Kensington Blues – A Hardcore Photo Blog

El fly-by

El fly-by (Photo credit: Tim McFarlane)

So a friend of mine told me about this blog called Kensington Blues.  I thought, “hey, I’m from Philly, knew a lot of ‘Kenso’s’ growing up after junior high school, this should be interesting.”

Interesting was an understatement after I saw the photos of addicts on the streets of Kensington.  I forced myself to look into their eyes of quiet desperation.  My eyes darted over the real-life backdrops of littered streets, graffiti covered buildings and the devastating picture of Nichol who looks no older than fourteen.

Heartbreaking.

The truth is no one wants a life on the street, selling their ass to get high or peddling for change to get another fix.  Life just goes that way for some.  I can’t explain it and I know in my heart that any of those women could have been me.  That stark reality is forever at the forefront of my mind when I see a bottle of booze or happen to be within earshot of someone talking about drugs.

It is a life to which no one aspires.  Sometimes it creeps in like a slow, ugly plague.  Other times, it punches you in the throat when you’re thrown out of the house at eighteen or molested by a trusted adult.

Us addicts and alcoholics spent many minutes on our knees, begging God for salvation or death, whichever should come first.

Please, take a look at the blog.  The life of an addict isn’t always some fancy story surrounded by a dysfunctional family in a three bedroom rancher portrayed on ‘Intervention.’  It can be much darker and sadistic.

See for yourself.

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Happy Summer Solstice!

The sun behind the Heel Stone at Stonehenge, s...

The sun behind the Heel Stone at Stonehenge, shortly after sunrise on the summer solstice.  (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Yes!  Happy Summer Solstice everyone… today is the 21st day of June 2013.  Being so, I decided I have been way too damn negative and I need to amp up my positive vibes!

While it is extremely easy for us to get into a slump it is just as easy to step out of that dark hole and count the blessings God bestows upon us each day!

Therefore, since it is the first day of summer, I am calling this “New Attitude Day.” No matter how down we get on ourselves sometimes, or how crappy we feel, there is always… always something to be grateful for.  It could be something monumental or something as simple as having toothpaste.  You get the idea…

Today is a gorgeous day here on the East Coast… filled with warm sunshine, cool breezes, chirping birds, a bright blue sky and tons of other things – all reminding me that there is a God…

Amazing things happen when we lose the “poor me” attitude and get grateful!

What are you grateful for today?

Seven Years Sober Today… Wow.

English: Foggy sunrise in San Francisco and Bu...

English: Foggy sunrise in San Francisco and Buteo jamaicensis with a mouse (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Yep.. I almost had to pinch myself this morning.  I am seven years clean and sober today by the Grace of God and the amazing people he continues to bless me with.   Today (and for the last three days) are days that I feel so great inside… inside.  Someone commented on my Facebook status that I should be proud.  I AM PROUD! 🙂  Holy hell, if you would have known me seven years ago you would have went screaming into the sun, moon, stars… whatever.  The point is, I was an ugly person.. not because of my physical appearance (although this day seven years ago I wasn’t looking too hot) but because of the person I was inside.

I took so many hostages, lied to so many people and used anyone and anything to get what I needed.  It was all about me and fuck everyone else.  Even after my first couple weeks not picking up a drink or a drug, I was still like that.  Getting sober for me was about more than just putting down a substance. It was about learning a new way to live.

Thanks to God, my program and the amazing people who God has put in my life I am living a new way; an easier, softer way which in essence, is hard, gratifying work.

Those Damaging Thoughts…

Thinker thinks about how to take sun burst shot

(Photo credit: davidyuweb)

I have always been a thinker… more like an over-thinker.  I get something in my head that is pebble sized and before I know it there is a black boulder sitting in my skull that I want to smash out.  This doesn’t happen as much as it used to (which is scary, because it happens more than I like) and sometimes when it does, I get sucked into that damaging moment and my program goes out the window.  I don’t think about drinking or drugging because I have worked a solid 12 Step Program… but I guess, as much as I hate to admit it, I am human after all.

Shucks.

God has never given me anything I cannot handle.  Sometimes I try to handle the hurdles alone, and that is when I find myself sobbing in a little ball on the couch or my bed.  A light starts to glow in my head and I realize I need to pray, call a friend and journal.

IN THAT ORDER.  

