memories that keep me alive.

Darcy had been in longer than anyone.  In our pod.  She had been sentenced to just under a year.  Anything over a year put you in prison.  I was just there, no date to be released.  Darcy was funny and loud.  She could always make people smile.  She was african american and was very intelligent.  She used to be a model.  She taught us how to walk, runway walk like a model.  She could also do our hair.  We loved listening to her and she taught us stuff we never knew.  She was proud of how pretty she used to be and I could see the shame in her about how she looked now after years of drug and alcohol abuse.  Annie was older than all of us, somewhere in her sixties.  DUI had her in there but she was sure she didn’t have a drinking problem.  She was sweet and mostly sat and played cards.  She told me once she was unsure why someone like me was in jail, I was joyful, enthusiastic and a leader at times.  This was after my impersonation of Rudy giving an impersonation of a Notre Dame football coach-yon know, from the movie Rudy.  We were getting ready to go to yard to play volleyball.  If you have ever been to jail then you might know how difficult it is to get a bunch of women to go play sports.  I jumped up on the table and gave them Rudy’s speech.  I made up new words and it was pretty funny.  I don’t think I motivated anyone to go play but we got to laugh and that was important.  There was a lady, I can’t remember her name but she annoyed me.  She wasn’t always very nice, she was snappy but she never hesitated to gather us all together to pray at night before we were locked in our cells.  She wasn’t scared that way, she was loud and she was good at it.  There was one lady who came in, she was with us for quite a bit.  Her family sent pictures for her to hang up.   She showed us all a picture of her birthday that she had celebrated at Red Lobster.  We all passed the pictures around, meeting her family.  And there I was.  There I was in her picture, in my fish shirt, singing happy birthday to her at Red Lobster.  What a laugh that caused.  I mean what are the chances?  We all got fed up and irritated at times.  We paced.  Back and forth, in circles, side to side.  We couldn’t sit still.  Our flip flops would hit the concrete with a slap every step we would take.  The old ladies who never walked would always yell at us for that.  There was loaf.  It was a secret meal for those who would get locked down for doing something wrong, mostly passing notes to the men, or talking through the toilets to them.  It was amazing how everyone figured out how to communicate.  I never got the chance to eat the loaf but I heard it was edible if you covered it with kool aid first.  The days would pass slowly, sometimes dreadfully.  Between 1-4pm was the worst.  It was like the time would stop.  I tried inventing things to do.  I could always find a way to have fun.  Unfortunately the cops didn’t like it if we had fun.  I got a group together to play hackie sack with an empty toilet paper roll.  We almost died laughing.  They locked us down for that, although there was no rule against it.  It was the laughing that bothered them.  I started the toilet paper game which involved tossing the toilet paper roll around without allowing the toilet paper to rip.  It was a difficult game and a little messy but helped pass time.  My cell mate for a long time was Tiffany.  She was a couple years younger than me.  I think she was just 18 or 19.  She was beautiful and sad and a mess and funny and falling apart all at the same time.  We started reading the bible together every night before dinner.  I don’t think I ever cried with anyone else before her-not sober.  We took turns.  Took turns telling our stories little by little.  We felt a little safer each time to add more parts of ourselves and our past to the stories.  With each phone call to our families a new failure would surface.  New issues would come out that we couldn’t handle. That we didn’t know how to handle.  The first question to anyone was always, “what are you in for?”  That was the easy part.  For those of us who would be there longer than a few days or a week, we learned about what we were really in there for.  The things that really brought us to where we were and it was never the criminal charge that was down on paper.  And we all knew that.  Tiffany had been homeless due to drugs, and she was arrested for squatting in a house to sleep.  Normally she would have had to sell herself for what she needed.  We read through the book of John together, that’s where everyone says to start.  I don’t think we understood much of it but it was real.  We felt it more than we had any idea of what it “meant.”  We read allowed to each other.  We both struggled with sounding out words, especially biblical words.  We would just make it up if we couldn’t say it.  We figured God didn’t care.  Kathy Ray.  I don’t think I can put her into words.  She would sing for us, her voice was soft and sweet.  She sang us songs about Jesus.  She hurt so much, there was pain in her voice as she sang, and it gave us goose bumps.  It gave me goose bumps, I don’t really know about anyone else.  Her smile was sad, she had hope though.  