Lead Sails (and a Paper Anchor)

Part 11 – The Disappearance of Julie Peters

The day that you’re born, you arrive on a great, sandy beach – naked and screaming in the hot, tropical sun. 

Immediately, you are taken in by the people who brought you there, offered clothing and shelter and sustenance – everything you need to survive on it’s glistening shores.  You’re comfortable and warm there, but spend nearly all your time looking out at the water, dreaming of the day that you can venture beyond it’s familiar banks.

As you grow bigger and stronger, you begin to envy those who’ve traveled out into the ocean. 

You watch in awe as they board their tiny ships and let the wind whisk them away to uncharted territory.  And as their vessels shrink in size and become tiny dots on the horizon, you swear right then and there that you will dedicate your life to following them out into the open sea. 

Into the great unknown.   

Away from comfort, and into adventure.

You begin to assemble the materials you’ll need – the wood and the cloth and the rivets.  You place them in a large pile on the beach, and then you set off to find the people that have built the greatest vessels and had the grandest adventures. 

Blueprints begin to take shape in your mind, and you commit them to paper as you digest the sage advice from the older builders around you.  

As you toil away on the beach in the hot sun, you are not alone.  Other people are building boats, in all types and varying sizes.  

Some people inherit great big ships that don’t require much work at all, and you silently curse them as you sweat and bleed and toil away in the hot sun.

  Still other people are working with almost nothing, and their struggles far exceed your own as they work to get their flimsy vehicles into the water.

Often times, others wash up on the shore, sun-burnt and dehydrated, warning how dangerous it is out there in the deep sea.  You heed their warnings, but continue on anyways, patiently building your boat, one plank at a time. Board by board, sanding each one down to perfection.

Great big parties and celebrations occur on the beach, and although there’s a time in which you partake in them, you soon realize that your plan will never come to fruition if you spend all your time socializing. And so you turn down the invitations and focus all your energy on building the best damn boat that ever sailed into the water.  

Sometimes, people laugh at your strange design, asking you just where the hell you got your diagram.  You ignore them. 

One day, they will eat their words.  As you sail off into the sunset, they will stand longingly on the shore, waving goodbye… stuck there forever. 

Other people wonder why you’d want to want to venture out beyond the comforts of the tiny island.  After all, you’ve got everything you need to survive right here.  Why risk the danger?  But you can’t explain to them your compelling need to join those tiny dots on the horizon.  They’ll never understand. It’s your destiny. It calls out to you every day.

Finally, after years of meticulous building, your ship is ready to set sail.  You wave goodbye to those still left on the island, and take off into the deep blue expanse ahead.  It’s invigorating.  The smell of the sea and the wind in your hair.  It’s everything you’d ever dreamt it could be.  

Familiar faces line the boats around you and you emphatically wave hello as you pass them on their own journeys.  Family and friends smile from the decks of their own ships and you smile back from the deck of yours.  For a time, everything is perfect.  Just like you’d imagined.

One night, a wretched storm blows through, and as the rain pours into your boat and the lightning rips the sky apart, you begin to realize that there are certain things about this boat that you’ve overlooked.  Tiny cracks in the floorboards, and loose screws allow the water to pool ominously in areas the ought to be kept dry. 

A feeling of foreboding emerges, but just as you begin to grow nervous, the storm passes and the sun comes out again.  You patch up the holes and tighten the screws and set about sailing even further than you’ve ever been before.

Years after you initially set sail, you turn back and you notice that the island is no longer visible, even with a spyglass.  But instead of feeling scared, you feel inspired.  Even more so because you built this entire ship with your bare hands

Plank by plank.  Board by board. 

And sealed, with an unwavering sense of pride.

Soon, all the other ships disappear and you are alone in the great watery wasteland. 

You’ve gone beyond the reaches of even the map, and are charting new territory all on your own. 

But there’s a problem:  your ship, has begun to leak again, in all the vulnerable areas that had been exposed during the storm.  

You gather buckets and attempt to slow the pooling of the seawater, but you begin to realize that this liquid that you’re immersed in… isn’t seawater at all. 

You’ve somehow managed to find a patch of special water, cursed water that dissolves the exact type of wood you used to carefully build your boat.  It eats away at the holes in the deck, magnifying their circumference by several feet.  Soon, giant gaps have cropped up all over the ship and it begins sinking, much to your own horror.

You run around the surface of the boat, fruitlessly attempting to salvage it, but pretty soon, only it’s mast sits atop the water.  You plaster yourself to it, desperate and alone.  But eventually it falls beneath the ocean, and you are forced to cling to the meager bits of wreckage strewn about, praying that another ship will come along and rescue you.

As you bob along with the driftwood, you curse and cry and shake your fists at the heavens, lamenting the loss of not just this magnificent ship, but everything that you gave up to go about building it.  You wonder what the point of it all was, now that you’re out here alone, starving and thirsty.  

One day, just as your grip on the floating debris begins to weaken, you look up to see a dot on the horizon.  You excitedly begin to wave your arms, and your scratchy throat croaks out a desperate plea for help.  Overcome with relief, you watch in anticipation as the boat begins to grow in size, making it’s way towards you.

But there’s something very familiar about this ship.  And as it comes closer and closer, you realize that it’s not just any boat.  It’s your father’s boat.  And not far behind it, are the boats of both your sisters and your mother, and several of your friends.  And suddenly you remember.  The water.  The water is poison!  

You begin to shout at them, warning them of the dangers ahead.  But they can’t make out your words over the crashing of the waves and the seagulls floating overhead and all the other ambient noises of the ocean. 