In the last couple weeks I learned that free write journaling does more damage to me because (and someone said it in a comment on my blog) I kinda get locked into that whiny, poor me thinking and get no reflection work done.  If I pray and talk to someone before I journal, I can focus on a solution instead of staying in the problem.  Which, honestly, my thinking is the biggest problem. I get really worked up over dumb stuff because sometimes, that little eleven year old voice in my head chimes, “How you feel does not matter, Darlene.  Shut your mouth and stuff it down.  Stuff it down!

I cannot stuff it down.  Also, I cannot go running to whomever I am upset with and start bitching about all the shit they did that offended me, hurt my feelings, made me angry or whatever.  This is not a good idea.  When I try to communicate to someone before I pray and talk to another sober individual, my thoughts come out of my mouth like verbal vomit.

The gift of interpretation is amazing in my life today.  Instead of fearfully viewing an event as potentially hazardous, if I am in a good place, I can step back and sort the facts from the thoughts and go from there.

How do you stop your negative thinking?

L – Looking Back – Should I Bother?

en: Photo of a Band-Aid manufactured by Johnso...

en: Photo of a Band-Aid manufactured by Johnson & Johnson. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

You’ve heard the sayings… “don’t look back” — “learn from the past” — “the pain heals, but the scars remain” — there are hundreds of sayings that talk about the past.  Looking back on the past kept me in a whirlwind of sorrow and misery.  I would stay there, dwelling and obsessing like a goat over a woolen shirt.  I still do it sometimes and then I think, “what the hell am I doing?!”

Feeling sorry for myself became an art as I sat at the bar, drowning my sorrows yapping about my pathetic life (which was everyone else’s fault, by the way).

I used to be hung up on the “why” of the past.  Why did this happen to me? Where did I go wrong? Why me? WHY ME? WHY ME?!

The trick for me is to look back, learn and move the hell on.

It’s true, I have learned from the past.  I learned that drinking and drugging were transparent band-aids that masked my misery while pouring salt in my wounds. That is a part of my past I cannot forget. Ever.  But, I had to get over it… the pain, the sorrow and especially the feeling sorry for myself.  How would I do that?  After all, I was great at feeling sorry for myself.  I was great at sitting in my own crap while I donned the face of misery and self-pity.

I should bother to look back,  but only to learn and share.

I – Inconsistency – The Backbone of Failure

rhizoming the plan of consistency . .Inconsistency should really be my middle name.  Throughout my life, I have been inconsistent about everything: work, family, kids, money and even hobbies.  I don’t know if I have untreated A.D.H.D. or if I am just inherently lazy, but this crap has plagued me since I was little.  I get all gung-ho about something and then a day, week or a month floats by and I say, “Wow, this is pretty f’ing boring.” Other times, I purposely refrain from proceeding, perhaps in an attempt to self-sabotage.  I’m really good at that.

Inconsistency is the main ingredient in any recipe for failure.  For me, not writing 500 words a day leads to no published novel (hell, not even a final draft!) along with many other unfulfilled dreams and aspirations that I could have if I just remained consistent.  I could sit here and make tons of excuses as to my lack of motivation, my screaming inconsistency and my lazy ways, but that’s just it.  They are excuses.

What I am consistent with: my program and abstaining from alcohol and drugs.  Please know that I am not bragging.  It isn’t set in stone that “I got this” when it comes to my recovery from alcoholism/addiction.  I see it too much in the places I go… people I care about falling off the wagon or never quite grasping the concept.  Maybe they did have the concept but for whatever reason, decided to “try to drink successfully.”  I can honestly say I have not seriously entertained taking a drink or drug in these past years… even when those silly, glamorized booze commercials come on the television or I watch a movie with blatant drug use.  I do get those little tummy knots sometimes when I watch something like that, but that’s my cue.  “Turn it off, Darlene.  Nothing to see here.”

By the Grace of God, I will have seven clean & sober years on May 26, 2013.

H – Hell: It’s Not Just For Satan

Demon

Demon (Photo credit: ark)

Through my addiction, I thought I was escaping the self-inflicted hell I had brought upon myself.  I used and drank to escape my demons, never realizing I had created more each time I picked up. It’s a hard lesson, really, and one I am glad I grasped before I fell too far down that pit of scarred brimstone.