She talked about God more than anyone else.  She held her bible, her arms looked like they had been through a meet grinder from years of heroin addiction.  She was beautiful.  She made sure we knew that she wasn’t always a nice person on the outs though.  I mean, she had to say it.  We all knew that none of us were getting things right on the outs or we wouldn’t be there.  We had all screwed up and hurt people.  She wasn’t okay pretending though.  I don’t think she could forgive herself.  I miss her singing.  The cops all knew her because she had been in and out so much for years.  I hope she is well these days.  The day came when my childhood friend was brought in.  I had already been in a month.  I was healthy and past the point of being cranky without alcohol and nicotine.  I probably freaked her out when she came in.  The first few days are difficult for everyone.  She was tough.  She was like me.  When I first met her I was around 12 and she was 14ish.  We were going to fight each other because of stupid neighborhood disagreements.  She was one of a small amount of girls I would have been scared to fight.  She was always the leader in high school.  So, jail was a little weird after she got there…trying to figure out roles and things like that.  I think it was hard for us in such a large group, she was too tough at that point.  We had all had our walls down and I think some of us had to put them back up for a bit.  I was moved soon to a different pod, the trustee pod.  We got to clean the jail and make food for the entire jail and stuff like that.  In return we had free reign of the jail during the night.  We walked around cleaning while everyone else slept.  We got double portions of food and other special treatment.  We also go to wear blue uniforms instead of green.  We got to pick the pants we wanted because we did the laundry.  This was important because some of the cops would give us too small of clothes on purpose.  They thought it was funny.  It wasn’t.  We got to go to yard whenever we wanted.  I spent hours seeing how long I could volley a soccer ball for.  The cops would laugh at me for that too.  I guess it’s okay to kick a soccer ball if you are on a soccer field but not if you are in jail.  My childhood friend soon became a trustee.  Part of me was happy to see her but part of me wasn’t.  I felt like I couldn’t relax around her.  I couldn’t let my guard down.  Finally, it happened.  Finally we had an authentic conversation.  She opened up and I opened up and we cried.  I think this came after a fight.  We shared stories with each other and our hurts.  We connected.  It felt amazing, like we were both human all of the sudden.  I won’t ever forget that.  I got out before she did.  I remember saying goodbye to her as I was reading proverbs before my court appearance.  I didn’t know if they would let me out, there had been no reason for them to have kept me in for so long as it was.  I had already exceeded double the maximum time they had offered in the plea bargain that I turned down.  Part of me wanted out, part of me didn’t.  Out to what?  There was no life out there for me.  The cops nick named me smiley.  I could always manage to find good in everything.  It was good.  There was a period I was depressed, some of the other girls didn’t like that I didn’t go along with how jail was supposed to work.  Or something like that, I felt like they hated me and I got depressed.  Angel had been in prison a lot of her life.  She was tough.  She didn’t trust anyone.  She didn’t like me, I was not hard enough for her I don’t think.  She was beautiful.  We had good moments, I was too immature for her, she had seen so much more than me at the time and I think I annoyed her.  It was okay though.  The head kitchen lady.  I forget her name.  She must have been 65 or older.  Sweetest old lady I ever met.  She cared about all of us, we would ask her to pray with us, we knew she prayed.  We had to hide because she wasn’t supposed to.  She ended up losing her job for praying with the inmates.  The time I thought it would be funny to put a mop head on my head so that I looked like raggedy anne, now that was a bad choice.  Instant head lice.   I told the nurse, he didn’t believe me.  He looked, he said he couldn’t find any.  I felt them, I saw them.  It didn’t matter.  I had to steal mayo from the kitchen and hide in the shower with mayonnaise on my head.  The smell of oil would waft in the hot steam.  It never completely got rid of the lice but it kept them under control.  I don’t miss that.  It felt good to be somewhere that allowed for us all to be what we needed to be.  We fell apart sometimes, we would help each other through it.  We didn’t expect anything from one another and yet we were able to meet any expectation we could ever have.  No one needed us to be anything other than what we were.  We shared our dreams with each other, we shared our hurts, we shared our toilets.  We understood each other more than we could ever understand anything else.  It was different for some, the ones that had been struggling for years.  This was there 20th time in jail, or they had been in prison.  They had less hope, less dreams, but they offered so much at the same time.

