My Ant Raft

20161102_140541

am simply, like everyone else, an ant. I am tiny in a world so big. Why do the people around me rely on me so heavily? Words carry a great meaning for me and I have a need to over analyze and figure things out from inside and out.  I stood on my porch one day watching the ants, march in perfect unison, hustle together, carry items far bigger than they are. So I began to read about ants, I became fascinated with the matriarchal society of ants, their strength, both individually and as a group, their amazing ability to build and network, the underground network can go for miles. Ants demonstrate the power of an individual made strong by the group. As an American, living in an individualistic culture I tend to forget that we, as individuals, only carry power within our groups, our hierarchies, and other people with whom we connect and build our networks. Ants are genius and respectful of one another. If there is a storm or a flood, one singular ant will drown but they network, bond together, and form an “ant raft” in which 500 plus ants will connect together using the pads under their feet and their jaws to connect together and therefore become water resistant creating a “raft” by which they can survive the flood.

I started thinking about my journey as an adult. In a codependent relationship built upon the need to consume a drug. How I maintained my business throughout all of it and how the women who would sit in my chair became my metaphoric “ant raft” holding my sinking head above water and allow me to survive my flood. At the height of my addiction, I would wake up in the morning smoke enough heroine to not get sick that day, go to work and put on a facade, work all day, and then return home at night to get high for hours until I passed out only to start it all over again the next day. I was shrinking away in size and strength, but I got out of the darkness at work. I talked to women who had survived traumas. And they were doing okay. I could see my way out of the dysfunction I had created on my personal life for 8-10 hours a day, all while creating beauty and making these women feel confident and strong in themselves.

This business ironically introduced me to drugs (in beauty school was where it started with cocaine and partying for days) and this business was the key to me getting and staying clean. I had a village of support. When I decided to get help, I was honest and open with my clients, my family, my friends and I didn’t lose my business in the process of getting clean. Everyone came together in support of my efforts. I think the idea of shame keeps people from being honest, I was able to let go of those feelings because my clients would sit in my chair and tell me stories of themselves, their friends, or family members who were battling some form of addiction. It became a bigger network of people to whom I was holding myself accountable.  I read the daunting statistics about drug addiction and the sad reality that only 3% of addicts who get clean actually stay clean. I think the stigma needs to be removed. I am thankful for my strong heart and self confidence, because I was capable of being open and honest with the people around me. I feel no sense of shame or regret, my experiences have shaped me into the woman I am today. Strong, successful, and more than anything empathetic to others. I close my eyes and watch my ant raft float by in my mind and feel gratitude that I was able to survive my flood.

Advertisements

As A Hairstylist, I Listen.

20161102_112029

“I was molested by a babysitter and have only told my mother one time. I had an abortion and could not tell anyone about it, so I did it alone. I thought I was safe with a friend at a bar in Chicago, but she left me by myself with men we had just met, the next morning I woke up with a strange guy, didn’t remember anything, but knew I had been raped and had to fly home that day. I found out my husband of 27 years and the father of my four children was cheating on me.  I remember holding my baby at the top of the stairs and he wouldn’t stop crying and for a moment I thought about throwing him down the stairs. My first husband was physically abusive.  I got jumped at a bar, by 2 girls and 5 guys and was knocked out cold by a guy. I got pregnant at 16 and had my daughter at 17 years old.  My son died in a car accident.  I have had a problem with taking pills. I drink a bottle of wine everyday. I got a DUI.  My dad used to beat my mother in front of us, he was mean up until the very day he died. I never told my dad that I am a lesbian before he died.  I’m scared that I will be the one to find my grandma dead at home.  My roommate and I had an intruder threaten us at gunpoint and I was the one who suffered the rape so that my roommate didn’t have to, I am HIV positive.  I was violently raped by a group of men that resulted in the loss of a pregnancy, and set a precedent for future court cases.  My oldest son is schizophrenic.  I have been diagnosed with bi-polar disorder. My husband has been abusive our entire marriage, I have developed chronic fatigue,  and my older son is a drug addict. My daughter dropped out of high school and is addicted to meth. My daughter told me that I am a terrible mother and wants nothing to do with me.  I am 43 years old, with 2 young daughters, I have rheumatoid arthritis so badly I only have 10% use of my hands.  I lost my job and have been out of work for a year.  I haven’t had sex with my husband in over six years. I called off my engagement. I am getting a divorce.”

These are the stories that keep me in my business. It is far more than giving a great haircut or great color. I am a safe person to share your stories. After 15 years in the business, I realize that I have a gift for listening. For laughing, for crying, all while creating beauty which can be extremely therapeutic. The traumas we experience are actually the things that can create a bond. Accomplishments are great, but what is a measure of a true accomplishment? Every person’s starting point is different and every person’s goals  are different. I think through our own experience with suffering and hard times we develop empathy for others. For myself, going through my worst experiences allowed me to sit with others and listen without judgement while my clients told me their stories. And in an environment where there is physical touch- shampoo, head massage, blow-dry, some level healing can take place. I am grateful for my own traumas because I have developed a thick skin and simultaneously real empathy for other’s suffering.

I worked hard on myself, I had a heroine addiction for 5 years, I was in a 8 year long relationship with a man who is a drug addict, and I overcame these things and ALL of the craziness that goes along with it.  I have been to hours of counseling, but I give a lot of credit to my business. My ability to be open with hundreds of clients through the years gave me a platform for honesty, a place to hold myself accountable, and a network of support that extended beyond my friends, family, and counselors. It literally takes a village. When the statistics for recovery are so low at 3% of addicts who recover and stay clean, I recognize that my circumstances are different than 97% of the population of addicts, and I give credit to the HUGE network of support.  I am now sitting here with 9 years clean time. I have no desire to go back there, addiction is a coping skill for things we cannot handle. I had a counselor that put it into perfect words “You did not have a drug problem, you had a drug solution.” People do not turn to drugs if the things in their life are managed and being handled in a healthy way. So now, if I can be a beacon for the people around me who are hurting, be an ear to listen to them, and tell them I believe them, so maybe they feel a little less alone, that’s who I will be and that is who I am.

This is only the beginning……

20161028_235600

My journey has been a colorful one. I am manic, creative, intelligent and a bit of a workaholic. I decided to start this blog while in the middle of a start up adventure . While I am headed towards goals that I want to achieve I have faced some serious road blocks and need an outlet for my busy brain. Stress is unproductive. I have learned from years of coping and practice that I do best when I have a voice and a platform from which to speak my mind. I have a day job as a hairstylist and usually use my clients as my outlet both to share my stories and to hear theirs. I recently relocated cities and am working on building clientele and simultaneously working on a start up company.  With these factors hard at work, I have very little human interaction compared to what I was used to having. I have an unfinished book that I started years ago and do not have the amount of time that it requires to complete, so what better platform than a blog?

So here I am, about to begin this journey, hoping to have some forward movement and utilize my stress in a healthy and productive way. I want to use this blog as a place to share my personal story in a way that I fear no boundary. A place to be as open as I possibly can, and not for one instance worry who in my personal circle will be offended or worried about what others will think, away from social media and the facade which that platform can create. Welcome and thank you.