Author | Photo Matthew Henry

One Day At A Time Part 1: Out Of The Ashes

A month ago, that sewer rat, Ben, who took me to that dive bar, charmed his way back into my life.

The predators will always find the weak, the lonely, the hungry, the vulnerable, the broken, the sad, the seemingly destroyed wandering souls. Ironic that we met in front of a library, because things ended so non-literary, so unromantic, so not bookwormy. He went from Mr. Perfect to Mr. Manipulative. By the time I kicked him out (again), he’d stolen all of my prescription meds, my Ray Bans, my wallet(!), various beauty products(?) and destroyed my self-esteem. I had to file a police report and come to terms with the fact that I had let this person into my life. This Talented Mr. Ripley was giving me items–pink cashmere sweater, hand cream, winter boots–that he’d likely stolen from someone else. Ugh. Shiver me ill. I could barely get out of bed for a week. I drank in the morning till I puked, then I drank some more. I wandered around Parkdale with my teeth stained black from red wine trying to find someone to buy me booze. It was haunting.

Nowadays, each Wednesday, I wait in the cold in line for two hours to get downstairs and pick up my goods at the food bank. I am one of those people with a cart that I used to bike by or walk by every single day for years. PARC [Parkdale Activity and Recreational Centre] is in Parkdale, so, naturally, it’s wild and wonderful and full of dichotomy and character and gumption and perseverance and sadness in an almost hallucinogenic kind of way. All bright checkered pants and top hats and banjos at noon countered by lots of missing teeth and a pallor of smoke hanging in the air. (God, can some of these people chain smoke. Sometimes, in line, waiting for the food bank, I’ll see one person easily smoke 30 cigarettes in 2 hours.)

Eating from a Food Bank is… sparse. And entirely random. But I enjoy the simple task of trying to figure out a few dinners to make to last the week, because the community centre where I eat only serves breakfast and lunch. This week was a yummy chicken chili and to come a coconut milk cauliflower, potato and canned peas curry. It pushes my creative food button.

I’m newly sober. Glowing. $6.36 in the bank. Stressed to the hilt about rent. But sober. And clinging to it like a mother fucker. No rehab. No inpatient. No day detoxes. No trying to get Valium off the new street friends I’ve met in the past year. Nope. One day it just happened. I experienced it. The reckoning. The awakening. That moment of clarity. I dumped my booze. I went to bed. I awoke the next day. No withdrawals. (For reference, I’m usually a rattled mess who needs hospitalization in detox.) I walked up to Ontario Works and got a caseworker. I met with my bank’s branch manager to discuss the fraud I committed (putting in fake cheques to the ATM and drawing out money. I know, right?). We came up with a plan. I went to St. Joe’s to follow up with the cardiology appointment long overdue. I sought out a family doctor. I reconnected with my doctor at CAMH as we move forward with my application for ODSP (trauma, addiction, anxiety, depression, cardiomyopathy). I’m having my long overdue pelvic ultrasound this morning.

I got a $20 per hour raise from one of my freelance clients, in addition to a massive job from them. I’m on the shortlist for an ongoing work-from-home editing job. This all happened this week. This fucking week. I haven’t been this productive since, well, the last time I was sober.

I may be broke as fuck, but I can’t stop smiling. My dog who is 14 years old is now running while off leash. He’s happy too. He can feel my serenity. Things are WAY up in the air as to what the future holds. But I have to walk the path without fear every single second of every single minute of every single hour of every single day. Because there’s nowhere else I’d rather be than here, alive.

 

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