About Me

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Los Angeles, California
I am 47 and thriving in Southern California. One day at a time.
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Monday, October 31, 2011

poker face

the other day a thought slinked into my head as naturally as swatting a fly away...

"a glass of wine would be nice right now"...

and like ice cubes down my shirt in some mild hazing prank, my blood retreated from all extremities, leaving me icy hard.

[in rehab, hypothermia is the new black]

but i shook off the shiver with an overheated shrug and just let it slink on out of my head...

[actually i kind of gave it a shove, but it left]

today i went to the gym during the alloted time. and as gaga and i birthed a symbiotic rhythm, different thoughts slinked into my head. less suspect, more boisterous..."i feel good...dare i?...no, it's been sooooo long...but i feel stronger...just for a couple of minutes?...just try it"...water droplets misting from the ocean cleansed my deep sea breath, then i dared to plunge one foot faster and faster onto the uncharted rubber deep end, and with a final blind dive, i began to run.

i was running.

the little red headed girl who has been in bed for a year and a half was running.

and for a few minutes there was no suffering. no pain. strength of body. clear of mind. soul on hold.

and i reached down for "the kid", his robustness ever protruding from my frame, and felt him. really felt him for the first time in almost 7 months.

there is no greater gift than the gift of health. and to think i almost re-gifted him.

[yes, he's a he. name undecided.]

i'll have a side of depression with my tub of remorse...

i can't get through a psychiatry session without annihilating a box of kleenex and leaving my suite puffier than well, me, with edema.

everything boomerangs back to childhood and the experiences that we were play-doh-ed from. but play-doh dries up, and becomes pointless. the point is to look around in the playroom of life...there are so many other wonderful toys to experience.

i cannot tell a lie.

[oh, yes you can...]

i am grateful for the big md's legitimization. "you've certainly been dealt a pack of cards."

but i know that's no excuse.

i'm just so tired of wearing a poker face...

[contraband photo]

Sunday, October 30, 2011

steeping still

sometimes there's not much to say.

sometimes you just need to sit very still.

and steep. like a bag of earl grey, bobbing in the steaming clear. gradually seeping rusty plumes. hues ever deepening, ever changing until it's fully brewed. fully satiated with vibrancy and life.

a head spinning with information.

a chest ceaselessly clenched. drawn and quartered, flattened by my guilt and and remorse.

a gut that lives in my toes; weighed down by a past i must release.

but, my heart.

my heart is full tonight.

i went to target today. i had visitors whom i love. we ate birthday cake. i had a phone call from a friend i love. i went to a great aa meeting. my girlfriend, e, offered me one of the greatest gifts imaginable. and she made me laugh doing it.

and i am about to call my husband.

i didn't see the sunset tonight. but apparently, it was a great one...

Saturday, October 29, 2011


this morning my breakfast of champions was chocolate from toronto...

i sipped irish breakfast tea from boston...

and puttered in canary gold knit booties from tennessee...

[my mother used to call my hair "copper" and she would whisper, "special. you are special."]

i showered and blew dry my hair (on loan from contraband). my now long again, strawberry blond mop  blown straight and parted down the middle, makeup free, naked as a newborn; i smeared free the mirror of steamy diversion and gazed cleanly into the eyes, if you didn't look TOO closely, of a woman who could have been the girl of yesteryear. 20 years ago. 23 years ago. when a discharge nurse after tx. #1, mentioned i could get tylenol #1 with codeine over the counter if i still had pain. when those cunning, crafty tentacles of addiction stirred awake and affixed themselves to a gaping, welcoming sanctuary...

["we've been waiting! where have you been?"]

i. cant. breathe.

this morning my door flew open at 09:34 am. i was missing a group, and my favorite tech, s, with a righteous fashion sense, had come to see why. i was a blubbery, puffy mess, palpably sick, and she immediately ordered matzo ball soup with chicken for me. i sobbed.

"i. can't. stop. thinking. about. all. the. people. i've. hurt."

and with these words she filleted me finer than a smoked norwegian salmon...

"honey, you HAVE to forgive yourself."

["they say it's your birthday..."]

i lay restless for most of the day, never quite carried away to the comfort of sleep. excused from the sober outing to the huntington library (a botanical garden and museum) that i was genuinely excited for. i stared at my dog's ears, her nose, her eyelashes, as depression rolled over me hard like dough as the  roller pin compresses. and debussy and mozart on repeat did nothing but thicken it solid.

[can "clair de lune" be my rehab theme song?]

so i grabbed the book.

and it felt like the greatest cliche.

but what was next was this, "help only begins for addicts when they are able to admit complete defeat. this can be frightening, but it is the foundation on which we build our lives."

[timing is everything.]

yesterday, i blogged about accordioned skyscrapers and crumbled homes. so today, i admit complete defeat. and i see the foundation. it is small, and i need my glasses, but i can see it...

of course, i cried. but this time, it was because i felt understood.

by society's standard, my 1994 assessment would've been off the charts; streamers flying, cowbells ringing, confetti flying fantastic...age 25. lead on a tv series. engaged to a "successful" man. fit and healthy. completely independent. cut to 2011. age 43. 2nd kidney transplant. on disability. in rehab.

