Joy Ross, the creator of the HEARTMIND STORE and the EMPOWERED AUTHOR Self-Publishing Course, is on a mission to revolutionize the way authors are trained, promoted and compensated. From realizing their publishing dreams to reaching for the various bestsellers lists, Joy provides writers with professional editing, publishing, and marketing services and know-how.
About the Earth Angels Series
Stories in the Earth Angels Series are authentic, inspiring and insightful journeys of triumph. From honoring a loved one to overcoming an addiction, circumstance or illness, to an aha moment or event that changed your life, stories can be about whatever you most want to share with the world. Each chapter is between 2,500 and 5,000 words (roughly 10 to 15 typed pages).
Author Call - Spiritual Edition
Writing with JOY Training & Publishing is currently accepting authors for a special edition of the Earth Angels Series. The fifth book in the series, the Earth Angels Spiritual Edition will feature13 authentic accounts of higher consciousness connections—true stories of communication with those on the eternal side.
Note from Joy
Healing from loss is a little less traumatizing when you're aware that a loved one is always nearby. Sadly, many people don't recognize the numerous ways those who have passed to the eternal side communicate with those walking the earth.
Departed family, friends and pets find ways to let us know that they're nearby. Some materialize in physical form, appearing at the side or foot of a bed, fleetingly sitting in a favorite chair, or visiting in a dream. Others indicate their presence through electricity or electronics. Some announce that they're closeby through rainbows, birds, butterflies, coins, feathers, and other symbols.
I feel blessed to have communicated with my departed good friend Eugene through a dream, my deceased father through a television show and then a rainbow, and a dear friend's deceased mother through a computer. I've seen spirits I know and one that I didn't recognize. Authors in both the Heartmind Wisdom Collection and the Earth Angels Series have shared countless stories of how their loved ones on the eternal side have communicated with them.
By sharing authentic accounts of higher consciousness connection, authors in the Earth Angels Spiritual Edition will help other heal and move forward in hope. Once readers become aware of how deceased loved ones connect with the living, they'll recognize the signs their loved ones send, trust that their own interactions with departed relatives and friends are real.
A Few Benefits of Contributing a Chapter
Earth Angels Movement & Guinness World Record for the
LARGEST HUMAN PEACE SIGN
Ranj Singh, an accomplished songwriter and the performer in the "HEART PRINTS: Be the Love; Be the Miracle" video below, has agreed to lead us in his song "Peace" as we form the Largest Human Peace Sign.
Earth Angels Merchandise
Writing a book is 10 percent of the effort required to attain and maintain bestseller status. Marketing is 90 percent.
To ensure prospective readers are aware of the Earth Angels Series, profits from the EMPOWERED AUTHOR Self-Publishing Course are directed toward promoting the HEARTMIND STORE.
FOREWORD FROM EARTH ANGELS #1
Welcome! to the
Earth Angels Series & Movement
Excerpts from EARTH ANGELS #1
13 Journeys of Triumph - Wisdom with Wings
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FAITH & A TUBE OF LIPSTICK by MARLA C LACKEY
MORE THAN AN INCH by JOY ROSS
Heartmind Wisdom #3
Kneeling in front of an overstuffed living room chair, I bellowed down the hall for the umpteenth time, “I wanna see Nana!”
“Well, you can’t. Children aren’t allowed in the hospital.” Standing in front of the bathroom mirror, Mom puckered her lips and kissed a Kleenex.
Flopping my face into the cushion, I went back to screaming throat-stinging loud and pounding the seat of the armchair with my fists as I thumped the tops of my feet against the hardwood floor. All of me hurt. But I didn’t care. I had to see Nana.
“Why do you want to see Nana so badly?” my mother asked, alerting me that she was now standing next to me and what my siblings and I referred to as the duck chair.
Thinking there was a chance I’d get to see Nana, I glanced up, wiped at my tears, and went mute. I had no idea why I had to see Nana.
Mom collected a photo of our family that was tucked into a frame that had a tiny plastic fern on one side and resembled a rather slim aquarium minus the fish. After kissing each of us kids on the head, she left.
Sadder than I’d ever before been, I got off the floor and curled up in the overstuffed armchair that Mom had recovered in a material adorned with the mallard ducks Dad claimed were good eatin’. My eyes burned like there was soap in them, my ankles ached like I’d been skating in wrong-sized skates all day, and my red, swollen fists throbbed like my heart had jumped half in each one and was trying to get out so it could mend itself back together like Humpty Dumpty.
Nana died the next day.
When I was nine years old, my father lost his boat building business as a result of the crooked actions of his so-called partner. My parents sold the three-bedroom house Dad had built on Lake Nipissing in North Bay, Ontario, and moved our brood to the outskirts of Victoria on Vancouver Island, British Columbia.
Far less than rich, the six of us moved into a well-ventilated shack with one decent-sized bedroom and one walk-in-closet-sized bedroom. We three girls got the big room. My brother slept on a fold out couch in the living room. Mom and Dad made do with the closet.
Though my older sister and I took turns picking fights with and trading pals, as the years rolled by, Crystal was the neighborhood friend I valued most. She had mesmerizing green eyes the size of chestnuts and shoulder-length curly hair like Shirley Temple. I’m not sure why I liked her best; I just did.
