Reading. It’s what’s UP.

Hiya, gang!


Detroit Muscle

Not long ago, I got wind of a recovery-themed novel: Detroit Muscle, written by Jeff Vande Zande.I can’t tell you how long it’s been since I read a book from cover to cover, especially one purely for pleasure. But, as any writer will tell you (even me, I guess, since I AM a WRITER, and all), if you’re gonna write, you need to also read. I’m really glad that this is the book with which I broke my fast!
Jeff Vande Zande paints a picture of an Oxycontin addict, fresh out of rehab, in (you guessed it) Detroit. After 3 months in an out-of-state rehab facility, Robby comes back to Detroit to try to continue the reparations he began in rehab. It’s not easy. Not even a little bit.
One after another, as Robby attempts to make amends, he finds that the bridges he’d burned (girlfriend, boss, etc.) had been demolished, filled in and then paved over with blacktop.
In Detroit Muscle, the writer paints an accurate picture of some of the landmines that often await newly sober addicts, when they return to their home town. Striving to continue growing into a different person from whom they had been before can be a tricky job, when all that they’ve ever known was those people, those places, that pain, and using as the only way out.
There is so much to talk about in this book – the tentative relationship being rebuilt with his Mom, and then the welcome from his Granddad…I just don’t know where to begin. So I won’t.
I will, however, share with you the e-conversation I had with  the author, and tell you that I think you ought to read it and then get another copy to share with someone else that has ANY connection to an addict.
It will be helpful to anyone who cares about someone struggling with an addiction, whether parent, employer, child, spouse, or friend. It will be particularly helpful if the recovering addict is newly  clean and sober.
So, without any further adieu, here’s the first part of my conversation with Jeff Vande Zande, the author of Detroit Muscle.

1.What inspired you to write this book, now?
I started Detroit Muscle four years ago. As I recall, at the time, I wanted to write a story, oddly enough, about Michigan. As a state, Michigan is going through a kind of rehab/recovery from its addiction to the auto industry. Right now, the state is trying to figure out what it’s going to be…trying to blaze its path now that it has somewhat detoxed from the auto industry. So, when I first wrote Robby, my protagonist, I imagined him as a symbol for this new Michigan.
Of course, as I wrote the novel, I realized that Robby couldn’t just be a symbol for Michigan. He had to be a fully developed person. I needed to deal with him as a young man in early recovery from OxyContin addiction. As I wrote and researched his character, I started to understand the epidemic of addiction that’s going on in the country. It was then that I became much more interested in Robby as a symbol of hope, redemption, and recovery in the face of addiction.
2.Which of the characters do you most relate to?
I suppose each of the characters has some aspect to them that I relate to. I understand Robby’s mother, and her desire to support her child in early recovery … but then also her helplessness in the face of it all. I like the grandfather’s approach to the world and his belief that hard work will somehow redeem people. I guess what I relate to most about all of these characters is how they each have a troubled past. That’s the way for so many people … living in the present means always dealing with our past.

(The answer to this one surprised me! Going by the details of this characters, it seems like this guy has some experience in this sort of thing!)

3. Are any of the situations Robby finds himself in, taken from your early recovery?
Well, I’ve never been in recovery, which I’m sure might be surprising, considering that I chose to write about a young man in early recovery. I am very aware of the possibility of alcoholism in me since it was fairly prevalent on both sides of my family. I am always aware of myself and my relationship to alcohol. I watch to make sure that I’m not using it as a crutch.
So, the situations that Robby is in are specific to him. About the only thing Robby and I have in common is that we both worked for an outdoor painting company.

Crazy, right? Oh, wait. You probably haven’t read it yet, huh? Oh…well, SPOILER ALERT: it seems like a recovering person must’ve writtne this book. Or maybe he just wants to remain anonymous. Hmmmm. The world may never know. I think if it were me, I’d be flattered and a little unsettleed if someone wondered if I might be a “closet” recovering person. But, hey, I’m a little unsesttled whenever anyone talks about me, for any reason.


