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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Thursday, July 26, 2012

something to talk about

on monday i found out b. was stabbed to death in a drug deal.


b. was beautiful. men in west hollywood were obsessed with him. even i had to force focus away from his fierce features, a jaw line so sharp it shred many a heart and when he stuck out his hand before we shared a ride, mine to cedars, and his to court...

"hi, i'm henriette."



...was the only word this early bird could croak.

but b. was more beautiful on the inside. sorry, untruly trite. he didn't; couldn't speak for the first few weeks, but when his words began to fall, like a toddler's first steps, you leaned forward with waiting arms to catch their fall. he ferociously fixated on ideas and churned them inside his blender of a brain, serving them up like protein shakes; thick, near indigestible, but loaded with value. a trainer, perfection in his pursuit, but like a greek statue, crumbling; not from weighted pressure of time, but a brain atrophying from disease.

his defiance in group was skin-crawlingly, rubber-neckingly addictive. you could not look away. with quiet fury, he'd huff and puff in-house authority right up against the wall, pinning them with stunning truth. and i'd stand in the mosh pit beside him, fist-pumping, head-banging, shrieking myself hoarse into awed silence.

"i don't understand you."


"have you ever slammed meth?"


"are you an addict?"



he had a point. and a good one.

but every calm breath retaliated by the good doctor would only stoke b.'s fire, and in the end, he felt how we all feel after years of fighting something we don't understand.

fuck. you.


day 29 in rehab. throttled by a humbling trifecta of new and sobering experiences: 1) an early morning group (punishment enough for this night owl), 2) slaughter by a migraine (grasping at sober days like sand through my fingers), and 3) no narcotics for the first time in my life (fantasizing pharmacy, ski mask and a gun), i announced i HAD to miss group. my catastrophe, surprisingly, did not notch on rehab's whipping stick as a legitimate reason to miss group, and so i dragged my sleepy, selfish ass upstairs.

"migraine", i mumbled, as i slipped cross-legged into the circle, clearly out of my mind in pain, and my comrades in armor nodded in sympathy.

but it was b., in one of his loveliest moments, who reached out and stroked my back, surprising me with his lucidity; his love.

i don't ask questions that start with why, because if i did, my heart would never stop breaking.

i love drugs and alcohol. i love them.

i love them so much i did anything in those desperate, dark 3, 4, 5 am boarded-up discotheque, pre-dawn hours. when running out of vodka meant pouring from any bottle that had the word alcohol along the side. because your brain tells you it's clear. and it burns. and it kept me dancing away into the night.

i have to stop fighting them. i am powerless.

when we fight drugs,alcohol,our weight,our spouses,our clothes,our jobs,our houses,our cars,our toys,our facebook,our children,our health,our bank accounts,our...

we choke on the chatter, noise, chaos in our heads...

[something to talk about.]

and you can't hear it.

the peace within.

it took me 45 minutes to get out of bed today.
like a slippery bar of soap, i can't get a grip on these side effects,
if i fight it,
i'll never grab the soap.

i'll never be



dewormed, dewaxed and ready to listen.

so tonight i curl, surreal, in my old cabin in his hills, but not alone.

on one side i curl fur, matching sigh for sigh, with the sweetest hound's breath.

and on the other, a ghostly presence, fingers that linger still on my spine, gently pressing me onward, forward. no longer fighting.

with b.

finally surrendered.

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

moves like jagger

he began with a sleepy mumble.

"your nephew has arrived. his name is matthew tyler leighton."


turns out the near lethal combination of 2 bud lights at a golf tournament, chased by an all-nighter of wrinkled worry for my sun-stroked, early-bird-catches-the-worm, father-in-law, had quaintly fogged the order.

he was in fact, tyler. matthew. leighton.

and the world would never be the same.

like his grandpa, he was never a sleeper.

from his first breath, he has not wanted to miss a step, miss a beat.

i was auntie "etta" to the gerber-faced boy, with a symbiotic bond so tight, atomic experiences forced disposal of a certain sweater.

["i don't feel so good... bllaaarrrggghhhh...."]

nice, kid. nice. you know i don't have kids, right?


ah, his golden mullet, those golden hockey curls. his parents so slow to relinquish, but who could blame them? for never did tyler bend with inclination towards a hockey stick. and thank god. for to hide his light under a mask would be a penalty of incalculable minutes.