The weird thing about Crystal was that her family lived in a small apartment that was attached to the funeral parlor where her dad worked as the director. As soon as she could do so without us getting caught, she took me downstairs to the dimly-lit gray-walled showroom where a couple of dozen satin-lined coffins were waiting, lids open, for someone to sleep in them for eternity. They looked comfy enough, but I couldn’t decide which would suit me best. Maybe the one lined with blue satin; blue was my favorite color.
When we met, though I knew about death because Nana had died and because our dog Mike had been put to sleep after he got a bone lodged in his throat and no one could get it out, I wasn’t entirely certain what death was all about. One thing that I did know for sure was that eventually whomever or whatever you loved went somewhere forever, maybe Heaven.
Mom and Dad did their best to help us kids understand that dying wasn’t necessarily a bad thing, which was why Heaven was only a possible final destination. Mom was raised Catholic and occasionally mentioned some places called hell and purgatory, where you didn’t want to go but would if you misbehaved too much. Then there was the whole business of Armageddon and judgment day that I learned about at a Saturday afternoon Jehovah’s Witnesses Bible school picnic.
I went to the picnic because Mom wanted us to learn about different religions, and because I thought it’d be fun. Which it was, except for the scalding sun beaming down on my hatless head and the foaming dark-brown liquid with bits of white stuff floating around in it that they served in a tall glass at lunch. Certain it had either gone bad or was poison, even when the other kids drank theirs, there was no way I was gonna drink mine. When I later told Mom about it, she said it was an ice-cream float.
As President John F. Kennedy had been shot and killed by a maniac when I was seven years old, I also knew that no matter how famous or important you were, there was no escaping this trip to Never, Never Want To Go There Land. At the time, I was in grade two and had made friends with a classmate who’d emigrated from the United States. We were both too young to fully understand the significance of the tragedy, but that didn’t stop her from crying when our teacher told us about it.
For the next several days, everyone talked about how sad it was that the U.S. President had been shot. People felt bad for his wife and kids. Even the man who lived inside our radio was upset and talked about it a lot. We didn’t have a television, but if the pictures on the front page of the North Bay Nugget were an indicator, the people in TV Land were probably sad too.
When preteen age, after the nice lady I was babysitting for was killed in a car crash, fear of dying settled into my gut like a bunch of glued-together rocks. Two doors away from our home, the woman and her family lived in the nicest and biggest house of the five that made up what my older sister and I had dubbed the boondocks. On that ill-fated day, she planned to leave at 7:00 a.m. to drive up island to visit friends, and then drive back down in time to watch the local stock car races at Western Speedway.
As her mom was about to go out the door that morning, crying and screeching, the toddler wrapped her pudgy little arms around her mom’s legs and clung on. Her mother and I were shocked. I enjoyed babysitting the little girl, and she seemed to really like me. Her mother often went out, so neither the woman nor I could figure out why the little girl was suddenly so upset. When her mother closed the door and left, the toddler collapsed on the floor and sobbed and sobbed.
Two hours later, I called her uncle and asked him to come over and help me calm her down. He couldn’t quiet his niece. When he tried to pick her up, like she had with me, she flailed her arms and screamed. Eventually, the poor little dickens fell asleep on the floor and we put her to bed.
When her mom didn’t come home at 11:00 p.m., I called the same uncle and asked him to spend the night with his niece so I could go home. We received the bad news early the next morning. The nice lady had been killed in a car accident on her way down island. Apparently, a drunk driver had swerved into her lane and hit her car head-on. The impact caused the steering wheel to snap in half and pierce her heart. I cried for hours. Everyone in the boondocks was sad for weeks.
By then, I’d learned about reincarnation. Upset about the nice lady’s death and acutely aware of life’s unpredictability, I spent numerous hours trying to decide what living creature I’d like to be on my next trip to earth. At first, I was partial to becoming an evergreen tree like the ones that towered over the golf course across the street from our house. Trees lived for hundreds of years and got to play outside day and night. Equally fascinating was that they could see for miles. I knew this because I’d once scurried up the branches of a cloud-tall pine until I was so high that my friends below appeared tinier than Crystal’s hamster’s pencil-eraser-sized pink and hairless babies. Going up the branches was hurry-up-and-get-there fun; coming down was take-your-time, heart-trying-to-thump-its-way-out-of-your-ribcage, scary.
When it dawned on me that trees were stationary, I decided to reincarnate as a seagull. Gulls could fly and liked junk food as much as I did. It sometimes took me years to catch on, so by then I had a job, my own place, and a couple of new best friends—Patricia and Patricia. To ensure they both didn’t answer when I asked a question, I called them by their nicknames, Patti and Trish.
To make sure that God, or whoever put the stamp of approval on one’s passport back to earth, was hyperaware of my decision to reincarnate as a seagull, when I was visiting the store where Trish worked and spotted a gigantic framed picture of a gull flying high in a brilliant blue sky, I bought it and hung it on a wall in my apartment.
Patti, Trish and I weren’t angels. Beginning with thinking it was a ton of fun to help the teenage boys from the Belmont Park Navy housing complex turn over their neighbors’ garbage cans, and ending with underage drinking, we were brats. In between, there were games of spin-the-bottle and truth-or-dare where we took turns kissing each of the Belmont Park boys.
Like most teenagers, we took a lot of dumb risks. We hitchhiked day and night, and let friends drive us around when they were stoned or drunk. During the summertime, we snuck out late at night to smoke cigarettes on the pitch-black golf course. All three of us survived, but not all of our friends and family did.
