Another Day In Paradise 3-4-15

I wrote this blog two years ago. Today I’m 15 years sober. I’m still climbing out of the pit but my passion for helping those in need or even being a voice of hope and inspiration hasn’t changed. A friend send me a text this morning saying “another Day In Paradise”. It sparked this memory and caused me to refer to this blog as a reminder of just how blessed I am. Despite the challenges in my life, I am living another day in paradise. 

Today is my sobriety anniversary. I have been sober for 13 years. It’s hard to believe that 13 years have passed since I woke up from a three day blackout in the back of a police car. I was on my way to jail for throwing a cell phone at my boyfriend. I had spent the weekend consuming an unimaginable amount of alcohol. In fact, my last drunk consisted of three fifths, a bottle of wine, a half gallon of whiskey along with many cocktails at the bar. I washed it all down with cocaine. It was Sunday, March 4th, 2002 when I entered reality. I had no idea what I was doing in a police car, I had cut my arms, legs and and face with a knife and all of my eyelashes from my right eye were gone. I suspect I burned them with a lighter. Who knows. The journey has been long but through the grace of God, I am able to celebrate my thirteenth year of sobriety. 

Between the years 2000 & 2001, my ex-husband and I went through a nasty divorce. It’s amazing how two people who fell in love and raised a family together could become so bitter toward one another. Divorce in any relationship certainly brings out the “ugly” in each of us. My divorce was no different. I find the humor in it all by referring our divorce as “the War of the Dunkins”. If you’ve ever seen the movie “the War of the Roses” that was my ex husband and I. We fought over everything, however unlike the movie we didn’t have the chance to swing from the chandeliers.  The divorce was so stressful and made me feel like such a failure that I found myself drinking every day for over a year. Of course, being the class act I thought I was, I rarely drank before 5:00 pm. I often refer to myself as the “Joan Crawford” classy drunk who never missed a cocktail hour. Looking back, I find myself so embarrassed. 

We all have stories, my story however belongs on TLC debuting as a mini series. The past few years have been a difficult journey but somehow I’ve managed to get through it without the use of alcohol. I have God to thank for that. 

I spent the morning volunteering at my church today feeding the homeless. Rather than celebrate my recovery, I find it more rewarding to give back. My story at times may seem overwhelming and more often than not, I feel sorry for myself but some how volunteering my time feeding the homeless brings so much happiness that even for just a few hours I’m able to focus on someone else’s story. I’m quickly reminded of how lucky and blessed I really am.

I began volunteering last week and since then, my life has taken on a new perspective. I’m happy again and every day I look forward to going back to my new “job” that pays me in rewards and blessings rather than with a big paycheck. I’ve met some wonderful people, I’ve cried many tears, I’ve swept floors, wiped spilled milk from tables, served oatmeal, assisted the sisters in handing out clothes and I’ve hugged people who live on the streets and haven’t bathed in several days and despite their adversities and challenges, they are filled with a sense of gratitude for what they do have that it’s hard for their gratitude to not be contagious.  

I have travelled quite a journey these past 13 years, I’ve been up and I’ve been down but somehow God has seen me through it all. Thirteen years ago I was rock bottom, ironically thirteen years later I’m rock bottom again. The good news is with gods help I was able to climb out of the pit of addiction and all the demise that came along with it, I suspect he will help me climb my way out of this pit too and who knows, in a year from now I’ll be able to look back and say “look how far I’ve come” and once again be able to say God carried me through this challenge too. A good friend once told me “Velma, you’re rock bottom. There’s nowhere to go from here but up”. I may be rock bottom but I’m moving on up!!!

In the meantime I’ll keep moving forward and take this time to ask anyone reading my blog to give back to your community. Whether it’s volunteering your time to help those less fortunate or even donating clothes or money to your favorite charity, please do so. It’s such a rewarding experience. My song for today is “another day in paradise” by Phil Collins. I chose it because sometimes when we feel like our lives are in disarray and we feel sorry for ourselves, remember there’s always someone else less fortunate and our lives really are another day in paradise.


The Book of James 2-10-14

On December 28th I flew home to San Francisco after spending 11 days home in Quincy, Washington with my family. The following day I began radiation treatment. The following week, I found myself at the State Disability office. There had been a mistake on my paperwork that needed to be resolved. Ahead of me was a young man. He was asking the woman at the front desk many questions. I could tell he was confused and overwhelmed. For some reason I reached out to him. I offered to help him with his paperwork. The young man shared he had just returned from a 28 day stay at a rehab facility for drug addiction. His name was Jim. Jim shared he was a flight attendant as well as a nurse. He had been battling addiction to prescription drugs. He was very emotional, scared and overwhelmed. My heart went out to him since I am no stranger to addiction. I have been in recovery from alcohol addiction since 2002. I am now 12 years sober. I remembered how I felt when I was released from the rehab facility so many years ago. I not only shared my story, but I did my best to offer words of encouragement. Jim felt hopeless and I felt the need to encourage him not to give up. He was so grateful. Since that day, I text Jim words of encouragement once or twice a week and he does the same for me.

