Tuesday, April 15, 2008

A Golden Egg

Dear Lynn,

I remember seeing your story a few years ago on The Oprah Winfrey Show. Was it hard for you to go on television and expose such a dark part of your life in front of millions of people? I am thirty five years old and have been sober now for almost three years, thanks to God and AA. I have been dating this wonderful guy who I am completely falling in love with. I want to be open and honest with him about my struggles with drugs and alcohol but there is a part of me that is so afraid to tell him anything about my past, I don’t want him to feel differently about me. Any words of wisdom you have for me would be appreciated.


Dear Kate,

When I was nine years old, my grandmother took me to NYC to see Liberace in the Easter show at Radio City Music Hall. As the heavy red curtains were raised up everything was dark, except one spotlight shining down on the middle of the stage and there sat the largest and most magnificent egg I had ever seen. It was a golden egg, lavishly decorated with jewels, painted flowers, soft pastel colors, and lace ribbons draped around it. And then the egg slowly began to open up, and there he was, standing in the center, taking the place of a yellow yolk, was the one and only, Mr. Liberace.

He was clothed in a long puffy flowing cape that was covered in vibrant sequins and shiny rhinestones. It also had white fur trim around the neck, and huge colorful feathers shot up from the collar as if a peacock had attached itself to him. But my favorite part of his outfit was the gold lame suit and high heeled boots he wore. At one point in the show Liberace said “Lots of people out there judge me, call me crazy, over the top, critics have many things to say about my lifestyle and outrageous costumes, but I don’t mind, this is who I am and I certainly didn’t get dressed like this to go unnoticed.”

As I sat in the theatre that spring day, a fire ignited within me. I knew that I was going to move to New York City one day and crack out of huge golden egg just like Liberace.

Fast forward, fourteen years later, where I am sitting on a Chicago stage next to Oprah Winfrey, watching a three-d image of my brain rotate on the large screen behind me. I am listening to the doctor’s voiceover saying “this looks like the brain of a seventy year old woman who had multiple strokes, not a healthy twenty three year old girl.” People are gasping in the audience, as they look at my brain and listened to me talk about the dirtiest and darkest part of my life. As Oprah grabbed my hand and I stared at my brain floating on the giant screen, something happened. It was nothing like I had imagined it to be, I wasn’t in NYC, I wasn’t wearing feathers or rhinestones, but I was indeed cracking out of that golden egg.

I had nothing to hide anymore; everything was out on the table, my past, the alcoholic home, the drugs, the pain, the disappointments, exposing my truth to millions, I began to feel the years of shame and guilt that I had harbored inside myself disappearing. I was finally taking the darkest parts of myself and embracing them. People could say what they wanted, they could judge me, call me crazy, call me an addict, call me a liar, call me whatever the hell they wanted, it didn’t matter because like Liberace “I didn’t mind”, after all with my brain like mine, how could I go unnoticed?

So Kate, I encourage you to crack out of that egg and embrace all parts of your beautiful self. And if this guy of yours is as wonderful as you say he is, be honest with him, he will probably buy you a gold lame jump suit to show you just how much he loves you!!


Monday, April 14, 2008

The Helen Hunt Effect

Dear Lynn,

I am a Father of three and recently sat down with my oldest (he is only thirteen) to have “the talk”. I told him that drugs and alcohol destroy lives, I told him a few horror stories that I found on the net too, people dying, committing suicide, going to jail, hoping that would have an impact on him. Is there anything else I can tell him that you think might help?


A Scared Dad

Dear Scared,

First I want to commend you for communicating with your children, it’s hard enough to face these tough subjects with ourselves, now try facing it with kids, not an easy thing to do at all. I’m not a parent yet, so I can only imagine the care and concern you have for those three precious human beings you brought into this world. I’m sure you are a wonderful father.

Now as far as your actual approach to the issue, I think it SUCKS! But it is really not your fault, it is what you have been taught, it is a lifetime of old programming. You are doing what so many parents, teachers, commercials, politicians, try to do: instill FEAR, FEAR, and more FEAR. As much as you think that might work, it just doesn’t.

I grew up with the just say no, commercials, the eggs cracking and frying in a pan, the McGruff dog takin a bite out of crime, I was told by my health teachers that “Crack is Whack”, I watched all of those after school specials with Helen Hunt, where she smokes a PCP laced joint and jumps through a window screaming that there are bugs crawling all over her (which I truly believe is why she received an Oscar).