Rick from the navy housing complex died in a car crash. Sharon, one of our friends at Elizabeth Fisher Junior High School, rolled her car off the highway, landed upside down in a ditch, and drowned. Patti’s dad got sick, and passed away. A few years later, her mom died from cancer.
From 1974 to 1980, I worked with troubled teens at the Victoria Youth Detention Centre. During the six years I worked there, at different times, after they were released back into society, about a half-dozen teens who’d spent time in the center were killed in car accidents or committed suicide.
Beginning with Nana, each death broke my heart. They were all good people worthy of a spot in Heaven. They were all deeply loved, and their families and close friends would miss them for a very long time. But not the rest of the world.
Unlike when President J. F. Kennedy was assassinated, following each of their deaths, there were no radio or television reports, no newspaper headlines, no lengthy write-ups about the contributions each had made to society. Instead, buried toward the back of the local paper, each one’s life was marked with an inch-long announcement that included the dates of his or her birth and death, the names of immediate relatives, and the location of the funeral service.
When young and there forward, I viewed this inequality as an injustice. How could one person’s life be less important than another’s? Dead or alive, why did the media celebrate one being and not another? Everyone deserved to have his or her contributions recognized, rejoiced, and remembered. Newspaper-wise, the space needed to properly honor each one was far more than an inch.
After I quit the detention center, I moved to Toronto, Ontario, where my older sister was studying law. During a discussion with my Aunt Nina about my having to find a job or go back to school, she asked, “What do you want to do for a living?” Without forethought, “I want to be a writer!” popped out of my mouth, surprising her and me.
After reading a zillion True Romance magazines, at age fourteen, I had penned a short story and sent it off to the publisher. Crafting poetry was delightful child’s play, and I’d enjoyed studying English in school. Past that, I wasn’t consciously aware that I wanted to be a writer. Obviously, my subconscious had been keeping secrets from me. Either that, or an extraterrestrial being had been flying overhead on its way somewhere, and overheard my conversation with Aunt Nina. When she asked her question, it chose a random card out of the earthly occupations deck it kept in its bag of fool-the-humans tricks, and slotted it into my brain. Regardless, my mind and soul were aboard the become-a-writer ship that set sail in my heart.
Over the next year, I lived off savings and diligently worked at becoming a romance novelist. My first manuscript off to Harlequin, I banged out a second one on the old Olivetti electric typewriter that once belonged to my mother. Bottles of liquid White Out and reams of paper consumed my budget while writing consumed me.
The next year, I took a part-time job as a cocktail waitress at Peter’s Backyard restaurant and bar. During the day, I wrote. Evenings and nights, I carried trays of drinks over my head as I smiled and excused my way through a packed room of partiers. When Harlequin rejected my first novel, I pouted in bed for a couple of days; when they rejected the second, I quit writing.
After my sister completed law school, the two of us moved to Vancouver, British Columbia. A waitress I worked with at the Bayshore Hotel introduced me to the Mary Kay Cosmetics business opportunity. Shortly after achieving pink-car status, my sister and I started marketing non-run hosiery via our own direct sales company. After a few years, she returned to practicing law, and three new partners and I expanded the home party-plan business across North America. Year six, Pelican Publishing purchased the rights to my book Direct Sales: Be Better Than Good–Be Great! Year eight, we sold the business and I started running singles dances for the over-forty crowd.
For the next fourteen years, I earned a decent living organizing bands and venues for Saturday night dances. It was a ton of fun, and I thoroughly got a kick out of telling people that I partied for a living. Having had my how-to book published, my ego recovered from Harlequin’s rejection of my manuscripts, so between organizing and partying, I resumed writing romance.
My yearning to become a romance novelist wasn’t all that followed me into that career. Much like my work at the youth detention center, people I cared about died one after another. Stomach cancer took Rob and his contagious laugh into the next world, where I’m positive he’s still making jokes that send his fellow deceased into hysterics.
Like nobody else, Rob could poke fun at someone so that they saw the humor in their own flaws, and laughed. His ribbing of me came with actual pokes. Often, he’d sneak up behind me, lightly poke both sides of my waist and call me spongy.
One day when a bunch of us were on a packed Skytrain headed into Vancouver, he jumped up at a scheduled stop, and in a deep voice announced, “Everybody off!” Most of the non-singles-club passengers stood up and prepared to exit. Those of us who knew him roared with laughter. Everyone sat back down.
Rob met Susan at a club function. Except for their height and attractive facial features, at first consideration, they were opposites. She had thick, long brown hair; his hair was thinned and short. He was gregarious and outgoing; she was shy and introverted. What, it turned out, they did have in common was lots of children and a love of wrestling each other. At least it seemed that way when a bunch of us spent a weekend at a lodge near Squamish, B.C. I still chuckle when I look at the photo of the two of them wearing pajamas, each with the other in a leg-lock, and lying on the floor killing themselves laughing.
A couple of years in a row, about two dozen of us headed to Harrison Hot Springs for a camping trip. As the organizer, I chose that area because Harrison Lake is beautiful, and if we didn’t feel like cooking, we could eat at one of the nearby restaurants.
