish and narcissistic ways as they did… wow. In a way, I have to thank my dad and brother. Had I never been exposed to that type of behavior in childhood and had time to analyze it I may have stayed in the relationship with Edgar till my demise.

For now, all I can say is I have clothes on my back, food in my belly a warm place to stay. My basic needs are taken care of and I am much luckier than many others. I am grateful for my supportive friends and family. I still have so much to figure out from here. There are so many things I should be doing right now! But instead, I’m over here spilling my guts anonymously to strangers.

We hadn’t spoken in 4 months. When I got word his grandmother died a few weeks ago it cracked the door just enough to cast a little light into the darkness of our connection. A few days ago he sent me a Snapchat of his 2 new baby goats and told me he had two more the day before that. I looked down at Moby, our Chocolate Lab, and said, “your dad has already moved on and has 4 new kids”.

In 2020 my partner of 2 years, Edgar, and I decided to sell the house we’d lived in for 18 months, and move from Albuquerque, NM to his family’s ranch in northeastern New Mexico to build an off-grid shipping container home. It seemed like the right thing to do, the world was ending. The 1400-acre cattle ranch was already inhabited by his 91-year-old Grandma- Ilene and his 60-year-old Uncle- Roberto. To give ourselves some space we bought a 6’ wide by 25’ long trailer to add to the existing camp of slowly deteriorating trailers behind the house. It was a typical ranch with more cars than people more stuff than storage space, countless feral cats, and constant wind gusts creating dirt devils and a unique concert of squeaks, creaks, clanging, and wind chimes. I’d sometimes visualize this once valuable junk left out to rot blowing away one atom at a time like grains of sand with each desert wind that blew by. The first few weeks were blissful. We had escaped the big city of small-buquerque. We would wake up every day look at each other and exclaim with so much joy “We live here!” The day the shipping container arrived felt like Christmas. I was running around with multiple cameras to document the whole thing. Very exciting times. My favorite moment of that day was when Uncle Roberto brought Grandma over to see the Shipping container on his 4-wheeler. Grandma was a tough but tiny countrywoman whose shriveling height was well under 5 feet and weighed barely 90 lbs. She looked like an elf sitting behind her son who was over 6 feet tall, 250 lbs. As they approached, I realized she was sitting side-saddle on the ATV, and sandwiched between her and Uncle Roberto was Sammie the 12-year-old Australian Shephard. That mental snapshot will never fade. Things were so happy then.

How it all went so wrong, I’m still not sure. It was a slow boil. Thinking back, it started before we even moved out to the ranch. Sure we had issues, but so do all couples, right? Being stonewalled and having your partner completely close off just meant I should try harder, right? It was not time to give up….we had built something, right? We met at yoga, he must be an enlightened guy under all that repressed anger. This was just a phase we had to get through, right? Maybe it was his job that made him irritable and everything should be fine now that he quit.

For the record, it was his idea to move to the ranch. Sure I was the one interested in off-grid building. I also had a healthy sense of my knowledge and capabilities. Every time I tried to have a conversation about how we would accomplish this huge feat of building off-grid I was met with “I know what I’m doing…..It will be fine……we will have lots of help…..Don’t worry”. When I attended the Earthship academy in 2019 my big takeaway was a phrase one of the instructors slipped out in a lecture. “Move to Taos, build a house, lose a spouse.” I was hopeful (since we weren’t moving to Taos) but knew this endeavor would make or break us.

When we got to the ranch in November of 2020 I was pumped to get started right away before the weather changed. I felt 6 months in an RV would be pushing our limits and expressed this deadline well before we left Albuquerque. We were on the same page then. But once out at the ranch, he said no, we are not starting the build till March- five months away. I love working in the cold in winter. I do not do well in the heat of summer and I felt now was the perfect time to start so we could work inside all winter. This was not up for discussion. The master had decided and I had no further agency to change his mind. I tried to stay positive. I did everything else to get us ready. I read, researched, planned, prepared, and began purchasing materials. Every few days I asked him if he would sit and talk with me about the project. I just wanted a sounding board to bounce ideas off of and a second opinion before I bought something. Every time he would tell me no. I do not want to help. I do not want to research. I do not want to talk to you about the building project. He would help everyone else with anything they asked of him. He would drive 1-4 hours to different towns to shop every other day for I don’t even know what. He even fessed up that his whole kundalini sadhana practice was a way to avoid me. He’d go to bed at 7 pm every night so he could get up every morning at 3 am for a 2-hour practice that he did not even engage with to avoid talking to me.

Eventually, he became obsessed with getting goats. Goats are great….I wanted goats too, but let’s not put the goat before the house, right? Couldn’t we please just finish the house before getting animals that we will need to build a shelter for? Animals that will tie us down. At least, for now, we could travel when we wanted to. This was also not up for any kind of discussion. I valued his opinion and wanted him to be part of the decision-making process of the future we were building. I wished he felt the same. One day he was going to pick up his goats and I was either going with him or once again left behind in the dust and stench of his diesel truck to deal with cooking and cleaning for his family alone while dwelling on the ever-fading dream of our hopeful future together.

Looking back, I see the carrot he dangled before me.  He knew this was something I wanted to do.  He knew we were having problems and I was thinking of leaving him before we moved to the ranch.  He knew he could use this dream to isolate me even further and continue the cycle of abuse.  He knew he could stonewall me but walk around grandma’s house laughing and smiling like everything was kosher.   He acted as though he was the greatest guy on earth here to take care of grandma and I was just a whiney little nag who couldn’t handle country living.  I can handle a lot, believe me.  

For 5 months we lived in a camping trailer with no running water which meant we did not use the toilet or shower even though it had a very nice- albeit small- bathroom. We did not cook in the RV either because it was too much of a hassle without running water to clean up. With the bed popped out the seams of the trailer pulled apart and left gaping cracks that allowed cold air to blow in all winter so the heating efforts were practically null and void. We had to sleep under so many heavy blankets I would throw my shoulder out rolling over in bed. We lived in the high planes and frequently had 50+ mile hour winds all night long fall, winter and spring. These winds slammed into our trailer like a giant’s hand punching our walls with brass knuckles. When the wind caught the vent in the kitchen it sounded like that same giant was playing a kazoo in our trailer.

We had to go into the house for everything. We went into the house as soon as we woke up for warmth. We cooked and ate every meal with Grandma and his uncle. We used the bathroom and shower in the house. Our relationship was suddenly a communal living situation. We had no privacy as a couple and certainly none as individuals. There was not an inch of space in that house that was not taken up by a knickknack, used tin spice container, vintage medicine bottle, painted rock, or just some junk put on display because no one had the heart to throw it out. There was not a warm space for yoga that grandma could not see me and watch me and make comments about my flexibility which she did. There was not a quiet corner I could make a desk or art space. Every spare room was filled to the brink with stuff, including some of ours since we’d moved from a 3 bedroom house to a camping trailer. I never complained.

I did not go into this blindly. I was thinking it through. Before we moved out there, we were meditating together in a sacred tea ceremony a ritual that kept us feeling connected. We would express feelings that came up after the tea meditation. I told him how excited I was to move out there. I told him that I was fully invested and would take care of grandma when the time came that she needed help. I just asked for one thing. I asked that we be conscious of how this move might affect our relationship. I knew ahead of time that this more than likely would put a strain on our relationship and I wanted to head it off by asking would he please have one meal or even just coffee one time per week with me alone. It wasn’t a big ask and it felt feasible. He had a sly look in his eye at the time that I mistook for consideration as he hugged me with assurance. Instead, I gave him surefire ammo. One more vulnerability he could twist his knife into later. Once at the ranch he would tell me I was selfish for even bringing this up. He said Grandma needed him and he couldn’t leave her. At this time grandma was fully functional and independent. She had been living out there just fine without us, we did not move there to take care of her and she still had Uncle Roberto to keep her company if we didn’t join her for dinner. Yet he refused.

I never thought I could end up in an emotionally abusive relationship. I failed to see that it even was abusive till I left. I just knew I was a people pleaser and as usual, did whatever I could to keep the peace. Of course, I decided to support his decision to get goats even if I thought it was a bad idea at this time. This was what my partner wanted and I respected that. Everything would be fine I reassured myself. We drove 4 hours through freezing weather, extreme wind, and brief stretches of sleet and snow in early march to pick up the goats near Alamosa Colorado.

We were greeted by the ranch owner’s pregnant belly partially exposed as the clothing attempting to cover her belly had reached its full potential weeks ago. She waddled us over to the pregnant goat named Sonora and helped us get her up on Edgars Chevy truck bed and into the makeshift pallet crate my partner had devoted the past few days to building. While he fastened the crate shut, she waddled me over to the house and invited me in, I still wasn’t sure why until we found her daughters playing with 2 baby goats on the living room floor. One of the goats stood up and peed on the carpet. The expectant mama casually said ‘good thing I planned for that.’ Still not sure what that meant. These babies were ours too I surmised when she picked one up and handed it to me to carry. Edgar barely spoke to me the whole drive there, I had no idea we were getting baby goats too. I thought it was just the one pregnant goat we were buying. The babies were very friendly and wanted to be touched held and loved. I immediately fell in love with them and Sonora and my mood was lightened a little on the way home. I wanted to name the brown one Sacagawea I announced.

We brought them inside when we got home and let Grandma play with them and hold them on her lap. She loved it. It turned out to be a happy day. Maybe things would improve. Over the next few months, there were good times, the re were bad times and there were really really bad times. I had already been crying after one more failed attempt to try to connect and communicate with my partner on the morning of June 28th when I got the call my brother had taken his life. I told Edgar I could not handle any more sadness and since he refused to communicate, compromise or respect any of the ideas, research, knowledge, or even specific materials I bought for the project, I told him to just finish the house on his own however he wanted to. At this point, I’d given up on my fantasy that this would be an award-winning tiny home when we were done and I just wanted to finish it. I didn’t want to fight anymore. He insisted he knew what to do and how to do it and wasn’t going to follow my plan anyways. We were only 10 percent finished 7 months into the project. Fast forward to the last straw. It’s now November. My friend, Eli, had been staying with us on the ranch and it had been helpful as she got to see some of the nasty behavior he usually reserved just for me. This helped me put things into perspective and stop living in denial.

I had become depressed. I felt like a shell of the being I was before I met him 3 years ago. That was the happiest time of my life, the time just before I met him. I truly wanted a partner then, I finally felt ready for a very strong relationship. I wanted to grow a partnership with someone else who could see the magic all around us. I believed he was that person. We’d been having issues with Sacagawea for a couple of months now. My friend Eli and I would take the goats for a sunset walk every day. One day Sacagawea just reared up and started bucking at us. Nothing seemed to stop her. She seemed determined to ram one of us every walk. We wanted to keep the goats natural and decided not to stop their horn growth, so she had almost a full-grown set of horns by now. It hurt when she got you. She became a pistol to walk with but we still tried. Her incidents were increasing. After bruising me several times, she rammed another visiting friend, this time a sneak attack from behind leaving a black and blue circle the size of my palm on her thigh. Then, on that fateful day at the end of November, she punctured a hole in Eli’s leg as Eli tried to put her back in the pen.

This concerned me. All I said was, “honey, what do you think we should do about Sacagawea now that she has injured 3 people and has become increasingly more aggressive.” After ignoring me for his football game for several minutes, I calmly repeated my question on a commercial break. He stood up, put his hands on his hips, and walked over to me in angry dad mode. Every conversation I tried to have with him in the past year since we’d moved to the ranch went something like this….

“We’re not going to do anything about it. You know, I haven’t had a chance to tell you yet, but these are wild animals and you and your friends just don’t know enough about that, you grew up in a city. I grew up around animals. You guys are causing her to be aggressive, she’s never been aggressive with me. You guys need to just stop walking the goats….”

I replied “Please do not be condescending. Eli has worked on goat farms and you grew up in Albuquerque. We’ve put down cats, an aggressive dog, and two roosters this year for undesirable behavior. I’m not saying we should put down our goat, but I wanted to discuss options because it’s a liability for us if she hurts someone. If you don’t respect me enough to have a conversation and compromise then this is not a relationship.”

“If you don’t like it, you can pack your shit and leave” he turned back to the TV and that was the end of the conversation. The master had spoken. No more words will be heard. That was the moment I knew it was over. Our relationship had become like a tree in autumn every fight was a leaf falling. The last leaf had finally fallen.

One week before this incident he came into the RV to find me crying. He sat down and said I’m sorry I’m not the man you need me to be.

I said I don’t need you to be anything but kind and respectful. I told him stonewalling was cruel. I told him going to bed angry and unwilling to resolve things was cruel. I told him to please never tell me to leave in the heat of the moment argument if he didn’t mean it. I told him I could not accept that kind of behavior anymore and please to never do it again if he wanted me to be his partner. I had been telling him this for 2 years now.