Anyways.  There’s other stories but I’m done writing for now.  I hold comfort in these memories and I am thankful for each of the women that I got the chance to know during this time.  Whether it’s right or wrong, healthy or unhealthy, I don’t care.  They were all part of my life and my experience and I gained so much from them.  If you ever wonder why it’s so hard for people to stay out of jail, or why it seems people don’t care about going to jail it’s because there is family there.  In the mess and chaos and failures, there’s relationship and connectedness and no matter how much it sucks to be locked up, nothing sucks more than being alone and dead.

Waiting.

Chaos surrounds all of me but is the darkest in my own soul.  Inside.  It builds and chokes me as it flows from my lips, hiding in the dark air I breathe out.  The memories that hold my body captive seep from my eyes darkening the world around me.

I can only take the picture and show you, I cannot speak while I choke on the feelings that come up and I cannot find the words to express what is inside me.  I will keep my eyes open.  Try to wipe away the darkness and pray that a hand will be there to help me up.

But right now.  I cannot see.  And that is truth.

Well, one year ago today I was waking up with a hangover and trying to piece together the night that I had just had.  I had gone to see one of my favorite musicians, (passenger).  I was so excited and I knew with the small venue and the fact that he was not utterly famous yet that I would be able to meet him after the show.  I was hoping to be married by now but we are both pretty busy so that hasn’t worked out yet.  One day though, one day.

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I was with friends, I drank fast to avoid the social awkwardness that exists inside me.  I drank fast to be able to express all the emotions I held inside.  Any time I drink, I drink fast.  I don’t get drunk.  I start drinking and then I am blacked out.  There is no in between for the most part.  I have had nights where I was lucky nothing bad happened, meaning I did not wake up in jail or a hospital.  I have had nights where I did not get in fights or end up sobbing with people like a drunken fool.  It was always a toss up though, I did not know what was going to happen when.  It was better after I was married because I always had someone with me when I was drunk, so it wasn’t like I had to worry so much about what I did.

This particular night, a year ago, during my black out I am told I talked with a man that was walking the street about God, when I am intoxicated I am full of hope sometimes and I love to let people know.  The poor guy just wanted a smoke and a light.  What a fraud I must have looked like.

“Hi, I am drunk and falling apart…can you tell?  I have hope in God though, he saved me.  Can you tell? He can save you too, He loves you so much!”  (puke)

I don’t know what I said that night, but this is not the first time I have done this and for whatever reason I am always feeling the love I can never feel when I am sober.  That night after feeling the love and expressing it to this man I proceeded to walk into traffic and fight with anyone that had a problem with a drunk person getting in the way of their car….because, why would they be so annoyed with that, it’s not like they own the road.  Can you believe that?  Ha.

I made it to the concert and stood near the front.  I had a girl next to me.  She was younger, and her boyfriend ditched her at the concert.  She was upset.  I tried to comfort her with words but I felt fake.  I felt like my parents.  I felt like an asshole.  I could only speak to her because I was drinking and I would rather be silent than use alcohol as a crutch.  It’s not truth and I cannot live with myself if I only show love to people when I am drunk.  This girl at the concert deserves to have a friend that will talk to her with or without alcohol.  Everyone does.  A child should not have to wait to feel love until the drink flows, should not have to wait to see “real” emotions until the wine is gone.  No child should have to counsel drunken parents.

I hate alcohol and it’s the one thing I think about every day.  If you lived your entire life doing one thing, no matter what that thing was—good or bad—no matter what the outcome of that one thing was—-good or bad—-it would still feel better than doing anything else. I have thought about writing this post for the last month. ha…would I make it a year without drinking?  The past two months have been the hardest.  Yesterday was the hardest.  I still failed in my own ways, I had to make sure I failed somehow, but not with alcohol.  Some part of me will always try to get me to fail at whatever my goals are.  The part of me that hates doing life without alcohol.  I wanted to be in a better place when I wrote this post, but that’s not the case.  I want to be this person that does what is good for me even when I don’t feel like it.  I want to love myself but haven’t mastered that yet.  I guess involving people into our hurts is supposed to help but it seems to end up being more painful.  Over time it is supposed to help though, but what if it doesn’t?  I can’t expect others to save me and I don’t trust that I can save me so opening up to feeling things with others is much more scarier than you might think.  It would be a tiny bit like spending a small amount of time being comforted by god and then having to say good bye to him.  You leave with all your emotions displayed and felt and then have to go comfort yourself.  It’s never enough.  Nothing is ever enough.  Yes, god can comfort but I am thinking that is with the help of the holy spirit that is inside us.  If you hate what is inside you then do you think the holy spirit is as powerful of a comforter as it was made to be?  If you cannot trust yourself then how will you feel the difference between what is the ‘untrustworthy you’ or what is the holy spirit?  If you have a disconnect with yourself then there  is a good chance you have a disconnect with god.  That is my experience so far.

I am proud that I made it a year without drinking.  I said I was only quitting for a year so if I want to drink now I can, but I think I will wait a while.  For now.  It feels good to say that I am actually working through things now instead of just using alcohol to get by.  I am actually feeling things now and I am told that that is good.  I have actual hobbies that I really enjoy, that feel like me.  I don’t feel like a fraud for the most part, I don’t hate myself for being this drunken person that I despise.  I can be me even if that means the most I can do is curl up in the corner and not talk to anyone.

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That is better than using the lie of alcohol to try to fix things.  It never helps.  I still remember the first night I drank when I was 14 and it was magical, I had fallen in love with the feeling it gave me.  It was my comforter and no matter how many times I drank it never helped.  It’s a lie.  A big ugly lie that feels like truth.  I wish it was truth because the real truth is painful.  Anyways, here’s to being REAL.  I will not love the lie, unfortunately I don’t trust the truth so something has got to give….one day it will work out I am sure, that’s what people keep saying.  Thank you to everyone that has helped me get to where I am so far, even if that is not very far from where I started.  I really appreciate all of you.  ❤

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