My Dear Fellow Journeyers,
“It is never completely dark,” he would say to me. It is a truth of physics which I could not deny. Yes, there is always light. If there are stars, the sun and the moon it is a physical impossibility for there ever to be complete darkness.
I knew the moment he stopped and introduced himself to me, that he was intended to be in my life for a reason. It was upon me to find out what our relationship would be about.
The night before I had met him, I had stood in front of a fountain in Rome and threw a coin over my shoulder and wished for a life companion. The next day, he materialized.
That was two weeks ago. While on the steps of a museum, which I did not care to see, I met this gentleman dressed all in black. I believe he was the only black American male I had seen during the time I had been in Italy. It was a Sunday and the day was extremely hot. He started up the steps, and at first I thought he was going to walk by without recognizing me and I the friend with whom I was sitting. He stopped mid-step and turned around and walked down the stairs and introduced himself as an American and recognized us as fellow Americans.
As he introduced himself, I saw that he had four bead bracelets on his wrists. He saw me looking at them and said “Just bought these off of an African Brother. Paid $5 Euros.”
“Too much” I responded as he handed my girlfriend and I two bracelets apiece.
“And we didn’t have to show anything for the beads,” my friend jokingly retorted. “Four sets of beads wouldn’t have been enough,” she added, ensuring that her breasts which could never be missed, were recognized.
I was in no mood for small talk. I was dehydrated after days of walking in the hot Roman sun, not drinking enough water and consuming too much coffee and milk- even though I am lactose intolerant. My unresponsiveness hung heavily and the three of us abruptly went our separate ways all heading to the public restroom. It was an awkward and inelegant parting.
When I saw the line for the women’s restroom I returned to where I had met the man, while my friend waited in line to use the bathroom. When he walked down the stairs there I was sitting and waiting. I don’t recall what he said as he gave me his phone number and asked me to call. Before, he could leave, we were joined by two other my friends. I introduced them. One of my friends had grown up in New Orleans, where this gentleman lived. My girlfriend from New Orleans asked him a few questions to see just how well he was or was not acquainted with New Orleans. He passed her test.
I waited until I returned to the United States before I called him. I am not sure whether he said he was married, but I believe that he hadn’t denied a marriage. His unclear martial status, placed him in the friend category- which was fine for me. Never the less he was articulate, well read, well educated, well traveled and had a high paying job with the United States Corp of Engineers. He is currently on a project with the Corp. He is stationed in Weisbaden, Germany.
To cut to the point of the this story, today, this man, whose name is Rick articulated my life purpose “It’s not how much light you have, it is how much you leave behind.” It rang true. Going forward, it is the creed from which I intend to live my life.
Living by this credo will affect my future choices and actions. How will my life be effected? How will I effect others with whom I connect? If you choose to live as if your life’s purpose is to leave light behind, how would it effect your life?
Brianna S. Clark
My Dear Friends and Readers,
Tomorrow I will undergo a brain MRI- simply to exclude the possibility of a tumor growing on my brain. As usual in my dismissive way of minimizing things I did not bother to find out what an MRI consisted of and what precautions were necessary when undergoing one. Also, the doctor who ordered the MRI did not provide any of this information either. So, imagine my surprise when I went for my MRI and they prepared to shoot dye into my body. I panicked. I immediately called my sister, who is thankfully a doctor and asked her if the dye could be toxic and what should I do to prevent damage from it. Of course she was shocked to be called in this emergency-like fashion, but she provided me the information needed and I was fine until I saw the MRI machine which looked huge and tomb-like. My panic rose another 30 % and I hit my panic level when I found out that I would have to lay still in this giant machine for 40 minutes. I said no-way. I can’t do it and immediately left the office.
As I walked back to my car, which thankfully my dear friend was sitting in and waiting for me, I was hyperventilating. It dawned on me the significance of this test: a tumor on my brain. I spent the rest of Friday and all of the next day pondering what if there was a tumor on my brain and feeling sorry for myself. I ignored calls from friends and colleagues and I ate ice-cream- I am lactose intolerant -and cookies and reviewed my life. This was a terrible time for a brain tumor- as if anytime is good. Then I made a list of unfinished life items- many of which were about to be realized and which included the publication of my novel Cracked. I had also not reconciled with my adult children who had decided that did not want anything to do with their mother, me, who was a former crack addict.