[judge not, lest ye be judged???]

but society can suck the tentacles from my brain. {god willing}. but now i know all those tentacles will ever do is lie dormant. {anticipatory?} while i remain ever vigilant, hyper conscious of their presence.

yeah, society can suck it.

and those who throw stones can suck it.

because none of that growth chart, achievement scale nonsense matters. you can't take it with you, my friend...

and i was loved today.

i was not hugged or kissed.
there was no party.
there was no cake.
there were no presents.

but i felt loved by an enormous community, friends and family, cyber reaching out to me like tentacles of the selfless kind. the good kind. the healthy kind...

and i felt loved by a community which i still need to fully understand. fully embrace. fully immerse.

and i think, for a few minutes, i loved myself today.

14 days sober.

[and maybe, mum, i felt a little bit special]

rebirthday. maybe this has been my best birthday yet.

Friday, October 28, 2011

rehabilitation rhapsody

this morning i was drug tested...

i am as sick as a low riding hound sportin' fuzzy dice (that's dawg)...body of betrayal. sick again.

a cold is to a healthy person, as the plague is to the immunosuppressed...

[cough. sneeze. snort.]

14 hour days has whipped and tripped this post-renal tx. patient into rehab burnout. with barely 8 hours of sleep a night, i woke up waterlogged with gunk, drifting down on a stream of snot. like a preemie, my body must be nursed adagio back into rhythm, not arisen with the crimson cheeked screams of health and vigor....

my roommate is respectful, but mutters constantly like the drone of an air conditioner gratingly underscoring a conversation...

i crave SILENCE...SSSSHHHH....the stillness that settles after a scream...

i walk through scalding debris, accordioned skyscrapers, crumbled homes; the sting of smoke can't burn my already watering eyes. always i stumble on the ragged, broken foundations, chunks of smouldering finality that trip me up. but never do i fall. i am wearing clogs...

then love rains down from boston, toronto and tennessee. hot and soothing. scrunched up face, envelopes searched and tears dribble down upon the postal remains...

[can a heart burst from a rib cage?]

i fell on my knees and it felt ridiculous and right. my guts released, bright red, ragged and raw...

120 minutes on your knees will wring out a person's soul. just call me the 8th dwarf. lucky.

birth-1st transplant-1st overdose-2nd transplant-2nd overdose...

[reborn 4 times]

stack them up like dominoes, except it's never been a game, and i don't want to be knocked over anymore...

[wait. i am still here. i am still here.]

when i turned 40, i announced that i thought i had a drug problem. it took me 3 years to get into rehab.

for tomorrow is my birthday.

Thursday, October 27, 2011

anger management

i've gone through more tissues today than a 13 year old boy.

if dribbling tears were a commodity i'd be "sell, sell, sell"-ing and floating away on my fortune.

i went to the gym today for the first time. despite the natural endorphins injected through my veins, there remained a constant pang nested in my chest, fluttery wings crashing up against my hollow chest, feathers wafting away.

hollow chest. broken heart.

and from the nest of dysfunction arose the hatchling red hotus angerus. and i burned. and burned deep.

for 30 years i've been dealing with kidney disease and transplantation, and now i have another disease? for 41 years i could have a couple of glasses of wine at dinner and now i can't? i can never go to a killers concert and have a few beers? i can never indulge in a wine tasting again? i can never say "skol" again?

[and i can never get near a medicine cabinet again.]

i don't give a fruit fly if you think i am feeling sorry for myself. i have now been exposed to the road to recovery and it is arduous, riddled with temptations and time consuming. it will become part of who i am if i am to survive. for i am an addict.

but simmering underneath my anger always brews sadness, and deep, deep remorse for how i have hurt myself, the persons i have hurt and one person in particular.

tonight my loneliness feels like a spiderweb you accidentally walk into. it fixates to the skin and cloaks me with its poison.

and i hate spiders.

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

conflict of schedule

brandon flowers croones me awake at the nonsensical hour of 7am.

oh, how it pains me to type these words, but i dread hearing his creamy falsetto form these words,

"save some face, you know you've only got one, change your ways while you're still young..."

wholly on point, but too close to home for this night owl turned crow, who internally caws when that rock star dissolves my rem into a puddle of disappointment.

i am a certified night owl, "B" person, nocturnal, whatever you wanna throw at me, i'm never gonna wanna get up at 7am...

my limbs literally cramp, my eyes sting, there are rodents gnawing at my gut, and i am one irritated hot mess.

i gulp a disgusting brew of sweet 'n low, hazelnut coffeemate, and, oh yeah, and a bit of coffee and trudge my way, 5 steps over, to the common area. the day begins with "daily reflections" at 7:30 am. during these 20 minutes, we are to declare our intentention for the day. beautiful in theory, but oh, so challenging for this owl plucked bare, morphed lark. my brain remains drugged by the precious foggy strands of REM as i struggle to form a poignant intention.

we do a shared breakfast. 3 people prepare, then 3 different people clean up, and then we usually have an hour to "get ourselves together" before the 10am group.

[this is code for go for a cigarette. i, on the other hand, go into contraband, and spritz my hair into unintentional surrender...]

we have a group at 10am, we can go to the gym between 11 and 1 pm. we have a 2 pm group and a 4 pm group. we are often pulled aside for consultations with dr. cuckoo meds or our weekly hour with the psychiatrist or the two hourly sessions a week with an individual therapist.

in between, i am running back and forth to the "med" room for 9 am, noon, 3pm, 6pm and 9 pm meds.

[emotionally i am like a barometer looking for her spring. fluctuation to the nth degree.]

klean is an emotional workspace, dedicated to the difficult process of recovery; and most days, i feel like i've been riding an raucous merry-go-round, flying off the monkeys bars and zipping down the slides until i vomit profusely.

