SENDING ALL OF MY LOVE TO YOU

Dear Friends and Readers,

I thank everyone who has ever put up with me through out my life. A special shout out goes to the men in my life. I am an reactionary beast. My anger, disgust and disrespect and all my negative emotions are never based on what I am currently experiencing but has roots in my traumatic past. This understanding is a start.

I used to think that I was really mad, upset, annoyed by the person who was occupying my space. Nope, it’s my evil past. Recognizing that my reactions are past based allows me to language new responses and new behaviors. This is a good thing for me.

I have lived long enough to know that even “Mr. Perfect” will one day commit that  very human act which will banish him from my presence. I know that I bore easily. I am impatient. I am critical and oftentimes can be snide and unkind. I’m good at being mean and serving the deadly verbal blow. It’s all past based.

I truly am constantly working on myself. It has taken me a long time to recognize, choose an alternative and practice the good alternative.

There a few people in my life I know that I will love passionately until my last breath. The short list includes my children, Robert and Brian.  Without mentioning names, I thank all of you who have forced me be to bigger and better than I believed or knew myself to be. You know who you are. Yes, you.

Tomorrow we will start the last half of the year. I have a lot to do this year. A lot.   I won’t make a list but know that I am working to create a network that will allow me to spread understanding and compassion in the areas of mental illness, addiction, and childhood sexual abuse.

Over the next part 6 months. I will apply for a tax exempt status for a foundation to  provide art outlets for children exposed to early childhood trauma and to support writing and reading initiatives.

I thank each of you who have faithfully followed me on this journey since August of last year.  We are soon coming to our 1 year celebration.  If you have enjoyed these posts or feel that someone could benefit from reading them, please share them.

To all of you,

I sign off in love,

Brianna S. Clark,
The  Addict Writes

6 IS ALL YOU NEED

Dear Friends and Readers,

Image my surprise when my research discovered that I, we have been drinking too much liquid. I had erroneously held  the belief that there was never such a thing as too much water. Turns out I  and a lot of other folks are wrong and have been for many years. For four decades  results from a test were misinterpreted   and we all  learned that we should drink 8  8 ounces glasses of water or more a day. This information was absolutely wrong.

The Harvard Health Letter  recently published a a new water recommendation challenging the long standing 8 ounces, 8 glasses of water per day. They say that  the 8 ounces 8 glasses a day  theory wasn’t based on science and was an educated guess on what the body needs to be hydrated. Harvard recommends drinking 30 to 50 ounces of water a day which is equivalent to 4-6 glasses of water.

But it gets even trickier, the Harvard teams says that the  four-six cup rule includes all fluids not only water  and  should include foods like watermelon and lettuce and spinach and soup and coffee. In fact your entire fluid intake of should not exceed 6 cups of fluid -if your kidneys are normal.

So what happens if you drink more than six cups of fluid-let’s not even say water any more? First let’s add this critical element;  4-6 cups of fluid is if your kidneys are normal. Assuming your kidneys are normal 4-6 cups of fluids will keep you hydrated and you are “even.” Drinking an excess of 6 cups of fluids per day will weaken and stress your kidneys. In addition,  if you drink more than six cups of fluid per day this water will remain in your body. It will travel through your blood stream to be eliminated through the skin by perspiration. However, if you don’t perspire by excercise or hot temperatures the water will remain in your skin. Ahhhh, you might be thinking this is a  good thing; it is not.

As more and more waste water comes to the area in the skin where water is already retained, the tissue will bloat up to receive the additional water.  Since only “fresh” water is eliminated through perspiration the “stagnant” water remains  receiving more and more wastes. This accumulated “stagnant” water- which is actually considered urine- may stay in this bloated area of your skin for a day, a month up to   a  year or more. After a period of time, this water becomes mucus. This mucus is still waste water but in a  more solid form. You may think that you have fat, but in fact it is mucus embedded between the layers of tissue! It gets worse.

When this gelatin like substance hardens sufficiently we call it cellulite. If you add a diet that is rich in butter and fatty meats which are   components of cellulite, you will not be able to remove it by excercise. The only way to get rid of cellulite is to drink less fluid and to manipulate  these fatty areas by massaging them to break up the clots. Sitting in a sauna or a hot tub will also help reduce cellulite because when you add heat it expands the pores and allows for increased perspiration. Wow!

I don’t know whether I should believe this information- especially the part about massage, hot tubs and saunas, but the source is reliable and I trust the doctor who provided me this information.  I’m going to take his advice. I am going to reduce my fluid intake and sit in as many hot tubs and saunas as I can and get as many massages as I can. It will make for a great summer and I will report back in a couple of months.

In love,

Brianna S. Clark,
The Addict Writes

LET THERE BE PEACE AND LET IT BEGIN WITH ME

My Dear Friends and Readers,

Today there was a verdict in the trial of Officer Goodson, the police officer who was charged with the most serious crimes in the death of Freddie Gray.   Goodson was acquitted on all charges.  What this will mean, is still left to be seen on this gray overcast evening.