Somewhere by mid Saturday afternoon, I had reconciled myself to the fact that I would take the MRI, under sedation on Tuesday and in the meantime I should have as good a day as possible. So, I worked out on my elliptical and then spent the rest of the day watching comedies which are truly good for the soul. By Sunday, I told myself, given my symptoms which were hearing loss and dizziness which kept re-occurring that if I did have a tumor- which I don’t believe I do- my symptoms would have gotten worse. Whether true or not, my self diagnosis provided comfort and positivity which I sorely needed.
This brief taste of the possibility of life that could end long before I had planned and the realization that I would die someday was impetus for me to take action on dreams and goals and hopes that I have yet to fulfill. Today as I write this blog, I am grateful to be able to do so and grateful for the ability to do so. A month ago, while speaking at an inner city drug rehab, I told the group of recovering women that even if I died suddenly, I would still be happy because I was in pursuit of my life goal which is bringing compassion and education to the areas of addiction, mental illness and sexual abuse. I did not know at that time, that life would intervene to force me to look at the truth of that statement and lie that we all participate in which is that we have time. We only have the moment, the day and we should live as if it were our last day on earth. It’s a sobering thought for someone who has always put off until tomorrow what should have been done yesterday… Time. Time.
Let’s make each moment count in making a positive difference in our lives and the lives of those we love and our greater communities because you never know when your time is up. I’ll be back to write this blog on Thursday and I am grateful to be able to do so. A happy life is joyful moments strung together. Have as much joy as possible today.
Brianna S. Clark
The Addict Writes
Dears Friends and Readers,
Today I am announcing that I am giving up my self-imposed role of beggar. Beggars are not to be confused with paupers. A beggar is one who lives by asking for gifts from others or is one who feels that he does not have the requisite abilities or resources to succeed. A pauper is only poor. The genisis of my moral confusion about poverty was self-created, but had long been forgotten until of feeling of poor, incapable and not belonging. However a visit to Roland Park one of Baltimore’s communities designed to legally exclude non-white, non-Christian people that I reminded me of my childhood of not belonging.
I was visiting my acupunturist whose office looked as if it were staged for a photo for an interior design magazine. As I walked into the waiting area two blonde pre-teens and their grandmother stopped talking to stared at me as if I had invaded their private space. Besides their stares and silence neither the children nor the grandmother acknowledged my presence. In that moment I was transported to my interview at a private school in Potomac, Maryland.
It was ten years old at the time, which was 12 years after the Supreme Court ruling in Brown vs. the Board of Education which was the 1954 decision ordering desegregation of America’s public schools. Being the scholarship kid is not a pleasant place to be- it’s a tad better than being a beauty queen. All applicants to this school had to take a written test, after which the school’s admission committee would interview each applicant. My anxious mother had tutored me on how to answer questions from the committee who held the power to prohibit or admit me to their elite private school.
I don’t recall what I said that day. After my interview I was shown to a vast music room where dusty cocoa brown carpet looked as if someone had groomed the designs in the thick wool. Matching silk curtains pooled to the floor were restrained by woven silk ropes of the same dusky brown. An expanse of floor to ceiling glass over looked the school’s tennis courts, hockey fields and Olympic size pool.
My parents had to work and did not know when the interviews would be over so the admission committee left me to wait in this room which also included a grand piano. My heart sunk. I was not excited to go to the school. I knew that I did not belong here. I had no idea how to play field hockey and I had never learned to swim. I also believed that I would not pass the written part of the exam. If I was admitted, I would be like a fish out of water at this school.
My interview was was right after lunch. By six o clock- my mother who was sales person in the linen section of the Hecht department store in downtown D.C. took the bus. My father, who was unpredictable at best said that he would try to pick up me at three in the afternoon had not arrived. I kept pacing along that big expanse of window watching hoping to see my father’s old black ford . The sky was growing dark and I was still sitting in that room waiting for somebody to pick me up.