One night, after a few of us had snuck off to a local bar for drinks and dancing, I went back to the campsite early and tucked Susan’s kids into their sleeping bags. About two hours later, I heard Rob and Susan outside the tent. She hated camping and in her drunken state was refusing to crawl into their tent in case there were bugs in there.
As Susan and Rob weren’t big drinkers, the next morning, I teased her about having had a few too many. Laughing, she shared how as she and Rob staggered back to camp, the police had stopped them and asked if they were planning on driving. Rob responded, “I can hardly walk. How the heck would I drive a car?”
A couple of weeks before he died, Rob invited his closest friends from our club to his and Susan’s place. He’d appeared frail and skinny. “Hey,” he said as we walked through the door. “Don’t I look great! My Jenny Craig diet’s working wonders for me.”
Within a few short years, cancer claimed Arnold, Arnie, Gil, Jeannie, and more. Steve’s love of beer was what got him. Wally’s heart gave out while he was playing ice hockey. Eugene, a dear friend and my roommate, had a heart attack and died in our backyard.
When Eugene died, I wrote a short story about him, and gave copies to the dozens of grief-stricken friends at his standing-room-only funeral. One of the kindest people to ever grace the earth, Eugene loved to make people happy.
One day, I spotted him washing his fancy red convertible while wearing a clown outfit. “Why are you dressed that way?” I asked, a chuckle in my belly. “I want to make people laugh,” was his reply. I nodded and left him alone to continue his mission.
Eugene feared death, so we often talked about our beliefs about the afterlife. During more than one heart-to-heart, we promised each other that, provided it was possible, the first to die would come back to tell the other about eternity. Forever a loyal friend, Eugene kept his promise.
A few months after he died, Eugene appeared in my dream to warn me not to make a residence change I’d been contemplating. In my dream, we were sitting on a bench in the forest exchanging telepathic thoughts about missing each other. After a while, Eugene stood and walked toward a part in a thick hedge. “Wait, wait,” I hollered. “You promised to tell me what it’s like to be dead.” Eugene looked back toward me, a sweet smile on his peaceful face as he said, “It’s really nice.”
The next day, I told my good friend Patricia Connor about my dream. After I shared that Eugene had left my dream through a part in a hedge, she asked, “Where were you?” It was an odd question, but one I was certain had a purpose.
“We were sitting on a bench in a forest,” I answered.
“His soul must have truly visited you,” Patricia said. “When I was counseling Eugene for anxiety, his safe place was a bench in the forest.”
Though I continued to sometimes dream about Eugene, and said hello when he often came to mind, he never again visited my dream in spirit-form.
It was years before I realized the connection between my childhood tantrum when I couldn’t see Nana and the young tyke’s tantrum when her mother left and the little girl somehow knew that her mom was never coming back. Evidently, children are more in tune with their spiritual knowings than most adults.
Eugene is one of many deceased beings that have made their wishes, regrets, and thoughts known to me. If we were all more aware and certain of our everlasting soul-to-soul connections with departed loved ones, though we’d still miss them in the physical world, there’d be far fewer tears shed when people we care about return to the spirit world.
Having lost countless friends and a few family members to the eternal side, one summer evening about two years ago, I sat in the backyard saying hello to one spirit pal after the other. For more than a half hour, memories surfaced as familiar faces floated before my mind’s eye. When I couldn’t recall any more departed chums, feeling melancholic, I stared into the darkening sky. It was then that a drop of water fell into the corner of my right eye. Startled, I glanced up at the tall evergreen overhead. The tree was crying for me; the Universe was letting me know that my loved ones were nearby.
As an inspirational author, it warms my heart that ages from now, when someone reads about my friends and family, my loved ones’ spirits will echo forward. I also teach inspirational authorship. Helping others craft their literary legacies affords me absolute joy. Every morning, seven days a week, it’s my privilege to awake before dawn, throw on a pot of coffee, and then spend numerous hours absorbed in my own or someone else’s life-gained wisdom. It also warms my soul, that like me, one story at a time, authors around the globe are honoring their own and others’ lives with far more than an inch.
About Joy Ross
Joy Ross is the publisher of the Heartmind Wisdom Collection and the Earth Angels Series. She is also the creator of the Heartmind Store which connects readers and authors in a deep and meaningful way. As part of her mission to revolutionize the way authors are trained, promoted and compensated, she also created the EMPOWERED AUTHOR Self-Publishing Course.
Her chapter in Heartmind Wisdom Collection #1 is “Rainbows, Butterflies and Other Miracles,” and her chapter in Heartmind Wisdom Collection #2 is “Taming Shame & Blame.” Her published works include The Kindness Ambassador and Direct Sales: Be Better than Good – Be Great!
AN UNEXPECTED LIFE by AERIELLE BUCHHOLZ
Earth Angels #1
Few people pass through the places I have been and come out the other side with enough of themselves left to carry on. Many reach a point in addiction where they are committing slow-motion suicide, killing themselves by inches because they feel beyond hope.
I was there, looking into hollow eyes and fading faces, some of them reflected in the mirror. In the heaviest addictions, nothing matters; there are no other priorities beyond feeding that addiction. Crystal meth erased all my other needs and thoughts, and replaced them with one gnawing, desperate, constant hunger to keep my pipe full and delay the comedown for as long as possible. I wanted nothing else.