[i used to sit up, wipe the corners of my mouth and an irrepressible grin would cover my face entire...]

now, it is up and down. backwards and forwards. exhilaration and disgust.

my legs curl around the bars, tightly, protectively; fearful of the fall, but confident enough to let my strawberry blond hair, drag across the sandy playground. this is how everything looks right now. upside down and inside out. it has looked this way for so long, that i don't even know how to stand up straight. literally.

[but i am starting to stretch...]

in the evenings we have dinner with computer time from 5 to 7 pm and 9:30 to 11 pm. we are encouraged to go to aa meetings around 7:30 pm or read aa or na literature in the alternative. this is not your family's camping trip.

so as i walked maggie tonight for all of 8 minutes, supervised, with 3 other clients and their dogs, i gloried in all the normalcy i could soak up. i steeped myself in the sights and sounds of west hollywood, pre dinner. hip-hop bass thumping from passing vehicles, smelling a jasmine bloom from a neighbor's hedge, nodding to a gentleman out for a stroll...and the sublime ordinariness that floated up from santa monica blvd. i could feel the lattes being purchased, the road rage seeping through veins and the chaos and calm that exists just 2 blocks away in a magical, healing hamlet known as cedars-sinai.

the place that has saved my life 3 times.

and now this place, klean, is saving me, too. teaching me how to swing less violently. for this little redhead swings until she can't see, and that's just leaves you nauseous, with a sore bum.

or in rehab.

[as an aside...i want to thank everyone so much for all the messages. i have such limited computer and phone time, that it is taking me a long time to respond to everyone. our schedule is jam-packed, and i have to be careful not to get sick because of my kidney, so i am resting on breaks, too...thank you erika for the beautiful card i received today...all of your loving wishes are stored in my heart and keeping me strong...]

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

there can be joy

i have very little time to blog tonight. maggie may was dropped off during computer time, but i couldn't be happier about it. many clients have dogs here and she has already disappeared into the wilds of klean; bonding with a pitbull, a great dane, a golden retriever and an australian shepherd.

i have joy tonight.

i went to cedars-sinai for my transplant clinic and a neurologist appointment this morning. by myself.

everyone was nothing but thrilled for me when i apprehensively mumbled that i was in rehab. i had been figuratively picking at my nails, wracked with misgivings and worry. but i was utterly flipped.

i left the complex feeling empowered. i had support. these people believed in me. i can believe in me.

today my therapist laid a blanket of normalcy over my downward pharmaceutical spiral. he said, "do you know how many chronically ill people become physically addicted to painkillers?"

it's still no excuse. but life's been a tough pill to swallow.

i so i have a thin veneer of joy sheathing my heart tonight. it does not smother the omnipresent pain in my gut or the ache in my heart, but i feel it's potential.

i touched my husband's face today. tonight i will sleep with maggie may and...

my creatinine was 0.8. the lowest ever. even immediately after surgery.

and i don't have to return to the transplant clinic for 3 months.

i am one fucking lucky girl.

Monday, October 24, 2011

no settin' sun

i caught you knockin' at my cellar door
i love you, baby, can i have some more,
ooh, ooh, the damage done.
i hit the city and i lost my band
i watched the needle take another man.
gone, gone, the damage done,
i sing the song because i love the man,
i know that some of you don't understand
milk-blood to keep from running out.
i've seen the needle and the damage done
a little part of it in everyone
but every junkie's like a settin' sun.

i am very sad today.

i am exhausted. physically and emotionally. i got up at 7 am and missed "morning reflections" because it was held in the smokers' area, which i naturally avoid. there are two tables of butt filled ashtrays, smothered in cancer stick residue right next to the" med" room, which is also where they hold all contraband. whenever i shuffle in to pop my cuckoo tabs, i ask to spritz my hair with some hairspray. i feel like the uncool, cranky old lady who sits on her stoop and wags her finger at anyone that touches a blade of her grass. i would love to get to know some of these kids better, and they are kids, but they perpetually hang in a smoke-filled haze. and then there's me, the only non smoker out of 15.

the girl who's never smoked a cigarette. ah, the irony.

i had a huge breakthrough with my psychiatrist today about why i have repeated dreams about screaming at a particular person. about the lack of support and nurturing and love i have felt. and perhaps why i turned to pills.

but perhaps my biggest breakthrough today was in music therapy. for me music is my all. any kind. night and day. and it was when b, the counsellor played this piece by neil young at the end, that my guts gushed forth in a deluge of emotion that i could not control.

it was neil young. his honey-caramel voice lulling this group of emotional misfits with pure canadiana. and my heart ached and ached for a time of complete innoocence. when it was so cold we could walk on lake ontario. when a summer storm would pass through and the humidity wouldn't budge. when those maple leaves would peacock their glorious shades, then gently pirouette to the freezing ground. and when i didn't know about death and pills and addiction?

[did i ever know that time?]

so, i cried and cried for all the poor choices i've made, and for that little, bossy canadian redhead inside who is stomping to come out, but in the end, i was soothed. for "i know that some of you don't understand", but that doesn't matter. in order for me to bear no shame, i need only to judge myself.

and so i think of all the the settin' suns i've watched in my life, never once thinking, i metaphorically would be one...

well, i refuse to be. i still don't know how much work i have ahead. and the colors are spectacularly tempting, but i will not be a settin' sun...

[cue: harvest moon...for k.]