My office is a few blocks from the court house where Goodson stood trial. There were more media than there were protesters or spectators and I don’t know if there is any meaning to be culled from this. I know that this city is tired. I know that this city needs jobs and better schools and police officers hired from within the city.  With all this said, I hope that the city will not erupt in violence.

Tomorrow, I will deliver a speech at the tenth annual conference on juvenile services. I hope that my story will ring long in the minds and the hearts of those whose jobs are to protect and guide our young people, especially those who have found themselves in the “system”.

My message tomorrow is that every lost child in any community is a loss towards the future of the entire community.  I will ask  social workers and vendors, whether they supply toilet tissue to the juvenile jail or defend young people from the Office of the Public Defender  to be diligent and on the look out for concealment and lies, especially from the parents and custodians who may have a lot to hide and a lot to lose. Children, after all are defenseless and in the complete control of their parents who  sometimes mistreat them or abuse them.

When no one seems to value you as a person, people, children began to believe they have no value. When you have nothing to lose, you can risk everything and for many of Baltimore’s children what they gamble away is their lives.

My perspective is skewed towards children. I think children are far more believable than adults especially when it comes to abuse in the home. The sad thing is that children will often lie to protect their abusers. No matter how terrible the abuse, children want to be loved by their parents. Often times they make deals with the “devil” their parents, in order to hopefully lessen their punishments and with the distant, faint hope that their parents will stop abusing them and love them.

Because Baltimore’s many issues of under employment, racial discrimination, poor schools, no middle class and generations of poverty seem to have withstood against decades of  superficial change I hope that we as a community can really address some of these issues.  It seems that the efforts and tools and institutions which have been created to battle these issues appear only (and this marginally as well)  to  have benefited the institutions and the workers in those institutions. In our city of less than a million, 650,000, we have astounding rates of drug addiction, prostitution, and poverty. In short  we have a lot of people who are emotionally damaged and act out in violence.

I wish with all of my heart that we eradicate some of these issues while I am still alive.  I wish with all of my heart that children will be valued and that their creation will be chosen and prepared for and cherished rather than accidental and unplanned for.  I pray that we institute better schools that teach our children  to most of all, value themselves. Our poverty or social standing does not create worthiness, we are all intrinsically worthy in our humanness.

I dream a community who cares about the those who are without. I dream that we will share and be kind. I dream that  we as a society will learn what it means to be a community. I hope  we learn to care and value each other.

Tomorrow I will do my part.  If I change the behavior of one person so that one child is saved, then it will have been worth it. Do your piece.

Tonight I end in prayer.

Let there be peace and let it begin with me.

In love,

Brianna S. Clark,
The Addict Writes

SIX FEET UNDER AND BEING EASY ON MYSELF

My Dear Friends and Readers,

Over the past two weeks I have watched five seasons of  the television show “Six Feet Under”.  A friend and former addict like myself, suggested I watch this show which went off the air 11 years ago, because it dealt with complex social issues in a dark but engaging way. The core of the show is a family in Los Angeles who owns a funeral home. Every episode of the show opens with someone dying. The show is made interesting in that we the audience and the characters have conversations with the deceased. Within these conversations we find out more about the deceased and their views on their lives. As a result our opinions on the subjects of dating, mating, death and religion are all called in to question.

This is not a spoiler, but the first episode of the show starts with the death of the father and current owner/practitioner of the Fisher Funeral home. His death happens on Christmas Day. Since the show takes place predominately in Los Angeles, Christmas takes on a new meaning( as does most holidays when it comes to Los Angeles) for this family and of course changes the course of their lives.

The prodigal son returns, the devout Christian gay closeted brother in an interracial relationship comes out, the drug interested sister comes into her own in the areas of sex and drugs.  While these are interesting elements for a television show, my watching this show has provided me fodder to look at how we as humans look at death.

There are two big groups of us: those who believe the body dies and with it all that came with it and deceased individuals hang out in a heaven with a superior being known as “God” ; and there those who believe the body is temporary and will continue on in another body.  Within these two big categories are whether the ritual of death honors the individual or the survivors or both. Accompanying both of these categories is the actual treatment of the body after death. Many religions do not permit autopsy and Buddhists,  Jews and  Muslims do not believe in embalming.  These are just  a few cultural and religious intricacies involved in the ritual of honoring the dead.

The  hours of watching the show is an example of one of my addictive behaviors which in truth is not television watching, but procrastination. By watching this show I avoid my own fear of death, my own fear of failure/success and I put off taking action  to promote long term goals.  In watching Claire or Ruth or Nate or David struggle in their relationships I don’t have to think about my relationship with my significant other which remains in a state of unspoken not being committed. This is an uncomfortable place to be, so I avoid the issue and when necessary I avoid him. Underneath that avoidance is anger, which I am avoiding as well.