Yet though I had no aspirations or plans for survival, I’m still here. I recovered, when I never really considered it possible. The powers that be had a plan for me, and a power greater than myself carries me even now, into a life and future beyond all my expectations. I am no hero, but I am alive, while many I knew are not. I feel a duty to those who are fallen to do the best with each day I am blessed with, and to live with gratitude. This is my story.
As this piece is my history, I have been challenged to provide accurate detail, and to convey the emotion of the events without becoming offensive or inappropriately graphic. I wanted to keep this piece readable, understandable, and resonant for a wide base of readers. The events described in these pages are those that have shaped my life and my self, and led me to become someone I am proud to be. It is an incredibly difficult task to separate my emotions from these memories, but I have found it necessary in writing this. The facts are simpler than all the emotion and memories tied to them.
My childhood, though pleasant and pampered, was marked by my perpetual discontent. I can’t remember a time when I didn’t hate myself; my mood volatile, my mouth full of lies to cover my insecurity. Things rarely lived up to my expectations. I was never satisfied, and was surely entitled to my way, the best of everything, and to pout when not entirely pleased.
Adolescence brought suicide attempts, self-mutilation, and the abuse of whatever prescription leftovers I found around home. I did my best not to eat, and tried to throw up whatever I did eat. I was admitted to an adolescent psychiatry ward, which thrilled me initially, as I was showered with attention, and had reduced schoolwork. When I decided I wanted to leave, I told the right lies to the right people, and was home in a couple of days.
My parents continued to try to help me every way, in any way. School wasn’t a priority. Only searching for the approval of people I called friends mattered. My mom and dad paid for all kinds of tests and therapies, and I was labeled with a diagnosis of bipolar disorder. I was so utterly incapable of honesty with anyone, including myself, that this was probably not accurate.
After years of non-effort and non-participation, I dropped out of school when I was seventeen. My boyfriend and I moved out of our respective parents’ places, and both went to work and live at a kids’ summer camp in the mountains. I had thrown myself into a world without the protective web of my parents presence, and I would fall a long way before I started to rise again.
My new freedom was a mixed bag. I stopped taking my depression meds and gained eighty pounds in four months. I also tried meth for the first time. Sweet, fishy, stinky, toxic, delicious methamphetamine. I truly knew from the first toke that I was in love, but I was blissfully unaware that that love would take everything, everyone, and almost kill me countless times.
Addiction’s whisper is funny like that; it glosses over the dirty, ragged details of reality with lush, tempting promises of euphoria and satisfaction.
For a very long time after that first hit, meth was the most important thing in my life. When I was high, I felt better than I ever had. Gone was my constant dissatisfaction with myself and the world around me. I felt functional. Enthusiastic. Energized. Confident. Time without drugs was spent trying to find some way to get drugs. I sometimes had jobs, but rarely kept any for more than a few months. I was too erratic to reliably take the antidepressant and mood stabilizing drugs that might have helped my state of mind.
I lived like a troll in a basement for a year, while the poor man I was taking advantage of worked two jobs to pay my way. In times without drugs, I would sleep fourteen or more hours a day. I left the house perhaps once a week, and I gained more and more weight. Almost overnight, I was covered in a thousand stretch marks, like red worms, hot and painful across the tight skin of my belly, arms and legs. I felt disgusted by my own body, felt more depressed, and with no drugs to numb me, I slept and ate away a year of my life down in that dark basement.
I needed help to get me out of that basement hole. That help came in the form of a surprisingly fun package that arrived in the mail from a user friend. She’d made a kind of treasure hunt for me, in which she’d hidden little crystal presents. This junkie-thoughtful gift got me out of that hole in the ground, and I got the perfect job working night shift at my neighborhood convenience store.
When payday came, I always made sure I had “enough” dope, regardless of what bills went unpaid or who had to pick up my slack. The people around me suffered without me caring enough to notice, because nothing really mattered to me except being and staying high. I lost weight, felt more confident and attractive than I ever had, and kept my job for over two years. It was a record for me.
I decided to go back to school, based mostly on the fact that my parents were willing to cosign a loan to this purpose. My sleepless, reddened eyes lit up, I’m sure, at the thought of having enough money for almost unlimited meth. The unfortunate price for this nirvana of drugs was my parents’ trust and their repayment of the loan, which of course, was not a factor to me at all. I spent the next few months attending class for the most part, but was incapable of absorbing or retaining any of the material. I would take off and stay up for three, four, five days at a time, so high I couldn’t see that this drug-fog dream was really a nightmare.
Meth will take everything you have, everything you are, and everyone you love, and you will smile as you give it all away.
I’ve never really liked people, or understood my place in a society that did not approve of me, nor me of it. I was a sheltered kid, yet I thought I’d seen it all. The people I spent time with weren’t really friends, just other addicts, and we all would have cut one another’s throats for a gram. Surrounding myself with scheming speed heads and the puppeteer dealers intensified the paranoia associated with extended meth use.
I watched a man being brutally beaten for ripping off someone he shouldn’t have, saw another’s toes smashed with a hammer for owing the wrong person money, and have been locked in a bathroom by armed men while they tossed the house looking for drugs. I’d never seen a real gun before the day one was held inches from my face, the silver circle of the end of the barrel all my eyes could see.
People are never more dangerous than when they are desperate, and addiction is a cycle of desperation. An addict fighting the crash will do anything to anyone, and sell everything including their body and soul to stay high just a little longer.
