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     The below excerpts reveal a mind that was just beginning to think with clarity.  Though the ensuing years have changed my perspective on life dramatically, I see the desires to be altruistic, loving, and loved, and I recognize those desires as my own to this day.  That much has not changed. 

February 2, 2008
     7:45 am ~ Good morning!  It is a new day, and I am so happy to be headed to Rockaway and three puppies, two rabbits, and a hedgehog.  I am looking at this as a kind of retreat to renew my physical, mental, and spiritual strength.

     103 days sober!  I was thinking about it this morning.  Sometimes, I do think, “just one drink”, or, “just four hits.”  Why would I want to do that?  My argument with myself is not so much, “one’s too many and a thousand is never enough”, but what would I get out of it?  What’s the payoff?  Is it going to make my life better?  Am I going to enjoy it so much, like Christmas, or a summer barbecue?  Or, will I be spending money to feel guilt and despair for taking a step backward in my life?  How much pleasure is worth the pain?  Is it actually pleasure, or simply conceived as pleasure out of habit? 
There are answers:
1.  What’s the payoff?  At the least, remorse.  At the most, a return to addiction.
2.  Is it going to make my life better?  Hell, no!
3.  It is definitely a step backwards.
4.  Pleasure or pain?  Possible momentary pleasure, possible long-term pain.
5.  Pleasure out of habit?  Indubitably.

     There you go.  That is how I stay sober.  By already knowing the answers to the questions, and constantly reminding myself of them. 

February 4, 2008
     8:00 am ~ It’s Monday morning.  I am riding backwards on the train from Denville to Morristown.  My weekend with the puppies was like babysitting!  They followed me wherever I went the entire time until Robin, Charley and Emily came home last night.  When I went to the bathroom, if I didn’t let them in, they cried at the door.  They are so cute; little troublemakers, but cute!

     The Giants won!  Yay!  What a game!  It was nail-biting!  Eli Manning received the MVP award.  He deserved it; he played his heart out!  Peyton was watching him from a box, he was so happy for his brother.  Now, they both received MVP awards, one right after the other.

February 6, 2008
     I am finding out that it is true; at least eighty percent of the homeless are mentally ill, and show it!  The homeless life here is bizarre, to say the least.  You cannot expect rational behavior, as these are not rational people.  I had said that many of the homeless are that way because they found themselves in circumstances beyond their control.  I am finding out that many could have controlled it, if they could have controlled themselves.

     Not that I have room to talk.  I am a learned woman with many talents.  If I had done the right things in life, I never would have been here.  The difference is, I recognize what a horror story this is, and I am working as hard as I can to get out of it.  Not too many of the homeless I meet understand their own situation.  This seems normal to them.  I cannot identify with that line of thinking, and that is a good thing.  If I didn’t appreciate the consquences, then I might not be as diligent in changing my fortunes.

February 10, 2008
      I just found out today I am being sued for a bill I didn’t know that I had!  I was at a day Rehab program last March, and had heart pains, and was rushed to the hospital in an ambulance.  I forgot all about it!  It turns out that though my cousin was getting bills from the ambulance company, she has not sent any to me because I was in the hospital, and then the homeless shelter.  She didn’t want me to worry more.

     I will call the ambulance company tomorrow and try to straighten this out.  It’s just more money that I don’t have.  I also have to call welfare to tell them about my job, and ask if I am still getting Medicaid.  My bridge broke, then a temporary tooth, and now my other bridge is loose.  Now that I am trying to put my life together, all these things are getting in my way.  SOBER= Son of a Bitch, Everything’s Real!

     I spent the day with Karen and Zach, and it was a little tough.  I think he is mad at me for all this, even though he says he’s not, he acts like he is.  I can’t blame him.  I’m mad at me too, and he’s just a kid who has had to go through a lot of crap because of me.  It still hurts a lot, though, and he gets along with Karen so well.  I’m glad he’s happy, but he seems to want to be with her more than me, even when I’m around.  It’s so hard.  They joke about being her being his mother now.  I’m sorry, I don’t find it funny.  This is all so much to go through all at once.

     Tomorrow is my first day of work at the shipping company.  It is thrilling that I will have such a good job, and I am going to give my all to keep it and do well.  However, it is another very stressful situation.  I have to get up at 4:30 or 5:00 am everyday to catch the 6:00 am van to get to Berkeley Heights train station by 8:03 am.  It is not enough time to get to work by 8:15 am walking, so I asked the receptionist there to pick me up every day, and I will pay her twenty dollars a week.  I sure hope she shows up.