Sunday, October 23, 2011

just grateful

sundays are very different in rehab.

there are no daily reflections at 7:30 am.

there is a target run at 11 am. you are allowed one hour to pick up various items you may need, crave or desire. i mistakenly thought there was a $50 limit with my credit card; i mean honestly, what can you buy for $50 these days? so i erroneously put back the truvia, and sharpies i wanted. and afterwards i was just sad. i sat with a, from new orleans, and j, the "tech", as we waited for b, and i mused, what kind of insane game show have i stumbled into?

the woman i asked the time for, she didn't know i was in rehab. the employee i asked where the notebooks were kept, he didn't know i was in rehab and the elderly cashier, with a slightly crooked wig, who nodded her head knowingly when i mumbled i had to keep it under $50, well, she didn't know i was in rehab either.

honestly, i barely know i am in rehab.

i have been to 4 aa meetings now. i have stood up 3 times and said, "i am henriette. an alcoholic, addict" and i still don't understand it.

i cannot connect the energetic, intelligent, independent actress/writer/makeup artist/decorator with the person who cannot stop gobbling pills once a bottle is in her hands; who now sits in folding chairs at aa meetings and finds comfort and understanding in people's stories.

a "tech" here suggested i write a goodbye letter to my drug of choice, which would probably be fiorinol. it was after a particularly soggy waterworks confessional on my part, and he said it would most likely come out as a love letter. i have already blogged about how she was my dysfunctional best friend, a frenemy, if you will. the kind of gal who would sleep with your boyfriend and wreck your jimmy choo's, but with whom you desperately wanted to hang. she was often there when kidney stresses overwhelmed or k and i disagreed, and i would conspiratorially think to myself, as i threw back 5 or 6 pills, "ha, ha, you don't know what i'm doing"...but she, in the end, was a traitor to the core, so of course k. always knew.

there was a man on saturday who spoke and for me it was deeply profound. he has been sober 16 years, and he said, "now when i have fun, everybody has fun"...and i thought of all the times i was having fun, and it was nothing close to fun for k. at all. closer to hell.

tonight at the aa meeting, a man was struggling with 8 months being sober, and he had been praying all week not to lock himself in a room and drink a bottle of tequila. my heart just broke for him. and then he said he prayed and he saw a window and then a door and then his truck and he drove over to a meeting.

recovery is clearly not for the faint of heart. but i'm not of the faint of heart,  just of faint kidneys. (sorry. it's late. and i have to turn in my computer.).

i have an enormous amount of work to do. i can't buy a shovel big enough. but i am taking it one day at a time, and tonight i am just grateful.

grateful for those of you who have written to me.
grateful to m. who visited me today with kind eyes and a loving heart.
always grateful to j.
grateful to my inconceivably generous and loving inlaws.
and grateful to my husband. who is still willing to listen. even though he has every right not to.
i love you, kevin.

the mailing address here is: 8543 Santa Monica Blvd. #11, West Hollywood., Ca., 90069

the 24 "tech"phone number is 310-740-4843

the other phone number is 310-657-4420

but let me know first, if you want to be added to the phone list. i have to add your name to a sheet.

[welcome to camp cuckoo.]

Saturday, October 22, 2011

camp cuckoo

i ran out of truvia (an ostentatious version of sweet and low) and realized i was not allowed to go to the store.

to say being in rehab is surreal, is like saying, gummy bears are chewy (i have a craving)

i shuffle over to the "med" room three times a day, receiving my prescribed kidney medications and a couple of things to help me come off xanax.
[one flew over this cuckoo's rehab. fer shiz...]

the "med" room is also the stronghold of our contraband items: our computers, checkbooks, cameras, cellphones, perfumes, hairspray, hairdryers, even tweezers...no ordering of drugs allowed! no huffing! and you must have flat hair! with bushy eyebrows!

how do i explain the denigrating experience when i check these items out for use?

[on a side note, with no makeup and no hair drying or products, i am starting to look less like a hot mess...]

it's like a camp for dysfunctional grownups, who just have an inability to deal with life on life's terms. and we need to learn and grow and understand...but there's still friday night movie night, peanut butter in the pantry and lots of laughter...because that's how we own it...

[and there's not a canoe in sight]

i did go to some groups this week, but they have essentially left me alone this week. letting me acclimatize, letting me detox. i have slept more than i ever thought possible, but i am despondent and lonely, too. i have a cold that i am nursing, i think only of "my kid" when i get sick. so i chose not to go on the"sober fun outing" but rather rest and read from the narcotics anonymous text.

all of the techs and therapists have told me that mine will be the most arduous challenge, the most jagged of cliffs to scale, for when legitimate pain worms its way in, and it will, my options will now be radically different. and it will be tough. very tough.

yet there is love here. maybe not for me, specifically, but for the pain we are enduring, and the process that has yet to unfold for me and the profound understanding between us all that cannot be denied.

hand me a s'more...

if you want to mail me anything, the mailing address is :
8543 Santa Monica Boulevard #11, West Hollywood, Ca., 90069

if you would like to call me, i must add you to the list first, so please email or facebook me. h xo

Friday, October 21, 2011

they can't take that away from me...

we laugh a lot in rehab, and i asked someone if that was wrong.

"absolutely not". it's because there is understanding.

every stereotype is here:

the 80's pop star riding the sparking beams of her fading star...
the 60-something year old who has probably been through rehab a half a dozen times...
the 18-22 year old's who chain smoke, guzzle joe, and gyrate to jay-z under hoodies in the corner...
the desperate housewife from down south who drank and did blow 'til dawn, then took her kids to school half whacked...
the educated 45 year old, my roommate, who only triggered recently, like me, born to an alcoholic mother, locked out of her house as a child because her brother was high on pcp. he died at age 16.
the loner, who shuffles around, seemingly aimlessly, near mumbling, staring at his giant feet, who states he thinks about drugs all the time.
and then there's me. am i a stereotype? an unsuccessful actress who began pill popping...