Not only are they plowing towards you at a dizzying speed, but some of them are preparing to JUMP IN, following you into the dark unknown.  

There’s no way of knowing if their boats can withstand the power of the strange water.  But you can’t risk it.  You’d rather disappear into the ocean, sinking to it’s silty bottom, than watch your family and friends drown trying to get you out.  

But they won’t listen.  They’re determined to save you. 

So you do the only thing you can think of – and you start paddling further into the stretch of dark sea.  You know that you’re swimming to your own death, but you don’t care.  As long as you don’t bring everyone else around you down in the process. 

You close your eyes as you kick with all your might, and you pray to God that they will give  you up for the lost cause that you know you are. 

That they will return to their own boats. 

And sail far, far away from the darkness.

And back to safety.


September 9, 2019

Baldwin, Wisconsin

A horn barks angrily through the air as I slow the car to a crawl and pull over on the side of the highway.  

Tears are pouring down my face and onto the steering wheel.  I’m paralyzed by indecision.  Stuck motionless as the surrounding cars barrel past me, going Eastward on I-94.  

I want to go home.  In fact, my car is already pointed towards Detroit, and all I have to do is throw it back in Drive and hit the gas.  But I can’t.  I just can’t.

I think of my mother.  I think of everything I’ve put her through during my lifetime.  And I just can’t do it anymore.  Can’t force anyone else to clean up my mess. 

To rescue my ship.  To follow me down, down, down, into the darkness.  

I love my family far too much to drown them. 

It’s time to swim.  Far, far away.  

I merge my car into the right lane, and pull off on the next exit.  

I still don’t remember how I choose the hotel I do or why.  

All I remember, is thinking… swim away.  Swim away.  Swim.  Away.

And I will spend the next 4 days, trying to figure out where exactly I’m going to paddle.  

But there’s a slight problem.  Right around day 2, I start feeling euphoric again.  And this time, I build a new boat, but the blueprints are backwards and upside down. 

And even though everything about it’s construction is wrong… to me, it’s magnificent to behold. 

So I plop it into the sea.  

And I set off into the water… 

…with lead sails

and a paper anchor.

To be continued…

Before I Forget

Part 10 – The Disappearance of Julie Peters.

A memory

Downtown Mt. Clemens, MI

2009

It’s 1 AM on a Saturday night  and I’ve just clocked out of work.  My apron, removed from my waist and folded sloppily into thirds, lies in the crook of my right elbow, it’s threaded compartments overflowing with ink-stained ballpoint pens and crumpled bits of green paper.  Scribbled messages litter the lined guest checks, written in a language only fellow servers could interpret.  

6 wings, Mango Hab, Bl chz, cel

Patron Marg. on rcks, w/s – NO LIME 

I shuffle my feet carefully on the soapy, tiled floor of the kitchen, as though it’s a frozen pond. 

The back door, propped open with a large white bucket, provides a brief reprieve from the pungent smell of chicken grease and dirty dishwater, hanging over the tiny space like a noxious gas.  

“Guys, I’m heading out!”  I yell, my voice ricocheting between the worn, steel kitchen appliances and bounding over sauce-stained counter-tops.  

The freezer door squeaks open and a large shadow looms in the dim light of the kitchen.  

“Okay, baby, be safe,” hums a voice, as silky as the ebony skin of the man it belongs to.  

I don’t look back to check if Tony, our lead cook and giant Teddy bear of a man, is watching me make my exit.  I already know he is. 

Tony’s good like that.  Forever on alert, protecting the female servers and hostesses from the dangers of the night. 

And there are dangers a-plenty in this neighborhood.

It’s not exactly downtown Detroit, but it’s close enough. 

Our back parking lot has long been a breeding ground for drug dealers, crackheads, and thieves. 

Driving one street over could land you in a drug-infested wonderland, if you so desired. 

I’d vowed to myself that I’d never head in that direction again, after my last experience, nearly a week ago.  I’d innocently offered to drive one of the hostesses home that night, and as surely as they say – no good deed goes unpunished. 

Upon approaching her house, a man with bulging eyes had approached my rickety jeep’s driver-side window.  He’d stared at us, disconcertingly and slowly nodded his head up and down, repeatedly whispering to himself, “Theeeeese… is some young-ass girlssssss.”  

The hostess had reached over me and shouted, “No thanks, Morris.  We don’t want none!!”  and then jumped out of my vehicle, slamming the door behind her.  

“DRIVE!!!” She’d yelled as she’d spun on her heels and made a bee-line for her own dilapidated house.  And drive, I did.  Like a bat out of hell.  I’m not proud of it, but what can I say?  It happened.

But now, as I make my paranoid trek across the parking lot, I keep a key between each finger of my right hand, just in case Morris should return for an encore.  My hand is balled up in a tight fist, the jagged metal poking outwards like a knock-off version of Wolverine.  A poor man’s brass knuckles.

I let out the breath I’ve been holding, as I slip into my driver’s seat, doing a quick once-over in the rearview to check for serial killers. 

Satisfied with the result, I  look up through the glass windshield at Tony, standing in the back doorway of the kitchen, with his arms crossed and muscles bulging underneath his grease-covered apron. 

A quick thumbs-up from me, confirms that Ted Bundy has not crawled into my back seat during my shift.  Content with my safety, he closes the door, and I’m left alone, drenched in the ghostly-pale glow of the parking lot.

