Love and Addiction: are they one in the same?

Love and addiction, is there a difference between the two? Maybe it’s having grown up around addiction that everything starts to look like it. You sort of never want to want or need anything in your life, ever. But then, the things you do want, and need become almost obsessive. My mother was an addict and I was addicted to my mother on some level subconsciously, even addicted to the chaos, though I had no idea yet. I didn’t really want to leave after my mom left, I didn’t want to live the life I was living, but I didn’t want to leave my mother. I had to move from Long Island to Brooklyn. None of my friends knew anything, I had done a pretty good job at hiding what went on inside my house. I just told my friends we’re moving and that was that, pretty much cut all ties with everyone.

As I mentioned my siblings and I were separated, so I went to Brooklyn alone. It was a shock to say the least, Long Island to Brooklyn was a huge difference. In Long Island, I was in public school, I lived in a predominantly black and Hispanic neighborhood and that was my normal. The aunt I went to live with was a Catholic School teacher who went to church every single Sunday. Yeah, so she signed me up for Catholic school, talk about culture shock. The school was predominantly white, all girls and everyone there for the most part was a Brooklyn native, I was completely out of my element. I made a few friends, but they might as well have been from another planet. I didn’t realize how completely isolated I was in my little chaotic world. I hadn’t even kissed a boy and I was in 9th grade! Pretty much every girl I met was already in love and definitely not a virgin. Nevertheless, I used my intuition (which I had become damn good at) and found one or two girls that I felt I could connect with on some level, though they too were way more experienced than I, as far as boys were concerned. So, I was fully thrusted into a world I had to quickly adapt to and at least that I was good at, survival of the fittest.

Let me make a long story short. Within 6 months, I was smoking weed, hanging out till wee hours of the night, drinking and dating. I was socializing for the first time and had a freedom unlike I had ever experienced. I was able to do what I wanted to do, and having an aunt who worked in NYC and had never had children of her own, made that very easy for me. The times that she didn’t, I would just sneak out. I dated a few guys and kissed and fondled here and there and it was intoxicating. It was unlike anything I had ever felt, needed. To be honest, it was the first time I had ever really felt wanted. I don’t come from a family of huggers and we didn’t say I love you often, if at all, so I was in complete bliss when I was with a guy. That people, became my drug. Now don’t get me wrong, it felt so good, but I wasn’t interested in feeling that with multiple men, I believed at the time this is what could possibly save me, love. And so, my search began, for my drug.

Now let’s keep in mind I was 14 at the time, but I had already begun to drown in romantic movies and the notion that romantic love saves all. Pretty Woman literally had come out that year, not take anything away from the movie, but you get my drift, fantasy land. So, I had begun the search. I know it’s crazy, but low and behold, I found him. Shortly after my 15th birthday, I saw him from across the street, he held my gaze and he came over and well that was it. I spent the next 5 years with this boy. I lost my virginity to him, I tried drugs with him, I had a lot of “firsts” with him. More importantly, I made him my world, my entire world. By the age of 16 and a half, I left my aunts house and moved in with him. I was still going to school thankfully, he wasn’t, and I didn’t care. This boy could do no wrong, even when I knew damn well he had flirted and maybe kissed other girls here and there, there was no way I was letting this go. He would have to either kill me or do something reprehensible for me to walk away. Of course, he did the latter, it was a toxic relationship to say the least. He had no drive, wasn’t seeking an education and was even selling drugs for a good part of our relationship and none of it mattered. Like addiction, no matter how bad it hurts us, letting go is even worse. I found out I was pregnant in my senior year. We decided to keep it because after all, isn’t that part of the fairy tale? He gave me this song and dance about needing to get out of the hood we lived in to get his shit together for us and for the baby and I believed him. I gave him my full support. He moved to Miami with his sister in pursuit of his GED, while I stayed in Brooklyn living with his mother and working. I was still in communication with my family and at this point my mother was back, but in and out of my life. This is the time I mentioned earlier where I realized just how much I wanted my mother. He came back, sans GED of course, and I was 9 months pregnant at the time. We had a baby shower and I was just waiting to go into labor. I knew something was off upon his return, he was different and not in the way I would have expected.