I went from suburbia to the gutter in only a few years, and reality was harsh. I felt elevated among these wild-eyed twitchy creatures around me, but I was really one of them: just as willing to lie, manipulate and steal to get exactly what I wanted.
As many lies as I told, the truth was always there, and the day came when all my deceptions fell away. The truth was ugly, and my web of lies was twisted and expansive. It was so hard to look into the eyes of those who had stood by me, and see their realization, hurt, anger and sadness.
Over the next few months, I stayed with my parents, on the condition that I would go to rehab when a spot became available. While we waited, I continued to take off and get high for days at a time, continued telling the same lies, but nobody believed them anymore.
I really didn’t hope. I did not plan to recover or to put more effort into my life than I ever had. As far as I was concerned, rehab consisted of a place to sleep, eat, and socialize for three weeks, at the price of three weeks of sobriety. There was no doubt in my mind that it would be a waste of time, and that when three weeks was over, I would slide right back into the gutter I had gotten so comfortable in. I always thought I knew so much, but I knew very little.
I suppose there are almost as many rehab facilities as there are addicts, each with their differences, but also large similarities. I picked the longest residential program available, which wasn’t a comment on my dedication to my recovery, but a comment on my willingness to manipulate a program designed to help me. I would stay sober, as long as they would feed and shelter me, but I had no intention of long-term sobriety.
On the first day, amid the rules we various addicts were to conduct ourselves by for the next few weeks, there was mention of romantic contact between clients being off-limits. “You are not here to find your soul mate,” was the phrase they used. I remember the words, as they turned out to be ironic and entertaining in hindsight. I had always used men to my best advantage, and had no intention of doing more or less while in rehab.
It’s amazing how one person can change another’s entire outlook and perception of reality. The man I didn’t know would save my life walked into my life two weeks into my three-week rehab journey.
Scotty was tall, had a goofy smile, and dark brown, shining eyes. He tackled me off a milk crate I was sitting on within a day or two of us meeting, and I had the first of many moments of true sight that I’ve experienced with this big beautiful man. I remember looking up at him, laughing, and deeply knowing that this man was something else, someone I needed like I needed air and sunshine. It was a moment of clarity and knowing in my world of wandering and chaotic depression.
We went our separate ways when I finished my program a week later, leaving Scotty my number. We met up for our first and only sober date a couple of weeks afterward, consisting of us taking in the cutest little petting zoo. There was an immediate connection between us, but our addictions held both of us still.
If addiction is a disease of selfishness, were we even capable of really loving another person?
The next time Scotty and I saw each other, we got high. We got high every time we saw each other after that, for months. I was broke and unemployed with no real place to live, while Scotty worked and bought drugs for us to do together. On the weekends, I stayed at his place, and we partied hard. We didn’t sleep or eat or come down until the drugs were gone, and soon the weekends included Friday and Monday, occasionally Thursday and Tuesday as well.
My parents were justifiably fed up by this point, but couldn’t stand the idea of me cold or in danger, and always let me back into their home. In my addiction I used their love to my advantage, as I used everything and everyone.
Scotty was one of several roommates renting a house, and my freeloading presence wasn’t very welcome once it became constant. After a sketchy nightmare of a deal gone bad, then a drug fueled cross-country weekend of wackiness, Scotty and I returned home to discover the other roommates would not allow me back into the house. I panicked, my mind raced, and I offered Scotty an out. I felt incredibly guilty for involving this sweet man in my world of complications and chaos, and I told him to go if he wanted to, to go home, as he was still welcome there. I would understand, and not blame him for taking a simpler path than mine.
He didn’t go. He hugged me and held me, and I fell apart, then came back together forever changed. Then he called his family, roughly telling them that he needed to move home to clean up, and that if they would not allow his girlfriend to come too, he would not be coming either.
Addicts love ultimatums. They agreed, most likely not knowing the whole or true story. They would arrive the next day to gather us and our few things, as we attempted to treat our addictions geographically.
That night, we searched for a place to sleep, and found a flophouse that was warmer and somewhat safer than sleeping outside. We had been up for several dramatic and exhausting days, and what we really needed was some sleep. We weren’t alone in that place; it housed a rotating group of sad souls hooked on various things.
Watching a very pregnant girl smoke meth and drink whiskey right from the bottle made me hurt for the poor little one inside her. I felt sick when a mother passed her son the meth pipe going around the circle.
We borrowed a car, which turned out to be stolen, and went for a drive. When we came back, we sat talking, and Scotty caught me off guard when he told me he loved me. I cried, and hugged him, and took so long responding that he was getting worried; but, of course, I loved him too. I was authentically surprised that this man, this good hearted, strong man could love me, because I definitely did not feel worthy of love. We found love in the muck and tar of hard drug addiction, shining bright through the darkness we’d surrounded ourselves with.
Scotty’s brother came and got us and our few possessions the next day, and for the next few weeks we slept and ate, and did very little else. We were sickly, skeletal, and sober for the first time in months.
Drug withdrawal varies for each person, but it’s never pleasant. My brain screamed at me to go find drugs, every cell of my body ached and burned; but I was so very tired of running the hamster wheel of addiction, so we slept, and ate, and healed a little bit, for the first time in years.
Scotty has a spooky way of simply knowing things sometimes. He knew I was pregnant before I did. A few weeks after our big move to his parents’ place, Scotty suggested I take a pregnancy test. I almost fell off the couch, but I couldn’t argue that it was possible.