I find the ignition with my former-wolverine-claw-turned-car-key, and start the engine with a faint roar.  My right hand absently reaches for the volume knob on the stereo, a habit I’m inclined to, lest the entire neighborhood be woken by the obnoxiously loud Metallica album currently residing in my CD player.  

Oddly though, no noise is emanating from my crackly speakers at all, and I realize this at the exact same time that my outstretched arm, lands in a giant black hole. 

I shriek, pulling my hand back quickly, as though I’ve miscalculated and accidentally put my hand inside a snake hole.  Adding to the sensation, are the free wires that brush my hand as I return it to my body.

I scramble for the overhead button, find it, and illuminate the vehicle instantly. 

And there it is… plain as day. 

My stereo, has been stolen.

What – – oh COME ON!!!’

I scream angrily out into the night.

The broke college student part of me laments the financial loss, although as I think it over, I realize that the stereo itself will probably sell for less money than the Metallica CD that was housed inside it.  That doesn’t soften the blow, however.

Aside from the bereavement, another sensation creeps through my veins – one that I can’t quite put words to. 

The best way to describe it?  I feel…. violated. 

Knowing that some asshole has had his grubby fingers inside my dashboard.  That some uninvited person had sat in my driver’s seat.  Had fiddled with my wires.  And I hadn’t been here to witness it.  

The intrusion didn’t include just my car.  This burglar had somehow managed to strip me of my own sense of safety.   He hadn’t just tinkered with my belongings, but left me with an unanswerable question. 

A compelling need to know JUST WHAT exactly he had done during his invasion.  What all did he tarnish with his slimy, undeserving fingers?

I place my palms on the steering wheel. Did he have his hands in the same spot as mine?  Was he looking out the same windshield, at some point? I shiver at the thought.

I throw the car in reverse, and hit the gas. 

But as I drive home in my abnormally quiet vehicle, I feel slightly sick.

I can’t shake the lingering feeling of his palpable occupancy, as though it’s suspended in the air all around me.  It may not be visible, but it’s detectable.  

And I have no idea how to get rid of it.


Present Day

October 8, 2019

I reach my outstretched fingers into the last unopened pocket of the large hiking backpack, and pull out 2 chapsticks, a tube of SPF, and a miniature, pocket-sized notebook. 

I lay the contents on the hard-wood floor, where they blend together with the rest of the camping gear that’s spread across the room in a half-circle all around me, like a colossal rainbow.

My forehead scrunches as I examine the items individually. 

A camp stove with little propane cylinders.  A rain-flye.  A compass.  A hand-drawn map of Des Moines, Iowa’s Adventure Bicycle network.   A hunting knife.

I’ve held off doing this for too long now.  It’s been 2 weeks since I’ve returned to Michigan, and yet I’ve procrastinated combing through this backpack in it’s entirety. 

And there’s no question as to why. 

I’m terrified. 

Not terrified of what these bits and pieces will cause me to remember.  It’s not the memories themselves that incite terror.  That’s not it at all.

I’m terrified, because these items are undeniable proof.  

Proof of all the moments that I’ve forgotten.

That there are things that I did last month, items that I purchased, people that I met, plans that I made, that I have no recollection of whatsoever.  

I know, it probably sounds like I’m exaggerating this for cinematic effect.  I swear to God, I’m not. 

I have no reason to.  As a matter of fact, this story would be much more interesting if I did remember.  I’d love to be able to recount, in great detail, what exactly transpired when I left my hotel room in Minneapolis on September 9, 2019. 

I wish I had all the information so I could continue this story in a perfectly linear, logical way.  But I can’t do that.  Because I can’t fucking remember.

Do you have any idea how horrifying that is? 

Have you ever lost time? 

Have you ever done things, when you were 100% sober and awake… that you cannot account for? 

I have.  It’s not exciting. It’s not thrilling.  It’s awful. 

And this isn’t the first time it’s happened to me.

Years ago, I stopped taking an anti-anxiety medication very suddenly, and I wound up in the hospital having seizures from the unexpected withdrawal.  When I finally was cleared to come home, my two best friends came to visit me. 

I don’t recall what story I was telling them, but I remember that it was hilariously funny. 

Except that when I got to the punch line, instead of laughing, they were both sitting there, mouths agape… looking absolutely horrified.  

Confusion had overtaken me, and I asked, “What?  What’s wrong?”

They looked at each other, swallowed nervously, and proceeded to inform me that I’d just told them that exact same story.  Word for word.  

As in, I told them the story, and when I got to the end of it, I started telling it again like I’d never told it the first time. 

And if I didn’t believe them… THEY HAD THE ENTIRE THING ON VIDEO.

They were understandably concerned, and we never quite figured out what the fuck happened in my brain that caused it.  I always assumed it was the meds they had put me on while I was in the hospital, and maybe that’s it – maybe it’s not.  

All I know is that sporadically, throughout my life, I’ve had these little episodes where I’ve seemingly lost time.  Which is extremely strange, because in my everyday life, I pride myself on having an excellent memory.  And I’m not trying to brag or anything, but my memory is pretty ACE.  It got me straight-A’s throughout school, nearly effortlessly.  I graduated with a 3.98 GPA in college.  

What does it feel like, you may ask, to have a chunk of your life excised from memory? 

It feels dirty, like someone’s been poking around in your skull uninvited. 

It feels like being robbed. 

It feels like having the most important thing in your possession, your very EXISTENCE, stolen from you. 

It feels like looking around in your own mind, and there’s this foreignness about it. 

It feels like there’s a part of you that’s tainted  – touched by another.  

It feels like you’ve been violated. 

It feels, like being paranoid, I mean absolutely paranoid all the time, that the burglar is going to come back. 