[yes, this canuck had to throw in a hockey metaphor.]

there have been MOMENTS.

there was a moment when i overheard tyler telling his mother that we MADE him get up REALLY EARLY when he was vacationing in l.a.. the same vacation i would roll over every morning and beg him for another half hour of sleep...

yup. that was a moment.

there was a moment when, SUDDENLY, he didn't like grape juice with his medication.

and after 2 hours of trying to get him to take it, i wasn't sure if i liked HIM all that much.

yup. that was a moment.

and there was a moment when he locked our bathroom door, from the inside, just because he could.

enough said.

but my nephew is a STAR.

because this 3 year-old rising star would take my sparkles, dusting everyone who walked in his path, daring them not to be infatuated by his joie de vivre...

because he took a bunch of bullies and "mini-popped" them upside the head, winnipeg's singular sensation; superstar. with peace and love, he did not give in, but gave back with gift of song...

because every day, in the twelve days of christmas, in tiny, wrapped treasures, he'd ask, "are you going to a meeting, auntie hen?". giving me poke over push over prod.  loving me until i could love myself again...

and on his 14th birthday, his light does not flicker. he already burns strong, firm and fierce.

on the night i took my 9 month chip, i came home to a quiet piece of cyber mail. not a shiny, loud facebook shriek, but soft and sincere.

the measure of a man in the making.

my dear tyler,
      i hate camping, but i would get sand all up in my lady gaga heels  [thatistillhavescarsfromwalking0.8milestothatIHOPinglendale] for you today. no matter what, i will always be your aunt. you have been sewn into my heart from the second i heard about you. and nothing, no person, no event, no single force of nature will ever rip you out.

it's no coincidence you covered "moves like jagger".

like mick, you dance sky-scrapingly tall. unique. free.

no-one can touch you.

don't let them.

but, better than mick, you are my rock star.

happy birthday.

i love you,
auntie hen

Sunday, July 15, 2012

9 months [keep it in the family]

"the last time i was here, i scored ativan at a sober party".

and although i'd waited all day to pull out my punch line, it wasn't until i pulled away in my sporty loaner, that a rush of relief revved through my veins. like ripping off a band aid, suddenly there was air soaring through my wound, stinging and raw; masochistically marvellous.

[although, since i wound up in rehab 2 weeks later, altogether not much of a zinger...]

it was a party exploding with fourth of july patriotism and skepticism, but, for her, around every corner a stank, pungent with pain. the screen door she tore through, blindsided by self. her pot-calling-the-"ketel one"-black ironic observations. and unsecret pilling and swilling; her self-fulfilling, genetically spilling prophecy. each corner betrayed another detail, another button on a suit collaring her up to the neck; to a stranglehold noose.

my sober skin fits like o.j.'s glove. the staged one.

my skin is thin, brittle. it catches easily, tugging, unravelling as it revolves; evolves between two worlds.

["O, wonder!
How many goodly creatures are there here!
How beauteous mankind is! Oh, brave new world
That has such people in't!]

life is a bitch without my rose-(wine)-colored glasses, as i now ride the tempestuous, salty seas, shotgun.

[captain gawd's got the wheel now, and he's one hell of a sailor...]

in the uncomfortable i do not know how to sit. for long. and my default is no longer an option.

and so i drove. and in loosening my necktie, came desperate breath; desperate fresh.

injected, i flushed, and sat with a sigh.

and listened.

..."what kind of horse shit is this? in NA we say, "isn't a hug better than a drug?" i say, "NO!". and we all nodded and laughed.

she is a. she spoke in a singular statement about her sexual abuse. without a drop of self-pity to lather up her reveal. about the mother who betrayed her. how she's always had a hard time with women. how even if your tone is similar to her mother's...

how she's never liked being hugged.

approaching this apple-faced doll, i warmed to the joy she must have found in sobriety. laugh lines puckered her from eyebrow to chin. inching forward, i silently pleaded for my tone to spill in a soothing cadence in sync with my unstoppable droplets of tears.

that i would sound nothing like her mother.

her sobriety a triumph over dense, unspeakable pain. but in her sharing, she passed hope to someone as broken as she once was. i couldn't help myself. i threw my arms around this over-baked goodie. she felt like comfort food, doughy and divine, and her promise wafted delicately; deliciously into my soul.

"thank. you. for. story. your. journey. is. amazing." i managed between snorts.

and oh! a. clucked. leaned in. and hugged me right back.

tell me there's no such thing as miracles.

that's one.

and here's another.

9 months.

[ya gotta see the baby...]

Thursday, July 5, 2012

yankee doodle danvian

i used to beat up little girls.

it was my first drug of choice.

how sexy is that?

yes, the little red haired girl would randomly prey on floral, frocked princesses; boldly, coldly pronouncing them targets for her simmering tidal rage.

"i'm going to fight you."

pummeling the stunned innocents with magnificent fury; unleashing the caged riot of parental anarchy burning her heart; her home to the ground.

unfortunately, generation z, bullying is not new to me.

this is my alcoholism.

[start me up.]

some progress rapidfirequick, and others, like a fine wino, progress into ocd, list-making obsession. then codeine addiction. and then obsess over the perfect fiorinol/chardonnay cocktail. and then they dissolve, delightfully into the sugar rush of the self-centered lollipop. obsessively, compulsively, fatally.

one lick, and you can't stop.

you are not weak.

you are not morally deficient.

you just can't slam on the brakes.

because you are smart.

you can whisper yourself out of a 51/50 at cedars-sinai. with breath so still you don't even know if you're alive. and you walk a quiet line between life and death, unmoving; uncaring. and the only sounds tethering you to terra firma are the ambien and xanax prescriptions rattling you away into discharge.