By distracting myself and remaining immobile, I stay up late, eat snacks in the middle of the night, fail to exercise, fail to write my latest novel… the list goes on and the bottom line is self-sabotage.  Why do we self-sabotage ourselves? Psychologist, Robert Firestone says that we self-sabotage ourselves because we listen to our “inner critical voice”.

This voice is created when we are young and assumes and holds all of the negative things that might have been said about us. Its the voice that says “You will never amount to anything. You might as well not try.” Or the voice that says “Who do you think you are? You want to be a writer? Why do you want to do that? I thought you were already a lawyer.” Yes, that voice.  That voice is not our friend.  When it rears its head, counter by contradicting it and by taking action.  So, let’s not have that voice control our actions, especially actions that do not support our  long term or short term goals.

So back to Six Feet Under.  This binge watching has been a distraction, but not one that will cause me to end up in jail or the hospital. While I binge watch, my snacks are protein smoothies made with fruit and the occasional bowl of cereal. I have not missed any appointments, work or commitments. The show has given me a better understanding of plot and character and foreshadowing- all things relevant to  the trade of writing fiction. The bonus to all of this watching is that I am more comfortable about my own demise. I no longer harbor fears about the crematorium. I am sure that I don’t want to be embalmed. I don’t want people to see my dead  body and face. No, I will love or not love you in the present. I will or will not become a successful writer. All I have to do is keep present and keep plotting away.

Like one psychologist said, “You should pick what you listen to in your head like the way you pick your clothes.”

Signed,

Brianna S. Clark
The Addict Writes

Back to the fifth and final season of Six Feet Under

 

DO YOU HAVE A PROBLEM NOW?

My Dear Friends and Readers,

The modern philosopher Eckhart Tolle has always scared me and I’m not sure why. Perhaps its because his thoughts on life force me to realize that I’ve been stuck in thought patterns and therefore actions which are not mine, but thoughts that I have unconsciously selected and I don’t know that I have.

This year as I turn 60, my actions and thoughts have been all about preserving myself. As I do this, an unanswered question  “For what?” causes ripples of anxiety.  I don’t know the answer to the question, “For what?”but I know that I must look within myself to answer my ego’s fear of   “running out of time.”

Why do I fear running out of time? If I answer that question truthfully, I realize the answer is that I wanted to become famous so that I could live forever.I have failed. My depression and anxiety occur because I judge my life and find myself not living up to my own dreams. I did not become a famous actress, lawyer or writer and thus my desperate activity to achieve in these last years before no-one will listen and no-one will care.

This leads to the next big life question, “What has my life meant?”  I’m not sure. I know the philosophical answer, but that is only an answer in my head and not in my heart. I look to Eckhart Tolle to find the process to deny my ego:

                                  “Fear seems to have many causes. Fear of loss, fear of failure, fear of being hurt, and so on but ultimately all fear is the ego’s fear of death, of annihilation. To the ego, death is always just around the corner.  In this mind identified state, fear of death affects every aspect of your life.”

So, how does one escape this ego driven fear, with which I am so familiar? Again I know the answer, but it is an answer that lives in my intellect and not in my heart. Tolle says  “The more you live in the present moment the more the fear of death disappears.”

I do not know how to live in the present. I am rarely in the present moment. I am either looking to the future or re-living some fear of the past. This statement could be interpreted in the world of psychology as anxiety and depression. These are things that I suffer from.  These are the things that I want to free myself from. I want to live in the moment and not in the past. This will be my ultimate goal in life. I once again will seek the advice of Eckhart Tolle:

                               “Narrow your life down to this moment. Your life situation maybe full of problems-most life situations are- but find out if you have a problem at this moment. Do you have a problem now?”

Signed,

Brianna S. Clark
The Addict Writes

FROM BAD EVENTS LETS FIND THE LIGHT WITHIN AND SEND IT OUTWARDS

Dear Friends and Readers,

There is a surreal quality about today. This weekend’s madness in Orlando Florida seems a very bad nightmare. The emotional weight of that tragedy seems more profound on a Monday when there is the structure  or monotony of work. Weekends, at least my weekends, are unstructured. Yes, I wake up, but there are no alarm clocks. There are no set meal times, no already scheduled activities. The window of spontaneity allows for the unexpected, the unplanned.  So the unexpected tragedy of Orlando did not disrupt my day which was mostly spent outside with no television or radio or internet or computer.

Today however, the tragedy is present and more real as I realize  dozens of people will not show up to where they were expected to be this morning.  Oddly, I am not where I expected to be this morning. I thought that I would spend the next two days at home choosing writing contests in which to enter and which stories to submit. Instead, I am at a job that I have doubts about, a job that I left on Thursday, but which I returned to because my leaving made my employer offer me more money.  Yet, I am anxious because I feel the new raise won’t last or the work I will be asked to perform will exceed the value of the raise.