And there’s nothing you can do about it.  Because the burglar

… is you.  

From here on out, I’m going to attempt to tell you what I do remember from my disappearance, because there are plenty of lucid moments sprinkled in with the foggy ones. 

But I’m only going to share what I can prove to be reliable. 

I could try to fill in the gaps by combing through receipts or asking family.  But I’m not going to do that.  Because this is my story, and I want to tell you what I experienced.  However sparse that experience may be.  

I may have been robbed, but she didn’t take everything. 

And so we’ll start, with my next available memory. 

Which is at a cheap, dingy motel, in Baldwin, Wisconsin. Although I’m not entirely 100% sure how I wound up there.

To be continued…

Sober

Part 9 – The Disappearance of Julie Peters

Close your eyes for a moment.

Shit… hold on… WAIT!  WAIT!  Did I catch you in time?  Good. 

I just realized you need to read this first.  THEN you can close your eyes.  My bad.  Sorry about that.

Okay, so in a minute I want you to close your eyes.  

I want you to imagine that you’re inside a tent.  A very small, very narrow tent.

And in this tent, is a sleeping bag and a camp pillow, and you’re in there too, lying on all of it.

It’s a warm, summer night and the fireflies are out, lighting up the sky occasionally with their iridescent bellies.  You catch their glow every so often through the thin, yet surprisingly durable material standing between you and the elements.  

You’ve just zipped up the entrance and you’ve settled down to sleep under the light of the stars.  Everything, is perfect.  The blankets, the pillow, the thermal underwear that provides the perfect balance between stuffy and shivering.

You close your eyes and prepare to drift off to sleep.

And then you hear it.  

Neeeeeeeeeeeeengggg.   NeeeeennnnNNNGGGGGGG!

The high-pitched squeal of a gnat, trapped inside the tent with you, trying desperately to move his sparse belongings into the cavernous tunnel of your left ear, and squat there, uninvited.

You swat it away, but it quickly returns.  Over and over again.  

It’s maddening. 

You unzip the exit, hopeful that your new invisible friend will flutter his way to freedom, but he stubbornly refuses to leave.  He’s comfortable here.  It’s his new home.  

And you, are his new housemate.  FOR LIFE. 

 You make your peace with this involuntary arrangement.  Close your eyes again, and drift off to sleep.  Yet, even in your dreams you hear him, humming joyfully to himself.  Oblivious to the irritating nature of his incessant murmuring.

NeeeNNNNNGGGG nEEEEEEnnnggg  NEEEEENNNGEEEEEEEEE!


Okay, you can open your eyes now. 

What, you may be asking yourself, was the point of this little exercise?

Not too long ago, a coworker of mine asked me what anxiety is.  They genuinely had no idea.  They wanted to know what it felt like.

I sat there and stared for a minute, mouth agape.  

There are people out there… lots of people apparently…  that don’t know what anxiety feels like?

I was shocked to the point of speechlessness, feeling much like I had when I was in the second grade and the teacher explained that there are people who are color-blind.  

And all I could think to myself was, My God, what I wouldn’t give to be one of those people. 

Due to the rather shocking nature of the question, I sputtered out some type incomprehensible answer that did not do anxiety any justice.  I mean, how do you explain the color RED to someone who can’t see it?  

Days later, as nervous people tend to do, I re-lived the conversation in my own head and came up with a much better analogy, storing it in my brain in preparation for the next anxiety-blind person who requests my assistance. 

 And that… is how the gnat metaphor was born.


I don’t know what the typical life cycle of a gnat looks like. 

You’d have to ask a gnat specialist.  

But if I had to ponder a guess, I certainly wouldn’t say that gnats survive for over 33 years.  

That’s how I know that the gnat in my metaphorical tent is special.  He’s downright geriatric.  He’s been buzzing around, wreaking havoc on my psyche since I was born.  And age hasn’t dampened his efforts in the slightest.  

There have only been a few times in my life that I’ve managed to quiet him.  To dull his constant droning so that I can FINALLY get some quality sleep. 

And almost none of the methods I’ve discovered, are healthy.


At age 14, I began having the most painful cramps imaginable, once a month, for obvious reasons.  I was aware that menstrual cramps were unpleasant, but confused as to why mine were absolutely debilitating. 

I mean, none of my high school friends were rendered completely incapacitated for 3 days each month, so why did my experience seem to be so categorically different?  

It eventually got to the point where my mother had to talk to the middle school front office, and leave a bottle of ibuprofen there for me, to be dispensed by the school nurse during my most intolerable moments. 

Occasionally, even ibuprofen wouldn’t touch the pain, and my mother would be forced to take a half-day off of work and come pick me up.  I’d be in a ball on the school office floor, rocking back and forth, crying and holding my lower back in agony.

After a time, my parents became so concerned that they brought me to a specialist, who recommended exploratory surgery to discover the source of this extraordinary pain. 

Thirty minutes inside my pelvis confirmed it: I had endometriosis.  Bad.

The gynecologist held up his little plastic pictures proudly during the follow-up appointment, displaying what appeared to be a barren, bloody minefield around my internal organs. Diseased tissue had overtaken my pelvis.  It had spread and multiplied and invaded every crack and crevice near my uterus.  The outside of my bladder was coated in it.  Even my colon had not escaped it’s destruction.  

The doctor  explained that it was an awful case, and that the only way to go about fixing it, was to remove my uterus and ovaries. 

I was 17 years old.