The sneakiness of addiction is interesting.  One night I was high as a kite sailing through a windstorm in a vain attempt to mask my hate and loneliness.  Before I knew it, I was living in a basement, my kids taken from me and I was further into hell than I could imagine.

I looked like walking death (literally – I should have taken a picture).  All that hate, self-loathing and insecurity I tried so hard to hide, seeped out of my pores like puss from a poorly popped pimple.  My isolation was profound.  I had resorted to sitting in a basement, doing drugs and drinking while writing pages and pages of angry, tormented journal entries. Those journals are lost forever, but some of the stuff I wrote looked like:

Why am I so pathetic? What the fuck is wrong with me?  I wish I would die in my sleep.  I’m ugly.  I’m a loser.  I did so much coke tonight and drank so much Blackhaus, I was sure I would die.  But here I am… awake for another epic fucking day.

The thing about such a revolting self-inflicted hell is… it’s damn hard to climb out of that hole. Being unemployed (and unemployable), weighing 120 pounds (I’m 5’10”) and feeling sick (like dope sick) and having to look at that shit in the mirror, it’s hard to say (or think): What the fuck am I doing? This sucks!

That’s crazy, right? But that’s what the demon did.  It caressed me slow and soft, told me lies all the while dragging me day by day to hell. I am eternally grateful that by the Grace of God and getting help from my program I was able to crawl and then walk out of the shadows I created. It was not an easy road, but after a while, I realized that the road (my new road) although rocky and sometimes bumpy, was a lot more pleasant than my old road which went right through hell.

When you were in darkness, did you ever think you’d see light?

G – Grieve (The Old You)

Grief

Grief (Photo credit: tombellart)

Grief.  It’s one of those things that is hard to let go of and hard to handle.  We grieve loss: Loss of people, places and things; loss of pets. But did you ever consider grieving over yourself?  I’ll bet you never quite looked at it that way.

Recovery is a rebirth.  We come into the rooms, the doctors’ offices and the out-patient programs beaten and broken. We are torn, tattered and abused; looking for something or someone to save us.  We’re either meek and mild or loud and brazen.  Some of us are a little of both.

When I first got sober I was a little of both. I was kind of shy (especially around women) and I dressed provocatively, stuck with the men, pulled up at meetings blasting my heavy metal.  I needed to be noticed. I needed that attention to flip that self-worth switch on inside.  Seeking outside validation is classic in alcoholics and I was (still am!) a classic alcoholic.  I made all the conversations about me (I was really good at this!).  Gosh, I could go on forever!

This self-seeking behavior (definitely a character defect) went on for years until one day…

I got serious about my program.  I started hitting six meetings a week.  I got another sponsor and actually talked with her and did step work with her.  I listened at meetings and even started sharing at some of them.  I started hanging with the women, giving my phone number to newcomers and even hung out with these chicks outside of the rooms. What was happening to me?!  Who was this woman who stared back at me in the mirror every day?  I didn’t know her, but I liked her.

She was different.  She didn’t want to wear “hoochie mama” clothes anymore; felt comfortable around other women.  She liked the image in the mirror.. sometimes.

Yes, I still blast my heavy metal but I definitely notice a change in me.  So do a lot of other people.  I like who I am these days.  I no longer hide behind the insecure mask of “LOOK AT ME!”  I know that sounds strange, but insecurity leads to external validation which is a band-aid that never heals internal wounds.

And I did take a moment a couple of years ago to grieve the old me.  I sat down in a park with my journal and nature and wrote a letter to myself.  I said, “Goodbye, Old Darlene.  There are some parts of you I shall miss, but ultimately, not much.  This is my new path, with my new life and a new me.  I’m sure you’ll visit sometimes, Old Darlene, and that’s okay, but you cannot stay.”

Have you ever given any thought to an “old you” and “new you?”

Anger: The Truth

Angry Talk (Comic Style)

Angry Talk (Comic Style) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I noticed something about myself yesterday and it wasn’t one of those, “oh wow, this is so cool!  I didn’t know I could do that!” epiphanies.  It was more like an, “are you freaking kidding me, why do I do this?” glaring defect.

Sometimes I act a certain way, think a certain way or feel a certain way simply because I think that I THINK this is what I am supposed to do.  Like, I really get upset over unmonumental bullcrap.  Sincerely. This light bulb went off in my head this morning.