[the way you wear your hat...]

where does my legitimate pain play into this maze? and does it even matter now, for i can no longer straddle that invisible line.

invisible. that's what we are to you. we infiltrate your churches, offices, social environments and volunteer groups. we are invisible to you. but we are not stereotypes. we are each individuals. very much flesh and blood. thirsting to understand why we may no longer drink from the fountain of dionysis. the greek god of wine and revelry and chaos. why are we the chosen people who suffer often in silence...

but with a twisted gift, i've been introduced to people who understand me, and i understand them.

[the way you sip your tea...]

i have always known about the research linking the alcoholic gene genetically, but i never made the connection until today. i am a child of addiction, but, i've never judged him. my father. he was a brilliant family physician, a loving husband, father, brother and son, an avid stamp collector, obsessed with rugby and he was an addict. dead at 38.

he was also chronically ill. is this why i forgive him his addictions? because i understand all too well the hell that is chronic illness?...the biochemical results of altering your meds are like negotiating a slippery slope of jello in louboutins...

yesterday, i was chatting with one of my dearest friends, k, and i was talking about how amazing the staff is here and how the psychiatrist instantly nailed how much emotional pain i still clearly have from my childhood. and she countered, "but that's no excuse", and i flinched, my hackles went up and a stone settled into my gut. i don't have all the answers yet. i am still learning...(of course, i love her with all my heart...)

and, yes, maybe there is "no excuse" but i was born this way and now i have to figure out how to live as an addict. it could've happened when i was 21, but it happened roughly 4 years ago...

[the way you sing off key...]

yes, memories of my father keep emerging; even the most benign circumstances will send me down a stream of waterworks.

we did a breathing exercise the other day, that sent us down an elevator. when the elevator doors opened, we were to be present in a scene from our childhood. this moment shone with crystal clarity. my father was clearly inebriated, thin and sick, wearing a short sleeved white shirt with a pen and pad in his pocket. he leaves my brother and i alone at the dining room table, with cold chef boy-ar-dee ravioli, as he retreats into his cave. i resourcefully call my mother, who quietly insists we must stay per separation agreement. i return to the table and my brother and i eat our meal in silence.

[the way you haunt my dreams...]

the children sit lifeless, wrecked by the knowledge that their father is not well. they can do nothing. they are despondent. they are out of control. they are gutted. their gills crave the calm, salty water. desperate for the depth of the ocean, the depth that will hide them beneath the salty brine. the girl is swimming upstream against a current that will never subside...

so for better or for worse, these are the my memories of my father, my baseball games, my piano recitals: his diabetes, always driving with 2 bottles of beer, his toothy grin (dentures by 36), spitting into a bag at a soccer game, the only horrendous hospital visit i can recall, his frail frame, his loving heart, his magnificent smile...but, no i don't judge him...

[no, no, they can't take that away from me...]

so why do i judge myself?..

Thursday, October 20, 2011

santa monica boulevard

last night i was walking along santa monica blvd., with a group of essentially 7 strangers from rehab, having a complete out of body experience. i hadn't been out of the klean facility for nearly 72 hours and the california air enveloped me kindly like an old, tattered blanket. a maitre'd nodded respectfully as i passed his restaurant, and i briefly glanced over at linen smothered tables, gloriously laden with wine tumblers, cocktail glasses and appetizer platters. but the clink of their glasses and harmonious titters floated above our determined stomping. we were focused in but one direction. away from all they were enjoying.

[if i am a pill addict, does that mean i can never have a drink again?]

and as we arrived at the centre, i attempted to simmer the lyrics percolating in my head.

i'd been transported back to a dinner party in toronto, where my friend, l, was trying to convince me that "all i wanna do" was not representative of sheryl crow's album, ","tuesday night music club" and that i should give it a shot. cut to 4 months later in los angeles, where i'm rockin' out with my brother at the wiltern with ms. crow...

"all i wanna do is have some fun, until the sun comes up over santa monica boulevard."

innocence lost. anarchy awakened.

the other day, my friend, j, told me that this is not a fight. i have to find acceptance. because i had stared out into space and mumbled, "i can't believe i'm an addict" and he said, "why?" and i simply didn't have an answer...

all i know is a switch turned on in me. for years i used to take fiorinol responsibly, but then a beast awakened. one that had lain insidiously dormant. for he waited until my weakest moment, the rejection of my kidney, to snipe me near dead. the switch flipped on, i went numb and gobble, gobble, gobble...this turkey gobbled as many pills as she could...

but i am not a turkey.

i am just hen. just henriette.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

my fall from grace

when i was a little girl, i had a tin box that i would hide my most precious treasures in. you know: glittering rocks, a single blue marble, my grandmother's comb, grass from my grandfather's garden in denmark, and the luxurious ends of ribbons my mother would aggressively snip away from the sewing machine.

having european parents, it undoubtedly formerly held bickies, either shortbread or chocolate covered digestives to be certain.

but once emptied, washed and clasped within my grasp, it became my magic box inside and out. for every day of the week was inscribed on all sides of that gleaming can. of course, i can't remember a single one, but tuesday's, for i was born on a tuesday.