ANYWAY, please be sure to check back here tomorrow to read the second half of this informative and mysterious interview! And, I’m really hopeful that you will come back here after you’ve read Detroit Muscle and let me know what YOU think!

Posted from my hut in the forest.


Thanks a lot, Buzzkill!

So, I was driving home from yet another mind-numbing trip to Malwart, listening to the most recent (long awaited, even!) edition of the Buzzkill Podcast, and at the end of it, our fearless host asked this question:
“Describe your first 30 days of recovery?”
So, as I’d been tossing around thoughts of what I might write about today, I latched onto this. I happened to have printed out a couple pages worth of feeling words not long ago, to help me better express myself to you, my lovely readers. Yes, even after all this time, I’m still not completely fluent in Emotions.

Here are the words that initially came to me:
frustrated                                                                   over-whelmed
desperate                                                                          confused
Yeah. I think that with a few less intense emotions floating around, and maybe a couple of thoughts that weren’t feelings, those words pretty well cover it.
I thought about how the adjectives that came immediately to my mind were all really strong feeling words, and you know, it makes sense.
After so many years of doing EVERYTHING in my power to avoid feeling anything, in the first 30 days, OF COURSE the feelings that arrived came in like a flood of Noah-like proportions. I was almost instantly more self-conscious than I’d ever remembered being, and I felt like I’d just been dropped down onto a really scary planet. Actually, I used to tell people that reality was BY FAR the biggest trip I’d ever experienced. It stayed that way for quite a long time.
Today, if you asked me what how I would describe the last 30 days, I’d use very different words. Words like

intentional                                       prayerful
free                                                 awkward
spiritual                                            emotional
It’s taken every event and every moment between the first month and today to get to this place: I feel things but my feelings don’t dictate my actions. I credit the desperation that made me willing to CHOOSE to trust again. Willing to follow directions, in hopes that these people were telling me the truth.
So, there you have it. If you’d like to know more about my first 180 days or so, you can go check it out here, where I was honored to tell some of my story recently on Recovery Rockstars.
So, how about you? Do any of those adjectives sound familiar? How would you describe your first 30 days?

Time marches on.

Last week I wrote about the  3 tragic words I never want to hear again, and the phone call I got from my Aunt, about my Uncle’s impending… expiration.
Today I got another call, saying that he’s not expected to last the rest of the night. I felt, well, nothing at first. I suppose that’s my go-to, when situations come along that provoke strong feelings. I get kinda numb, then I process what I’m feeling, and how I’m going to get through it.

Family Disease
I want to call and talk to him, but I haven’t talked to him in years… so it seems kind of, I don’t know, wrong? It’s not that we ever had a falling out or that we cared less about each other. We just began to live in drastically different ways. I guess it began when Dad got sober, really: the line was drawn in the sand. This Uncle and my Grandpa were going to drink until they couldn’t, and to hell with anyone who tried to tell them that they ought to stop. (a la Nick Cage in “Leaving Las Vegas”). I have another Uncle, for the record, who is just the opposite of the others of us. I’m not sure he’s ever been drunk, and his life is the stuff of magazine covers.

Turkey Run State Park 042

Turkey Run State Park

Summertime in Indiana

I’m remembering things we did as kids, when I’d spend at least a week every summer on the farm…like the sleepovers where I learned how to flip from the top bunkbed to the bottom without touching the floor. Oh, yeah, that’s a trick you NEED to try!
Or the tree-climbing where we tried to see how far down our spit could go before hitting a limb below us. Then there were the times we had rock fights while standing, oh, about 5 feet away from each other. (Did I mention that I was kind of a Tomboy?) Come to think of it, I’m positive that he wasn’t trying to hit me, because he was a tough, sports-playing country boy, and I KNOW he could have if he’d wanted to. And there were the times after it rained, when they lived in town and we would go worm-hunting…we fished by the pond in the back yard, and swam in the rock quarry…


Kinda like this, but poorer & dirtier

We talked about music and life, and whatever important things kids talk about when adults aren’t around…