My mother, transformed instantly into a grizzly bear at this news.  She shook her paws at the doctor, threatening him with her razor-sharp claws and pointed teeth.  He did what any self-respecting Physician does upon finding himself in this situation, and played dead. 

My mom scooped me up in her teeth, and dragged me out of his office by the scruff of my neck.  She made some calls, and found a new doctor.  One that would operate around my organs, instead of scooping them out sloppily,  like a construction excavator.  

It would take 4 surgeries over the course of several years, before all of the diseased tissue was properly excised.  By the time my pelvis was salvaged, I had a giant scar that cut a gnarled line across my lower abdomen, spanning it’s entire horizontal surface.  I also have lots of little 1 cm disfigurements dotted all over my belly, as an added bonus.

Typically, they use a microscopic laser to burn the diseased cells off the healthy tissue.  In my case, some of the lesions were so large that they had to be removed with a scalpel. 

“I had to saw it off, with a knife… like a tree-branch!”  The surgeon exclaimed excitedly, “And it was the size of a grapefruit!  Incredible.  Just incredible.”

Obviously, the post-surgical experience brought with it all sorts of pain, in every variety imaginable.  And for the very first time in my life, I was given all kinds of special pills to nullify that pain.  

I had no idea that those pills, would eventually come to define who I am as a person.  That so much of my experience on this Earth would be altered, by a tiny white tablet, mass-produced in a factory somewhere, and marketed to physicians as safe alternatives to “addictive medications” like morphine.


It started with Vicodin. 

Sweet, Sweet Vicodin.  

She was so lovely at first. 

Our sordid affair began with that first pill after surgery.  I popped it into my mouth unknowingly… and 30 minutes later…. Bliss.

Here’s where the debate starts.  I’m not going to sit here and try to impress upon you my opinions (of which I have many) about addiction and cite the numerous peer-reviewed medical journals and qualified institutions that have all conducted double-blind research studies that prove, unequivocally, that addiction is a disease. That’s something I plan to delve into at another point in this blog.  

All I can offer you right now, is my own experience.  And that experience, began with the completely unintentional and absolutely innocent administration of an addictive substance, for a purpose in which it was medically necessary and legitimately prescribed for a perfectly valid and well-documented reason.

I swallowed that pill with a full glass of water, steeped in youthful naivety.  

And after 30 minutes had gone by, it was hard not to notice it’s effectiveness in reducing my pain.  The throbbing tissues, angry from the trauma of fresh surgery, were coaxed and soothed into submission.  I felt better.  A LOT BETTER. 

And here’s where it gets tricky:  I didn’t just feel better physically.  I felt better MENTALLY, too.  

Remember that gnat… buzzing it’s low and annoying hum in our tent?

 IT WAS FINALLY SILENCED.

For the first time in my, albeit rather short, life… my anxiety was gone.  It’s ever-looming, crushing presence was finally lifted.  

The tent, was quiet, and I could begin to hear the sounds of nature and finally appreciate the beauty that surrounded me.

I quietly fell in love with the little white pill that made all of this possible. 

Not, because it got me high.  Not because it made me feel good.  
Because it made me feel normal.

Little did I know, that Vicodin was a vindictive little bitch, who lures you into the light with her siren song, and then STOMPS THE LIGHT OUT once she has you trapped there.  


It wasn’t always Vicodin.  Sometimes, it was alcohol.  Alcohol is easier to obtain.  It’s cheaper.  The most detrimental legal drug available on this planet. 

I plan to write an entire series about the years I lost to addiction and alcoholism.  That’s another story for another time.

But just know, that over a third of my life was dedicated to it’s destruction.  And finally, 5 years ago this November, I broke free from the shackles of addiction.  And it absolutely changed my life.

Yet I so very nearly gave all that up, just a few weeks ago.


September 9, 2019 – 12 PM

Minneapolis, MN

Hotel Room

The heavy door slams shut, trapping me inside the hotel room that has become my prison cell.  I set the brown paper bag on the counter, and the liquid inside swishes back and forth like a tidal wave.

I retrieve a plastic cup from the shelf in the miniature kitchen, hands trembling.

Am I really doing this?  I’m really doing this.  5 years, down the drain.  

I break the seal of the large plastic cap, twisting it off unceremoniously.  The old, familiar smell of Jack Daniel’s Tennessee Whiskey wafts into my nostrils.  I gag, unexpectedly.  

I’d never noticed, before, how much this bottle of legal poison smells like hairspray. 

I used to love it’s refined scent.  Now, I’m choking back vomit as I pour the brown liquid into the plastic cup, filling it to the brim with pure, undiluted alcohol.

My plan, is to chug it in one fell swoop.  To wait a few minutes for it to take it’s effects, and then finish the grisly task I had started the night before. Knowing that the contents of this bottle, are precisely what I need to erase any second thoughts that may have prevented me from following through the night before.

To eradicate the mental image of my family and all the guilt that goes along with it.  

Although I’d been euphoric a mere hours prior to this, that euphoria has petered out, giving way to another wave of soul-crushing depression.

I wrinkle my nose as I bring the lip of the cup to my mouth.  Catch an even stronger whiff of it’s nefarious odor, and begin to dry-heave.  This is not going to work. Not at all.

Angrily, I toss the cup towards the kitchen sink.  Watch as it’s contents explode onto the counter and drip from the bottom of the wall-cabinets.

Fuck it.  If I’m going to die, I might as well just do it sober.  

An odd sense of pride fills me.  Knowing that I will have stayed sober, to the very end.  