Finding out we had created a life was a paradox of excitement, dread, amazement, and complete terror. How could we care for a baby when we had yet to reliably and successfully care for ourselves?
We had moved with hopes and plans of sobriety, and now we had the best possible motivation to do the work to make them a reality. Although my brain screamed for drugs, knowing the dope would affect the life growing inside me stopped me from going to find them. I knew I’d already exposed this poor baby to so much before I knew it existed, and felt such guilt.
We decided the best way to stay sober was to not look for drugs, knowing we would always find what we were looking for. We did our best, as our baby grew inside me, to ready ourselves to be parents. We got jobs, an apartment, and a cat. We struggled mentally from withdrawals, and we dealt with the guilt of our actions while addicted.
It is one of the hardest parts of recovery, to look at yourself and your life honestly, then to forgive yourself enough to start changing what needs to be changed. We weren’t ready for any of these changes, or to be parents, but we fought hard, because that little growing life was worth everything.
The day our baby was born was twenty hours of pain, terror, and self-doubt, that culminated in the beautiful moment we met the sweet little person we were changing our lives for. I didn’t know if my body, which I had made sick for so long, was capable of giving birth.
Scotty wanted to help so badly, but I wasn’t very consolable. I shouldn’t have doubted the power of the universe behind our baby, bringing her into the world through me. Scotty had a name picked out for his daughter, a daughter he had somehow known he would one day have, and so she is our Adria Sunshine.
I searched every inch of that child because I was sure the drugs I’d unknowingly inflicted on her had harmed her somehow. I found nothing, and I cried with pure joy that this sweet baby was healthy despite my sins. We stared at her unbelievable perfection, and knew how deep and primal love could be. We now had a personified purpose larger than ourselves. Scotty and I had known each other for just over a year, but our lives had intertwined and started their upward climb to the light.
Adria was a smart, healthy baby, and we were motivated to do our best, and to continue making our best better, for her. Scotty started a new job, which he did without complaint though it was very demanding and left him exhausted. I quit smoking, a habit I’d drastically reduced while pregnant, because I didn’t want to leave her alone inside while I went outside to smoke. I’d never been around a newborn, so I was hypervigilant, not knowing quite what normal was.
I missed the signs of my depression edging back in, but Scotty was watchful and always supportive. We decided I should go back on an antidepressant, and it helped me almost immediately.
Our sweet little baby made us smile and laugh, and showed us the joy in life again. We bought a house, with a lot of help, and moved into a home that was truly ours. Adria grew, her love of life reawakening the emotional depth that drugs had locked away. Adria’s big brown eyes were always shining and thoughtful, and she walked, talked, and read at a very early age.
Scotty improved at his job, taking pride in his work ethic and toughness, and he was endlessly dedicated to Adria and me.
After years of my weight fluctuating radically, I began to feel ready to finally take control. Through diet and exercise, and all on my own, I lost about one hundred pounds. I looked as far from the miserable drug addict I had been as I felt inside. I learned basic life skills, like cooking and cleaning, by doing and making things for Scotty and Adria.
Adria showed herself to be compassionate, artistic, and incredibly intelligent. She was a miracle from her conception to the old soul that dwelt behind her thoughtful eyes, and I could not love anyone more. She was truly a gift and a blessing to our lives, and to the world, as she brought so much good into it. Adria broke through the mental and emotional walls addiction had built inside us, and showed us the purity of love.
Shamos, the best dog in the world, was brought home in Scotty’s coat one evening. We were slowly healing the deep wounds in our souls and were able to love deeper, work harder, and ask more of ourselves for our growing family.
Being a mother has been the most soul-satisfying experience of my life, and I wanted Adria to have a sibling, almost as much as I wanted another sweet baby. Rae Summer flew into the world in less than two hours, beginning a pattern of doing everything her own special way.
Rae was strong, impulsive, stubborn, empathetic, and full of imagination and stories. Rae’s temper exhausted me. Her will tested my own resolve daily. Her sweet hugs and cuddles melted my heart.
Rae’s attention span issues and learning difficulties have taken us on a journey through doctors, diagnoses, and medications. It has been incredibly heartbreaking to watch her struggle to learn and understand. Through her battles, Rae has always maintained a sweet demeanor, a kind heart, and has always been a source of encouragement and support to anyone struggling around her.
As Rae has overcome the obstacles and challenges in her path, I have never been prouder of anyone or thing. Rae has taught me as I have taught her. I have learned patience, impulse control, and the benefits of hard work from my beautiful little girl. Raising Rae and Adria to be functioning, open-minded, kindhearted people is the noblest aspiration I could have.
Life after the darkest dark can’t be anything like it was down in that pit. Though I didn’t ever know what I wanted to do with my life, without knowing, every single step I took brought me closer to where I wanted and needed to be.
I had struggled to care for myself in the past, but in learning how to care for my family, I began to care for myself too. Seeing my importance to my family, I realized my responsibility to be the best of myself for them.
It is the most unexpected gift that Scotty and I survived, and were given the opportunity to build a life together. Scotty and I understand each other in a way few couples do, because we walked through fire together. We didn’t come through it unharmed or unchanged, but we held each other up, and grew stronger together than we could have apart. We are scarred, but the scars remind us of the lessons we learned the hardest way.