And, I wonder if he’s ready to go, now. I’m sure he hadn’t planned on dying this soon. We were alike in many ways, not wanting to grow up, being but one. So, I pray for my Uncle Brett. May God rest his soul.
I wonder if I’m the only one who finds it harder to feel the heartbreaks, as time goes by. I was thinking of it earlier, and I think it’s like having thickened scar tissue. After so many traumas and heartbreaks, the scar tissue is so hard that the pain doesn’t really sink in, to where it ought to go. It goes…somewhere, and I don’t feel it. It doesn’t go away, mind you. It just doesn’t stay where I can feel it.
I read recently that it’s been scientifically proven that you can die from a broken heart. (Once again science proves something humanity has known forever.) I believe it. I somehow doubt that it will happen to me, considering that they also say that stress gives you gray hair. Really? Hm. Something at a very foundational level is different here, I guess, because I’ve got oh, about 8 gray hairs. SERIOUSLY. I’ve earned a butt load more than that. Eh, I guess it’s some consolation that it causes folks to think I’m younger than I am. (I’m not so immature, I guess, if I’m actually quite a bit younger than I am.) 🙂
My least favorite part of growing older, hands down, is people dying.

So, where was I?
Sad. Old. But not gray.
Meh. I’ll take it, I guess. Life is good, today. And I am grateful.

Do you REALLY want to?

…drink? Smoke? Snort? Shoot?



I didn’t. I had exhausted my options.
I had run down every highway, every street, every back alley that I came to, in my desperate attempt to Get. Away. From. Me.
But when I looked at that angelic face, that beautiful, tiny boy, I knew in the depths of my heart that I could not have both him and drugs. My running days had come to an end.
Sure, I talked about running. I kept a pair of running shoes just inside the front (and, let’s be honest, also the BACK) door of my mind for an incredibly long time. However, there was one thing that had become abundantly clear to me on that day, when I realised that I was completely drained…I did not want to drink, or use, again.

“we gotta get out of this place”

That’s not to say that I didn’t want to escape from reality. Oh, no, I didn’t say that.
I’d awakened from so many years (while using) of being at a dead run…and each time I got a direct hit, be it a sexual assault, or an unhealthy relationship, or some other kind of intense emotional trauma, I had vaulted over the place where anyone else might have thrown a white flag…and ran faster.
My days of hiding, by way of chemical means, had finally come to a screeching halt.

So, what, then?

Facing my past fears and traumas was really too much to consider while I was being inundated with a whole different kind of drama (new Mom, baby in ICU, etc., etc.), so I had to find other options.
I discovered (archaic, to be sure: it was the early 90’s, after all) video games, and the   benefits of Mel Brooks movies, and chocolaet ice cream, and tattoos, among other things.
I didn’t want to use. I just wanted to check out for a minute. So I found other ways to distract myself.

Sometimes quickly, sometimes slowly

At some point, I came to realise that the Promises, were, in fact, materializing for me. Some days, it felt like I was engaged in a war just to breathe, and other days, things would slow down and I got to taste of serenity, briefly.

It takes a village

I will forever be grateful to the women in the Program who walked with me those first months and years. They showed me how to live life, in all of its blood and chaos, on life’s terms, and then they encouraged me as I learned to walk again. No more running. I might jog now and then, but running is not in God’s plan for me, today. And I’ve discovered that His plan for me is always good. Always.

Posted from my shack by the creek.

Wolves in Sheeps’ Clothing


Beware, little lambs

I just wrote a long post about a Newbie in sobriety and an older person who’s attempting to take advantage of her, and then erased it. Thinking of the emotional train wreck most of us are when we first get clean and sober, it’s altogether too easy to fall into a trap.

Nothing New Uunder the Sun
When I first got clean, I was sexually harassed by the Dr. who was supposed to be helping the women at the treatment center where I was being treated. I never told anyone at the time, because, honestly, who would believe a drug addict over a “respected” citizen? No doubt he was counting on that, and my only regret is that I didn’t speak up so as to possibly spare the next women coming behind me. At the time, it was the sort of thing that I’d gotten used to (sexual abuse/harassment) so much that it was “just another day” when he said those disgusting things to me. The same kind of scenario is going on with my friend: he’s a “model citizen”, and taking advantage of her vulnerability.