One evening he had received a call from his sister in Miami and he took the call in another room as he often did. Something told me to check up on him and well I found him whispering sweet nothings into the phone that one would not or should not be saying to their sibling. I confronted him, I lost my shit and he admitted everything. He had met someone in Miami and had fallen in love and was planning on going back. I was completely and utterly devastated, I wanted to die. I fell asleep crying out for my mother that night. I stayed with a friend for a few days and ended up coming back on his insistence and went into labor within a few days. I was terrified, and it was just him and I, he was supposed to be the only person I would ever need, and he now felt like a stranger. The baby was breech, and I ended up having a Cesarean section. It was dramatic and euphoric and in that moment, I was full of love and gratitude and hope. We had a son and he was beautiful and healthy thankfully.

After my stay in the hospital, we went back home to his mother’s apartment. My mom came and stayed with me for a week while I healed from the Cesarean. Maybe it was that, maybe having my mom around gave me strength, my new drug was back. Whatever it was, two weeks after my son was born, I called my aunt and asked her if the baby and I could go back to live with her and she said yes. I didn’t say anything, I knew he was going out on Saturday and while he was out, my family come over and helped me pack our things. He walked in as we were loading up the car. I don’t know how I got to that place so fast, but I was done in every single sense of the word. He had broken me in a way that I could never go back to what we had. I remember thinking I must be cold and heartless and maybe on some level at that time I was. Or maybe it was a survival instinct. I knew this man wasn’t going to change overnight and I now had another life to consider and our future. I may have been broken, but I was far from out. More importantly, I was not willing to let another person fuck me over in every sense of the word again.

I remember how beyond disbelief he was, where was the girl who chased him, forgave him time and time again and adored him. The girl who believed he was everything. She was gone, and we were done, and I was clear. Something shifted, maybe he showed me something that was all too familiar, abandonment, feeling unloved and not valued, and I was unwilling to feel that again. But as with most addictions, we always have the possibility of relapse and relapse I did. He may have killed the fact that he was the one, but he sure didn’t kill the fantasy that somewhere out there, there was someone who would give me everything I’ve never had and so the search went on. Within 8 months I found him, my new drug, my knight and shining armor, everything my ex was not. Employed, living on his own, a sense of maturity and even had a similar upbringing, a fellow survivor. Unfortunately, he had a girlfriend at the time, but that didn’t stop us. In my mind, the chaos felt right, nothing good comes easy right? In fact, this one my friends, I ended up marrying… Ahh that feeling when you get your fix, the high, though we all know, addiction usually doesn’t end well.

To be continued…

What my mama taught me about the Feminine: Part II

When I was thirteen, I remember coming home from school one day and waiting for my mom to come home that evening, she never did. She had gone from drinking to using drugs again, it was the late eighties at that point, so crack was her drug of choice. Some of the past is still very blurry for me, a lot happened, I remember my siblings and I being separated and I moved with an aunt in Brooklyn. Not to get into too much detail but from that point until my early twenties my mother was in and out of my life, she was in and out of rehabs or on the streets. It wasn’t until I had my very first child that I had become even remotely interested in helping her. I’m not saying one could only have come to that conclusion by becoming a mother, I believe we are all mothers. However, in my case, having a child at 19, I wanted nothing more than my mommy. I spent the next few years helping her get clean, but also studying her. Getting to know her pain and her anguish. I had never really taken the time to do any of that. It was easier said than done believe me, I wanted to give up on her countless times. I searched for my mother in alleys, all over the streets late at night sometimes, it was agonizing. I was so angry, I didn’t want to expose my children to that, but in hindsight, I am glad I did. It was real, and give me anything real any day over bullshit.