     It’s not that I don’t want a new life; it’s just that I can’t screw this up, and there seems to be so much to do all at once, and the payoff is great, having my son back.  If I fail again, I may lose him forever.  I am sometimes worried that it may already be too late to gain his trust back.

February 11, 2008
Just a quick update:
1.  Work was okay, even though it is really a pain to get there and back; lots of transferring, and freezing!
2.  I called the Ambulance Company:  I am going to pay them one hundred dollars a month.  No lawsuit.
4. I am moving to my brothers, maybe this weekend.  Yay!
5. I still didn’t get my damn paychecks from OfficeTeam for the work I did two weeks ago!  I am frustrated, and broke, but C’est la vie, ceci est guerre!

February 23, 2008
Working on a New World 
     I am now living at my brother’s house; I have been here for a week now.  I also stopped working for the shipping company.  The commute was ridiculous. I am going to be starting a new job for an appliance repair company on Monday.  We shall see how that goes.

     It is another beginning in a series of them.  I have sent out a few resumes to some places with hopes of answering my career quandary.  I am not going to accept just anything.  I want to work on my life to make it fulfilling now. 

     I have four months of sobriety and it seems like so much more.  Everything has changed, and I am very grateful.  I have begun to work on a rational recovery, part of which is affirming to me that I am recovered, in as much as I must realize I can never return to using in any fashion, lest I fall and return to degeneration.

     I am also looking at apartments in the paper and realizing that I will have one soon.  It is so exciting; even more so when I realize that I will be in my own apartment with my son!

February 25, 2008
     Today was the first day at my new job.  It was not interesting.  They say it will get that way the more I learn.  I sure hope so.  I walk there and back, which takes about forty-five minutes.  It is still a little cold for that, but healthy for me, and it is a good time to think.  It’s suppose to rain tomorrow, my brother just said.  That will be interesting.

     I am trying; God knows I am trying to make this life work.  It’s really scary.  I have to find a job that I like enough to stay, and hopefully they will like me enough to keep me.  I am very good at what I do; I just need the right atmosphere to utilize it!

     I cleaned the rabbits cages last night, and the big white one (Flopsom) kept running away from me, and I was up until 11:00 pm trying to catch her.  She really pissed me off.  So I am very tired tonight.  I need to get used to living life the way other people do. 

February 28, 2008
My Response to Morristown Residents Resenting the Homeless Situation in Their Town

     I am in a difficult position here.  While I agree with you philosophically, and understand the financial ramifications, I have recently been homeless in Morristown, and availed myself of the aforementioned services.

     I did notice with some astonishment the level of mental instability among the homeless populace of Morristown.  It is a very sad comment on our health system that so many mentally ill are wandering the streets without aid.  However, there are many people whom I have met, who are homeless through almost no or no fault of their own, many of them with families to support, who really do only need the helping hand that these services provide.

     I was in the middle of these groups, with my homelessness being my fault, but with the intellect and determination to redeem my life and myself.  I also required help to do so.  I found help at the shelter, and at the soup kitchens in Morristown.  Luckily for me, my sojourn through your homeless ranks was brief. However, I do not think that would have been the case if I did not receive the help your town has to offer.

     It is true that Morristown bears the brunt of the homeless situation for Morris County (and, I am sorry to inform you, much of North New Jersey).  I do understand the taxpayer’s dilemma.  The answers are not forthcoming; especially from a help system that does not understand the very people they are helping.  

     There should be separate programs to help different “classes” of the homeless (to remove them from the streets and welfare rolls as quickly as possible).  The families very often need medical help for children with special needs (which is what has driven them to this position in the first place).  Shelter should be provided for their families, away from the other “classes”, for the children’s sake.

     Consideration should be given to the displaced but able.  I feel more help needs to be offered to help them become independent, they should not just be given handouts.  If they are not willing to accept that, then they will have to help themselves.  You do no one favors by allowing them to shirk their own life!

     The mentally ill are in a special need category by themselves.  Sometimes I really do think that they should be herded to psychological help, and sent to treatment, but you cannot do that.  That would violate their civil rights.  Although it is against the law to loiter, or sleep on the streets, you cannot force them off the streets, unless you arrest them.  Therefore, instead of having Mental Health Assistance, which only helps those who have been patients in hospitals, I think mental health professionals should be provided on a daily basis at the soup kitchens, and at “Our Place”, where the homeless congregate for lack of something to do.  If offered patiently, some might accept, and if ‘cured’, some might move on to real lives.

     Maybe I am being idealistic, but don’t forget, I was one of these people.  I have seen first-hand what you can only theorize about. 

April 10, 2008
I’m back, I’m different.
      I finally moved into my apartment on April 1st, in South Orange, NJ.  I am still working for the appliance service company in the Accounts Receivable Department, but just got another job (I will find out the hours this weekend) part-time waitressing, nights and weekends.  I really need the money.