By chance, a teacher who lived on the school property found me sitting on one of rooms three large curved Italianate sofas. I most of looked worn and hungry, because I was phycially experiencing both. “Oh you must be hungry,where ever are your parents?” It was on that day that I made up my first lie to protect my parents. I told the teacher that both of my parents were doctors who probably had a medical emergency. Wether she believed my story, I’ll never know, but she walked me over to the “head mistress’s” home to ask a member of the kitchen staff to make me a sandwich. She changed her mind and decided to make the sandwich for me. My stomach was rumbling from not eating since breakfast.
“Do you put butter or mayonnaise on your roast beef sandwiches?” she had asked. as she looked through the large commercial stainless steel refrigerator. I told her I usually preferred butter. It was my second lie of the day and so it went. This event and the numerous others throughout my childhood would ingrain upon my brain that it was only by the grace of these generous white people that I was allowed where otherwise, I could not afford to be and I did not belong.
While at that private school, I learned good social graces; I learned how to pick classic clothes that would last for years and I recieved a great education, but I internally internalized a stigma of being born to a poor family. It was something, I did not realize I had done. Even when, over ten years ago, one of my colleagues told to me that I needed to stop living from the mentality of “the scholarship kid” I did not get it. I dismissed her remark. She was born wealthy and is white and her family’s surname is shared with a city in Virginia. She is known for saying that the very worst thing that ever happened to her was that her grandmother had disinherited her- so my colleague created a fortune on her own. In restrospect, she was right. I needed to shift my relationship to myself. I was capable and no longer “the smart scholarship girl.” I no longer t need a discount or a scholarship. I can afford all that I need and want. It was time to gently close the door where I had felt ashamed because I was poor.
I can now emotionally distinguish the difference of feeling poor and being poor. As a ten year old child had made a judgment being poor was morally wrong. While it is acceptable to feel gratitude for opportunities of any kind, it is hurtful when we make illogical decisions about being deserving of an opportunity. The reality was in that situation the admission committee had already looked past my parent’s financial situation and was really gauging who I was as an individual. I only wished that one of them had said “You will be make a great contribution to your class as you bring your unique perspective to the learning process.” Finally, I am saying those words to myself.
Brianna S. Clark
The Addict Writes
My Dear Friends and Readers,
Last August under hypnosis, I dreamt about my own death and confirmed that a man that I know is my soul mate. This was an unexpected experience, but a client had paid my way to a book marketing seminar which happened to be on a cruise ship to Alaska. On the first night of the cruise, my client and I learned that a famous psychiatrist named Brian Weiss was also on the cruise and presenting through out the week. My client graciously bought tickets for his lecture series.
To digress, Brian Weiss is a Yale educated American trained psychiatrist, hypnotherapist and author who specializes in past life regression. His research includes reincarnation.
It would take the entire blog to tell you about his belief which I will describe as how it occurs to me: we humans have lived many lives and we in this current life may be making karmic repayments in our current lives. If we believe the former premises to be true, then we will live more lives and our current lives will effect our future lives. Lastly, if we make amends in our current lives for our past transgressions, then our current and future lives improve. Ok, so this is very out of the box thinking. However, Weiss has used hypnosis and past life regression to heal physical manifestations of mental illnesses.
Suspending disbelief and a rational explanation of how this works or could work is cutting edge psychiatry using the neurochemical of how the brain works and processes memory and trauma.
For a better understanding of past life regression and brain chemistry, Dr. Weiss’s first book is entitled Many Lives, Many Masters. Dr. Bessel VanDerKolk’s book, The Body Keeps Score explains the mind body connection in an easy to understand way.
So, back to the Wolf Tamer which was who I was in one of my past lives- hypothetically.