So with all of these so called “effective” warnings and scare tactics, I was led to believe that I was going to be met by some strange man in a dark alley, he would open up his trench coat, and there would be bloody syringes, pills, powders, and probably a few hand grenades hanging there. He would look at me with his one eye, since the other was covered by an ugly eye patch, and say, “Hey Lynnie, want some drugs?” I also thought that the second I ingested any kind of drug into any orifice, my head would most likely explode as I jumped through a glass window and died.

Fast forward to when I was first offered drugs in NYC. The dark alley was actually, a posh little Greenwich Village apartment. The strange and ugly drug dealer was my tall beautiful model-like looking best friend, Lucy. The drug was called ecstasy, say it out loud nice and slow, e-c-s-t-a-c-y, now say CRACK out loud. The scary drug which was supposed to cause my head to explode, as I jumped through a window, and die, made me feel warm, tingly, amazing, and full of love for all mankind.

It was nothing like “they” said it would be. No one told me that drugs were going to make me feel so good before they made me feel so bad. No one told me that the chemical reaction would produce an effect that mimicked something so amazing. No one told me that at first, I would feel sexy and comfortable in my own skin, before feeling repulsive and agitated in my own skin. No one told me that drugs would pretend to be my best friends before they placed a noose around my neck. No one told me that I would want to do them again and again and again. No one told me the truth.

So Scared, you ask, “Is there anything else I can tell my son?”

Why not the truth?


Sunday, April 13, 2008

The Act of Contrition

Dear Lynn,

You spoke at my university last night and what you said about your lack of self worth really struck a chord with me. I know I don’t love myself. I don’t think I am pretty enough, I don’t have enough friends, I think I am too fat, and I never seem to wear the right thing. I have been drinking in excess over the last few months, blacking out, and hooking up with random guys. I always wake up feeling disgusted with myself. I have now decided to stop drinking all together. I guess I don’t really have a specific question, would just like to hear back from you.

A Student

Dear Student,

It’s a great insight to come to – that you don’t love yourself. I believe it is hard to love one’s self because we have been taught to condemn ourselves for so long. We think of love in terms of somebody else. It is perfectly fine to love our neighbor, our boyfriend, our friends, our dog, the pizza delivery boy, but shout from the rooftops “I LOVE ME” and just watch what happens.

When I was eight years old, I had to memorize and recite aloud in front of Sister Celeste, a little ditty called The Act of Contrition. It goes a little something like this: Oh my God I am heartly sorry for having offended thee, and I detest all of my sins because of your just punishment, but mostly because they offend you my Lord…

Now can I just ask what kind of sins does an eight year old have anyway? Can you imagine this offended and pissed off Lord tucked up high on a cloud saying, “Well little Suzie, I see you haven’t brushed your teeth in a couple of days”, BAM, a bolt of lightening right into Little Suzie’s head. I mean really.

But my point here is that so many of us have been told that we are sinners, that we have no worth, that we need to improve, repent, change, be someone different, someone prettier, kinder, skinnier, smarter, richer, and on and on. No one has ever told you that you are perfect, that you are beautiful, that you are just fine “as is,” that the heavens couldn’t resist, they just had to CREATE YOU. No one has ever told you that you are enough. And because of this it has become difficult to love ourselves. How can you love a worthless person? How can you love someone who has already been condemned from the start? But it will come. In fact it is already on its way. It started with the simple recognition, the one that you have already had.

Now since you say you are giving up the sauce, you’re going to have a lot more time on your hands. Here are some suggestions if you are looking for a few new hobbies.

  1. Make a list of the things you like about yourself
  2. Daily Affirmations said out loud e.g. “ I Rock, I’m Fabulous, I’m Loving”
  3. Be aware of your negative self-talk
  4. Treat yourself like you would your best friend (preferably one that you really like)
  5. Follow your bliss and focus on the things that you love doing
  6. Surround yourself with positive and inspiring people
  7. And my personal favorite put on your favorite tunes and DANCE (in your living room, in front of a mirror, in the street, in the grocery store, you get the picture.)

I also want to share a portion of Derek Walcott’s poem, Love after Love, with you.

“The day will come when with elation, you will greet yourself, arriving at your own door, in your own mirror, and each will smile at the other's welcome, and say sit here. Eat.

You will love again the stronger who was yourself. Give wine (juice in your case), give bread, give back your heart to itself, to the stranger who has loved you, all your life, whom you ignored for another, who knows you by heart. Sit, FEAST ON YOUR LIFE!”