But no matter how hard I try, I can’t naturally erase the guilt of what I’m about to do.  It’s a catch-22.  I can’t do it sober, but I can’t do it drunk either.

Time… I need more time, I think.

I tear around the room in an urgent frenzy, grabbing items sporadically and shoving them into a backpack, stuffing it full of random toiletries and pieces of clothing, not even stopping to consider if they’re essential or not. 

I hoist the backpack over my shoulders and take one last look at the room, filled with all my earthly possessions. Then I close the door, sealing everything inside, including the key to get back in.


I will never return to this hotel room again.


To be continued…

Just Like Heaven

Part 8 – The disappearance of Julie Peters

September 9, 2019

Minneapolis, MN

Hotel Room

I awake in darkness.  

My eyelids pry themselves open, and I can practically hear the thwop! of the air-tight seal breaking, like a plunger being yanked from the cold porcelain of a freshly-unclogged toilet.

There’s a lone spotlight cutting through the opaque black of the hotel room, a stream of dazzling light traveling through the dark void.  It pierces through a tiny crack in the thick, heavy curtains and draws a sharp line up the comforter before finding it’s final resting place on top of my right arm.  Speckles of dust hover above, as though I’m looking up from the watery depths of a giant snow-globe, in the silent minutes after it’s been shaken. 

I open and close my fist, grabbing handfuls of the cascading light, only to feel it warmly spill through my fingers each time.  

I reach up in the darkness, fingers brushing the delicate skin of my own throat, wincing as my thumb grazes the swollen tissue encircling it.  A grim memento of the ghastly necklace I’d donned the night before, alone in my dark hotel room.  

It feels so distant now – that experience.

Like a dream. 

Like waking up the morning after a magnificent party, having forgotten to remove the opulent string of pearls from the night before. The bauble seems silly now.  Out of place.  Much too ostentatious for the modesty of these rumpled sheets. 

This tangled hair. 

These puffy eyes. 

But a necklace of this sort, cannot simply be unclasped and cast off to the side.  There’s no removing it’s immense weight from my throat. 

The setting has changed, but the ornamentation remains.  It’s influence hangs heavy on my mind.

I lay there for a time, breathing in the warmth of the puffy down comforter.

  I feel like one of the speckles of dust, suspended in that beam of light above me.  Floating, drifting.  Purposeless.  Inessential.  Frivolous. 

Numb.

But then, a tiny and unexpected spark.  An idea. 

It bursts into existence, suddenly.  Excitedly.  Like a pinprick of light in the darkness of my mind.

It’s energy is boundless.  It bounces around in my skull, ricocheting off it’s bony walls with a resounding Tink!

As I follow the frenzied thought with my eyes, another spark ignites.  And another, and another. They rocket vigorously into one another like ping-pong balls come alive, inside a very small box.

Tink Tink Tink

Tink Tink TiTiTiTiTinnnkkkk!!

I sit bolt upright, and run to the window, ripping the shades open urgently.  Dazzling sunlight BURSTS into the room. 

I look around at my freshly-illuminated environment, and feel a stunning sense of awe.  Over what, I’m not really sure, but I’m overcome with acknowledgement for the intricate beauty of the world in which I find myself in.  

I can practically hear the tiny muscles inside my eyes as their woven fibers loosen.

My iris slackens.  Pupils dilate.  Black overtakes hazel, as my body adjusts to the flood of chemicals overtaking it.  

I turn towards the source of light, cascading through the open window, and watch in reverence as it splits into a pale, shimmering, rainbow.  I now have the power to see the divergence of a sunbeam.  The reds and greens and blues.  It’s brilliant.  It’s spectacular.  It’s awe-inspiring.

I must not be distracted by this, however.  As much as I’d like to admire this strange new power of refraction, I must remember my original intent upon opening the shades in the first place.  

A pen.  I need a pen.  NOW.

I clamor across the carpet, tripping over the fragments of a frantically-torn cardboard box, which had housed an unassembled chin-up bar, not so long ago.

My trembling hands scramble their way across the smooth surface of the desk, casting aside a small piece of paper, with my handwriting on it.  The words I’m so sorry register on the periphery of my vision, blotted with what appear to water stains.  Tear stains.  

I carelessly brush the note away to reveal the red sharpie underneath. Launch myself at it, flicking the cap off onto the floor.

I’m lacking paper.

But not to worry! 

I reach for the gigantic binder: years-worth of carefully curated professional knowledge, organized and color-coded for quick reference. 

It’s label reads ‘Julie’s CT Book’.  I stick my hand inside one of the plastic sheet-covers and yank out a piece of paper, one of the many pages of the numerous peer-reviewed journal articles I’d so often referred back to in my years as a CT Tech.  

I turn the page over to reveal it’s blank, unprinted side.  And begin to scribble frantically.  

Avocado toast with garlic, new recipe!! 

Go on hike… where to?  Get camping gear, will need backpack. 

American Discovery Trail? 

Santa Fe.  Venice Beach?  Get bicycle.  Ride across country. 

Look up bike shops.  Write book?!  Get hair cut.  Need clothes.  Learn to change tires!

I marvel at my own brilliance as idea after idea swarms over me.  I’m inundated with an overwhelming sense of possibility. My future, is limitless.

How could I have EVER considered ending this beautiful existence of mine? 

My life, is going to be different now. 

SO very different. 

Everything’s changed.  Everything.  I’m going to change the world.  Right now.  With all of this.  ALL OF IT.

I write for hours, tearing my meticulous binder to shreds in the process.

I stop every so often to cry, overcome by gratitude and magnificence. 

Thankful.  I’m so very thankful to be ALIVE. 

