Musings on Addiction & Recovery

Diary of an alcoholic

Christmas Eve, 1988- Suicide and a Celebration

The lights were on in her upstairs bedroom of her mothers house on Converse Drive, the one she shared with her husband, Kim. The glow from her tape deck/CD combo was dim and moody, with Michael Stipe’s voice crying “This is my world, and I am the world leader pretend”.   David Bowie and Jim Morrison stare down at her from the white bedroom wall.  She repeatedly rewound the tape to replay the song, since the words resonated with her soul at the moment, as she laid on the floor, doodling in her sketchbook like they taught her at Duke.    Art therapy was one of the tools they gave the girls on the eating disorder ward.   If you try to quit something, you have to replace it with something else first, but something positive, they say.  Victoria’s Secret was brand new then, and the fashion on the Eating Disorder unit was satin pajamas and bathrobes.  We paraded our Victoria's Secret robes around the ward to show off . 

She had tried to reach out to her parents before looking up Eating Disorder Treatment in the Yellow Pages of the Southern Bell Phone book.  She was working that day at Southern Eyes, the little sunglass booth in the middle of the Electric Company Mall on Hillsborough Street, in the center of NC State campus. “Hello?” her dad said on the other end of the phone.  “Dad, she said, I really need help. I am struggling, and am in a hole.  I can’t pull myself out.” She was whispering in the small booth, watching students whirl by her rushing off to classes, laughing and making plans.  “Gina, don’t even think about dropping out of school.  You are brilliant on the upstart, but horrible with Sticktoitivenes”  Why can’t you finish anything you start?”  I mean, “Why can’t you just find SOMETHING to be happy about???  She placed the phone receiver back into its cradle on the wall, waited patiently until 5:00, and closed down the little booth, feeling as she was devastatingly alone in the world, like most kids of her generation, she would learn later.  The first generation of divorced and two working parents; to be raised alone and without any internal compass.  No real identity.

As she walked in the front of the big house on Converse Drive, the tell-tale signs of her stepdad and mother’s presence were observed; the half-gallon of vodka and two liter of 7-up was on the kitchen counter and Ronald Regan’s voice boomed from the large floor model television.  She stopped by the kitchen on her way up to her room to pour herself a drink, and had stealthily been back several more times for a refill.  This action, it seemed, was what adults did to cope with life, and she was going to live by example.  Once in her room, listening to her music, a thought came. She was shaking in terror as she got up and walked into the large walk in closet of the master bedroom that her mother and Kim shared.

The light was already on above the vanity, and she drug the chair from the dressing area to stand on. He kept his gun in the corner on the right-hand side, all the way in the back. She stood on the chair, looking at it in her hands, surprised at how cold and heavy it was. She knew that it would be a mess, but over soon, but decided that she did not have the courage to pull the trigger. She stood there traumatized and terrified of the thoughts that were slamming around inside her brain, in full war mode, before remembering that her mother had several bottles of Xanax in her makeup bag. Grabbing the bottles, she returned to her room. This was good, she thought, she would simply pass out and it would all be over.

The following morning was Christmas. She wore her bright red Limited Express sweater with the three buttons and the shoulder pads, her matching red leather knee high boots covered the bottom zippers at ankles of her Guess jeans, that she noticed, were feeling a bit snug. Her entire family gathered around the tree. She fought hard to appear normal as she swallowed down the feelings she had around the evening before.  Waking up in the emergency room vomiting charcoal was a blur, and she could see her mother, hysterical in the corner of the little rectangle corner with the curtains drawn around the steel bed as the nurse held the vomit bucket.  Seared into her brain were fragments of moments, from swallowing the pills, the hospital, and to the moment she stood on that Christmas morning shocked with the utter insanity that life could simply continue on as though it were just another day. 

Years later, she would come across a photo of that day, all of the family smiling under the Christmas tree.  The day after Christmas, she would return to Duke University’s Eating disorder ward. The sun was shining in her small hospital room, and she had a glimmer of hope that this would be a new beginning and she would finally be successful on the follow-through in life, since not in death.

 Quarantine Diaries

6,205 days I have spent with you. 1,095 days in quarantine, or what’s left of it. 