     Things are changing so fast, and I am changing with them.  I constantly notice the changes in me.  I am so happy to be sober, although it is a very tiring prospect.  Everything I need to do involves work and money.  I am living like a miser.  No haircut, new clothes or shoes.  No splurging on food, either.  The other night I treated myself to a Bar Pie and a Hot Fudge Sundae, and you would have thought I ate at the Plaza.  It made me so happy to enjoy myself.

     At this point, the little things really do mean a lot.  They are all I have now.  I feel so blessed.  That is not to say I have not worked hard.  Even so, who would have thought that a few months out of the homeless shelter I would be doing so well?  I am starting to get my child support paid off, going through my old bills (one thing I am going to do at the library is work on a budget) so I can get them all paid off.  I need so much for the apartment, but I have adopted the attitude, “this too, in time”.  It is completely freeing, but only if you let it be.  A very short time ago everything was dire to me; nothing was going right, but I thought it all had to.

      Now I see that life is not like that.  I go to bed relatively early (by 10:00 pm, usually), and I am up by 5:00 am.  I go to work every day, like a normal person.  I am constantly tired, which is a good feeling, knowing that I am working towards goals.  I found papers I wrote in therapy last fall, and I can’t believe it!  All the goals I had set for myself then have come to pass!  Except of course Zach living with me, but he lives ten minutes walking time from me, and my apartment has a bedroom for him.   After I fix up the apartment and my life, he will be back.

     I stopped going to NA and AA.  I know the members of those groups reading this will grimace, and believe that I can never stay sober without them or they will think I am in a “dry drunk”, but, they are wrong.  It’s as simple as that.  I tried those groups several times over my thirty plus years of addiction.  They did help each time with the initial sobriety.  However, I was never good at being just a version of someone else.

      Don’t worry your friendly heads over me.  I am so happy to be sober.  I am not pink cloud happy, like skipping and laughing.  It is in subtle ways that I see the changes in me.  Like actually thinking and planning how to cover my responsibilities, and not breaking a sweat over them.  Just realizing they need to be done, and I will figure out a way to do them.  I don’t have to hide, from me, or the outside world anymore. 

May 13, 2008
      I have been so busy, working seven days a week.  I still work in Dover, Monday through Friday; and also work weekends at Cryan’s in South Orange, waitressing.

      It is pretty hard to work all those hours after being a crack bum for two years, especially at my age, though it is somehow rewarding to know that I can!  I am trying so hard to fix the wreckage of my past, and a big part of that involves money, which, as we all know, does not grow on trees.

     I went on one date since October, this past Thursday, and it was disastrous!  The man used the word “shines” twice in a bigoted dialogue about Obama.  I was stunned!  I told him I didn’t appreciate that kind of talk, and he went into a dissertation about Farrakhan taking over the White House!  Needless to say, I don’t plan to see him again.

     So, I am still alone.  It gets a little lonely, but, I have spent time with my son.  I stayed with him for five days last week while my sister was in Florida, and we went out to dinner on Mother’s Day, which was lovely!  I wonder often what he really feels about coming to live with me again.  He is not a great communicator, at least with me.  I have been very philosophical about his decision, though.  I feel a strong need to have him back in my life, but that is not a reason for him to return.  I work to make money to get him back.  Lately though, I realize that whatever his decision, the right one will be the one that makes him happy, that helps him with his growth to a well-adjusted man.  I had my chance at happiness in youth, and blew it.  I don’t want to do that to him, too.

     I am getting used to being on my own.  I read a lot, and watch movies.  I work so much that there is not a lot of time for loneliness, yet it still rears its pathetic head once in a while.  I wonder if I will ever be in a relationship again.  It’s not like I haven’t had more than my share of “love” in the past. So, if that is it, I will be accepting.  It would be nice to experience a mature, intelligent, respectful relationship with a man, just once, maybe someday.

June 10, 2008
Scared
     I am starting to face my mortality, and I don’t like it. It’s funny, because when I was using, I was scared to death every day of dying; yet I still did all the things that could kill me.  It was terrifying, but it didn’t stop me.  Now, I am clean, sober, whatever you want to call it.  I work seven days a week, and plan for the great future, when my son will live with me, and I will have days off, and feel satisfied. 

     Now I am starting to realize that none of those things may happen, and it frightens me.  I am forty-eight years old, and due to a wasted lifetime, I have nothing to show for all these amassed years.  I wish, I wish, but as hard as I feel I am working, I know in my heart, it simply is not hard enough.  I argue with myself over self-imposed commitments constantly: cleaning the house, getting it ready for my son, finding a new job, incorporating social and cultural activities into my life.  I have only been living on my own for two and a half months, I tell myself.  Yes, but I have had forty-eight years to get it together! 