One thing I failed to mention in my prior post, was some of the things I learned about my mother during her recovery. As I stated she lived with me as she was working on her sobriety and through countless relapses. I got to see her addiction live and up close, but this time as a woman and mother myself. I remember attending a family meeting for her final in-patient recovery stay. In that meeting, I learned my mother was raped. She was somewhere between 13-15 when it happened and it was someone she knew. He held her at gunpoint and raped her. I was shocked that my mother had experienced that trauma and here I was at 26 not ever knowing this important part of her life. Please make sure you’re sitting down for this next part. She didn’t say this at the meeting, she told me this once she was released during one of our talks about her life. I remember asking her what happened, why didn’t she go to the police? She kept telling me she handled it, it took me a few hours but I finally got it out of her, she had shot and killed him. Now I’ve seen enough throughout my life and in the movies, to not faint when she said this. I was angry for what she endured, but still, to take a life? All those years ago, all this time, all the other abusive relationships in her life. I remember thinking in that moment, shit, I wouldn’t want to live with myself either. I mean damn, what else was this being walking around with? I remember often watching her at home doing some random thing on the weekends and thinking, no matter how angry or slighted I may feel at the childhood I didn’t get to have, nothing can compare to what I know she lives with on a daily basis.

Please note: I am not endorsing this as an approved method of revenge in any way shape or form. I know fully that this is a crime, not ok and did more harm than good. I am simply sharing the truth.

Now let’s fast forward, the point of this is that I never really knew her. In fact, I had never really taken the time to explore what it was to be a woman in this world period, until my mother’s recovery and more deeply during my work at the School of Humanity & Awareness. My teacher there is the most brilliant woman on the planet. I am deeply humbled to be her student. She designed a curriculum that walks your psyche through levels upon levels of trauma and experiences so that you can shed what is not you in order to allow the authentic self to arise. During one of the longer courses there, I started this inquiry and dove into my subconscious to dig out the answers I had already mindlessly inherited and or absorbed from my culture and society. I had many breakthroughs but I remember the moment I realized, my mother never stood a chance in this world. She was indigenous, she was an empath, she was strong, she turned away from the Catholic church, she practiced Santeria and she had a hard life and no one truly gave a fuck. Now let’s be clear, I am not suggesting my mother needed to be rescued. I did have some realizations that I was victimizing her in order to defend her, to be the righteous child that protected her and no that didn’t work out well for me either. Nor am I suggesting there weren’t people in her life who tried in the best way they could to help her get clean. However, being clean and dealing with your trauma, demons whatever you want to call it, are two very different things. I am simply stating that she did not have any real resources, the conversations we are having now collectively, they were not having then. The work I was doing at School of Humanity & Awareness wasn’t available to her. She was expected to swallow her life and move the fuck on like a good little girl. Shut up and appreciate what you do have, you’re lucky you survived. Well clearly that was too much for her and well you know how the story ends.

After her passing and during a course is when many of these realizations came to me, and oh how I wish I could have shared them with her. In another life maybe… This awakening is what changed my views on the Feminine forever, this had me sit my girls down and tell them EVERYTHING. I remember telling myself this is it, from now on everything is on the table. No bullshit, no making it pretty, no protecting them from what’s real. I decided I was going to be a warrior in the fight for the Feminine to exist, to be valued, honored, seen, heard, and to lead in this world. I also decided I would raise my sons to do the same.

What my mama taught me about the Feminine

Speaking of the Feminine in my last post, reminded me of studying the feminine and how that had me take a closer look of my first model of the feminine, my mama. My relationship to my mother was a tumultuous one. If you’ve read my prior posts, you know she was an addict. Not only was she an addict for most of my life, she was an addict long before I was born. My mother migrated to the US with her mother, father and four siblings at the age of six from Puerto Rico. They landed in Spanish Harlem and my grandparents spent their lives in the hustle, living paycheck to paycheck. My grandfather was an alcoholic who from what I was told, would often verbally and physically abuse my mother and her siblings. They were poor and his drinking problem quickly spiraled into a gambling problem and he would often come home having gambled away his earnings for the week. This left my grandmother to have to go to work to make sure the rent was paid and there was food on the table. My mother wanting to escape her reality turned to the streets. Anyone who is either from a low income urban neighborhood or who has watched enough movies knows the streets, especially at that time in the late sixties and early seventies were harsh.