 I peered outside the door today to see if anything had changed.  Realizing its mostly in my mind, I closed the door and returned to my chair.

With still no desire to put on anything other than elastic-waisted pants, I gave in to the day.

Solitude has turned to isolation Quiet time has turned to loneliness.  Motivation, to despair .  Masks are optional, they say, but I am afraid .  My body has betrayed my expectations enough already I am learning to adjust.  Life “out there” is optional.  The longer I wait, the harder it gets.

6,205 days with you.  In 365 more, your time as a child will be complete. Can I sit and enjoy the gift of you for a while longer? I’ll hold on to the days.

Harlem during Quarantine. 2020 @Gina Kropf

New York City


Her tongue stuck to the roof of her mouth like sweaty

skin against hot leather seats in August. 

The taste of last night’s indulgence blasted through

her senses as she worked to regain consciousness. 

Glancing at the clock, she saw that it was 4:00 am.

Soaked in sweat, sheer terror overcame her and rose

into her throat, almost  choking her. A wave of

questions; Where was she? Where was her car? How

did she get here? Why was she not sleeping in her

room? What had she done, said, and to whom? She

felt sick with the unknowing as she crawled out of the

bed, moving to the window to see if her car was

outside.   It was pitch black out, except for the street

lamp that radiated a golden glow over her front yard.  

Her car was in her parking space, where it was

supposed to to be.   She returned to her bed, thankful

that she was alone and hadn’t brought home a stray

man, and attempted to pull together the pieces of last

night. Her own self loathing prevented her from falling

back asleep, as she wrestled with her inner demons of

vile disgust, and a soul-sickness that had no cure. The

half-empty cup of wine on the bedside table remedied

the raw emotion long enough for her to drift back out

of consciousness. The sun rose in the window as she

once again folded herself back in to oblivion.

Venus in Color @Gina Kropf

Girl Lost @Gina Kropf

The Soul- $295.00

Staring at Ceilings

September, 1982

September, 1982 Brad’s room was dark and cozy, like a cave, with

its stained cherry walls that sloped like an attic. It served as a

respite away from the hostile eyes of high school with its heavy

air of deprecating disdain. Brad’s room was an escape from the

everyday pains of life. He was the neon band aid that covered the

daily scratches that would wear away the rocks of her soul like

water on stones. At 14 years old, she didn’t have the capacity to

ponder deeper on this. Her pain was immense and the relief the

boy provided was impossible to ignore. Her old mind couldn’t

remember if she actually enjoyed the sex, or if the tenderness of

two bodies blending was conveniently mistaken for a warm hug

in an inhospitable world. Laying down on his bed as he entered

her, she stared up at the Motley Crue’s album cover, with the guy

in black leather lace-up pants shot from his navel down to his

upper thigh. When it was over, he would Smoke a joint and listen

to this album, as each sad, angsty song fused from one into the

next. Lost and moody as it spun towards the end of the album, the

needle beginning to jump on the vinyl. Sadness enveloped like

smoke from a bonfire that would follow her everywhere she went,

burning her retinas. Only a short time later, she would stare up at

the water-stained acoustic tiles of another ceiling, when her mom

took her to the gray brick building on Computer drive off of Six

forks Road. The lady who greeted her handed her a gown, but

really it was just a piece of blue paper that tied in the back. She

was allowed to keep on her bra and shirt, a yellow Burt's surf

shop tee that he had given her at the beach last summer on a

warm evening when the sand was starting to feel cool to the feet.

She slept in it and made it hers like all girls do with their

boyfriends t-shirts. She sat in a row of chairs along with the other

girls until it was her turn to go into the little room with the shade

drawn over the window that looked out over the gray pavement

of the parking lot. The steel bed was covered with a sterile blue

plastic cushion and rigid, unyielding paper pulled down over the

top that made a crinkling sound as she moved. Her feet sat

cradled in the cold metal stirrups as she lay on her back and

stared up at the ceiling tiles, old and brown with years and water

damage. She heard a voice telling her to relax as the long tube

was inserted into her cervix. She felt it expand as it went it, and

with it, the wave of cramps and the urge to vomit, and couldn’t

help but notice that the same feelings of emptiness were present

as any other time she found herself on her back. It would all be

over soon and there would be no more of the crippling nausea.