All the while, my ears are still ringing.  The one and only constant in my beautiful, terrible existence.

Ringing.  Always ringing.

Ride

My daily running route, over I-94

I should be typing up part 8 of my little series right now – the one where I describe, in full detail, what exactly transpired when I disappeared several weeks ago.  

And not like, the good, refreshing kind of disappeared where you tell everyone you’re heading to the health food store, but really you drive to Barnes & Noble, buy a double chocolate chunk cookie the size of your face from the fake Starbucks that doesn’t accept Starbucks gift cards even though their sign says Starbucks and they sell all the same shit as Starbucks, and you take your mammoth cookie and you just curl up and read half a book from the young adult section on a squishy chair that is more comfortable than anything you’ve got in your real house and then just pretend that you live there for about 30 minutes before you put the book back and pretend it’s not what you were looking for after all. 

 Not like that.

I mean, full-blown, “there’s an entire town in Missouri swarming with cops brandishing a poster with my face on it” kind of missing.

So far, cataloging all of this on a public forum has been super therapeutic for me, even if the subject matter is ridiculously dark.  It’s helping me to sort through what happened in a chronological and systematic way, and it’s bringing to light a lot of minute details that I otherwise would’ve forgotten or waved off as not important. 

And it’s SO very important.  All of it.

But at the same time, I’m rather exhausted. 

In writing about all of this, I’m forced to re-live it for a second time, and that can be pretty stressful in it’s own right. 

It sucked hard the first time.  The second’s not much of an improvement.

It’s not just that that’s got me feeling kind of low today.  I can’t pinpoint what it is exactly, I’m just… down.  

Maybe it’s the rainy, cool temps bleeding into my psyche over time.  Maybe it’s the fact that I’ve returned to a city I’ve spent half my life trying to escape. 

Maybe it’s the fact that I feel… stuck.  Paused.  Still. 

While everyone else seems to be moving forwards, I’m trapped somewhere in the middle.


My dad texted me earlier this morning, asking how things are going… how I’m feeling today. 

My response?  

Remember that wicked-bad traffic jam we were stuck in on the way up here from Missouri?   I kinda feel like I did then.’

The jam I’m referring to was one of those nightmare bumper-to-bumper scenarios right smack in the middle of downtown Detroit on I-94.

During rush hour. 

Our car was inching ahead so slowly, that the ‘estimated time of arrival’ on the GPS was INCREASING the further we went.  

’10 minutes ago we were 55 minutes away from our destination.  Now we’re 58 minutes away…’ I’d confirmed aloud.  ‘The closer we get to the finish, the longer it takes to actually GET THERE!’

My dad had sidelong glanced at me, and then…

… as we sat in the stuffy, immobile truck and peered out into the endless sea of vehicles…

… and beyond them to the backdrop of multiple abandoned factories-turned-crackhouses with their busted-out windows and graffiti-ridden walls…

… my dad whispered, in the dreamiest voice he could conjure:  

Puuuuuure Michigan.’ 

It was a spoof on those ridiculous Michigan Tourism commercials that make Detroit look like a friendly, safe, and culture-rich city that welcomes outsiders with a gentle, loving embrace.  

It was perfect.

I’d just taken a sip from my water bottle, and sprayed a fine mist of it onto the dashboard as we both doubled over in laughter.  It was my favorite moment of the entire trip.



And yet here I sit yet again, metaphorically stuck between the roadblocks of my own life, watching as everyone in the adjacent lane zooms ahead and leaves me in their dust. 

Forced to wait with the engine idling, while we titrate my new Bipolar medicine to a dose that’s even remotely therapeutic.  

It’ll take 6 weeks to even get to a place where the medicine is concentrated enough to notice a difference.  And even then, we may discover that the medicine doesn’t work.  What then?  Then we repeat this process again and again and again until we find the right cocktail. 

It could potentially take years to dial it in just right.  But I can’t think about that right now.  It makes me so fucking sad, and, even more-so… frustrated.

I want to stick my head out of the car and loudly curse the heavens. 

Why is this happening to me?  Why did I get stuck in this shitty lane while everyone else plows ahead around me? 

Why do I have to be left behind while everyone else moves forward in life? 

Why do I have to become a spectator, while everyone else gets to be a participant?

Why am I surrounded by other people’s life progress, while I sit here, stagnant?

WHY WHY WHY WHY

FUCKING WHY?!!!!

I’ll never know.  

All I can do right now is remind myself that, although I may not be moving forward, that doesn’t mean that I’m moving backwards.  

I force myself to remember that we are all on this freeway together, but that doesn’t mean we all have to get off on the same exit. 

I may be trapped at this mile marker, but who’s to say that the guy who just passed me doing 80, doesn’t have to travel twice as far as me to get to his destination?  

My journey… is exactly that.

Mine.

And right now, all I can do is roll the windows down, put on some 90’s gangster rap, and enjoy the fucking ride. 

Even if the wheels aren’t moving.

Not a lick of makeup, hair unbrushed, and a tiny seed stuck in my tooth. This is your Brain on Bipolar Depression…

Lake of Fire

Part 5 – The Disappearance of Julie Peters


** !!! Trigger Warning !!!  ***

This post contains the narration and description of suicidal thoughts and acts, which could definitely be triggering for some people. 

If you’ve lost a loved one to suicide, or have suicidal thoughts yourself, you may want to abstain from reading. 

On the other hand, I’m sharing this very vulnerable story with you because I feel it needs to be discussed and especially because it may help others understand what exactly goes on in the mind of a severely depressed person. 