Now it’s time for me to go brush my teeth, don’t want to piss off Mister Lord Punisher. I saw what he did to little Suzie.


Saturday, April 12, 2008


Dear Lynn,

My name is Anthony. I recently got kicked out of my house, am couch hopping, and have lost myself in a world of drugs and lies. I have now quit everything cold turkey. I wish I had never used drugs and I hope things will eventually get better. It has only been a few weeks since I quit. I want to be a better person and try harder to achieve something but I am having a hard time. Do you have any pointers as to how to look past the past? That is my biggest problem right now. I look back at all I have done and hate myself for it. I don't know how to get past it. I know it's pretty lame that I can admit that but I can't get past my past. Help.


Dear Anthony,

You are not lame, in fact far from it. I think you are brilliant for understanding and acknowledging what is holding you back. I truly believe you speak for so many of us…addicted or not…so many of us stay stuck because we are constantly looking backwards, focusing on our history, on the past, on the ghosts that are no longer there. We carry this history with us, chewing on our memories over and over again, replaying them in our minds, thinking, hoping that we can somehow reform the past. THIS CAN NEVER BE DONE. The past is no more and there is no possibility of undoing it, NEVER.

My first year of sobriety was pure hell. I was filled with so much pain and misery. I just wanted to make it all go away. I just wanted to feel normal, whatever the hell that was. Like you I was so angry at myself for what I had done, past experiences replayed in my mind like a bloody horror film, torturing me, over and over again. I was blaming myself, blaming my past, putting all of my focus on what was. If my Dad wasn’t an alcoholic, if I never used drugs, if I didn’t move to New York City, and on and on. I was exhausted and going nowhere; a dog chasing its own tail. It finally hit me, I could either keep getting sucked backwards, continuing to spiral in a vicious cycle, escaping into the never ending past, feeling miserable and paralyzed or I could try a new way.

Through many dark nights and a hell of a lot of soul searching, I came to understand that focusing on my past was a sheer waste of precious time. Trying to undo what my father, society, or the drugs had done was getting me NOWHERE. If in fact my Dad, society, and the drugs, destroyed many years of my life, why was I letting them destroy even more??? Maybe it was being raised Catholic but I know a lot of my guilt and self hatred came from constantly being told I was a dirty little sinner who needed to repent.

In Hebrew the word sin, actually means to miss. Over the years I have come to understand the only real sin in this world is to miss life, to waste the present time, to throw away the here and now. For many, many years, I allowed my past to destroy my present, but not any more Mister.

Tony, I think it’s time to make peace, not only with your past but also with yourself. You had to go through all of this, all of the pain and trauma, to get you to this point. You had to hit the bottom in order for you to look up to that higher place, where you are now going. Where you are today is just the result of your past actions, it is who you WERE not who you ARE.

This wise chap named Jesus Christ once said, “Let the dead bury the dead.” The past is dead, it’s no more, why let your history enslave you any longer. So Anthony, you can say Gracias and Adios to your past or you can keep your eyes fixated behind you, on those rotting corpses that have died long ago. The choice is all yours.

Adios my amigo,


Friday, April 11, 2008

Mine as well face it...

Dear Lynn,

I am not writing you about alcohol or drugs, I have never had a problem with either. But I think that I might be addicted to my boyfriend. I always want to be near him and I find myself becoming anxious and depressed when we are apart. It seems I never want to be alone anymore and have a hard time functioning without him by my side. I love him so much but I think I need some help, any suggestions?


Dear Emma,

Just like I had never planned on becoming addicted to drugs and alcohol, I also never planned on becoming addicted to my boyfriend, who we will just call Chuck (although David if you are reading this, you know who you are).

You see, I thought I had made it to safe harbors once I removed all of the pills, powders, and booze from my life. But I have now come to realize that life always finds a way to teach you the lessons that you most need to learn. Especially the ones you didn’t seem to catch the first time around or in my case the first thousandth time around. I seemed to have this little problem, once I found something that made me feel good, once I discovered something that I loved, I wanted to have it, all of the time. I needed to have it yesterday, now, tomorrow, and forever. Whether it was the newest flavor of Pringles or a five foot eleven blond haired surfer named, Chuck, I just had to have it.