So then I ask myself: “WHY AM I SO DAMN ANGRY?”  Like, why do I let my head control me to the point of borderline insanity?  I don’t know the answer to this question, but I do know that it drives me batty and I am in the painstaking process of changing the way I think so I can change the way I feel there by changing the way I act.

Simple? 

Sometimes.

Did you ever tell someone something and their reaction is along the lines of, “Well, just stop doing that.” or “Think about something else.” or (and this is my favorite) “Get over it.”

Get over it?! Cue bitter resentment teetering on unabated rage. “Nobody tells me to get over it!  I’ll get over it when I’m good and ready!” “How dare you tell me that.  You don’t know how I feel.”

Yeah, somebody call me the Waaambulance. 

So, this morning after much coffee and a bowl of Special K Fruit & Yogurt (okay, two bowls) mature thoughts started to creep in my head (kinda like a black goo, only not as ugly) and I started to think:

  • I do not have to feel this way! 
  • Anger is a choice and it’s on me if I choose anger (or any one of the subcategories of anger).
  • I can come back to these ugly thoughts later.
  • I will feel how I choose to feel today.

Let me repeat that last one:  I will feel how I choose to feel today.

And that there is the truth about anger.  We choose to feel angry, resentful, jealous, bitter and any of the other byproducts of hate.  We also choose to feel many of the byproducts of love.  We get to choose how we feel about anything at any moment in any situation.  We have that power. That’s some huge stuff right there! 

Today I have a choice and so do you. Today I will choose love over anger, confidence over insecurity and acceptance over jealousy.

What will you choose?

People, Places and Things

Sobriety medallion

Sobriety medallion (Photo credit: annrkiszt)

When I was new in sobriety and going to my outpatient group along with attending four or five AA meetings a week, I heard “people, places and things” a lot. When I was out drinking, using and being a degenerate, my people, places and things were drug dealers, bars and excuses to give me the fuel to drink or use more.

My very first time in an attempt to get sober was in January of 2005.  Now, my reasons for wanting to get clean and sober were inwardly pathetic.  I told my dad I did not want to get high or drunk anymore.  He said, “Darlene, is this an attempt to detox so it won’t take so much to get drunk or high?”  “Of course not, Dad.  I really mean it!” So on New Year’s Day in 2005 my dad drove me up to Livengrin in Bensalem, PA and dropped me off to detox for four days.

Now, when I went in there, my dad was right on the money.  That was exactly why I wanted to go to detox. But after being in there and getting weaned off of opiates and detoxing from alcohol and spending time with people who had it far worse than I did, I changed my mind. I really did want to get clean and sober.

After four days in detox, I got out and felt refreshed.  I had a roommate who lived in Bucks County (I was living in Philadelphia at the time) and we exchanged numbers so we could hit a meeting in a couple of days.

I went to an AA meeting with her; it was the only AA meeting I attended in 2005.  My dealer lived right down the street from me and I knocked on her door about seven days after I had gotten out of detox, told her I just got out of detox and asked her if she had anything. She looked at me stupefied.  Looking back, I do not blame her.

See, people, places and things are huge in recovery.  I am not saying that everyone that goes into recovery or treatment or gets clean and sober should move, change their name and paint their dog, but it is a good idea to be aware of triggers (people, places and things).

How I avoided people, places and things:

1)      I moved.  This is not possible for everyone, but it helped me.

2)      For the first few months of my sobriety, I avoided passing establishments (places) I previously frequented.

3)      I worked on what my triggers were and went to great lengths to recognize them; not embellish them and use them as an excuse to drink.

For those who cannot move, I suggest building a strong sober network and keeping in touch with those people.  Addicts and alcoholics still active in their addiction/alcoholism feel resentful at those trying to get sober.  And while they will not necessarily try to drag someone down who is trying to get clean and sober, they will not exactly be on your cheering squad.

I have a friend I used to get high with and had coffee with him a couple of times after being new in sobriety.  I could not figure out why I had an awful knot in my stomach and wanted to get high each time I was in his presence.

Thankfully, I had a great sponsor and was in outpatient therapy at the time (both of these helped me greatly) that gave me the tools to recognize that he was a “people” and I needed to cut ties for a while.

Do you have any people, places or things that trigger you into bad behavior?

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