[90 mph.]

you are really smart.

you with your beady, greedy little eyes. with your scaly, skin-shedding ways. and that flickering fork of a tongue. with your poisonous prong, your cedars' social worker is obliterated, her cute, clueless attempts to sign off on your alcoholism, are backhanded; swatted away like a pesky insect. next. with relentless arrogance, you convince the chief psychiatrist to amend that ridiculous drug and alcohol abstinence agreement.

["honestly, henriette, we've just never had anyone challenge this". next.]

[120 mph.]

and you glide [un]happily back under your rock, swilling beer and crushing xanax into your cracked molars while photographing your morphing kankles in various stages of edema for your blog.

you are listed for a kidney.

you are dialysed.


but you really are fucking smart.

you can talk your way into an oxycodone prescription at the pain center. months after your donor abandoned his script of tylenol 3s into the ceramic ocean. you talk your way onto so many prescription pads, with your slick, pick up and "deliver me" system, escobar took notes from you.

"but it's for the "pain" in my scarsideeffectsheadheartyourfaultgodsfaulteveryoneelsesbutminefault..."

[160 mph.]

and you are insane.

wheeling, out of control.

donutting in the parking lot. manically laughing, tears pooling into your lap.

shifting over and over; gears stuck. fingers clenched so tight; so dry they would snap off, stick by stick were you able to unpeel this frozen fist.

but in a whiteout, you can't see a thing. and your heart is frozen.

"how did i get here?!" should be a game show.

and we could all win prizes.

kinda like a reality show version of orwell's room 101. if you survive, you get a parting gift.

once in a while, this unemployeddisabledseparatedalcoholic will be sitting in a meeting and suddenly, i've been tossed into a box of tarantulas. they are everywhere. hissing, nipping, crawling. i open my eyes to glittering dark beads, peering. odorous pus, oozing. limbs strapping, entrapping me. coarse, angry fur rubbing me raw; bloody.

if i beat them off with a stick, i'll only get bit.

 so the only way out is to jesus myself; four on the floor.

[and that's when i shift it into 1st and surrender.]

and be still.

i had this epiphanous moment the other day.

a woman shared about her childhood. about the chaos she grew up in. how she never knew how to feel. how she was always putting on an act.

["jazz hands".]

she actually did the fosse move.

and i thought back to my grade 3 project.

"what do you want to be when you grow up?"

and i wondered if i'd ever really wanted to be an actress. or if i had just scribbled down an answer to a question? a god in the image that an 8 year-old girl worshipped every friday night. actress-singer-dancer, marie osmond.

["i'm a little bit country..."]

good god...

because now that i'm eightandahalf months sober, the breath of relief i sigh when realizing i never have to act again, fills me with air so clean i vibrate. icy shock, defibrillation.


the little red haired girl played two roles for too long. overprotective daughter. ferociously battling, baring teeth; all, for her embattled father; unknown peer. resentful child. "where's mummy?". longing for a mother who was responsibly absent. architect by default, building brick by agonizing brick, a house built for 4, in the end, fit only for 3.

sure. i have minutes when i want to flip back my fortysomething, silverstreaked, thin-wisped strands, run my fingers through my topomax-induced breakage, adjust my $5, l.a. county fair D and G knockoff sunglasses, load up, put pedal to the metal and plow through my feelings and into a 7-11 or some other franchise. and anyone who tells me they've got this thing called alcoholism licked, never mind "life", is a total douche.

[ahem. THIS is not serenity.]

so after throwing another charge on the card, my train left separation station and slowed in its tracks, dread in my tread, as i neared this week's rental.

C 45, C 46, C 47...

[say it isn't so...]

what i know from cars is nothing. but what i know from the 80's is everything.

there she stood, nay, screamed from her slot. beckoning to me from the annals of 1981. coated in the neon electric blue that swathed the eyelid of every lead singer of every r&b video ever to rotate on mtv. the seats, like slipping into madonna's "lucky star" fishnet top: cheap black polyester, with charlie-red sheen and bright red stitching. when i check for po-po, there's some kind of dolphin fin sculpture/wind deflection device on the back and the multiple, totally tubular, headlights/tail lights light up reminiscent of the bling of my barbie's 'vette.

[i have yet to pinpoint a demographic for this car.]

where, oh, where is my beige corolla? the bland beauty i revved to delicately navigate the los angeles labyrinth. dodging bullet trains, planes and automobiles, i hunched, skimming under the radar; skimming only the foam of driving delights...

[hmmm...the dodge "avenger"...]

so maybe my sponsor was on to something when she snorted, "you're supposed to learn something from this...!"

and maybe you're rolling you're eyes at the aa speak...

but there's no denying god has a sense of humor.

and maybe i do too...
[shut up and drive.]