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

 Literature Legacy
Your Message/Mission/Movement in Writing
Increased Business, Speaker & Author Credibility
Equal Royalty Share from Online Bookstore Sales
You Retain Profits from Books You Sell
Writing Guidance, Training & Mentoring
Professional Content & Grammar Editing
Shared Book Promotion
You Retain Publishing Rights for Your Contribution
Rights Protected via an Earth Angels Series Coauthor Agreement




Earth Angels Movement & Guinness World Record for the


To launch our five-book series, we've applied to Guinness World Records to establish the record for the Largest Human Peace Sign. 
Hosted by authors from the Earth Angels Series and the Heartmind Wisdom Collection, we'll establish the record at a free family music festival on Sunday, September 20th, 2020, the day before the United Nations International Day of Peace. 
Thereafter, we'll annually register to surpass our record and invite other communities to do the same. Below is a video of the first peace concert hosted by the authors from the Heartmind Wisdom Collection.


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

As part of our movement, we will commission statement T-shirts and other merchandise displaying a variety of positive messages gleaned from authors' chapters. Along with the books in the series, Earth Angels merchandise is available through the HEARTMIND STORE.

Ongoing Promotion

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.


Coauthor Royalties

Earth Angels Series coauthors share equally in book royalties. 
The Chicken Soup for the Soul series has sold over 500 million copies. We can't guarantee that the Earth Angels Series will enjoy book sales in the hundreds of millions; however, below is some doable royalties math.
100 copies sold - Your royalty share $27
1,000 copies sold - Your royalty share $270
10,000 copies sold - Your royalty share $2,700
100,000 copies sold - Your royalty share $27,000
1,000,000 copies sold - Your royalty share $227,000



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Welcome! to the

Earth Angels Series & Movement

The thirteen journeys of triumph in this first edition of the Earth Angels Series are authentic accounts of how each author overcame a loss, addiction, misstep, or hardship... and went on to thrive. These empowering stories will inspire your creativity and resilience when facing your own challenges, and give you insights for counseling a loved one in need.
Read the excerpts from the book (below) to get a sense of the stories. Should you feel a kinship with an author and want to reach out, you'll find bio and contact information at the end of each chapter.


More than simply publishing a book, the authors have started an Earth Angels Movement. Together with readers like you, we are seeding love, hope, inspiration, peace, and kindness around the globe. If you're not already a member, please join the movement at:
One of our greatest hopes is that when you're finished reading this book, you'll gift it to a friend. One story, one kind act at a time, we will create the world our hearts desire.
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Excerpts from EARTH ANGELS #1