A couple of weeks ago I went downstairs. I had a few things I needed to buy at Safeway. As I approached Safeway I couldn’t help but notice a homeless man sitting with his dog. He looked sad and I sensed he felt hopeless. He had a sign that read “anything helps. God bless you”. I felt this pain in the pit of my stomach. The look on this mans face touched my heart so I walked up to him and said “I’m walking in to Safeway, is there anything I can get you?” He looked at me and much to my surprise he answered “I’d love a blueberry yogurt.” I couldn’t believe it. He could’ve asked for anything but instead all he asked for was a blueberry yogurt. As I walked in to the store I could feel a lump in my throat, not to mention, a tugging at my heart strings. My heart kept telling me not only to buy this man yogurt but I needed to give him money. I bought him 2 Greek blueberry yogurts and for some reason I asked for $20 cash back after I paid for my groceries. In addition to that, I asked the checker to give me the change as follows: one -$10, one – $5 and five – $1’s. I have no idea why but when I left the store I walked towards this homeless man. I handed him his yogurt and as I handed him the money I told him I didn’t know why but I felt the need to help him. He looked at me and reached out to me. He hugged me and said “God bless you”. I asked him what his name was. He answered “James”. James shared he had been homeless for the past 3 years after a streak of bad luck professionally but the good news was he had just qualified for housing. Unfortunately, the circumstances it took for him to be moved in to a home were less than stellar. He had been diagnosed with two types of cancer. My heart sank when he told me this and for some reason I began to cry. I told James I had never been inclined to give a homeless person more than a couple of dollars but something inside of me kept saying “you have to help this person”. I stood there crying and James reached out again and gave me a hug. He told me I was a good person and he knew God was going to bless me. I walked home that night praying for James asking God to bless him in a miraculous way. I haven’t seen James since that night but I find myself praying for him everyday. James touched my life that night in more ways I could have ever touched his. He reminded me not only to be grateful but to be compassionate toward others.

This morning I walked to the bank to withdraw the money from state disability that had been deposited in to an account the state had set up for me to receive my benefits. I withdrew the money to deposit in to my personal account so I can pay my bills. I’ve become a regular at Bank of America since becoming disabled with breast cancer nearly a year ago. The tellers have all been so wonderful and supportive as I’ve fought this nasty disease. One of the tellers even gave me a pin in the shape of a pink bow a few months ago. As I waited for the teller to withdraw my money, an employee was assisting a gentlemen. He was frustrated and the young female employee was doing her best to assist him. She walked away for a minute to do something and when she left the gentlemen looked at me and in frustration said he couldn’t take it anymore. I looked at him and said “things could be worse”. His reply was “I don’t think so. I just want to give up!” Earlier this morning I had seen the following quote on Twitter.

I liked it so much I saved it. I read it to this gentlemen and encouraged him not to give up. He told me he had given up on hope, God and people. He didn’t believe in anything anymore. He was now living in a shelter and didn’t know what to do. I said “don’t give up! Things will get better!” He looked at me with a defeated and discouraged look on his face and replied “I don’t think so”. I knew exactly how he felt. After all I’ve found myself rock bottom for the past two years. At that moment, the female employee had returned and was trying to assist him. I turned around to finish my transaction. When I was finished the gentleman was gone. The employees thanked me for my help. The female employee shared the man had left. I ran out the door and saw this man crossing the street. I chased him and when I caught up to him I handed him a $20 bill. He looked at me and said “no you don’t have to do that!” I replied “yes I do!” I put the bill in his pocket and said “I hope you will start believing again!” He was so humbled saying “thank you”. I reached out my hand to shake his while asking him for his name. I couldn’t believe it. His name was Jim. I told Jim to start believing and to remember there are good people in this world. He said “yes there are and you’re one of them”.

As I walked home I remembered a homily my priest had told us many years ago. He told the story of a homeless man who was sitting outside of a bank. Everyone who walked in and out of the bank ignored him and treated him like he was garbage. Only one person stopped to help him. As it turned out the homeless man was actually Jesus. The moral of my priests story was always help others in need. You never know when it might be Jesus. I never forgot that homily and have used that story as an inspiration to help others. Unfortunately, the past few years have been so challenging that I found myself forgetting to help others while busy thinking only of myself. Feeling sorry for myself and missing out on not only my blessings but the opportunity to bless others. The more I reflected on the events at the bank and Father Mario’s homily, I remembered Jim at the disability office, James the homeless guy in front of Safeway and Jim the hopeless, non believer at the bank, I realized in all three instances I had a tugging at my heart to help these people. All three men were down on their luck and all three men had something else in common, their name. While two of them referred to themselves as Jim they were all James. I wondered what this all meant. I opened up my bible to the book of James and the first thing I read was “James, a servant of God and the Lord Jesus Christ”. I went on to read the entire book of James but the chapter that really stood out to me was James 2 verses 1-7 & 14-16. I am attaching a link on this blog today. I hope you will take the time to click on the link and read chapter two. If you’re a believer you will understand why I find myself so touched as I write this. In my opinion, I’m not a saint, I’m just a girl who did the right thing and I feel good about it. You see, I didn’t change these men’s life in anyway, they actually changed mine. They reminded me that any time we have the opportunity to be compassionate towards others, we need to act on it because while we may be a blessing to the person in need, the real blessing comes to ourselves when we take the time to think of others and remember, you never know if the person you walk away from or choose to ignore is not just a homeless guy, rather he’s Jesus. And I don’t know about you, but I’d hate to miss out by walking away from the most high God just because he was down on his luck or homeless and receiving the greatest blessing of all.