Life is not certain. Nothing is certain.   Which brings me to the photo I have posted on my blog. It is a picture of  a giant leaf from I tree I have grown since it was 18 inches tall. I have owned this plant for 12 years. Its leaves touch the ceiling of my apartment. Yesterday when I woke up the leaf had broken far down near it’s base and it was lying on the floor. The odd thing about this leaf falling is that the day before it fell, I was considering cutting it back because the leaf was torn and the edges had browned. I didn’t cut the leaf, and by the next day it had fallen of it’s own accord. “Good,” I said to myself now I didn’t have to cut it off.

This morning to my dismay, another leaf had fallen. This leaf was beautiful and perfect. This morning’s leaf had broken close to the base and I wondered if the tree at its core was dying. This would make me sad for two reasons. The plant had been the first gift given to me by my late husband Delgardo.  When I had first met him he had a Chinese Maple in his office. He was trying to bring  it back to life from weeks of neglect.  It was left in a business that he had temporarily closed, but had decided to re-open. He would not give me the plant, saying that he had had it since it was 12 inches tall and he was hoping to bring it back to life. Instead of the dying plant, that I thought that  I could rescue he gave me an 18 inch White Bird of Paradise.

Over the past 12 years, the plant has suffered it’s share of bug infestations and one time I left it in the care of a colleague who left it front of the fireplace while a fire had been lit and it was burnt. It recovered from all of these maladies, but today it appears to be sick.  Because I am a superstitious person, I believe that the plant dying has meaning. I know it does not, but in the unscientific part of my brain, I think the plant dying has significance. What significance I attach to two leaves dying will be left to my imagination.  However, there is probably a more likely reason for the leaves falling like root rot or over watering.

So what does all of this mean in the scope of your lives? The real answer is whatever you choose. The truth is things happen. We attach meaning to those events. Depending upon the meaning we attach, our actions will be in alignment to the meaning.  I am at least aware that I make up meaning for things in my life, but many people are not aware that they do this. Because they are not aware they are doing this, they are responding to an imaginary set of causes which can lead to unexpected results or actions which  will not/can not produce the desired effect.

I use this example of the leaf falling to pose a far more serious question. What does the killing at the Orlando night club mean? Depending on the answer you posit, will be the actions you take if any.  There are some that will think that the killing was a sign from “God” a retribution to the “godless.”  Or it could be a man with a gun who temporarily went insane and took the lives of innocent people who were dancing.

As we go forward in our lives today and each day it would be helpful if we realize that things happen. Bad things happen. We live in a world which is very advanced in technology, but not so advanced in human emotions or human fraility. We live in a world where nature can defeat us at anytime we underestimate its power.  Perhaps we can be more empowered in life if we realize that we make the meaning of senseless acts. Let us find actions and meanings based in truth and not fear and superstition.

Signed,

Brianna S. Clark
The Addict Writes

PLEASE ANSWER THE CALL

 

 

 

 

 

Photo by Charles “Bigmista” Johnson

My Dear Friends and Readers,

The beautiful photo I posted for this blog is reflective of my friend Annais. She had all the color and passion of the world and yet she was cloaked in darkness.

I met Annais, which is not her real name, in Nantes France in 2002 where I had been living to escape the realities of my life in America.  I met her through her boyfriend an artist and political refugee from Iran. I had been sitting at a cafe in downtown Nantes when I saw a man drawing a picture of me.  I was amused and I  smiled to myself wondering when he would come over and try to either hit on me or ask me to buy the drawing.  Sure enough, in worse French than even mine, he came over and said something.  I answered in the one French phrase I knew for sure, which translated in English was “I’m sorry I don’t speak French.” His English was a little  better and my Farsi was non-existant, but somehow I managed to tell him that I was from America and that I was living with an American artist from Seattle.

I had arrived in this little French town about two weeks prior.  I had closed my thriving Seattle law firm to begin writing the book that will hopefully be ready for the public this summer- after what the publisher and I have entitled “The fourth and final edit”.  I was sad.  My second ex-husband  had left the day after Christmas of 2001.  I had lost custody of my children and after four years of trying to regain custody our family therapist told me to give up my fight.

She had told me that “One of you must stop putting these children through this legal tug of war. You are hurting these children emotionally. You are forcing them to choose between you and your ex-husband. If he walked into the room right now, I don’t know who either of them would choose. You seem the more reasonable of the two you. Stop this fight for your children.”

“Why me?” I had pleaded to her in tears.

“Because you are the more reasonable than your ex-husband. He will never give up fighting you for these children.”

“So, I just give up?” I asked.

“For them, yes.”