 13 Journeys of Triumph - Wisdom with Wings

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Cancer wasn't a stranger to Marla Lackey's family; it invaded their lives. Her grandmother and two aunts had survived breast cancer. Unbelievably, when her mother's breast cancer was diagnosed, Marla's dad was undergoing chemotherapy for bladder cancer. Her world seemed to be falling apart.
Excerpt from Marla's Chapter
"From her breast cancer diagnosis forward, Mom and I extinguished fear through faith--me, by continually reminding her of the lessons she'd taught me about how with God's help we'd get through whatever was meant to be; her, by demonstrating God's love to everyone she met.
Following her mastectomy, Mom started radiation and chemotherapy. One day when we were at the clinic for her treatment, we were watching The Price is Right on the small waiting room television when a frail and pale older woman approached Mom.'Excuse me,' she said. 'Every time I see you in this waiting room, you always look so good. What is your secret?'
Popping her purse open, Mom rummaged around before holding up a gold tube and declaring, 'Faith and a tube of lipstick!'
Amazed that Mom had immediately located her lipstick when finding anything in her stuffed handbag was a feat in itself, I exchanged smiles with the sweet woman. From her ashen skin tone and recessed dark eyes, it was easy to tell that the treatments were taking their toll on her well-being. Seconds later, the nurse called Mom's name. It was time for her appointment.
'God bless you,' Mom said with a wave as the two of us stood and quickly gathered our things. Always fearful of what we might learn from her most recent scan, I felt a familiar jolt of anxiety in my stomach. Putting on a brave face, I kept pace with Mom as she marched toward the nurse."
In 2000, once the shock of having macular degeneration fully registered, Roswyn Nelson had a choice to make--she could whine and wail about "poor me," or she could do a bunch of things on her bucket list. Topping her list was hosteling across Canada and the United States.
Excerpt from Roswyn's Chapter
"It was still pelting rain when I drove into the concrete-walled compound and parked as close as possible to the entrance of a huge grey building. Having functioned as a jail between 1862 and 1972, it had been transformed into a haven for travelers. That night, it was depressingly uninviting. Except for the rain drumming on my car roof, the immense deserted courtyard was uncannily quiet. Sparse lighting cast grotesque shadows across mud puddles that were everywhere. My car the only one in sight, I assumed there had to be additional parking somewhere else. Too tired, stressed and hungry to look for it, I decided to check out the place before lugging in my sleeping bag, luggage and food. After registering at the front desk, I set out to explore.
I found the kitchen first. Like the setting for a horror movie, it was located deep in a cavernous dungeon. Past dinnertime, there was no one around. The place was eerily silent, and the dim lights failed to penetrate the dark corners. No way I was cooking in there.
I climbed the concrete steps to the lounge on the sixth floor. Doors banged and clanged as I opened and closed them between each level of the dimly lit and cold cement stairwell. The hair on my neck sprang straight as I stood in the doorway of the lounge. The room was in total darkness except for the flickering movie on a huge screen. The whites of a hundred eyes peered at me. Nope, there was no way I was spending time in there.
The sleeping quarters were tiers of jail cells divided into blocks by thick steel doors that banged and echoed in the silence. Each cell contained two bunks for four willing 'inmates.' The original steel-barred doors squeaked when opened and clanged when closed. Chills ran down my spine! Nope, not sleeping in there.
There are those who enjoy the stories of ghosts, lost souls, scary bumps in the night, and glimpsing unexplained shadows. Not one of them, I fled to my car. After eating a peanut butter sandwich, I curled up in my sleeping bag and fell asleep to the soothing sound of the continuous rain. The next day dawned grey and soggy." 
Despite the clear image of a past life Josephine Lavallee visualized during a guided meditation, her skepticism vacillated between disbelief and absolute trust in the truth of her vision. "What if I had only imagined glimpses of my life from centuries earlier?" quickly altered to "How could it not be true?"
Excerpt from Josephine's Chapter
"During the thirty-minute hypnotic meditation, I somehow had slipped into my past life from centuries ago. As my mind's eye image sharpened, I saw a crystal-clear picture of me as a young woman in her late teens or early twenties. I walked alone. The road I journeyed extended for miles, and eventually led to the center of town and a roadhouse tavern. The narrow country lane, only wide enough for a single horse and buggy, appeared rutted, muddy and pebbled. There were several potholes containing groundwater. Viewing this visualization while in a calm state of consciousness, I believed the time was late spring after the thaw. I was in rural France, the homeland of my distant ancestor Louis XIV.