     Then, at night, comes the real anxiety.  What if I don’t live long enough to do anything other than this?  I stopped using drugs, work two jobs, and have my apartment.  Now what?  What if I die now?  How will my son feel about this mother who gave him up to get better, and then took her sweet time doing it?  Mostly though, I worry about him.  I pray, sometimes it’s all I pray, “God, please protect my son.”  Not just for him, but for me!  I have lost everything many times over, and survived, but I just don’t think I could survive losing him.  How morbid!  I wonder, when and if he ever comes back to live with me, will I be able to stop this over-concern with his well-being?  It’s not healthy for either of us.

      I think I know the root.  I only have my son to look forward to. The relationships, the friendships, the careless lifestyle are all in the past.  My son is my only present, and, I suppose often, my only future.  I need to stop pinning my future to my son, who has begun to build his own future, and create my own, too!

September 24, 2008
     I need to tell everyone about my addictive personality, for the sake of those who may feel as I do.

     I have nothing against AA or NA, or Pentecostalism for that matter.  If they help you with your journey, with your spiritual and physical health, I say go for it.  If you feel that you would not be able to operate without them, by all means, continue.

     My issue is with the belief that people cannot get and stay sober or clean without the twelve step program.  It simply is not true; not for all of us, anyway.  The program may have been a catalyst to stop using on occasion; but when I feel pressure to be like someone else, I almost always run the opposite direction.  Being told what to do, read, say, how to act is not freeing for me.  I understand that for some, that is the only way.  I am not saying it doesn’t work.  I am just saying that the proselytization that occurs within these programs is comparable to organized religion, and I don’t want to be that organized.

     I went to a meeting this Saturday, and it was nice.  I haven’t been in three months (the last one was nice, too).  I take them as I take a visit to a church service.  I don’t have to believe everything you say.  I take what I can use, and leave the rest.  If this was acceptable in these programs, I might go more often, but the main beat of the programs is to do what they say (follow the ‘suggestions’).

     I feel that I already ‘practice’ the twelve steps in my life.  These steps are based on the same tenets of most peaceful religions.  The other ‘suggestions’ do not appeal to me.  Now, I know that twelve steppers are out there saying, “She’s never going to make it with that attitude”, and I know that there is nothing I can do to prove it to them, except prove it with time, so watch me!

      With no trepidation, I approach the possibility of beginning to achieve my life’s goal.  With no hesitation, I will jump into the unknown waters I should have swum long ago.

     The comments I have for this journal are: I understand now the implications of even suggesting you herd people for their own good; the precedent that could be set by allowing such actions is Orwellian! 

     I still feel the same about NA and AA though.  The meeting in September 2008 was the last one that I attended.  Recently, I have watched the news with everyone else about Charlie Sheen.  Charlie is against these programs, and I believe feels the same way as I do, that they didn’t work for him; yet he has been fed the proposition that if you don’t follow these programs, don’t bother trying to get well.  I feel this is a dangerous perception perpetrated on active addicts.  I would like them to know they can get better and stay sober following alternative paths.  This is the heart of my message.  My hope for Charlie Sheen is that he will find his bottom soon, and seek help, and find there is more help out there than just the Twelve Step programs.

     I also would like to point out that though it still breaks my heart that Zach chose not to live with me, and that his relationship with Karen is so solid, I want to thank her from the bottom of my heart, and give her praise for undertaking the task of being a guardian to someone else’s child.  Those who choose to do this are special people.  They give their time, hearts, homes and pocketbooks to the children they take in, and work to make their worlds better.  I know that Karen has done this for Zach.  I am eternally grateful to her.

     One special note about Flopsom:  She became my Best Buddy Bunny, and used to do the Happy Bunny Dance for me, and come when I called her, and lie on the bed with me and watch television.  As with all creatures, she just needed some love and patience.  RIP, Flopsom.  I loved you, funny bunny!

  Next time:  I don’t know!  Do you want to read the journal from the addiction years, or the recovery years?  Place your votes~

copyright 2011 meg marlowe

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Comments on: "From Homelessness to South Orange~February to September, 2008" (6)

  1. A special privilege to be allowed to read this journal, and another to call you ‘my friend’.

  2. BJ Marlowe said:

    I think you are very brave, especially in your independence.

  3. Bob Schwartz said:

    You are one remarkable woman, Meg Marlowe. And a talented writer, too. I’m delighted that I’ve had the opportunity to get to know you. Keep at it — one day at a time.

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