On the way home, they would pull into the drive-through burger

king. Her mom ordered all of the comfort food for her. A double

cheeseburger with ketchup, a large fry and a banana milkshake.

She would sleep the rest of the day. Brad eventually moved on to

someone else, and she had a string of different ones, each

promising comfort and love but always filling her with a feeling of

transience. And more of these procedures that promised relief

from the consequences of a pregnant body and a life with a

baby. She learned at a young age that her body was a form of

currency to use with boys to get the attention she ached for, even

if it was the wrong kind. Years later, her fiancé at the time, Rhett,

would bring home all of the left-over liquor when the bar he

owned would close. The booze was kept above the black glossy

refrigerator in a cabinet that she had to stand on a stool to reach

. The assortment, he said, was crap that no-one would ever drink.

Cheap Scotch and Ouzo. They had been living together in that

loft apartment overlooking the lake for almost a year by the time

she finished the last bottle and had the last abortion. Please don’t

misunderstand. The abortions were not birth control, but

moments from drunken evenings when they couldn’t fathom how

the sponge or diaphragm could possibly fail, and she could not

wrap her mind around the life she would have given to a child.

The only moment she was capable of living in was the one of the

present, and beyond that was nothing. She knew he wasn’t for

her during the one of her rare lucid moments as she sat on the

back porch staring out at the water on a mild, beginning of fall

afternoon, just as summer was yielding, and a cool breeze was in

the air. She had just come home from an abortion, and had not

had time to begin the daily drinking. The air was crisp, and so

were her thoughts, for once. This was where this journey for love

had found her? Empty and alone and more than a little broken.

She had no way of knowing at the time how unconditional love

would eventually heal her, from the the maturity and growth of

an expanding heart that is capable of love as a gift to be given

rather than received. It would be ten years later when she would

experience agape love, through the birth of her only child, her

daughter. She had so much to overcome first, and that would

come many sober years later.

Untitled photo

Diary of an alcoholic


                                              June 1979

The heat of the summer always reminded her of her dad.  He would always appear as the temperatures warmed, and by the time the leaves began to change, he was gone.  He came over that day in June, and hugged her as he wept on her shoulder.  The day was warm, and the smell his cologne mixed with Pal Mal cigarettes and the rough feel of his beard against her cheek was comforting in a confusing kind of way.  She was 11 years old , and smelled of summer sweat, chlorine, and Pepsi.   He came to the home at Fairway Apartments that she shared with her mother and her younger brother.  He told her that he had given up on finding a professorial job at one of the many local universities in here in tobacco country; the triangle area that encompasses Raleigh, Durham, and Chapel Hill.  Since his divorce from her mom and his subsequent move from Richmond, he had followed her mom, who insisted on moving back home to be near her parents.  He was the first person in his family to earn a college degree and escape the cycle of poverty, and had left Durham and swore he would never return. But return, he did.   And he stayed for a year, to be near them, he said. He whispered to her through tears that God had led him to Dallas, Texas, to teach at the University of North Texas and Dallas Theological Seminary. This move meant she would see him sporadically, mostly at Christmas and on Summer vacations.   But her dad, being the genius of the quick sell,  painted a thrilling picture of what an amazing adventure this almost cross-country drive this would be.

She jumped at the chance to be included in his world, and a few weeks later, they hopped into his 79’ blue Buick with no air conditioner and began their journey across the country. The heat was suffocating, at around 104 degrees, and her legs, clad in my cut-off Levi shorts, were completely stuck to the old blue vinyl of the bench seats. She took photos with her brand new One-Step Polaroid camera of the Great Smokey mountains as they passed through Tennessee, and burned with excitement of the signs warning of the possibility of falling rocks. Her dad, the music lover, told her all about Buddy Holly and Elvis Presley as they listened to Blue Suede Shoes and drove through Memphis ,windows down, his cigarette smoke softly lifting up and out through the window and into the hazy, blue sky. He explained to her the difference between A hotel and a motel when they

pulled up to the Motel 6, just off of I-30. He gave gave a quarter to put in the machine on the headboard of the bed to make it vibrate. The TV had only rainbow lines and a static noise