I wore an unattractive, ankle-length tweed skirt. A light-gray hooded cape covered my hair and flowed over my shoulders and hips. My feet were bare, except for brown leather sandals that crisscrossed over my arches, and then curved around my heels for added support.
I sensed that having been shunned, disregarded and dismissed, I was walking away from a religious order. Although my Mother Superior had rejected me, I felt safe, spiritually protected, and shrouded in divine love. What had I done? Was I unworthy of being a sister-nun? Why had I been ordered to leave by my Mother Superior? 
Crystal meth erased all Aerielle Buchholz other needs and thoughts, and replaced them with one gnawing, desperate, constant hunger to keep her pipe full and delay the come down for as long as possible. She wanted nothing else.
Excerpt from Aerielle's Chapter
"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 had gone 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."
Stepping out of the Cairo airport, in her mind's ear, Gwendolyn Wiberg heard, "You are home." Knowing it was true, she wanted to give her suitcases away and declare that she was an Egyptian citizen, or rather, an ancient Egyptian citizen who had finally returned home.
Excerpt from Gwendolyn's Chapter
"Two nights later, only short naps for sleep, the cool white Giza Plateau sand slipping over my sandals and between my toes, it was as though I were literally walking on the sands of times. Three a.m. on a starlit night, all was quiet except for the excited whispers of my tour companions. Aware that we were about to break the law in a police state, I watched and listened as we made our way to the Great Sphinx. What would happen if the guards of the plateau discovered us, decided we were naughty tourists, took us away to God knows where, and threw away the key? In a heartbeat, my unshakable dream could become my unshakable nightmare.
Our plan was to hold a group meditation within the outstretched paws of the sacred lion with the head of a king. Once out on the plateau, we'd be in view of any guards on duty. I prayed that if any UFOs were flying above, that they please share their cloaking ability and keep us safe. The closer we came, the quieter our group became as we moved pack-like: hearts thumping, eyes and ears keened for any sign of danger."
At sixty-four years of age, Gerry Beazely realized the truths in his Grandma Helen's spiritual teachings. Would his dying wife's selfless prediction prove to be true too? Perhaps the answer would be revealed late at night when his grandfather's spirit visited him again.
Excerpt from Gerry's Chapter
"Just above and on the bed, was a column of constantly moving white light. It looked like a cross between a lava lamp and a plasma globe that I'd seen at a science fair. Staring at it, my sense was that I was peering into the mystical reaches of the universe.
On the chance that I was hallucinating, I closed and opened my eyes. It was still there.
I blinked a number of times. Still there.
Exhilarated more than startled, I tentatively reached into the breathtaking light.
When my arm disappeared up to my wrist, I quickly retracted it.
Still curious, I touched the outer glow of the light, surprised when I could feel its energy.
It disappeared.
Nothing else happened for a couple of weeks. Then, one night, I felt the bed moving, opened my eyes, and the light was there again.
'You know who this is,' a male voice said.
Incredibly exhausted from taking care of and worrying about Sharron day and night, I thought, 'I'm floundering in the deep end of the pool here. This can't be happening.' With nothing to lose but the remnants of my sanity, I said, 'No, I don't.'
I heard a chuckle before the voice said, 'Come on now, son.'
The hair on my skin stood straight. The throaty laugh was that of my deceased grandfather. When alive and time permitted, Grandpa Clifford and I had done many things together, including my working with him as he cleaned the school and the church. He'd always referred to me as 'son.'"
Margit Cleven's mother was a grizzly bear when it came to loving her children, caring for them, and where possible, protecting them from harm. When her mother died, Margit hoped that she had exited the world without awareness of some of the dangerous activities her kids had braved with great enthusiasm.
Excerpt from Margit's Chapter
"My mom accepted everything I did and said. She was always there for me, not only for our daily phone calls, but also for celebrating special events, helping with my children, lending an ear when I needed to vent, and a shoulder when I cried. With the heart of an angel, Mom always managed to provide protection and love, without passing judgement.
One time, I drove to SeaTac airport in Seattle, Washington, to pick Mom up from her most recent Hawaiian vacation. While she was away, I spent some of my free time at Wreck Beach. It was a 'clothing optional' beach in Vancouver, British Columbia, and was a few dozen miles away from where I lived. Sporting a new tattoo of a wizard on my right calf, wearing a half-buttoned man's shirt with the Wreck Beach logo on the back, and braless, I wasn't certain as to how Mom would react.
When she arrived, Mom hugged me as she tried to arrange my shirt so my boobs weren't exposed. Pulling away, she said, 'Margit, you have dirt on your right leg.'