It had happened to be Halloween night. The sky was black and my heart and life like many other Americans had been disrupted by the tragedy of 9-11. I was depressed and hopeless. As I write these words,  I have images in my head of me sobbing in my car. That night I drove and I wept and I drove. In one instance, I had stopped for a stop light and a man in the car next to me tapped his horn to ask if I was alright.  I said “No.” and drove away with my face red and contorted. My chest was heaving and I thought to myself I  would drive my car off the 520 bridge- which is a bridge that separates Seattle from it’s wealthy suburbs of Bellevue and Kirkland.

I realized that at best, I would crash my car and not kill myself.  I drove  into downtown  Seattle into the art district. I got out of my car and started walking up a street.  I don’t recall the name of the street, but it was near Pioneer Square. The galleries and antique stores had closed at six.  It was a little after 6:30 and  I did not recognize the street, but I walked back and forth in front of antique store, trying to figure out how to get to the waterfront where there were a myriad of bars. Finally, a man came out of what appeared to be a  closed antique store.

“Can I get you a glass of water?” he asked. It was a strange question, but it stopped me.

“I’m looking for a bar.” I responded to him. I had been sober for fours years at this time., but I was ready to get drunk or high and I knew I could find some drugs in this section of town.

“Why don’t you come in.”  With nothing better to do, and thinking that I was going to kill myself anyway, what did it matter that he might have harmed me?

I don’t know how long we talked, but he took me to dinner at a beautiful restaurant and  bought me a a beautiful latte where the foam was swirled into a hear shape. (Seattle is after all the coffee capital of America.)  He listened to my sobbing rambling  and listened until I had calmed down. When dinner was over he walked me to my car. He said to me. “If you are not safe to drive. I live over the gallery. You don’t have to worry about me harming you.”

“I’m not worried,” I said. I just have to get home.

“You sure you will be alright?” he said.

“I will.”

“Here’s my card with my name and number and the number of the gallery. Call me, if you need to.”

I got into my car and drove across the bridge and I did not kill myself.   So, there I was  a year later after that horrible Halloween night, sitting in a plaza in Nantes, France drinking a latte.  I invited Mohamed, not his real name, over to my apartment at 44 Rue Amiral du Chaffault.  When he arrived he brought Annais.  She was very pale and the strangest thing about her was that she had long shoulder length hair that was almost all white. I say this because I found out that she was only 33.

She smoked Gauloises or Gitanes, expensive black cigarettes in an over-sized box. In the future of our relationship I would often “loan” her the 7 euros to pay for her expensive cigarettes.  But on that evening the four of us drank wine, not me, and  tried to communicate who we were and why the four of us had found each other in the tiny French town of Nantes.

She was the only French born person in our group. She never told me  anything about her life as a child, except that her father had committed suicide when she was a small child. From that one statement, without saying more, I understood her life. I understood her personal battle that had turned her hair white at such a young age.  She said she wanted to paint me as a Geisha and that I was very beautiful. I was of course, flattered and thus began my relationship with Annais.

She lived in a tiny apartment filled with light and her large abstract paintings of Asian women  and of beautiful  exotic portraits of men and women painted in solitary colors. A portrait of a nude man painted in cobalt blue covered one wall. Another man  painted a brownish yellow sat on the floor next to the blue portrait.  A women’s face painted pink with full red lips pursed to kiss caused my head to swivel. She was a gifted painter. Her work was moving, unique and each looked like a classic- something worth owning.  “You would be a hit in America,” I foolishly told her one day. It was an idea that she would not let go of . She would go to extraordinary lengths  trying to seduce me or my artist boyfriend into taking her back to America.

Through the year that I lived in France from 2002 to 2003, Annais was my odd coffee drinking, absinthe drinking, chain smoking friend. “How do you support yourself?” she asked me one day.

“I sold my practice. I am a lawyer. I was a lawyer,” I said to her. “Ah, avocat,” she answered saying the word for attorney in French.

“Are you rich?” she asked.

“No, quite the opposite. I filed bankruptcy last year, after my husband left leaving me  with hundreds of thousands of dollars of debt.” Then I tried to explain to her that in some states in America, like Washington State,  there was something called “community property”. That because of that legal concept  my second husband’s gambling debts became my debts.  She didn’t understand; she didn’t care.  She thought that I was weak and privileged. She wanted the things that I had. She liked my expensive clothes bought in the days I was a successful lawyer. She liked my jewelry; most importantly she liked my boyfriend.

When I asked her how she supported herself, she told me that Mohammed was not her real boyfriend; she was the mistress of a married  French banker. She laughed bitterly, when I showed my shock.  She rolled her eyes and poured herself another shot of the milky white liqueur she drank.

When I left my apartment in Nantes and my boyfriend who said he would pack my clothes and send them back to me- which took him a year to do; Annais took her opportunity.  I returned to Maryland and stayed with my mother. Later, I found out that Annais  had spent a great  deal of time in my former apartment and with my boyfriend. I  found this out when lots of my clothes ended up missing.  I was angry, although I did not necessarily blame her. Why had she had so much time and  eve have the opportunity to sort through my clothes? And I was not angry at her, I was angry at him.