[i wrote the former part of this blog in the hospital, i am now writing the remainder from rehab after a 72 hour hold.]

i do remember i preferred every inscription to tuesday's for it stated, "tuesday's child is full of grace", and as a little girl, i always felt unusual, somewhat ungainly, just different. it wasn't until the burgeoning pre-teen years, that i began to twist my opinion to view those qualities as unique, special, talented, loved.

i don't know what happened to that tin box once filled with childhood treasures, that a little girl cherished and delighted in. it was emptied long ago, tsunamied by 30 years of renal failure. it then became just a strongbox of stone age hopes, cubic zirconia dreams and an invisible club of eclectic strangers waiting to rise up and steep her world. indeed, it is the invisible detritus of addiction that now lies comfortably in that tin box.

our addictions are invisible to your eye, but they scrape us, 'til bleeding, at our souls. legitimate pain married with emotional pain times painkiller abuse equals a very desperate addict. and a very sad woman.
and so as i agonizingly try to clear away the detritus, i attempt to fill the box with glorious intangibles instead: forgiveness, gratitude, hope, love and the greatest of all...trust.
am i just a hollywood cliche? an unsuccessful actress sharing a room with another woman; sharing an apartment with a member of an 80's pop group in rehab?

or am i just a human being? an addict who has done reprehensible things, born with the gene of addiction, who is desperate to become healthy and trustworthy again?
"to err is human, to forgive is divine"...

maybe it is when i forgive myself, that the box will overflow in ways that little girl never imagined...and grace will fill my heart again...

and i'll be full of grace...

i feel guilty.
i feel gutted.
i feel guillotined.

i have no phone access, except 3 approved persons can call me.
i cannot take any photos.
i have very limited computer access.
everyone is very professional, warm and genuine.

but, i have never been more terrified in my life.

i love you so very much, campbell and lorraine.
thank you for calling, kim.
thank you, my dearest elyssa.

Saturday, October 15, 2011

brick by brick

for all you medical naysayers, i have been lucky. very lucky.

and so i grasp to dr.dauer's words like a rope tossed over an under turned dingy in churning waters. "give cyclosporine 3 months, let's get those headaches under control, and you'll be back at work before you know it." and gratefully with his words, he whisked away my guilt under that burdensome rug; that terrible guilt...temporarily...i have never been the kind of person to sit around and do nothing.we have a laundry list of roof fixing,insulation, house financing, a dying car, medical bills, and taxes to conquer. but these migraines have allowed me to do nothing but fold laundry, sweep up, do dishes (and pick up the odd lawn sausage]

and then cluster migraines collapse me on the bed, rocking unhinged. and i cry that release will elude me forever.
you would think after 30 years after dealing with renal failure,
i would have some level of acceptance. but as k. likes to declare, "you have have always been a fighter"; you walk into a room into 
a room with your fists up"...too much has happened and i don't know that i can change for better or worse. through sickness and in health... i will do what can with what i've been doled out, but when so many, who jump out of bed and tackle the day with vim and vigor; my heart is left drawn and quartered; bleeding for the life in which i used to thrive.i have spend most of my recent life depleted of the exciting mundane and the precious, twinkling gifts we exhilarate to bathe in.

so here's a 180. i went to my first aa meeting monday with a very kind, supportive new friend. it was probably one of the hardest things i have ever had to do; walking into a room, announcing myself as a pain killer addict. but i kept an open mind, and everyone couldn't have been more supportive.

but until i get off my last drug-xanax-i feel like a hypocrite:even though
i haven't had a drink since aug.15th and no painkillers for over a month.

i am still proud of myself. chronic illness is the red queen that combs the earth, searching for insidious beauty she bolts from..."OFF WITH HER HEAD!"

this is the woman i want to be: 

the woman who used to run 5 miles a day, ate like jack lalanne, drank water like the precious commodity it will soon become, and kicked pain meds for a over a year. no alcohol since aug 15, but the last pill taunting me is xanax.i want to wean off this drug and replace it with exercise, chiropractic, massage and all things healthy...but there is often legitimate pain i need to negotiate. and so i lie down, fetal; rockin' against my maggie...an icepack on my head, amanda' s heat pad on my back, tiger balm slathered across my forehead, a wet washcloth covering my eyes, and distressing that this agony may never encase this cranium again.

please. please release me.please let me live the life i loved so much.

the joy of running naked through my favorite park in the work...joshua tree...swimming, redecorating, the simple pleasure of devouring a book and the independence that has eluded me for far too long.

and then there's tennessee. the joys of vacation, great friends, cool weather, midnight trips to walmart, infinitely cool godsons, slaughtering deer, homemade warm biscuits with churned apple butter...sigh...and the dearest, dearest family...

my godson's 3rd pirate themed birthday was something i wouldn't have missed for the world. i am so proud of being the godmother of 3, so despite the fireball in my head (and not the kind joey played on "friends"), i dressed in my wench's best and "arrrghd" all the live long day.
                                          she's goin' to blow!

and then there was wilfred, going to town on his cupcake like a carboloading marathon runner. or in his aunt's alternate words,"he's licking that cupcake like a girl"

                                             wilfred III
                                             captain wil
                                             first mate mcintyre
                                             wee wench

notice the "smize", notice the booty tooch, notice the full body pose...

[or as tyra like to egotistically pronounce "pose from "h to t".]

it's hard for me to embrace the mantra:"happiness is what you've got, not what you want" .i fixate over this frustratingly like the rubik cube i was never able to master. 