'It's not dirt, Mom. It's a tattoo,' I said with an innocent smile.
And with that, we located her luggage, and left the airport. Mom didn't mention my tattoo again, until I got my second one.
Maria Manna's family immigrated to Canada from Italy. For her mother and father, it was always about bella figura, which loosely translates into English as beautiful impression. Catholic, divorce was unacceptable. When Maria separated from her husband, she and her parents were shunned by the Italian community. Would Maria's becoming Klondike Kate--the ambassador of Edmonton, Alberta's annual festival celebrating the rich history of the Yukon Gold Rush--restore them to grace?
Excerpt from Maria's Chapter
"Musicians, my husband and I performed at nearly every Italian wedding and baptism in Edmonton, Alberta, where we lived. In addition, I sang at all local Italian funerals. As gossip about our divorce spread, when I would arrive at a community event, shopping mall, or restaurant, people I'd thought were friends would avert their gaze as they whispered behind their hands.
Church remained a safe haven. However, well-known throughout Edmonton, even when I attended a Catholic service outside of the Italian community, some members of the congregation would look away as I approached. Though people's reactions stung, I understood the unwritten and coveted creed--good Catholics do not get divorced, and if they do, they should not attend Catholic Church.
A regular churchgoer, I knew the masses inside out, and would often recite along with the priest. When no longer able to cope with being shunned, I attended other Christian churches. Despite what people might think, I knew that God would never abandon me.
Though my decision to leave my marriage was a necessary one, I was depressed from feeling alone in my heart. As happens in most divorces, our friends took sides. Almost everyone favored, included and nurtured my husband. Viewing me as an emotionally strong person, few people realized that I needed support too."
BAR CODE: The Right Side of the Bars by DWAYNE FAHLMAN
Right or wrong, to survive in prison, guards and inmates both honor the same code--act tough, or die. When these codes are broken, repercussions are imminent. During Dwayne Fahlman's twenty-seven years as a corrections officer, he learned that the bad guys are not always on the inside of the bars.
Excerpt from Dwayne's Chapter
"Bang! Bang! Two rounds from my .38 caliber handgun shot out of the barrel. The escapee had paused two seconds too long before he scaled the wall. I'd hit him dead-on. Daylight, from the observation tower, I could see he was headed for an open field, and fired two more shots. The RCMP caught the guy a few minutes later.
As we debriefed, 'Good shooting,' said the RCMP officer in charge.
'Where'd I get him?' I asked.
'In the leg,' answered a veteran officer.
It was either the most stupid or most brazen escape attempt I'd ever witnessed. Having never shot anyone before, the situation seemed surreal. Regardless, I'd done what was expected of me. A few minutes later, in my supervisor's office, the attitude toward my actions changed.
'Why did you shoot?' my supervisor bellowed.
'Because the prisoner was running away!' I answered. 'That's what I was trained to do.'
'This means a lot of paperwork and an inquiry!'
I shook my head without saying another word.
Later that night, I received a call from the jail letting me know that the guy I'd shot had escaped from the hospital.
'How did that happen?' I asked.
'Two guards were knocked down, and he took off. We think the escapee's headed your way. We're sending a patrol car to watch your house.'"
When Joseph Aquilino was thirty years old, he became one of the over fifty million Americans living with chronic, often unbearable, pain. One day while at work, a huge can of tomato sauce fell off a shelf and landed on Joseph's foot. Screaming in pain, he collapsed on the floor. By that evening, his foot had doubled in size and had turned brown with red spots. When he touched his foot, it felt cold and his skin stung. A month later, his pain level and condition unchanged, Joseph was diagnosed as having Complex Regional Pain Syndrome (CRPS), also known as Reflex Sympathetic Dystrophy (RSD).
Excerpt from Joseph's Chapter
"In 2011, I started my Blog Talk Radio show, and in January 2014, I created the JGF Foundation and JGF Enterprises with the intent of helping others and educating the public about chronic pain. Ironically and gratefully, the person I helped the most was me.
Rather than feel victimized by RSD/CRPS, I felt empowered. My life hadn't been ruined by chronic pain, it had been redirected. I was a victor with a purpose. Though pain, depression and anxiety remained daily companions, hiding in bed was no longer an option. Feeling sorry for myself was no longer an option. I had work to do!
By informing and supporting those diagnosed with RSD/CRPS, I could shine a positive and hopeful light into the darkness of despair. By educating their loved ones, employers and physicians, I could help dissolve the skepticism and ridicule that often accompanies an invisible and disabling condition. Unable to participate in activities they'd once enjoyed, I could help chronic pain sufferers alleviate the hurt of losing friends and sense of isolation. As an Internet community, we could count on one another."