Despite, all of  the drama I had experienced with Annais while living in Nantes, I still admired her work.  I spent the last of  my rapidly depreciating American dollars on a tiny painting that was so unlike the rest of her passionate work. When I chose the tiny scenic piece, I asked her why it was so different. She answered it was where she wanted to be. It was her fantasized bucolic life of a farm somewhere in France.

 

I tried to keep in contact with her. Things continued to go in the crazy way that her life had always seem to go.  She had managed to get herself pregnant with the banker’s child. The banker left his wife and he and Annais went to live on a farm somewhere in the Loire Valley. I thought that she would finally be happy. She got her man; she got her farm; and she had her baby.  But, this story does not have a happy ending.

One day, Annais was found dead in her bathtub. Her two year old son, was found by his father.  She had cut her wrists and bled to death.  I cannot imagine the pain she must have been in to kill herself.  I believe that she had some form of mental illness, along with her drinking and drug use.  The moment I heard that she had killed herself, I could not look at her painting any more.  I wrapped it  in  brown paper and stored it.  When the place where the painting was being stored closed the painting  had come up missing and would  remain missing for years.

A few years later, when another artist friend died of cancer,  my sister generously purchased the piece of glass that you see below the painting, I realized that Annais’ painting would fit perfectly in the space above.  I left the space blank and waited for the owner of the art storage store to locate the painting. At one point he found a small painting that was about the size of the missing painting, but it turned out- ironically to be another painting by Annais-  one that she had sent to the U.S.- perhaps to make up for the missing clothes.  “Keep looking”, I told the art storage owner.

 

Months went by. I stopped asking the storage owner  had he found “the little pink piece” as I called  her painting.  At some point, I gave up asking whether the painting had been found. I  left the space open, waiting for Annais’s painting to be found. Today her painting was found and returned to me.

Of course, the painting brought back memories of France, my children, the former boyfriend and of course, Annais.  Her son must be a teenager or close to that age.  I wonder what happened to him. I do not know, but I hope his father claimed him and has taken care of him.  I would hate to think that has been living in a French foster home, or the French equivalent of a foster care home.  I hope his life has been happy. I hope that someday, he will reconcile the fact that his mother ended her life.

Today, I am sad as I wrote this blog, but I am also very happy that I did not give up on that day in October of 2001. I am glad the antique dealer came out of his store and stopped me as I was on my way to  some form of annihilation.  I am glad that I did not give up.  I am glad that I did not commit suicide.

My Life did not always go the way I had hoped it would. I have yet to re-unite with my children, but as long as they are alive and I am alive the hope of that reunion remains. I know that there are times that life seems hopeless and it seems  easier to end it all. There has, at least for me , one  primary reason that has stopped me from harming myself. That reason is my children.  Long ago, when I was still in law school, before I lost custody of my children, long before I would become a crack addict,  my then therapist  told me that if I committed suicide that it would increase my children’s chances of committing suicide  by 50%.  Years later in the throws of my depression and in the midst of my crack cocaine addiction, I remembered that one statement.

Do, I still suffer from depression? Yes.  Are there days that I feel so low that I ask myself, why bother? Yes. Fortunately, after years of therapy I understand how my mental illness can shroud and engulf me.  I know that despite my medication, there are days that I must fight it with all my resources.  Yes, even with my  beautiful life, there are days when I have to remind myself of how far I have come. The distance, not to be measured from my traumatic childhood where I raise myself, the distanced is measured in much smaller increments.

Mental illness is a disease.  I know that Annais suffered from depression.  I don’t know what happened to turn her dream of painting on a farm  and being a mother into a nightmare, but I do know that depression blinds  the sufferer to good things in one’s life.  I know this from experience.

Often times, many of us, particularly in the African American community do not seek the professional mental help that we need.  We talk to our pastors, or we don’t talk about it at all. Our silence comes from the fear that we will be shunned and shamed by those who do not understand our illness. I know that shame is a powerful emotion, one that stops many of us from seeking the help and support that we need.

Today, thanks to Obamacare, there is a lot more money for the treatment of mental illness. Don’t suffer in silence and pain. Please reach out. Make that call. Tell someone. If you are the person, that a person suffering from mental illness reaches out to, I beg you not to give them a “buck up” speech. Please stay with them. Take them to a hospital.  Feed them.  Make sure they seek help. Keep checking in with them. Yes, it is your business. It is all of our business.

Every life matters. Each of us is here to make a contribution to the world.  Please do not let another light, another life go out without a fight. And to the dear antique dealer, another thank you for saving my life that October night in 2001.

To Annais, your beauty lives on through your work. I hope you are painting in heaven.