Books and their Covers
Prior to treatment, while in my addiction, I used my “womanly wiles” to get by at times. Heck, that was the only value I had, and the only way I knew to get something that resembled love, if only for a little while. However, I wasn’t usually as slick as the ones I was trying to manipulate, and ultimately I was always the one who got hurt.

Hurt people, hurt people
My friend is being sexually harassed in front of her child. He has already been damaged (seen) enough; he doesn’t need to learn more ways to behave inappropriately toward women. But I can’t do it for her. I can validate her feelings that “something’s not right”, and I can encourage her to set boundaries. And most importantly, I can pray for her.
That’s all I can bring myself to say, now. I’m going to go do some cleaning and blow off some energy. I know it’s difficult learning to stand up for yourself. I completely get it, boundaries are REALLY a foreign concept. It just brings back so many painful memories, and I want to help my friend to avoid them…

3 tragic words I never want to hear again

It was a good day! I got to sleep a couple more hours than usual, and then my husband and I walked to the local Farmer’s Market. The weather was just about ideal: sunny skies and low 80’s. We chatted about becoming “that old couple” that people would see walking around town. He said they’ll say “there goes that fat old guy and the hottie.” I love that man.

At the market, we looked at the yummy baked goods and the fresh produce. There were a few tables with jewelry for sale, and -my favorite part- a six-week old pygmy goat!
After purchasing a pie and some local honey, we walked back home and had some lunch. I had a leisurely but productive day planned: go to the library to use the computer, read a book I began yesterday, and get to bed early. I went to the library and then came home to read. After about an hour or so, I got a call from a number that I didn’t recognize.

A call from back home

It was my Aunt in Indiana. I’d only seen her a couple of times in the 26 years that she’d been with my Uncle. He is my Dad’s youngest brother, and a lot like my Dad.

We chatted a little, and I caught her up on how we’d moved to Virginia last year,and how my sons were doing. She told me about how her home-based business has taken off and is doing well.
She told me about my Uncle’s health, which I’d known had been poor, years before. My Uncle was a chip off the old block, and like his brother, and his Dad, (and his niece) he had been a voracious drinker. Grandpa instilled a strong work ethic in his sons, and at the same time, a strong thirst for whiskey. I guess my Uncle’d stopped drinking 4 years ago, but not before it had taken a serious toll on his health.
She began talking about having a nurse come in to help with bathing him, and a hospital bed being placed in the living room, and palliative care…and that’s as far as my mind went.

Wait. What?

I told her I must’ve missed something. The last time I saw my Uncle, who happens to be 2 years younger than I am, he was as health as any 40-something man who’d lived on a farm for most of his life. But she was talking about Nurses coming in to bathe him??
She told me “He’s dying from End Stage Cirrhosis.” He is unable to get to the restroom unaided…

So, my Saturday ended on a much more somber note than any in recent memory. It’s the sort of thing that really makes me grateful for so many days that I don’t have to learn that a relative who used to be my childhood friend -like a brother, really- is nearing the end of their life.

The tears will come

So, here I am, thinking about my Uncle. When we were young, we climbed trees together, shared secrets, swam in the pond together, and we even turned an old delapidated hog shack into a, well, less delapidated fort-like thing.

Today he is a broken man, raised with so much childhood pain, so many battles to fight…now in hindsight, I see in him one more victim of the disease of alcoholism.

My Uncle never chose to be born to an angry, violent alcoholic. He learned from his dad how to fight, how to run away, and how to destroy anyone who got too close. He learned to hurt those he cared for most, by watching his Mother’s abuse. And in the end, as is usually the case, he learned from his Dad how to progressively kill himself.

Tomorrow’s another day

And it’s about 3 hours later than I’d planned to be going to bed. You know what they say, “if you want to make God laugh, tell Him your plans.”

Posted from my cabin far away from home.