Cross-eyed, when Irene Armstrong was four, she was fitted with glasses and an eyepatch. Wearing them took some getting used to; especially, the first morning she stepped outside to help Dad with the dairy farm chores and her glasses fogged. Irene's dad had a solution for that--carry a handkerchief. It was a good idea because he'd once shown her how a farmer blows his nose when he doesn't have a hankie.
Excerpt from Irene's Chapter
"Following Dad's funeral, I moved into my townhouse alone. A few days later, on New Year's Eve, I lit a fire, opened a bottle of wine, and took stock of my life. I wasn't simply overwhelmed by the loss of Dad, I was angry at him for leaving me. How could he just give up? Who was I going to live my life for now?
The last question was an aha moment. In the equation of variables that made up my life... one, two, three... where was me? For years, I did my best to make him proud. I'd become an accountant because Dad had suggested it was a perfect career for me. Fearing he'd never approve of my mate choice, I never married.
First with Dad and then with my ex-boyfriend, my sense of self-worth was dependent on praise from the men in my life. It was a part of my journey that had served me well in certain areas, and stifled me in others. Regardless, it was no longer a problem--I was on my own. Where to next?"
There was a time when Arnold Vingsnes believed that anything and everything was possible. Love lost, regained! Unwanted habits broken. Promises to himself realized. But before he knew it, Arnold was out of the I've-got-time game. Son of a gun, so much time gone and so little left.
Excerpt from Arnold's Chapter
"I was nineteen when I connected with the wrong crowd. I wasn't consciously looking for these folks, but when we met, I recognized them as pseudo kindred spirits. They didn't buy into society's robotic-functioning plan. They lived life in the moment. Especially, David.
A family friend, over the years that we'd been acquainted, David had driven a series of sports cars and Harley Davidson motorcycles. Movie-star handsome, he had the long confident strut of a man born to ride. Though he never seemed to work, he always had money. It wasn't until we started hanging together, and I became privy to the stacks of money that occasionally adorned his kitchen table, that I realized the source of his seemingly idle income. He was a drug dealer.
Though impressed with what he had--a flashy penthouse, a kickass 63 split-window Corvette, and the meanest looking Harley I'd ever seen--I wasn't tempted to follow in his career steps. It was the live-and-let-live sixties era when many young folks were dabbling in illicit drugs and living to tell the tales of their trips. With my long hair, beard and penchant for black attire, fitting in with his biker gang friends wasn't an issue. Once, David nonchalantly asked if I'd make a drug delivery for which he'd pay me handsomely. I declined. He never asked again.
A few months after he asked, he was busted for drug trafficking. I visited him in jail, and we hung out together when he got out. It wasn't long before he was again behind bars. Old pastimes die hard. Over the years, David never gave up drug dealing, the cops never gave up catching him, and I never gave up our friendship."
Oceanna Rivers held back in relationships. Perhaps to protect herself... maybe because she wanted to be viewed as being special... Oceanna hid behind emotional barriers that kept her boxed like a prisoner in a tiny world, a lonely world.
Excerpt from Oceanna's Chapter
"Excitement filled my being as I gently and lovingly became aware of my body on the snow-covered boardwalk, my physical self. I don't know how long I had spiritually disconnected from my earthly form. However, though I felt warm, frost clung to my lashes and my hair was stiff from the cold. For the first time ever, my surrendered-self basked in unconditional love. Never before had I felt such tenderness toward myself, love for myself... and at peace with the world.
It took me a few moments to digest what had happened. While within the light of pure love, essence-wise, I had ceased to coexist with my earthly body. Yet, its heart still beat, its skin still felt cold. While in essence-form, I remained warm, safe and protected by the light of eternal love.
Once again fully connected with my physical body, fear rose within me as I desperately tried to hold onto my connection to the lovingness of Source. Glancing toward the sky, I searched the falling snow for a glimmer of the essence gifted to me by the perfect snowflake. Feeling none, I ran toward a nearby birch tree. Perhaps I was meant to connect with eternal love through another nature source.
Now knee-deep in snow, I reached out with my gloved hand and touched the trunk of the tree that would hopefully transport me back into the blissful sense of peace."


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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!  

Connect with Joy Ross 
Phone: 250.634.0050 in Victoria, British Columbia





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: