Let it ring!

I woke up thinking about last night’s blog post and interview of Trish, of course, hoping that telling her story helps her as much as telling mine has always helped me. Of course, who knows, right? But, I do believe the truth sets us free. And we are all just here to walk each other through this giant shit show of a life, and a big part of the how we do that is by sharing our stories. So, I pray this morning that Trish’s heart is not conflicted after “publicly” and bravely sharing hers.

And, I dedicate this song to Trish, and all the other gays raised in and rejected by “the church.” Although I did not ask Trish what HER relationship is now with “faith” and/or God, I know her well enough to say here that “it’s complicated.” And, I can understand why.

I’m grateful that was not my experience — that my faith is not tied up in or with my sexuality at all. My faith got all wonky when I began drinking and drugging, long before I began to question my sexuality. Getting sober was my path back to faith and to a relationship with spirituality. Trish has her own story and own journey there, and I bet it’s gonna be a tough one. All that to say, I offer this amazing song by Amy Ray, “Let it Ring,” this morning, for you, Trish, “may the strife make [you] stronger.” ❤️

Xo,

C.

“You can cite the need for wars
Call us infidels or whores
Either way we’ll be your neighbor
So let it ring” — Amy Ray

Let it ring

HAPPY NATIONAL COMING OUT DAY: OCTOBER 11, 2020

In honor of National Coming Out Day, an interview with my fiancé, Trish Fields, below.

Unlike Trish, I never had to really “come out” to others. I only had to come out to myself, which wasn’t always easy – it was a journey of self-discovery – but when it came to other people, I just told them I was dating women now and they were all like “yeah, sure, okay.” NO BIG DEAL. I’m very fortunate to be surrounded by super liberal people, but I’m well aware how lucky I am and that it is not like that for everyone, and was certainly not like that for my fiancé, Trish, so let’s get into it.

Thank you for coming out, Trish Fields.

Trish, thank you for doing this, and I’m wondering if you can tell us about your coming out story? Are there multiple ones? Hmm.  I’m not sure where to start …

Ok.  Well, when did you first suspect you were gay? When I was a kid – pretty young, maybe 5 or 6, but I didn’t know it was a thing, my best friend and I hung out together a lot and I just liked her A LOT.  I had a crush on her, but didn’t know that it was a thing, that girls could like girls. (Turns out, she is now gay too!) And after that, there were always “friends” who I really, really liked and sort of obsessed over, but I just thought that was normal.

When did you first hear the term “gay”? I was about 10 and my parents had good friends that were counselling a lesbian couple, and I sort of realized they were a couple, but everyone was very negative about it, and my mom said that one of them warned her “watch out for that,” (meaning me)! They warned her (my mom) that I was gay.  My mom told me this when I was like 35, after I was already out.  Everyone was weird and negative about these 2 women being a couple.

Any other gay people in your world? [She laughs]. No, no gays in the church.  In high school, sure, but no one was out – I dated all the gay boys – seriously! 3 of my high school boyfriends are now gay.

What was your community? Seventh Day Adventist in Hagerstown Maryland – a very close knit tight community – Adventist church, schools, all your friends are Adventist – you don’t know anyone outside of the church. 

How long was this your world? Until I was 24 and started working in a Catholic hospital.

So until 24, you only knew Adventists? Basically, yes.

In the Adventists world, anyone gay would be in the closet? Yes, 100%

In the Hagerstown Adventist world, had anyone come out prior to you? Yes friends of my family – someone did and it was a huge scandal in the community and everyone talked about them and made fun of them.  The person left the area – moved away – was just gone when they came out. So prior to my coming out, there was one, who was ridiculed and ostracized.  And one other, right before me, and the same thing but they didn’t move away, but were out of the church, out of the community and totally ridiculed and ostracized by the community.  But that was when I was older, right before I came out, and was the first person I was able to talk to about what I was about to do, so I’m so grateful for them. 

How long did you have to hide who you were? Until I was 34, but I didn’t know because I was in denial to myself, even though I felt different from everyone else. 

Did you know how the church – your community – felt about gay people? Yes, that it’s wrong, it’s a sin.  You won’t be “saved.”

So, when did you begin to explore this difference you mentioned? When I was 34, and started working with an “out lesbian” doctor, and I was fascinated with her and we became good friends.  And then I started going to her parties and meeting more gay people and I felt very comfortable and started questioning the teachings of the church – I started thinking the church was wrong.  I started thinking: why would God have a problem with these people? These are good people!  Why would God keep these nice, kind people out of Heaven?

Ok, when did you start wondering about your own sexuality? A couple years later, I met another friend at the hospital who I spent a lot of time with who started asking me questions about myself.  She started asking direct questions about things she was picking up on that I was putting out, maybe? Sexual chemistry or tension? And she talked about it like it was no big deal.

And is that when you realized that you were gay or queer or bisexual? No, I just wanted to kiss her, and I did and it was like a whole world opened up and I was like “okay everything makes sense now.’

So who was the first person you came out to? That friend that I kissed. 

And you were married at the time? To a man? And had small children? So, you had to come out to him? And to the kids? And to the church? And to your parents? And friends? And family? How did that go? If you don’t mind telling us? Pretty terrible.  Basically, I lost all my friends.  My parents didn’t want to talk about it, but that was fine, I didn’t want to talk about it with them either.  My ex-husband wanted to send me to conversion camp.  I didn’t want to break up the family, but I also knew I couldn’t live a lie anymore, I knew I wasn’t straight.  I felt like I had been suffocating all my life and I finally figured out WHY!  I finally knew the why!  And felt like I could finally breathe and couldn’t go back to being suffocated.  I couldn’t stay in the church as an “out” lesbian, the only way I could be a member of the church was to go back in the closet and that wasn’t going to happen, so I lost my entire community: my church, my friends, my family.  I knew that was going to happen, but … The worst part was the girls … I didn’t want it to affect them, but I knew it would (they were only 3 and 5 at the time), but I knew their friends and their friends parents would talk about it, would talk about me. 

Did they lose their friends?  No, and actually they were able to talk to their friends about being gay and that their mom was gay and that it wasn’t bad.

Were the girls still in the church? When they were younger … now they are finding their own way.

Would you mind telling us, briefly, how BAD it got for you? Did you ever think you wouldn’t make it through this? I felt like I was losing my mind.  It was a messy divorce.  Everything was messy and fake and at time I felt like I was going crazy!  I couldn’t see a light at the end of the tunnel at times.  I didn’t see a way out of it all.

BUT YOU DID make it through it all and found your way out!!! And how did you do it? Finding new friends who accepted me for who I was without judgment.  Like all my coworkers – they all accepted me without judgment.  It was shocking especially compared to what I was going through with my “home community,” who was totally excluding me.

So you built a NEW community? Yes, coworkers who became friends and eventually found my friends at the Café, which was a HUGE turning point for myself and the girls, because the Café is close to home and was a new place we could gather outside of the house, where we were entirely accepted as we were.  They took me in and treated me and the girls like family.  They took care of us. 

And, now, how are things going for you? Now I’m in the best place of my life.  I’m happier than I’ve ever been.  I’m 50 and I feel like I know who I am and I’m very happy with who I am and I’m glad I finally figured it out, even if it did take until I was 34.  I always had this underlying anger before coming out and I never knew why – but after coming out, that went away. 

Were you able to do some healing with your old community? The religious community? Your family? Old friends? Ex-husband?  After years and years … there is some healing, we had Christmas dinner at my ex-husbands and his new wife’s so the girls didn’t have to go to multiple houses.  The church and that community … NO.  Some old friends, but only the other ones who have come out, really.  There are a couple who are supportive though.  Some family here and there that are supportive.  My biological family (I’m adopted) are very supportive and not Adventist. 

What’s next for you, Trish Fields? I’m getting married in 12 days to the most amazing woman and I’ve never been more excited about anything in my life.  That is the truth.  (Not just because she is writing this either … LOL).  And I don’t feel apprehension like I normally do about exciting things – I can’t wait.

So, Trish, you know I am all about service.  I truly believe that we all go through whatever terrible or beautiful thing we are going through so that we can use that to serve others.   I think one gift you have is sharing your STORY of HOPE with young, maybe closeted, religious kids to let them know that IT GETS BETTER and that they aren’t alone, that their stories are important and matter.  You are already a great example just by living your life out in the open and by letting me share your story with my tiny audience here. 

Thanks Babe! I can’t wait to marry you.

Xo,

C.

Trish and I have committed to donating 10% of all money gifted to us at our October 23rd small, gay wedding to The Trevor Project. The Trevor Project is “the leading national organization providing crisis intervention and suicide prevention services to lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer & questioning youth.”  Learn more, volunteer and donate to The Trevor Project by visiting them at thetrevorproject.org.

How White Silence Hurts Us All

elijah

(Image from abc7.com)

Please visit https://www.gofundme.com/f/elijah-mcclain to contribute to his mom’s campaign and to learn about the fight for justice for Elijah.  🖤

In 2012, when I first got sober, I took a spin class at in gym I’d never been to near where I live now in Baltimore County. I’d never seen any of the ladies in this class before and they all clearly knew each other, but to them I was a total stranger. But that did not stop them from having, what I felt then (and now), a super racially charged and offensive conversation. One woman was telling the others how her child was in a violin competition over the weekend and another woman asked if “a lot of Asian kids were there?” The woman replied yes. She then asked if there were any Black kids, and these women all started laughing, and the mom replied, “HAHA, no, you know THEY aren’t going to do anything they actually have to work for.”

These spin class women all laughed. I was in shock. I couldn’t believe my ears. Where was I? Did I suddenly time warp back to the 1960s??? Do they not see me here? Yes, I’m a White female just like them, but they do not know me!!! I’m a stranger! But … I said nothing. I did nothing. The spin teacher walked in and class started. I never went back to that class.

Months later I told my Black friends/coworkers about this and they were outraged, and asked me what I did and I honestly answered: nothing.  I knew in that moment that I missed an important opportunity. I saw it in my friends’ faces.  I vowed to myself in that moment to say something the next time. To do better. I owed it to my friends, to myself, and to the world I want to be a part of.

That spin class moment has crossed my mind a lot during these past months, and especially upon hearing of Elijah McClain’s brutal death, and learning of his gentle life and love of the violin. I wish I had done something.  I wish I had spoken up in that spin class. Or I wish I had gone back. Maybe the answer wasn’t running away from them, but getting to know them, so that when I post this video today, they could see it? Maybe. I don’t know. But I do know I still have a lot to learn. A lot of work to do. And I’m spending my time these days doing just that: working through the Justice in June link in my bio, listening, and thinking.  I struggled with posting this story here, because do we need yet another White voice talking about race? But this memory makes me THAT uncomfortable that I knew I had to share it.

As the child of super liberal parents, or as a Public Defender in Baltimore City, it is very easy for me to say I am not part of the problem.  Or as a clean and sober person who understands I have no criminal history because of my white privilege, I can say, “see, I get it?! I understand white privilege.  I’m part of the solution and not part of the problem!!!”  But, in that moment in that spin class in 2012, when I stayed silent, I was part of the problem.  White silence IS part of the problem. Staying silent when the “jokes” are made.  Not speaking up about things we are uncomfortable about or the things we know are wrong.  That is how these systems thrive and flourish. The mistake I made in that spin class was thinking those women were “bad racist women,” and so I didn’t go back, when the truth was we were all playing a part in an oppressive racist system, including me.  My part was staying silent because I didn’t want to be uncomfortable.  Choosing silence over discomfort.  Not today.

#blacklivesmatter

#justiceforelijahmcclain

My White Privilege & the Police: reflections at 8 years clean & sober

I have thought about this post for several weeks since I celebrated 8 years clean and sober on June 4th.  I didn’t officially celebrate this year, because I couldn’t stop thinking about George Floyd (and Ahmaud Arbery and Breonna Taylor and now Rayshard Brooks).  I couldn’t stop thinking about how their interactions with police ended with them being murdered.  Because they were black.  Because of something that they had no control over: the color of their skin.

And I couldn’t stop thinking about all my interactions with the police during my 29 years of active addiction and alcoholism.  And how all those interactions not only didn’t result in physical harm to me IN THE SLIGHTEST, but also did not result in legal consequences.  And, that is not because I’m smarter than the police.  Or because I’m lucky. Or because of God’s grace.  It is because of something I have no control over: the color of my skin.  How do I know this? Because it wasn’t one, or two, but a pattern of interactions with police, that happened over 29 years and across three different states.

My first encounter with the police was when I was 17 and had stolen a construction sign in broad daylight.  The police came to my house.  I lied straight to their faces.  I was a rude, arrogant, entitled 17 year old brat.  The police accepted my fake alibi and left.  Nothing happened. My next encounter was shortly after that, when they were called after I kept driving drunk around my neighborhood, and my friend yelled at a parent who told me to slow down.  That parent called the cops.  The police again came to my house.  Again, I was rude, entitled, dismissive, and drunk, and again, nothing happened to me. Yes, I was a bratty 17 year old, but I was also in pain and from a troubled home and had just begun a career in addiction and alcoholism, unbeknownst to me until many years later.

As an adult, I had many, many encounters with the police, usually after car accidents, always while I was under the influence, and frequently while I had things in the car that I should not have had.  Each time, I lied, I cried, I was entitled, I told them what they could and couldn’t do to me.  For some reason, they listened, and each time, nothing happened. (And by nothing, I mean they not only never physically touched me, they also never ticketed me, searched me, nor arrested me.  And they certainly should have.)

Frequently, I was under the influence of drugs, so maybe you’ll say “well, the police couldn’t smell booze, so of course I got away with it,” but police show up in courtrooms every day claiming to be “drug recognition experts,” in cases where (mostly) black people are charged with driving with under the influence of a controlled dangerous substance.  And yet, I did not get charged.  Ever. Some of these were horrific accidents with many cars involved and lots of substances in my system, on my person and in my possession, but yet … nothing. I truly felt above the law. Untouchable. During those years I did believe I was a special kind of drunk / high driver. When in reality it was just that I was white.

I never once worried about anything other than a criminal record when I saw those flashing blue lights, and because I didn’t “look like” what someone with drugs on them and in their car looked like, each time, I got away with it.   I never feared that the police would kill me.  I didn’t have to worry about where to put my hands or what to say or not say so I wouldn’t be hurt.  Those thoughts never crossed my mind.  In fact, I thought nothing of mouthing off to police as an entitled white woman under the influence. And I did mouth off. I didn’t respect them. I wasn’t quiet. And guess what? They still didn’t put their hands in me AND they didn’t arrest me. I not only was rude to cops when stopped but I would challenge them — as if I was daring them to DO SOMETHING to me?!! I had no fear. I literally couldn’t imagine a world in which they would pull me out of my car, throw me to the ground, and put their knee on my neck … That is white privilege.

** (And yes, I am aware of intersectionality and that I am white and female and that maybe it is both of those things that kept me free of police violence and criminal convictions. But I believe police see white first before they see female, and yet, I’m do understand they see both.)

I am fortunate that I was able to get help and turn my life around. I am not that same person today. I no longer drive drunk and/or high. I’m clean and sober today and able to make amends for my past mistakes. But that intervention did not come at the hands of law enforcement or the courts. I sought treatment on my own. If I had waited for the police to intervene in my self destructing, I may still be waiting. They were not looking for someone like me to be committing crimes. That’s unfortunate for them and society as a whole, but fortunate for my criminal record (or lack of one). Many many police officers put a “dangerous criminal” back on the street time and time again because I did not meet their definition of what a drug user looked like. And I’m grateful. That is white privilege.

Ps – a White friend recently asked what to do about our White privilege? Do we give it away? Disown it?? I don’t think that’s possible. I think first we acknowledge it. Stop pretending it doesn’t exist. Next, we use it to affect change – get out on the front lines, use our voices and power to dismantle these systems of racism we’ve inherited. And then we start extending our privilege. Use it to protect and then create privilege for our Black and Brown neighbors. The goal, I think, is not to take away your privilege, but to turn your and my privilege into OUR privilege … ALL of OUR privilege.

Recovery Resources During a Pandemic — Getting and Staying Sober While Quarantineed

If you’ve been reading my blog lately, and find yourself wondering if maybe YOU have a problem with drugs, booze, food, sex, spending, etc., etc., there is help and there is hope.

Even during this pandemic emergency when we are all quarantined at home – help is available.  Although you might not be able to head to a face-to-face therapist appointment or in-person 12 step meeting, there are plenty of online/virtual solutions available.

The mere curious may even enjoy some of these resources.  To save you from going down the rabbit hole I went down when first facing my truth, I’ve gathered my favorites here.

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The most complicated love

Today marks a decade that my mom has been gone.

For those who’ve heard the worst parts of my relationship with my mom, it seems strange that I still grieve her loss.  But love can be messy and complicated, and yet still be a strong, deep love.  This I’ve learned from grieving her.

I’ve spent years in therapy talking about the relationship with my mom.  Too many years.  Even today, my therapist will point out something I said and note that it stems from my mom issues.

Mom issues.

[Sigh]

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Unexpected Benefit of Quarantine 2020? Creativity Returns!

As an introvert and a homebody, I figured I would have no problem working from home for 3 weeks as initially ordered by my employer due to the novel coronavirus.  That was 5 weeks ago.  3 weeks became 7 weeks, and now we aren’t expected to return to work until June, which means I’ll be home for 11 weeks?!?

I’ve had plenty of other things to worry about during this time (health concerns and safety of my loved ones, especially since my girlfriend is still working and works at a hospital), but how to spend my time was not one of them.  However, after a month at home, I started to get bored.

After brainstorming with my girlfriend, we came up with some creative things to do other than watch TV (see suggestions below).  I’ve also plugged back into my creative side: blogging, doodling, journalling.  Every time I get the opportunity to exercise my creative muscle, I am happier.  When I’m writing (either here on the blog or in a journal), time flies and I’m not thinking of anything other than what I’m doing.  It is what I’ve heard musicians call “the zone.”  Writing puts me in the zone.  And yet, it ends up being one of the first things to get discarded when life gets busy.  After a couple of weeks of just working and/or binging Netflix, I returned to my favorite creative outlets: writing, writing, and doodle writing.

Can we use this time at home waiting for this virus to end as a springboard into something new? A new outlet for our creativity?  A new hobby?  Or as a reminder to bring back things which used to bring us pleasure?  Can COVID-19 channel our creative fires again?  I hope so.  Here are some of the things we came up and resources that have been helping me stay sane.  I’ve also included some suggestions for finding your creative muscle.  

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More Awake. Adding Another Addiction to the List.

It’s early on a Saturday morning as I write this.  I’m listening to the new Fiona Apple album because “everyone” says that I “should.”  I am up this early because a random phone call yesterday led to a conversation and an invitation to an early Saturday morning recovery meeting.  That random phone call yesterday was one of those moments designed to remind me that the Universe is really on my side … when I’m awake and paying attention.

I’ve been very open here about my recovery from substance abuse and that I can truly become addicted to just about anything.  One of those things is fantasy, sex, love, attention.  I am not in recovery from that addiction, although I was for a period of time.  I am also not acting out on that addiction, (I think?), and haven’t acted out for a year or two.  I am still in, and committed to, therapy with a very good (and tough) therapist who reminds me of this on a regular basis and keeps encouraging me to get back to it.  Every time she encourages, I shut her down and spend the next 45 minutes convincing her … no, convincing ME … that I don’t really have that problem.  Or that if I have it, I have it licked.

Really! I’m fine.  Look away.  Nothing to see here …

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She Used to be Mine

I often miss the girl I used to be, even the “worst” version of that girl – the one that spent 29 years under the influence. Most of my adult years were spent “partying,” hiding, lying, running.

But that’s so far from the life I have today. Today, June 4, 2019, I am 7 years clean and sober. 

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Reflections on freedom and turning 50

I turned 50 last week.  5 – 0.  50.  Half a century.

An absolute amazing feat for a woman who never thought she’d live to see 30.

And not only did I turn 50, I turned 50 in MEXICO!

How fortunate am I?

Although I did have a moment of “old age anxiety” when I saw the “5” and the “0” candles on the cake my friends had for me, I am mostly filled with gratitude and awe that I lived to see my 50th birthday.

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