Thursday, December 4, 2014

The End (ch. 43)

After my uncle's death I went through a lot of ups and downs. My aunt and uncle became my mom and dad. They worked with me through my adolescence, helped me as a young adult with a drug addiction and alcoholism and have been my forever family. I am everything I am today because they love me. I know I skipped over the entire dark period of my own battle with alcoholism, it's part of my story, but not the most important part. The most important part is that I recovered. I survived, and there was a happy ending for me. God is good.  Today I have two beautiful children and a wonderful husband and a mom who has been there for me since the day she adopted me. She stepped in to fill the shoes my biological mother couldn't.  I am so blessed. My past does not define me.  I am like the Phoenix, who emerged from the ashes. There may be more fires in my future, but I know I'll survive those too.

Thursday, April 4, 2013

An Inferno (Ch. 42)

Less than a year after I moved to Atlanta, Uncle Steve got sick.  He didn't go to the doctor, and because he was in a wheelchair, he couldn't cough effectively enough and ended up with pneumonia.  He was hospitalized and put on a ventilator.  My Uncle Wally went to be with him and I wrote a letter telling him I loved him and how I would be coming to visit him soon.  I told him I was doing good and was glad I moved to Atlanta.  I told him I had recently had pneumonia too and hoped he started to fell better soon.  My Uncle Wally called to tell me that he read him the letter and Uncle Steve had tears in his eyes.  I knew he loved me.  He was the only person that had consistently shown me love as a child.  The only person I had that was still here.  I had my Uncle Wally, but Uncle Wally didn't know about the Boxcar Children, or Bird Bird.  He didn't eat flies and he never watched me tap dance.  

The idea of him dying was not even a possibility in my mind.  Three days later, he was gone.  He knew when Uncle Wally read him the letter that he was going to die.  He made the decision for them to take him off the ventilator.  It has taken me a long long time to stop being angry at him for that decision.  For years I kept dwelling on the fact that he could have gotten better if he had just waited and let the doctors care for him.  I cried when I first found out, but the heart ache of this loss is not something I felt right away.  The hurt came later.  It came on slow and built up the way a fire does.  Years passed before I realized my loss had turned into an inferno.  I used drugs to ease the burn.  Still this fire is not out.  It's smoldering and I'm not sure if it will ever be distinguished.   I miss him.  I will always miss him.

Sunday, October 7, 2012

My Arrival in Atlanta (Ch. 41)

When I arrived in Atlanta I did so with a bitter heart.  I was angry at my Uncle Steve for sending me away and I hated the idea of living around a bunch of Americanos.  After living on the reservation for so long I had come to believe that most white people were lame and stuck up.  I wanted to be with my people, who were wild and free and..... OK with me being drunk most of the day.  

What I knew about the south was only what I had seen by watching Anne of Green Gables.  I was picturing men in overalls and ladies with hats serving ice tea expecting me to say things like, "yes, mam I've been doing lovely today!"  What a nightmare! 

The landscape was vastly different from California or the beautiful deserts of New Mexico.  I had moved to a rain forest!  Every direction I looked there were trees, and what looked like branches of ivy growing over everything. My aunt and uncle lived in a cookie cutter neighborhood where every third house was the same.  Their house was a small, narrow two story.  I would share a bedroom (and bed) with my little 12 year old cousin.

As time went by I got use to things just like I had every other place I had lived.  By the time I was 16, I had been a little girl who loved her mother, a child who missed her father, a crack baby, a good kid, a sex abuse survivor, a treasure hunter, a candy thief, the kid who gets picked on in school, a hamster murderer, a police informer, a snake wrangler, a brave kid, an unloved child, a resident of a battered women's shelter, a Mormon, an entrepreneur, a pool shark, nothing, a trash collector, a mooch, a spoiled little girl, a skier, a manipulator, a tap dancer, and an Indian.  I had moved 38 times that I can remember.  This time I didn't change who I was to fit in though. I had drugs now, and I could be comfortable just being me.... as long as I could be me high.  I loved being high.  It took away everything that was bad.  It blocked out the past and only left me with the present, it took away my insecurities and only left me feeling silly and happy.  I used weed to numb my feelings so I could cope with my world and get through the day.  I still went to school, I still did my homework and I got straight A's.  I liked to party, but I mostly used drugs to self medicate.

I understood that I still had to take care of myself, no matter that I had been taken in and adopted by my uncle and aunt.  I got a job at 16.  I worked at a daycare and supervised the after-school program.  Everyday after I got out of school I took the bus home and walked to work.  I made $6.00 an hour.  Things were looking up for me.  The drugs enabled me to live comfortably in my own skin.  I had a family who showed me lots of love, was doing well in school and had a job.  The drugs were helping me, I thought... what could be bad about drugs?  Somewhere in the back of my head I thought of my mother and how the drugs had taken over her life..... but that wouldn't happen to me.  I would make sure of that.

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Saying Goodbye to Uncle Steve (Ch. 40)

My Uncle Wally came and packed up my stuff and told me I was going with him to Atlanta, GA.  I didn't want to go.  I begged my Uncle Steve not to make me go.  I had only met my Uncle Wally a few times and had no idea what would be waiting for me in Georgia.  I was afraid to leave the only person that I knew loved me.  I had no choice in the matter, I had no where else to go.  

"Start putting your stuff in the car, we leave in 15 minutes."  It was too sudden, I wasn't prepared for this!  For the last few years I was the one that had decided what would happen to me and where I would go.  This control was what held me together.  The responsibility for my own well being is what I knew.  The helplessness I felt was enormous.

I put my things in the trunk and as I was walking back in the door I overheard my Uncle Steve say, "She is ruining her life... going to end up just like her mother.  She's out all night partying.  You have to get her out of here."  When I walked in they stopped talking and my Uncle Wally told me to say goodbye.  Uncle Steve had tears in his eyes and his mouth in a tight grim expression.  I ran to his chair and sat down in front of his legs.  "Please don't send me away, I'll do better," I cried.  He just shook his head and told me that he didn't know what to do.  I gave him a stiff hug and walked out the door angry at him.

I thought him sending me away meant that he didn't love me, but it was because of how much he loved me that he sent me away.  I wish I would have know that then.  I wish I would have hugged him one more time, kissed him and told him thank you.  I wish I would have told him how much I loved him.  Uncle Steve was the only family I had ever known all my life and leaving him that day felt like someone was taking the only love I had ever been given away.  Less than a year later, his love really was taken from me forever.  That was the last time I ever saw him alive.

Uncle Steve saved my life.  If it wasn't for him, my uncle Wally would have never came for me.  I would have never made anything of my life.  I would have never left there.  I would have been a high school drop out, pregnant at 17 and living off a government check for the rest of my life.  I might not have made it to 17.  I might have died while drunk driving and killed others too.  

Living on a reservation makes you blinded to things the world has to offer.  The government assistance Native Americans receive makes it easy to lose all ambition for bettering yourself.  With minds clouded with alcohol, each day is lived only for the present, because they can see nothing else.  This isn't true for everyone, but it is for the majority.  It took me 7 years to realize I wanted more out of life, but I would have never realized it if I were still on the reservation and he knew that.  He changed my life.  He gave me a real family.  Thank you Uncle Steve.  I love you.

Monday, July 2, 2012

Living With Uncle Steve (Ch. 39)

At 15, I spent my waking hours chasing one high after another.  I wasn't able to adjust as easily to being in a family, as I was in the other dysfunctional situations I lived through.  I think a part of me knew that my life of "just trying to survive" was over.... and I just didn't care anymore.  My resentments towards my aunt escalated and I did what in the past proved to solve my problems... I ran away again.

Uncle Steve had gotten a small place of his own in a little Hispanic town right outside of the reservation and had set up to have a nurse come daily to help him with his disabilities. I spent a lot of time at his place because I was allowed to smoke pot there.  Uncle Steve had always smoked weed and didn't bat an eye when I came over stoned out of my mind looking for munchies in his bare kitchen.  He was no hypocrite. 

There was an initial awkwardness the first time we lit up together... I think both of us were remembering when I use to read The Box Car Children books to him when I was little.  I was 15 now though, and Uncle Steve understood that I had grown up a long time ago.  We were close.  His little 600 square foot duplex apartment held pictures of me in every room.  In his bedroom there was a large shadowed profile of me that was made when I was in kindergarten.

I ran away from the reservation and moved in with Uncle Steve.  His little apartment only had one bedroom, but there was a very large (8'x10') storage room.  It had two high little windows and we managed to squeeze a little twin bed in there.  My uncle did the best he could.  He told me that if I lived with him I had to go to school and graduate.  So every morning I continued to get on the school bus, and continued to ditch school... only sometimes I wouldn't come home at night.  I would party all night long, and have to wait for the following day to get back on the bus to get home again.  Uncle Steve would be furious... but I could usually butter him up to forgive me by having a friend come over to smoke him up. 

One night, not wanting to have to get into it with my uncle again, I snuck out of the tiny little window in my room.  I had to climb up the head board to reach it and it was a tight fit getting out.  Once out, I took off with some friends to a party in the city.  At the party I met an older guy who was from the same reservation as me, who I had heard of in passing, but never actually met.  He spent the night watching out for me and giving me drink after drink and lighting me up.  I loved the attention.  I loved being "cared" for.  When he asked if I would go to the bathroom with him.... I went.  I knew what he wanted to do in the bathroom.  While we were in there, some woman came banging on the door screaming at us to get out.  She called me whore and kicked me out of her house.

The guy let me leave alone.  I sat on the stairs out side with no way home and no where to go and cried.  That was how I lost my virginity.  When I finally made my way back to Uncle Steve's in the early morning hours, I couldn't get back in the high windows.  I sat outside and waited for morning and cried some more.  I later found out that the guy in the bathroom was my second cousin.  "Could anything in my life be more screwed up?"

After the nurse came to get my uncle up, he told me my Uncle Wally, his brother, was coming from Georgia and would be here later tonight.  Uncle Wally was the uncle that worked for the airlines, he was the one who set me up on the plane each time I ran away from California.  He would be coming to rescue me again, only this time it was from myself.  I waited for him excitedly, not knowing the life changing decisions that had been made for me behind my back.

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Self Medicating (Ch. 38)

I returned to the reservation feeling free.  I was safe and sound physically.  Mentally I needed help.  I dove head first into a new world of self medicating.  I spent my life till then trying to adjust myself to fit in whatever situation I was in, but never really feeling like I fit in.  I knew I wasn't normal.  I knew my life wasn't normal.  

The drugs provided an escape.  There is no such thing as normal when you are high and I found this to be irresistible.  When I was stoned, I was just stoned.  I wasn't the girl who was abandoned by her mother, or the girl who was molested, or the girl who watched her mother get raped.  The weight of hiding my memories disappeared, because I was empty inside and there was no place to keep them.

I partied with my cousins and fought with my aunt and uncle.  My aunt and uncle treated me just like their own children, and I behaved no differently.  I snuck out like my cousins, lied, stole and received my share of punishments along with them.  My aunt used a long wooden rod to deliver punishment.  She use to line us up if we were caught together and dish out the blows one person at a time.  It was always worse if you were the last to get hit.  The waiting and anticipation was torture! 

Native Americans like to punish their children, we even have a specific holiday every year for it.  It's called River Man Day in English.  May 3rd all the children in each household will go outside in front of their house and dance and throw blessed corn meal while we wait for the River Men.  The River Men are covered in mud, dressed in rags and have a hood covering their head.  The only part of their face that is visible is their mouth and it's full of sharp jagged teeth! 

When the River Men come, they ask your parents if you have been good.  Your parents ALWAYS say that you have not been.  Then you are picked up in one swift motion and hauled away while you scream your head off.  You are taken to the river, where you are told you will be thrown in and drowned.  Eventually other relatives chase after you and rescue you.  The entire thing is a ruse to scare you into behaving in the future.  It's quite frightening.

The more time I spent high, the less time I spent in class.  I use to get high before I got on the school bus in the morning.  Once I got to school, I would ditch with my friends and drink and smoke all day.  I would sober up enough to get back on the bus to go home.  Once home, I would spend the rest of the afternoon hiding in my room so no one would know I was drunk.  At night, me and my cousin would take turns jumping out the window and getting stoned on the side of the house while the other was the lookout. 

When I did go to class, I found the work to be easy and it bored me.  I use to be a straight "A" student and I was in honor classes.  My new school offered free birth control in the nurse's office, day care for the girls who forgot to take their pills, and a "3 Strikes" policy when it came to getting caught with dope...but no honor classes. 

My teacher's didn't challenge me so I didn't see the point in going to class.  I actually had one teacher who use to get high with me.  I went to his class all the time.  He was the automotive teacher.  We use to smoke near the exhaust vent so it would suck the smoke out of the room.  It was very convenient.

My new family was loving and I was never abused, but there was dysfunction. My uncle got drunk every night. My aunt and uncle would fight about it. My uncle would sober up and then a couple weeks later my aunt would come home high and drunk herself. Then the cycle would start again. I started to grow a resentment towards my aunt because of all the punishments she dueled out. What a hypocrite, I thought. How could she punish us for doing the exact same thing she was doing?

I had spent so much time being an adult, that I had a hard time keeping my mouth shut in situations where children should not speak. I felt like my aunt's equal and it was hard for me to respect her. It was a battle I fought internally, constantly having to bite my tongue. It was tiring. Self medicating not only helped me to forget my past, but it also took me out of the present.

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

The Second Escape (Ch. 37)

The entire car ride back to California I was silent.  I would not allow my mother to put one finger on me.  I pressed myself as far as I could into the door and stared out the window.  The endless dessert flew by in a smear of brown and white.  I imagined opening the door, falling out of the speeding car and becoming a smear of my own.  I imagined it would probably be a red smear.  I wouldn't even look at Bill.  I saw him looking at me in the rear view mirror and I wanted to reach over the seat and smash his head into the windshield.  That would have made a red smear too.

When we finally arrived at Bill's house, I went to my room to find it exactly how I had left it.  Destroyed.  I sat on the bed and cried.  In the living room I could hear my mother and Bill arguing.  Then my mother opened the door to the room and said, "OK, come and give me a kiss...I'm taking off."  I couldn't believe her...  Why had she come and taken me back to him?!  Did he pay her?  Why is she leaving?!  Why did she do this?!  I was so afraid to be left with Bill, but I would NOT kiss her or beg her to stay.  My heart had nothing but hate in it.  I turned my back away from her, "get the fuck away from me."

I had never sworn at my mother before and it was liberating.  At that moment we crossed a line and she became someone other than my mother.  She was no one to me.  When she left I mourned her like she had died.  I knew I would never look at her as a mother again.  Bill wisely left me alone.  The next morning I woke up and got ready for school.  When I walked out into the living room Bill was waiting to drive me.  "I don't want a ride from you.  I don't want anything from you."  I said it with as much disgust as I could.  I almost spat the words out.  Then I walked to the bus stop. 

The only light I could find in my dark situation was that I would see Crystal again.  We had not spoken on the phone once since I left and I knew it was because she was mad at me.  I had left her.  She needed me as much as I needed her... and I left.  She didn't understand everything I was dealing with at Bills and I couldn't explain it to her.  I knew deep down she understood me leaving was the best thing for me, but that didn't stop her from hurting.

When I got to school I found that Bill already had my mother enroll me and I had all the same classes I did 4 months ago.  I walked from my first class to the central plaza and Crystal saw me from across the entire courtyard.  We made eye contact and just like in the movies, we ran to each other.  We both were crying when we hugged and relief flooded through me.  No one knew what my life was like with my mother, except for her.  As long as Crystal was in my life I felt like I would never really be alone.  Part of me was worried that when I left I would lose her, but me leaving didn't change our friendship at all.  It doesn't matter how much time passes between real friends, when it matters, they are there. Crystal taught this to me when I was 14 years old.

I spent everyday for the next three weeks staying over at Crystal's as much as I could, taking the bus to school and completely ignoring Bill.  I wedged my door shut with a chair at night and stayed as far away from him as possible.  If I couldn't ignore him I would speak to him with out looking at him.  If I had to look at him I made sure he could see the hate in my eyes.  

I drank all the liquor in the house and refilled the empty bottles with water.  When the liquor ran out I decided to try smoking dope.  My cousins all seemed to really like it and I needed something to help me escape.  Bill smoked occasionally and kept a stash hidden in the drawer of his room.  The pot wasn't as numbing as the alcohol, but it had other perks.  I didn't get sick or lose control like I did with alcohol.  I couldn't drink during the day because I would get caught, but smoking pot gave me a temporary high that was easy to hide.  It was such a comfort to know I didn't have to go through life so aware of everything anymore... and it also gave me the giggles.  My mother was a drug whore who basically pimped me out to a child molester for who knows what in return.... and I could laugh about it.  I liked pot.

I had talked to my uncle on the phone several times since I'd been back and a plan was made.  I needed about a day and half window to escape.  I needed 4 hours to get to the airport and on a plane.  I needed another 6 hours to land and get on the reservation.  Once I was there I would be safe.  By the time Bill found out I left it would be too late.  The first time Bill went to go on another one of his gambling trips I made my move.  Crystal's mom drove me to the airport.  I boarded a plane and left California for a second time... just like my Uncle Dave had promised.