Too often, I hear people wondering why and while I don’t speak for every suicidal person, I do believe the thoughts and feelings conveyed here are much more common than society would have us believe. 

So whoever you are, please know that you’re not alone.  And that if I managed to survive this horrific episode… there’s hope for you too.  

I love you, friend.  Keep fighting. For both of us.



09/30/2019

Detroit, MI

Dew still clings to the grass below me as I crouch down over the damp lawn of the empty playground.  Although it’s midday, the sky is overcast and the breeze is chilly. 

Image may contain: one or more people, people playing sports, sky, shoes and outdoor

I reach up with two fingers, placing them delicately on the skin of my neck.  Feel the thundering of my pulse underneath. Count the repetitions.  Wait patiently for the pace to slow.

I perform my final set of burpees before collapsing on the wet grass in exhaustion, flopping my head sideways to peer at the glistening dewdrops all around me. 

A hint of movement catches my eye.  A tiny lone ant, struggling to scale the soaring precipice of an impossibly tall blade of grass.  It’s bitty legs are scrabbling maniacally up the smooth, wet surface, and a squint of the eye reveals that it’s got a crumb of food in tow.  The effort seems magnanimous.  I smile softly in admiration.  

Such perseverance.  Such a strong, abominable will to survive. 

To keep living, no matter what.  Whatever it takes.

But is it really something to be admired at all, this survival instinct?  Is it a trait of strong character, or is it simply coded into the DNA of every living thing on this Earth? 

Why do even the smallest, most insignificant beings have a compelling need to keep existing? 

Why do even ANTS seem to hold their own lives so sacred?  

Where do these feelings come from?

And why do I, as a human, seem to feel the exact OPPOSITE? Did God cross the wrong wires when I was created?

After all, it was less than three weeks ago that I desperately sought to snuff out that stubborn pulse, still hammering away beneath my skin. 

Only three weeks ago, that I’d narrowly escaped the overwhelming compulsion to die. 

An instinct – to self-destruct. An instinct I’d felt then, just as surely as this ant feels the need to live now.


September 8, 2019

Minneapolis, MN

A dark hotel room

$40.36.

It  costs exactly $40.36 to die.

There are cheaper ways, of course.  Obviously.  But time is of the essence, and bargain-hunting isn’t really something you worry about when you’re not planning on being here tomorrow.  

And I don’t.  

So I splurged and purchased a fancy ‘over-the-door’ chin-up bar from Wal-mart, along with a hunting knife, and the most important material of all: a thick, nylon rope.  

I’ve learned from prior experience that the rope material makes a big difference.  Cheap, scratchy rope irritates the skin as it tightens, making for a rather uncomfortable affair. 

Rope that is small in diameter is also undesirable, for similar reasons. 

It must also be strong, obviously.  But not so strong that you can’t pierce it with a knife to adjust the height.  

And so I’m very particular about my rope. 

I’ve chosen this one carefully.

I nod in approval as I secure my new rope around the freshly-assembled chin-up bar.  This will do just fine.

Amazing really, that I managed to choose an appropriate rope-type, in my current condition.

On the outside, I look fine.  Normal.  Okay.

I’m not.

Inside, I’m burning alive.  

For the past 24 hours, I’ve been absolutely engulfed by invisible flames. 

Ever since I’d missed my shift at work.  Since the panic attack.  Since my life fell apart, for the umpteenth time.

I haven’t slept.  I haven’t eaten. 

I haven’t done anything but cry and shake.  For 24 hours.

It’s happened before, but this time it’s worse.  Inescapable.  Indescribable. 

So much pain.  So much hurt.

It’s not just mental, either.  I can feel it in my body.  My skin is crawling.  I feel both hot and cold at the same time.  Like I’ve come down with a fever.  

Goosebumps cover my body, along with a paradoxical sheen of glossy sweat.  My head is throbbing and I can’t tell if it’s from the lack of sleep or the constant crying. 

The nape of my neck is caked with dried blood.  I tend to scratch myself there compulsively when I’m anxious.  I don’t know why.  But I know it stings.  

I read somewhere once that a black hole is so heavy and dense that the entire mass of the Earth is smashed down into a space as small as a golf ball. 

Can you imagine?  A golf ball that weighs as much as Earth?

I can. 

Because I’ve felt it.  In my chest.

Whenever I’m in this state, my chest feels so compressed that I’d swear the weight of the Earth is resting inside it. 

And just like a black hole, it gobbles up every source of light in it’s vicinity.  Every twinkle of hope, every tiny spark of happiness. Nothing escapes it’s infamous Event Horizon.  

It. Is. Hell.

I fight and crawl away from it, but after a time it drags me right back. It becomes too much. 

I’m being crushed from within.  My mind has ignited with imaginary flames, and I’m writhing in agony, alone in a dark hotel room. 

I’ve fought it for so long.  Years and years of torture.  And now I’m so very tired.  I need respite.  I need to douse these flames, somehow, and the only way is through the loop in this rope. 

A simple slipknot.  Any boy-scout could tie it.  

I scribble a quick note to the only people who have ever managed to put out my sporadic fires.  I tell them I’m sorry.  I want them to know how much I love them.  But the flames are licking at my feet and just can’t take it anymore.

I step up to the gallows and place my head in the coil.  Sink down to my knees, and feel the tight squeeze of death’s embrace.  Close my eyes.  

Gag, and sputter.  Choke. Cough.

Soon now. So soon.

Praying that God will forgive me.  

And all the while, the fire roars around me.


To be continued…