He went back to his football game after our ‘talk’ about Sacagawea. I returned to my respective digital distraction device. We ignored each other, aside from one attempt I made to remind him about the convo we just had about how hurtful these actions were. He wouldn’t speak to me before going to bed and just laid down on top of my laptop because it was on his side when he came to bed. He turned the light out on me as I tried to gather my things to sleep somewhere else. In the morning he deliberately left Moby- the dog my family gave us and took Robo the dog his family gave us and went to meet his family for breakfast. He made no effort to smooth things over. He gave no fucks my feelings were hurt. It’s like he wanted to hurt me. It’s like he feeds off others’ pain.

I packed my shit and I left. That was 4 months ago. Today he reached out to tell me he had 4 more baby goats and now has a total of 8 kids. I’m still not sure how to tell Moby.

This morning I woke up to a memory. An altercation I had with my brother years ago. It was Sunday morning of Labor Day weekend, 2016. I just woke up and was making coffee in the kitchen as he slowly stirred on my couch a few feet away. He seemed like he was in a good mood so I decided to bring up the incident. All I said was “I’m a little concerned about what happened Friday night, Bill”. I mean, that’s all I said. You wouldn’t think that would cause such a ruckus. You wouldn’t think that he would start yelling and throwing shit around my apartment.

I opened my door to give myself space from his shouting and heard my friend Sarah from upstairs lighting a cigarillo on her balcony. No doubt she had heard him through her floor. She came out to keep an eye on things. She knows he’s unpredictable, she has a sister just like him. Things were escalating quickly, Bill couldn’t contain his anger. “I already told you what happened but you don’t believe me, Jesus Christ, no one believes me.” He whined loudly in his junkie voice. I’m once again in fight or flight mode, a position that’s become oddly familiar. I glanced up at Sarah and my eyes told her I was ok, for now.

“All I said was I’m a little concerned about you. You told me when you were in rehab the last time that you wanted me to call you out if I thought you were using.”

“Oh yeah, dad and I have been sitting around all weekend doing drugs,” he sarcastically sidestepped my actual inquiry. I retreated as I saw this was going nowhere. But he droned on about how stupid my accusation was. He had merely fallen asleep on the tram once he got to Tampa. Was I just too stupid to understand that?

He had been one year sober, or so we all thought. He was supposed to fly in on Friday and I was excited to see him. Things had not always been good between us. Our relationship had been strained most of our lives. Maybe it even started with my birth. My mom told me the first time she brought me home from the hospital, my three-year-old brother Bill walked up to me with a toy gun, put it to my infant head, and said “bang, bang.”

This latest stint of sobriety for him was great for our relationship. We took several trips together in 2016 and began to bond and heal as siblings who came from a chaotic past and were now both on a spiritual path. All that progress in our relationship had been scrapped for anger over my accusation. I was not totally out of line. His reaction alone told me everything I needed to know. That my intuition was correct. That he was using. That opiates were destroying his life and, in an instant, crushed the one-year truce we’d had while he maintained sobriety, again.

He was supposed to arrive Friday night during Hurricane Hermine, a minor hurricane blowing through West Central Florida. I told my dad I would get Bill and he could stay with me all weekend. He had earned my trust once again and I was quite excited for this time with him. I had made plans and invited friends to hang out with us. He liked my friends and always wanted to hang out with them. After years of enduring unpredictable behavior that at times made us look like we were in a domestic abuse relationship sometimes even out in public, a boundary I had set was that I would not be around him alone if I suspected he was high. I would never invite him around my friends when he was using either.

I was so proud of him the last time I saw him just a few weeks before. I couldn’t wait to drive through a storm to get him. It was a short flight between Ft. Lauderdale and the Tampa Airport and I could hop in the car shortly after his flight took off to arrive curbside at the perfect pick-up time (a superpower I pride myself on). I called him just before his takeoff since he hadn’t responded to my text requesting confirmation of an on-time departure. His speech was slurred when he answered, he could barely respond but it sounded like he said the flight attendants were refusing to let him board the plane. Then we got disconnected and he did not respond again. Not to calls, not to texts. I drove to the airport just in case. Waited outside the gate for 2 hours just in case. Walked back and forth between the baggage claim and the gate, just in case. Asked the flight attendants if they could tell me if he boarded just in case. Of course, they could not tell me, and I never found him. I went home. It was almost midnight. I was sad, scared, concerned, and felt like we were back to square one with trust-building.