My mother was tough, she had to be of course. I mean the kind of tough that you rarely saw in a woman in those days. She literally did not give a shit about what anyone thought about her. Interestingly enough, it was one of the things I loved most about her. Unfortunately, that tough exterior also led her to believe she was indestructible and she fell victim to drugs. By the time she was thirteen she was addicted to heroin. I’ve been told from members of my family, that from the age of thirteen until her early twenties, my mother was in and out of rehabs or in the streets. At the age of twenty-two, she met my biological father, they fell in love and my mother found out she was pregnant with me during her last detox/rehab stay for heroin. This, I recently found out when I was reunited with my biological father after 38 years (more on that later).

So, my mother then began substituting alcohol for the drugs she felt she could no longer do. My biological father left us when I was three, my younger sister was 1. My mother quickly rebounded and settled down with my step-father (who also drank a bit more than normal), and had two more children. Long story short, from that point until age thirteen, my childhood consisted of almost daily fighting, in which I had to jump in and separate them before someone was killed. In addition, I was caring for my siblings to make sure they were calm and also didn’t get hurt. The cops knew our home, as domestic disturbance calls were the norm. My mother was a bad drunk, I mean nasty. When she drank, you could literally feel her disgust for her life. Of course, I had no idea at the time what that meant, nor did I care to be honest. She was my mother, what she needed or wanted was irrelevant to me, unfortunately that’s just how it is, no one tells us different. One day she was especially infuriated and drinking, I had taken a dime from my stepfather’s dresser, unaware that it was a part of a collection. My stepfather unfortunately thought it was funny to piss my mother off and would often do this when she was inebriated. This particular time, she was more angry than normal. She grabbed me by the throat held a butcher knife to my neck and threatened to kill me if I didn’t tell her the truth. I have to tell you in that moment, I literally believed my mother would kill me, I was 10 years old. She didn’t hurt me other than the tightness of her hands on my throat. However, I never felt safe again, not that I ever really had, but that had done it for me. I hated my mother growing up, because I thought she hated me, why else would she allow this to be our life?

Fast forward to my early thirties, just before my marital separation. I had signed up for this course in Atlanta at The School of Humanity & Awareness, one of the best things I have ever done in my life! After the first course, I signed up for multiple courses and a theme started to become very apparent to me. Our teacher kept referring to the Feminine in many of her teachings. Now, I had no teachings about the Feminine growing up, so here I was at 33 trying to figure out what that meant to me. Was this something I acknowledged, valued and honored in my life? Throughout this exploration, I realized that I had rejected anything remotely Feminine my entire life. The color pink, Barbie dolls, any magical fantasy, anything traditional, and being ladylike. Yes, that bad ass identity I mentioned in my first post, had a reason for existing. Such a mind fuck, I was relating to my mother as Feminine because she was “a mother” so I didn’t want to be Feminine because I had defined mothers among other things as Feminine. However, I had literally morphed into my mother sans drug/alcohol addiction. Having come upon that realization, I had to come to terms with the fact that subconsciously, I rejected the Feminine. Now given this information, not only did I have to redefine the Feminine for myself and educate myself on what I believed and what I wanted to teach my children, I also had to redefine my relationship with my mother. Life is funny though, these realizations came to me after my mother was no longer with us, she had passed away the year before of liver failure. So, I had to figure out my relationship to her, without her. It wasn’t easy work by any means, I had to face some hard-core truths and even cough up some delusions I had made up about my mother to make my life right in some way. It was both freeing and painful, like a breakdown to breakthrough.

The beauty in this story is that I was able to forgive my mother from deep within. I realized she did the best she could with what she had to give. Healing or studying your relationship with your mother truly provides access and freedom to how we hold the sacred Feminine. That healing will look different for all of us of course, there is no one way to do anything I believe. As for me and my mom, I had forgiven her in life before she passed away. She spent her last eight years sober with me and her grandchildren, which was an absolute gift. However, I hadn’t forgiven her deep down inside, and that was reflected in how I held and valued the Feminine or lack thereof, prior to doing the work I had done. Needless to say, I had an opening. An opening with which I could now redefine the definition of the Feminine for myself, free of my childhood and free of my past. I also had the ability now, to truly teach my children, especially my daughters what this means. Thankfully, it wasn’t too late. PS, it really never is.