[yes, i'm an 80's chick.]

how can this apply to the chronically, compromised ill?. for all we've got is pain and sickness and agony. and all we want is health and strength and vigor.

denmark, norway, sweden, toronto, winnipeg, palm springs, jamaica, las vegas, hawaii, paris, arizona, dominican republic, mexico city and london. these are the myriad of destinations we've traveled together that we whisper in our drowsy, hopeful slumber.
kevin told me not to post this photo. "you don't look model thin, you look sick thin." when i realized people were staring at me, i hoped it was the gorgeous slip of a dress i was wearing. then i realized it was my filthy hair tucked under my newly purchased vis a vis john taylor fedora i was wearing; in the hopes of hiding my filthy, crazed flop of strings.but finally i had to concede it was my shockingly underweight frame drawing stares of shock and envy.

but, the former nine images are reminders of joy; they sparkle like rebel diamonds desperate to shine within the palm of my hands ...but they are imperfect; and so am i. with no energy to polish, buff and gloss these beauties into perfection. not yet. for i am deeply flawed.

[for me, they are not yet cut out of the sun..."can you read my mind?"]

good health seems like a life time ago, back when i was 13.....now at 42 i am  simply fed up with 30 years of chronic illness. i can't even count my hospital visits anymore. it's also kind of peculiar when i approach the pharmacy from 50 feet away and they immediately reach up for the "I" section. or when i call dr. dauer's office and delaina immediately recognizes my name.  

these folk have become my friends, my allies and companions and it's more than a curious way to live.

it's not the trials that make the woman, but how you handle them that defines your character.

[the other verdict is still out on that one]
my favorite place in the world: joshua tree national park. deafening silence. prickly, twisted, warped, thorny sculptures. stark in their beauty. magical in their uniqueness. have you ever listened to the U2 album while puttering through? sublime. how could i not run naked and celebrate such a gift of nature? this beats the granite hills of ontario, canada any day of the week.

[sorry, canucks.]

oh, ladies.
anorexic, bulimic, body dysmorphia only traps you into a painful; desperate unconquerable cycle. pity the child who sees beauty in this dysmorphic botticelli. all i see is a desperate woman longing to be pardoned from this prison of pain.

there have been blessed reprieves. saturday was the celebration of a new friend who has gone and above for me with my addition issues. even my therapist agrees i need a sponsor. nope. i can't believe i am here. but i want to be.

who wants to looks like this? no appetite? no energy? henceforth, no life.
i have always wondered if i gave my first kidney transplant a bad name? for 20 years, i was strong, fit, rarely sick and often inhaled red velvet cupcakes like charlie sheen inhales 7 gs...mmm...

yesterday, i saw a report on 22 million american woman who suffer from migraine headaches. this woman had it bad. really bad. she went on 44(!) different medications for 15 years, lost her job, and then finally had a european approved wire implant inserted into her head. this are the anecdotes that paralyze.

hers are better now, less frequent, less painful; but these news stories do nothing but make you curl up into a sea of calgon and rock until "raindrops and roses and whiskers and kittens"  soothe away the fear.

there has been much discussion about steve jobs recently. that has admittedly flown like a low flying 747 over my head. i've always been a list-maker with the old school flip phone that takes me just under an hour to text a message. sure i dig my ipod. music is my groove, baby. but IPHONES, IPADS, ITOUCHS, INANOOS...only contributes to a world of heads bend over dinner tables, distracted conversations, and obsessive face booking. 

[who really wants to know what you are having for dinner? and a photo, too?. really?]

and so, for the most part i refrain.

when at cedars last friday, there was nary a mortal not crazy glued to their electronic nirvana. even the yarmulke adorned physicians were poking away at their compact canisters clutched firmly within their million dollar digits.

and i wondered.

has society has lost all patience? we need to know anything and everything right away. from kim kardashian to amanda knox to californian home foreclosures to the the michael jackson death trial. it's inescapable.

but for the chronically ill, we must cultivate patience. we must find that quality that we never thought existed within ourselves.
i hear that clock ticking. every day. at age 42 it is subtle, quiet, much like the tinnitus i still suffer from. i worry about my heart, my liver, my kidney, my entire orgy of organs. for 30 years toxic medications have been frenetically metabolizing; having the time of their lives. it has always been a balance between what will preserve the kidney and what will prevent me from becoming a lunatic with all the legitimate biochemical alterations....

[again, the verdict is still out on that one.]

so, yes, steve jobs changed the world in terms of how we communicate, but when i crack open my metallic, silver envelope, i actually sing praise to mark zuckerman. yes, jobs built my MAC, but facebook has connected me with family in israel, boston, canada, denmark, australia, england and the states. now that's technology i can get behind.

[now if i could only get rid of these headaches so i could tackle the 233 messages in my inbox.]

but steve jobs did leave something behind that touched me. and touched someone else as well.

in our increasingly frustrating attempts to refinance our home; [help for the delinquent, no help for the responsible], we met a lovely woman named elisa, at bank of america, who was immediately taken by us; particularly by my kidney transplant. and within seconds of grasping this information she began ranting about steve jobs. "sure. he was successful. he had everything. but what good was it without his health?"

[instantly i had a soul mate. despite the blinding glare of her ring, and the tailored fit of her upscale suit, she was sincere.]

she continued:"i don't care. take everything away from me. just give me my health". this grade A woman, working for THE ESTABLISHMENT, by default our legitimate financial enemy, had suddenly become an ally. sometimes life throws you a bone just when you can't gnaw on crap anymore.