During my 40 minute plus session of regression hypnotherapy, I “dreamt” that I was a Native American who lived in the South western part of America hundreds of years ago. Here’s the essential elements of the dream and how it changed my life:
From early childhood the Wolf Tamer seemed to be able to play with wolves and them with her. In the culture in which the Wolf Tamer lived girls were given a new name when they started their menstrual cycle. So Wolf Tamer who had been an as a child an admired member of her tribe because of her fearlessness around wolves became an envied woman in her tribe. Malicious tales were spread saying that the Wolf Tamer’s prowess with wolves came about from mating with male wolves. No one in the tribe believed that the Wolf Tamer actually mated with wolves, but it became a mean way for the envious to diminish her gift because they were envious. However the Wolf Tamer was deeply hurt by these words and left her village one moonlight night. She would remain by herself for six years in which she would try to understand her ability to make the wolves obey her and lose their natural aggression. In the meantime a large wolf pack began to follow her.
One morning for no apparent reason the Wolf Tamer awoke ready to own herself as “one who tames wolves”. With first light, the Wolf Tamer began the journey back to her village. When she arrived the following morning early cooking fires were just beginning to engage the wood. As she entered her village she was mysteriously joined by three wolves who had stealthily followed her. Although she had come unannounced, each tee pee opened to observe her passage as three wolves followed behind her. She did not have to say anything; nor did anyone need to say anything to her. She had unquestionably become The Wolf Tamer.
At the end of the dream The Wolf Tamer had grown very old after years of leading her tribe. Besides Chief she had become a Shaman or healer as well. The Wolf Tamer began her long trek back to the woods where she prepared herself for death. She planned to die alone surrounded by wolves. She had left the village in deep winter when snow had began to fall. She lay upon a bed of pine needles beneath a tall spruce. The wolves cried and the Wolf Tamer closed her eyes and welcomed death. But before she died a tall dark man lifted her and began to carry her back to the village.
When the tall man reached the village he brought the nearly dead Wolf Tamer to a tee pee lined with soft skins where he laid her in front of a warm crackling fire.
Inside the tee pee two older gentlemen await the Wolf Tamer.
My interpretation of the dream was that I would not die alone. The tall thin man, where in the dream I only saw his legs, were those of a man with whom I had ended a relationship with 2 years prior. The elderly men were my children who had reconciled with me before I died. And I was the Wolf Tamer who was now ready to take on my true role in life.
As a result of the work with Brian Weiss, I re-united a month later with the man who I left. I have reached out to my children, but we are not reconciled, but I hold out great hope and I am finally realizing my life work as writer, author, speaker and healer of the broken hearted.
It was a great trip. Thank you, Grace, my dear client.
Brianna S Clark
The Addict Writes
My Dear Friends and Readers,
I will always remember the circle of faces of women in substance abuse recovery consisting of all ages, mostly African-American with a sprinkling of white faces. Regardless of age or race the common denominator shared by all was the hope emanating from beneath resignation and anger.
I stood in front of the group and introduced myself… “Writer, Lawyer, former television news journalist and former crack cocaine addict”. Then I joined the circle and began to tell them my story of addiction. It was not so much a “how to” but here’s what to expect.
I told the women at Penn North Recovery Center that the time right after their release from inpatient treatment would be the most difficult. There would be relationships that they would have to heal; trust they would have to regain and a life where they would be people and places to avoid. They would have to earn an honest living because their former work and lifestyles had brought them to Penn Recovery.
I shared with them that although I was a licensed attorney for a year after release from inpatient treatment that I had worked at a clothing store earning $8 an hour. This was my way of saying if you once sold drugs or sold your body, yes you will miss the money, but honest work is a path to another way of life, perhaps one that it maybe impossible to image in the present moment.
Many of the women had been imprisoned, including one woman who had “caught a murder charge” at 14. Most had been beaten by drunk or high parents. Many had been sexually abused by fathers and step-fathers, uncles and boyfriends of mothers who would choose to believe these men instead of their daughters. These were tales of pain and betrayal exacerbated by their mother’s disbelief, the hurt still palpable in the anguished angry voices with which they shared their stories with me.
Yes, we were victims, but we didn’t have to remain at effect of our victimization. The hard truth is that the effects of that victimization might remain with us for years. For victims of trauma, especially early childhood trauma, healing could be defined as a minimalization of the effect of trauma.It is not a rosey picture, but I reminded them that their futures were being created in the present.