When we were in early recovery, I knew I couldn’t go back to the person I used to be, the person I had hated for so long. As the broken pieces of myself lay before me, I realized I could put myself back together into whatever I wanted to be.
I began to be honest with myself, to face and own my past lies. I decided to look for the good in everyone, in every situation, no matter how I had to dig to find it. This was such a shift, and an immediate mental relief to let a lifetime of negativity slide away.
I began to practice yoga daily, which has been irreplaceable in my journey to connect with my body, mind and soul. When I do slip down into my dark pit of depression, Scotty is a bright guiding light. He speaks reason and sanity, and he continues to save me from myself.
I have been able to stay home and raise my children because Scotty is willing to sacrifice his whole life to provide for us. Scotty has excelled at his career as a truck driver hauling oil field equipment from place to place. He has pride in himself and his work, and daily gets to satisfy his need for adventure.
He and I have made each other better people. We have grown up together, shaped ourselves around each other, and raised each other up. Neither of us would have come so far alone.
Drugs were a way to escape a reality I didn’t want to be a part of, so in their absence I have created a less abrasive world to exist in. What started as a few pets has turned into a passion for helping the helpless whenever possible.
I believe all life has value, and should be treated with reverence and respect. I have taken animals out of awful, inhumane situations, and with Scotty’s help, given them a place in our home where they get the love and care they deserve. As my babies have grown into children and Scotty’s job takes him elsewhere most days, caring for these critters has given me purpose when my family leaves for their various daytime activities. They need me. They trust me. I will not betray that. Just as Scotty picked me up out of the gutter so long ago, I pay it forward. Watching them heal and recover from their past is a visceral reminder of the tenacity of the spirit.
It is truly amazing what time and love can heal. I have learned so much in caring for my animals, and have been inspired by their resilience and forgiveness. I see our fellow creatures as teachers of great lessons, if you are patient and really listen. They have saved me, as I have saved them, and I will always have room in my heart for one more.
Recovery is work and choices. Daily action and conscious choice in every moment, and strength of resolve and will are required. There is very little luck involved, more of a constancy of resolve in choosing to change, persistently choosing to live, to move forward, to be better than yesterday.
Not everyone can or will persevere over their demon in time for it to matter, if at all. During the years I was addicted, and the years I spent healing and recovering, others quietly began the descent into addiction. Those that didn’t recover ended up in jail, in mental institutions, or dead.
Addiction battered and mangled my little brother for ten years before he was found dead of an overdose at the age of thirty-one years, six months and thirteen days. Though I had been told to prepare myself for his death, the news of his passing took the strength from my body, the air from my lungs, and drew a scream from my lips that was the sound of my heart breaking.
Cam was my only brother, my soul twin, my best friend. I floundered, my sadness so vast I couldn’t find the edges, a grayness that tainted and overtook my being. I struggled to exist in a world without him, but Scotty and our girls were the reason I kept breathing. I felt gray and numb, as though my soul had partially detached from my physical form, floating somewhere above me.
I might have floated away like a puff of cloud, but my family anchored me with their love, the only landmark in my gray ocean of grief.
Before addiction began to squeeze the joy and life out of him, Cam was brilliant, athletic, and worked incredibly hard at everything he did. As a teen he played high level baseball, and represented Canada in trampoline & tumbling, all while excelling in the most advanced high school classes available. He attained a university degree, and jumped out of helicopters to fight forest fires. Cam was authentic and funny, and a generous, kindhearted person. The last time I saw him before his death, I could barely comprehend that this shriveled, aged, fragile man was my strong, sweet brother.
I have guilt that for all my self-destruction, I still live, yet, my brother suffered and died so badly despite his victorious past. It is difficult to accept that I survived, but he did not. There is no comfort for his loss, and I will always hold him dear in my heart and hug his box of ashes when I miss him.
However, there is still life, and I try to live well, in his memory, and for all of those who didn’t make it out. I try to do things that I am proud of, to laugh and to cry, and to get every drop out of this gift of life. In this way, I remember him every day, and always keep him with me. Life is for the living, and so we carry on, but we don’t forget.
* * *
It’s been over ten years since we began our new lives, and I am thankful for the past because it has allowed us to be where we are now. I am absolutely grateful for my life, my husband, my kids, my animals, my parents, and all the other blessings too numerous to count. I take time to feel the air moving in and out of my lungs, to feel the ground beneath me, and to make sure the people I love know how special they are to me.
Life, with its twists, its ecstasy and agony, is so very precious. I don’t need a perfect life to feel unbelievably blessed to live it. I’ll take it all, the bad with the good, because one without the other means nothing.
About Aerielle Buchholz
Aerielle Buchholz resides in Red Deer, Alberta. She and her husband, Scott, have two daughters, Adria Sunshine and Rae Summer. A stay-at-home mom and caretaker of their mini zoo, Aerielle’s interests include yoga, art, nature, and singing.
An empath, Aerielle often feels other beings’ emotions. Creative and resilient, her favorite quote is by Dylan Thomas (1914 – 1953): “Do not go gentle into that good night. … Rage, rage against the dying of the light.” When asked what she believes is her greatest accomplishment, her response was, “Making it through life so far.”
Aerielle is available to speak to groups about addiction, recovery, depression, and grief.
Contact Aerielle by e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org
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