[and a crazy grin spread from ear to ear.]

i would like to believe this was the reason steve jobs got so much attention when he died. pancreatic cancer has a 5% survival rate; and his horrific death at the age 56 blew people's minds. but i know that's not the reason. but for me, it always will be.

and so on the third day of this blog, i release my deepest confession.

tonight i am in cedars-sinai again. my kidney is fine. my creatinine was 1.0, which is amazing. i am here because i overdosed on a bottle of xanax. the last mood alerter i had access too; being cut off completely from pain killers, i lost all control in my desperation to be pain free. i also stole pain killers from my husband and replaced them with prednisone.

[so. whad'ya think of me now? i bet it's nothing compared to what i feel like.]

deformed, regretful, heartbroken, devastated and disgraced. an alien floating in a friendless vacuum.
our last three years have been a litmus test of how much kevin can take. and i know he's pretty much at defcon 5. and now i'm sure i can't do it on my own.

even our beverly hills therapist, a lovely zen, santa claus type who only charges a c note, actually stopped our conversation to validate how much shit we've had to muddle through, and that it was amazing that we were still together. it was by turns, comforting, confusing and chilling. believe what you will. the last thing i ever wanted to do was hurt kevin. but when you are in pain and an addict, it becomes the number one relationship in your life.

there have been moments of joy, but the last 18 months have been crammed with 2 overdoses, multiple hospital visits, my renal failure, dialysis, pre-transplantation meetings and tests, the transplant, post-transplant recovery, medical bills, rejection, 2 months of the immunosuppressive prograf (antigraf!) and oxycontin, kevin's ulcer, a 20 pound weight loss and headaches/migraines that have cemented my life with an immoveable road block.

[i won't even get into the economic crash and its' repercussions.]

i don't know what happens after i leave cedars. currently i am detoxing, curiously not really wondering how i got here. i never meant to hurt anyone. i never grasped the depth of my desperation until migraines began to rule my life, and when that became my one and only focus, i became angry at how much life i was missing. months and months being housebound. unable to read or write or drive. unable to live.

my psychiatrist today asked me if i wanted to kill myself. and i said no. but truthfully, there have been moments where the pain was so great, that it was all i could do not to smash my head against a wall. and sometimes i would hope i would wake up heath ledger style...just so that i wouldn't have to face another day of pain.

but do i want to die? no.

i feel trapped in a magic box. you know the kind. where the tiny assistant is mangled into disfigured positions while the smarmy magician wiggles and waves around the cube; finally inserting a variety of knives into the slots. in reality we all know the assistant has been contorted into unthinkable positions...much like my own challenges.

on the outside, my edema-less, slight, tanned frame belies inner entanglement. i live with aching, cramped limbs, attempting to unfold one  twinging appendage at a time; then wobbling my way back up to standing position...ah...so where do i start?

 i don't recognize this birthday girl.
and i don't recognize this makeup girl, and i don't recognize this athlete.

in fact, there's nothing about my life i recognize anymore.

i am always in pain.

i am a drug addict.

i steal pills.

and i need help.

so after i am i am done "detoxing" here, i will probably go to rehab for up to 90 days.

i am terrified. terrified of being alone. terrified of being labeled "an addict". terrified of losing my friends. but more than anything, i am terrified of losing my husband. my kevin. the man who has stuck with me through so much. too much. and never strayed. never left.

but there is fear and tension and heartbreak in our cabin in the sky, and there lies nothing higher on my agenda than to gain back his trust.

perhaps trust is a more precious commodity than love, for without it, your relationship is shattered. love doesn't conquer all. it just makes you feel all warm and fuzzy inside. but trust. trust continues to lay bricks for the foundation of your relationship, whereas love just thinks they're kinda pretty.

there's a new house i want to build together with him, brick by brick by brick; solid and clean. 

and maybe just a little bit pretty.

[thank you, my love]


Friday, October 7, 2011

the 6 month itch

the other day i whispered into my basset hound's ear.

[no small feat. they are pretty low to the ground.]

"ah, maggie. so, we are back here again..."

but, she was up on the bed. and i was fetal. eye to eye, i weakly stroked my companion through renal failure, dialysis and post-transplantation. as she flipped onto her back to reveal her nipple-studded belly, i slipped a giggle. i was in the throes of what i call the 5am assault. it's as if someone takes a crack at my vertebrae with a louisville slugger, rendering me incapable of even crying foul.

indeed. september has been the longest month.

cluster headaches, medical appointments and squinting at life through a haze of pain.

there have been odd reprieves. glorious moments when the vice of pain has disintegrated like a sugar cube into a steaming cup o' joe...

there have been days like this, when life has surprised me.
but most days have been like this.
despite my most valiant of efforts at the chiropractic, massage and exercise; its the cycle of no sleep, clenched jaw, heating pad, tiger balm and the morning pinch hitter of pain that has reigned relentless.

[guess who recently took a pass at oxycontin...it's all about the timing...]

and so i looked forward to today's neurological appointment the way toddlers anticipate christmas morning. with fluttery tummies and flushed cheeks; bursting with hope that all their dreams will be met.

[in amitriptyline we trust.]

it was exactly 6 months ago that we were preparing to go to cedars-sinai for the transplant.

in terms of renal function, 0.8 creatinine, damn. things could not be finer.

but, i am still double digits on the scale. still too weak to work. still too f-ed to fly.

emotionally, i am not there.
physically, i am not there.
psychologically, i am not there.

but, i am here.

we are still here.
and "the kid" is still here...