As we approached the end of the hour that they were required to attend as part of their jail sentences, one woman asked why I had never regained custody of my children. My first answer was that I had a powerful white husband who did everything to prevent my reconciliation with my children. But that wasn’t why. The sad truth was that I had chosen to remain in a relationship with the man who had gotten me addicted. It was one of the worst choices I have ever made- even more ill fated than taking that first hit of crack. It was the choice of a woman who was still not well even though I was drug free. Because here’s the conundrum of addiction: many of us believe that the problem is the addiction. It is not. Addiction is the symptom of the pain that we will do almost anything to allievate.
I gave each of the women who desired a hug-which was most of them and whispered my thanks for their listening. It was an experience of love and I hope my words might make a positive difference in their recovery.
Brianna S Clark
The Addict Writes
Here is Part 2 of My Series about Hillary Clinton,
Brianna S. Clark
The Addict Writes
TO: My Beloved Readers,
A Mac lipstick photo has sparked controversy. The above photo is a photo from Fashion Week that the cosmetic company released via instagram.
The photo features a dark skinned model with extremely full protruding lips wearing black lipstick. The photo received 30, 000 comments encompassing a wide range of opinions either disliking the photo or embracing it. I found the photo somewhat offensive. It’s not that the lips are full, but the image is reminiscent of when white actors wore blackface. That’s the image that it triggered in my mind.
Some Caucasian women distanced themselves from the company claiming the photo did not reflect their racial demographic. With no racial animus implied. clearly the photo did not reflect people who are white.
What was Mac’s intention? Was it a tribute to the darkest spectrum of skin color ? A tribute to the fullest extent of the human lip during Black History Month? Or was it an example of a big conglomerate who derives a substantial amount of income from racial groups about which it knows little? A third cynical option is that the photo got people talking about MAC makeup.
The Addict Writes.
My Dear Friends and Readers,
I know what its like to wake up in the wee hours of the morning filled with the fear and anxiety of loneliness; that sense of feeling all alone in a dark and dangerous world where I am incapable of meeting its challenges. In an ideal world I would turn to my sleeping significant other and feel the reassurance of another body sleeping next to mine. However, when alone and in those moments of emotional and physical paralysis for a few moments I feel it would easier to die than fight the enormity of loneliness. In the past, when those moments occurred, when I did not have the skill to talk myself out of this blackness and simply turn on a light-literally and metaphorically, I suffered.
I have since learned that the human species was designed to be communal. In primitive times, as a species we could only survive in groups. Because we are neurologically engineered for survival, chemicals in our brains begin to fire off warnings telling our bodies you better be ready to fight or flee. This high level of hyper- arousal is taxing on the human body.
According to University of Chicago social neuroscientist John Cacioppo, the effects of social isolation or rejection are as real as thirst, hunger, or pain. “For a social species, to be on the edge of the social perimeter is to be in a dangerous position,” says Cacioppo, who co-authored Loneliness:
Human Nature and the Need for Social Connection. “The brain goes into a self-preservation state that brings with it a lot of unwanted effects.”
Cacioppo’s research suggests loneliness actually alters gene expressions, or “what genes are turned on and off in ways that help prepare the body for assaults, but that also increase the stress and aging on the body.” Animal studies have shown that social isolation alters levels of dopamine, a neurotransmitter that determines impulsive behavior.
The combination of toxic effects can impair cognitive performance, compromise the immune system, and increase the risk for vascular, inflammatory, and heart disease. Studies show that loneliness increases the risk for early death by 45 percent and the chance of developing dementia in later life by 64 percent.
I have described the emotional pain of loneliness and listed some of its consequences, but what is there to do?
The obvious answer is make friends and create a community. This may be difficult for a lot of people, especially those who have isolated themselves for long periods.
But all it takes is reaching out. Yes, not everyone will want to be your friend. Keep reaching out anyway.
Fifteen days ago, I reconnected with the two women in this photo. It’s a beginning, and I will continue to make new friends wherever I go.
I close by saying reach out and touch somebody. In the end all we really have are our relationships.
Brianna S Clark
The Addict Writes