since it was after midnight, so she drifted off to sleep in anticipation of tomorrow’s journey.  Breakfast was Fritos and Funyuns  out of the machine on the way to the car, as they set off for another 12 hours. Dallas brought them country music as the landscape changed to flat, and men in starched Wrangler jeans and cowboy hats appeared as foreign to her as actual aliens

from outer space. It also brought her Taco Bueno, her dad talking to her about Mexico as she ate this sloppy thing called a burrito, swallowing it down with a Dr. Pepper. He showed her To the Galleria, one of the glamorous malls of Dallas, Texas, and had stores like Saks 5th Ave and Bloomingdales. She did not belong in this world, being a pre-teen in shorts and tee-shirts, surrounded by the glamorous women of Dallas, with their big blonde hair and long red nails. Her dad was woman-crazy, mom said, and he flirted with all of them at the cologne counters that were scattered about Macy’s, repeating the same old lines to each one, as she stood there bored and embarrassed. He slowed down only to remind her that if she didn’t start

watching what she ate, she would be sorry soon. No man wanted a fat girl. He took her to Bloomingdales, and she felt like somebody as the overly made-up girl at the check-out counter handed her a “Little Brown Bag”. She rode on his excitement and energy that week, flying high on the newness of it all. He woke her up one morning at 2:00 am to go to IHOP for cheesecake. As confused as she was, she loved his spontaneity . Their week together ended the same way it had started. He leaned down and hugged her as he cried. The weight of his emotion felt like a cement block , threatening to slam her into the shiny tiled floor. She turned to get on the airplane, and the flight attendant attaching a little set of Eastern Airline wings to her t-shirt. As the “big bird”, as her dad called it, lifted up and over Dallas, she marveled at tiny houses stretched out across the board, with little blue swimming pools in each back yard. She was lifted up and out of the sadness and confusion, with her ginger ale and pretzels, if only for a few hours. September 2015 She went to visit his grave today. She and her husband, and her 10 year old daughter. It’s in Durham, a place he wanted to never return, on a little piece of muddy earth that appears to slide down into the street. She couldn’t believe he was under her feet, and she wondered why humans devote all of this land to bury their dead. It seemed like such an odd tradition, she mused. He didn’t even want to be buried. He had confided in her , the way he often did, in his syrupy way that always seemed like bull shit, that he wanted to be cremated. On the way home from the cemetery. we happened drove by an old pre-war apartment complex and an odd sensation came over her as She looked at up the large, wrought iron windows, that she had been there before. She was slammed with a sudden rush of memory. This was the apartment her dad lived in that year before he moved to Dallas, before they left on our trip together. One summer day years ago, it was her dad’s weekend to have her and her brother. They were together, in that living room of those old apartments with its hardwood floors and massive windows that let the sun shine in like a glowing orb, reflecting off of the shiny floors and white walls. The sparseness of the place made it seem spotlessly clean. He had an old blue sofa bed, and a big TV sitting on a tray, the kind people used to call “TV trays”, because they would pull them up to the sofa and eat their frozen dinners on them. The two siblings were fighting over the channels like two dogs fighting over a tennis ball. The next thing she knew, her dad was storming through the room, words coming from his mouth in a series that she couldn’t even comprehend. He was wearing nothing but a pair of white boxer shorts, the TV in his arms, rabbit ears wrapped in aluminum

foil smashed to the floor. He called her mom, who immediately whisked the children up and out of there, terrified. She would see him several more times before he died, never knowing

which dad would show. Returning to the present, she glance into the back seat at her 11 year old daughter, and try to imagine what she would do if she saw her own dad pulI off such a dramatic feat. She couldn’t She can’t imagine her feeling any of the burden and heaviness of having to deal with the emotions put upon her by an adult. She had barely escaped that reality for her daughter. But still, he was there, alone on that little hill. All of the other

tombstones were decorated with old photographs, flowers, balloons, little trinkets from loved ones, while his was lonely and bare. She became aware of the little flower attached to her car

radio. It was a fake red daisy she bought at the Charlotte IKEA the week before and still had in her car. She took it out and put it on his grave. It was the best she had, and while she didn’t really want to go out of her way for him, the poor bastard needed something. She would return one more time in her life. She didn't see the point in going back.

I Am Not The Art

1970's photobooth

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