I was willing to give him the benefit of doubt. Maybe his phone died. Maybe it was a practical joke. Maybe he just fell asleep at the airport. I mean these things happen all the time to him. Or at least these are the excuses he gives. I’ve never met anyone in my life who has missed so many flights because he got to the airport too early and fell asleep waiting for the flight. My family knew the truth even if we never wanted to admit it. He missed those flights because he was too high.

He eventually arrived in Tampa at about 4 am Saturday. He told my dad he had landed in Tampa at the scheduled time but fell asleep on the monorail which is a sixty-second ride from the gates to the main terminal. He said he slept on the monorail going back and forth on that one-minute journey till 4 am, six hours from the time he should have walked off the tram. Wouldn’t security or someone wake him? Again, we know the truth but lightly accept what he tells us because it’s easier.

All I said was “I’m a little concerned about what happened Friday night, Bill”. I was met with wrath equal to an angry god set to destroy his rebellious people. I gathered up all the fight I had in me and did something I’m ashamed to have done several times before. I kicked him out. Out of my apartment, out of my life, out of my friendship circle, out of my mind. I canceled him. Tears streamed down his face as he dragged his rollaboard suitcase through the unpaved ally to wait for an uber at the end of the street. He was still ranting to no one in particular when the first of my friends coming to hang out with us today pulled into the alley and parked in my guest spot. She entered my apartment, eyes wide in disbelief. She already knew what had happened. His behavior was predictably unpredictable. I was somehow still caught off-guard every time it happened.

It’s his birthday today and exactly 9 months to the day that he took his life. People tell you to just remember the good stuff when someone dies. This is the memory I woke up with.

I always wished weed was legal until I found myself standing in line at Maggie's Farm for over an hour in Manitou Springs, Colorado on Sunday night. It was quickly approaching 10:00 pm and as we inched along the amusement park-style line, I couldn't help judging the ride-goers.... starting with myself. Had I known I'd be here for over an hour I would have combed my hair, maybe even taken that shower I kept putting off after my midday workout. I was grateful for the jacket that was heavier than I needed that night and hoped it was heavy enough to mask my body odor as I slowly zipped it up. Should I put my hood up to hide my greasy hair? Now it will be apparent I'm covering my insecurity as opposed to if I had walked in hood up. I was already verging on the warm side after zipping my coat, I do not want to start sweating now and risk creating the bog of eternal stench around me. I leave the hood down. I refused to take out my phone and pretend I had some important business or that anyone cared to write me at that hour like the rest of the people in line....no, I am too cool for that. I'm totally comfortable just standing here with nothing to entertain me, quickly diverting my eyes just in the nick of time from meeting another's. I mostly stare off to the side at the tears and strange descriptive writing on the pop-up tent. I remember this place before the tent. I remember when there was no line out the door. Now at 10:30 pm on a Sunday- a time I was certain I could just run over grab my shit and be back in under 20 mins including drive time- I stand here in fight or flight mode. Do I stay the course and get my shit, maybe the line pace will pick up soon? Or do I come to terms with how addiction has gripped my life and run straight home finally standing in my power? A security guard walks through the line yelling “silver escalade.... whoever drives a silver escalade, your car has been hit”. Shit, I can't leave now, they will think I am the silver escalade. I hang in there. I keep my head down but can't stop noticing the girl in sponge bob pajamas and Adidas slide knock-offs. Her teal piggy toes on full display and probably wishing they had sock jackets right about now. She clearly gives no fucks, or maybe she also thought there would be no line, or that at least they would dim those string lights at this hour. I wondered is everyone here addicted to weed like me? The tall old hippie directly in front of me, stick thin with a long silver ponytail.... had he been smoking since the ‘60s? The short stout man ahead of the old hippie- looked like he used to be a mean biker a decade ago but probably just finished washing dishes at a dive bar- hacking and coughing his way through the line indicated he was probably a lifer. Most of the rest of the crowd seemed to be within ten years of my age. I had eyes on one girl for a minute, she doesn't look like a pot smoker, I decide, before instantly wondering if she or any of them might be thinking the same of me. I am turning forty in three months. For the most part I look strait-laced and if you didn't know me you would not assume I am a junkie. I'm sure no one assumed that about my brother either, but he was a different kind of junkie and that’s a whole other story. It's been a lifelong goal of mine to not be a pot-head at 40. This goal had been set for 20, then 30. Even my high school journals indicated I felt I had a problem and wanted to quit then too. One day, I know I will quit for good. I hear my name called and realize I’m at the front of the line. It's my turn to ride the ride... so I guess I’ll quit later.