Signed,

Brianna S. Clark
The Addict Writes

Beauty Stops the World on It’s Axis and Makes us Realize we are One.

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 Painting by Mckella
Dear Friends,
Today I finished reading Janet Fitch’s book “Paint It Black.” The story takes place in Los Angeles in the 1980’s. If you had asked me what this book was about when I was half-way through it, I would have said suicide and it’s after math,but it’s not. The book is about childhood trauma running from one generation to the next. Fitch’s book is an interesting unveiling of trauma experienced by the child of  famous and wealthy parents. Despite his wealth and education the main character succumbs to his own wealthy version of trauma at the hands of  famous parents.
While  reading Fitch’s book  I asked myself, whether the story told through the eyes of  the poor white trailer trash girlfriend is really Fitch’s story.  I will perhaps never know, just as my future readers of my soon to be realeased book “cracked” will wonder if the heroine of my tale is really me.  “cracked” is a tale of  a character  named Lilly Marie St. Blanc and her spiral into crack cocaine addiction. The book takes the reader inside the glitzy  cocaine fueled life of the main character and her trust fund client who becomes her lover. Those of you who have read this blog know that I share a number of similarities with the character in my book, but I am not her and she is not me.
Lilly Marie St. Blanc, the character, is emotionally naive. She is still operating but not coping well as she achieves one of her major life goals. This character is  like many of us  still operating from survival, using the tools that we were forced to find in order to save ourselves.  Lilly Marie St. Blanc has not mastered, as I have, the skills of compartementalizing and isolation. These unbidden physical and psychological behaviors that allow me to make it through the day and appear as if I’m functioning at a high level are not even in this character’s arsenal. However, this character is honest and courageous and fights her way from the darkness of addiction, like I did. Unlike me, the character in my book had no tether strong enough to hold her to the earth. This character  only admires beauty, but in my life beauty saved me.
When I was a child  I searched for beauty anywhere that I could find it. Beauty in a flower, in a woman wearing a dress that I at that time could never imagine wearing. My world at 13 was one of urban decay.  Everywhere around me I could see nothing but squalor and abject neglect from people who did not care about beauty or order.  I searched for beauty and held on to it for dear life.  I knew even then that people who create beauty, who cared about beauty lived a life very different from the one I found myself.  So I held on, to the beauty of a warm April afternoon, a summer sky swollen with rain. I found the rose bush growing wildly against a fallen fence. Some how each petal was a talisman of hope for me.
When I was 15, I was sent to Mt. View California, where for the first time, I got to play in vast plum orchards and to swim in a pool shared by the people who lived in the complex where I lived. It was a vision of beauty. From that little town, now famous and wealthy because of the dot com industry, was where I began to gather the elements of  beauty from which I would create a haven. In that haven I began to create and to dream and to share those dreams.
Long ago, before I learned that it was dangerous to dream in a place where no beauty existed, I dreamed that I would someday become a writer.  I would write tales that would make my readers cry and  make them think.  In a few short months, my book “cracked” will become a reality. My friends, you will wonder as I wondered while reading Janet Fitch’s book  “Is this character really her?” And I can answer now “No, I am not the character in my book.”  That character has yet to master the ability to set aside the truths that negate each other. She can not comprehend that one person’s truth makes the the other a liar. This character can only see through eyes that make no distinction between what is real or what appears to be real and whether any of it makes a difference. The reader learns  along with this character how to find the light that calls her back from the dark to life- even if the world is uncertain and the journey ahead is uncharted.  Today, I hold tight  to what makes me wake up and take that first step. Hold on to the light of your life no matter how faint and far away it might appear. Hold on, dreams can become real.
Signed
The Addict Writes

HIGH ACHIEVER, PERFECTIONIST = ADDICTION?

Dear Friends and Readers,

Over the past twenty years since I graduated from law school my family and friends have asked me how was it possible that I became a crack cocaine addict  a month after I had passed the Washington State bar. Up until now,  I had vague answers based on my own personal reflections. Now, however, Bar Associations have finally caught up to what’s trending in the legal community.

First of all, studies now indicate there may be a natural self-selection process at work in the legal profession. According to studies, the results of which researchers don’t understand, some individuals who are susceptible to substance abuse and mood problems appear to be drawn to the law. The same personality traits that are over-represented in the populations of adults recovering from substance abuse related disorders and mood disorders-high achievement, perfectionism, obsessive-compulsive- are also common in the legal community.

Law School professor and Psychologist Susan Daicoff explains that the law school experience further exacerbates these tendencies, which often produce increased aggression under stress, a preference for competition versus cooperation, and a failure to rely on natural sources of social support from ones peers. These tendencies when combined with the law school experience create people who are thinking instead of feeling and who have a pessimistic outlook on life. Daicoff explains this is because lawyers are taught to anticipate and prepare for a whole range of problems that non-lawyers are generally blind to.

According to recent nationwide studies on lawyers, there is a substantial and widespread level of problem drinking, depression, and other behavioral problems among legal professionals in the United States. The highest rates of substance abuse and depression occur with young attorneys and junior associates. Studies also show that addiction issues and depression concerns start as early as law school. According to Hon. Robert L. Childers, a judge in the Circuit Court of Tennessee since 1984, who has served on
the ABA Commission on Lawyer Assistance Programs (CoLAP) since 1999, substance abuse and mental illness
often begin in law school.
On the first day of law school, studies show that the average law student is “normal” in terms of their happiness,
mental health and wellness. Within the first six months, early signs of psychiatric problems, such as depression,
anxiety, hostility and paranoia, can be detected. After the first year of law school, as many as 40 percent of law
students suffer from depression. Symptoms often persist through law school and into their later legal careers.

I don’t know about other lawyers, but prior to law school, I don’t think that I was depressed. However within 90 days of entering law school I was prescribed anti-depressants and I remain on anti-depressants to this day. According to studies conducted in  in numerous jurisdictions the rate of alcoholism in the
legal profession at between 15% and 24%.
Roughly 1 in 5 lawyers is addicted to
alcohol. A whopping 33% of lawyers were diagnosed with mental disorders.

Interestingly addiction seems to affect the best lawyers with the top rated lawyers (who knows how they rated “the top lawyers) comprising about 18-25% of addicts who are lawyers. I guess, I was in good company. The idea that the best and the brightest in the legal community become addicts is in stark contrast to what most people assume about addicts. In reality only 5% of alcoholics and drug addicts live on skid row. Most addicts have families and homes and jobs and careers, leading lawyers who are addicts to believe that they are not addicts because they still have homes and families and careers.  The following three examples of lawyer alcoholics were taken from an article written in  a legal journal about the types of legal alcoholics.  I  limited to only two examples, because two are more than enough. Here is an example of what I call the “Olivia Pope” Lawyer:

Janet has been working for
the largest merger-acquisition firm in the
City since graduating first from a top law
school. Organized, poised, well spoken and
resourceful, she will be the youngest
associate ever offered partnership in her
firm. The daughter of a retired judge, she
has avoided the heavy drinking for which
her father was well known. Janet never
drinks at lunch or after work. One glass of
wine at the firm Christmas party reveals that
she is not rigid about alcohol.
Unknown to her colleagues, her family and
her clients, Janet drinks a bottle of white
wine, every night alone in her fashionable
high rise condo. An alcoholic from her first
taste of alcohol at age 13, she has been a
daily drinker since her first year of law
school. If Janet continues to drink at this
rate, she will be dead by age 37 from
massive haemorrhaging of the oesophagus
and the stomach. If she survives the
hemorrhages, her liver damage will kill her
within 2 years after that.
Like many secret drinkers, Janet is too
terrified to seek help. Someone like Janet
can be found in virtually every high rise
condominium building. A single female
without spouse or children, Janet’s chances,
prognosis and recovery are statistically the
worst of any group.

Example Two: Sam has practised law in
Smallville, for 30 years. Formerly a beer
drinker after late night hockey with the boys,
and a normal social drinker, his
consumption has slowly increased over the
years. He drinks daily, often needing a
morning hit before he can face the office. He
has more and more complaints from clients
about tardy performance, shoddy
workmanship and procrastination: failing to
report out real estate deals, delaying the
setting down of law suits for trial, cancelling
appointments and discoveries at the last
moment.
Reduced billings have put him under
increasing financial pressure. He has started
borrowing against trust monies knowing that
he will do the work eventually so that his
clients will not be cheated. Three letters of
inquiry respecting client complaints have
not been answered to the Law Society.
No one who knows him would describe him
as an alcoholic even though he has been one
for over 6 years. Everyone in his life knows
that his drinking is damaging Sam, his
performance and his relationships. His wife,
his children, his employees, his clients, the
court clerks all have no idea how Sam’s
drinking is affecting every other aspect of
his life. If anyone knew the whole picture,
they would know that Sam is on the verge of
disaster.
Over the next 3 years, Sam will eat up
$250,000.00 of clients’ trust monies from
litigation retainers and estates. Eventually,
Sam will be charged with criminal breach of
trust and he will be disbarred by the Law
Society with substantial claims for
defalcation as well as claims for losses
arising from his professional negligence. His
4
province has scores of women and men like
Sam. So do every other province and state
across North America.

It’s not a pretty picture, but hey, somebody has to do it. I close with two “sobering” statistics :

Lawyers are 3.6 times more likely to suffer from depression than individuals in 28 other professions, researchers concluded in a 1990 Johns Hopkins Medical study.

The National Institute for Safety and Health reports that male lawyers ages 20-64 are more than twice as likely to die from suicide as men in other careers.

Signed,

Brianna S. Clark
The Addict Writes