I became obsessed; I wanted and NEEDED to spend every waking hour with him. So I did just that. Whenever we spent time apart I would feel like you do, depressed and anxious, my whole world revolved around Chuck. I put all of my time and energy into this relationship, wanting to make it work, hoping to always make him happy, and needing his validation to feel good about myself. But it didn’t seem to matter how much I would give or focus on Chuck, I continued to feel empty inside and even more depressed.

I seemed to be back on this all too familiar road again, of looking outside myself for peace and fulfillment. If Chuck would just commit, put a ring on my finger, profess his undying love to me, surgically attach himself to my body, I would be happier than a pig in poop. I was looking outside myself for love and acceptance, hoping that someone else could give it to me. There were certainly temporary fixes out there, I knew very well about those: drugs, cigarettes, sex, food, America’s Next Top Model. But with these intoxicants I was always left wanting more, feeling used, abandoned, and alone. And now with Chuck I was feeling that way too. Empty and alone.

But one fine day something clicked. I realized I needed to walk away in order to reclaim myself and my life. Not sure what the exact tipping point was, it could have been the day Chuck walked into the bedroom to let me know he was going surfing, and I threw myself on the floor crying like someone had just told me that Bush had been reelected for a third term. Or it could have been the fact that I began to count how many slices of turkey he would put on his sandwich, finding myself bothered that he was consuming way too much poultry. Whatever it was, I knew I needed to discover who I was on my own before I could be in any type of relationship or partnership with someone else.

Was it easy? NO. I had to face some stinky stuff that I had kept locked away for quite some time: my fear of being alone, my daddy/abandonment issues, my constant need for approval and validation, my incessant need to pick lint off of whoever was closest to me. But once I did this, once I faced these things, I could sit at home all by myself and not only be OK with it, but happy, and joyful in my own skin.

So Emma, you asked for my suggestions and here they are. Work on the relationship you have with yourself first, make it the best one you got, considering you are going to be stuck with you til the day you die. Nothing and nobody else can show you your worth but YOU! After you have your own love, support, and approval, the rest is icing. Believe me. I also think immediately after you finish reading this, you should read Melody Beattie’s book, Co-dependent No More, it will kick your ass…in a good way.

And David, if you are in fact reading this, I want you to know that Chuck and I are very, very, happy together.



Thursday, April 10, 2008

Fear and Shredding in Las Vegas

Dear Lynn,

My name is Heather, I am twenty-five years old, and I live
in Las Vegas. I have been sober now for two years but I still
struggle every day not to go back to that life style. When I
feel any pain or fear, my first reaction is to just go and get
high. How do you do it every day?

God bless,


Dear Heather,
Pain and fear are such powerful emotions. They have the ability
to destroy or transform, and it is up to us to decide which it will
be. There have been many times in my life where I have
succumbed to fear and pain. I have spent days lying in my bed
crying paralyzed by depression. Days shaking uncontrollably,
legs trembling, filled with panic. I feared what people thought of
me. I feared that I was a complete failure. I feared that I would be
“crazy” for the rest of my life. I feared being labeled an “addict”.
I feared what the doctors told me. I feared the news reports. I
feared that I was a phony. I feared my alcoholic father. I feared.
Even though I had: brushed death, been locked in two psychiatric
wards, even though I had been broke, alone, and broken hearted,
even after experiencing and living through all of this and more,

what was I still afraid of?
Over time I realized that it wasn’t the darkness that I feared but the
light. I had been through so many hellish experiences and had
lived in a nightmare for so long that I was comfortable with the
darkness and misery. Fear and pain were familiar to me, like a
couple of old friends who were always right there waiting for me to
jump back into their arms again. Heather here is a little exercise
that helps me tremendously and I know it will work wonders for
you too. You will need:
1.      One sheet of blank paper (more blank sheets may be
necessary depending upon how fearful you are)
2.      One pen
3.      One electric paper shredder
4.      One box of Kleenex

Strep One: Take out the pen and write down anything and
everything that is on your mind. Write down everything that
has been weighing on your heart. Write down every fear that
is standing in your way. Don’t hold back and don’t edit yourself.
Don’t worry about what anybody else will think; this is for YOU.
If this exercise scares you, that is OK too. Feel the fear and
Step Two:  Look at everything you just wrote. Don’t just breeze
over the words; read each sentence and REALLY FEEL these
emotions. Allow yourself to FEEL the hurts, the fears, the
frustrations, the questions, and the anger. Allow yourself to cry,
scream, bark, punch your stuffed animals; do whatever it takes
Step Three: Take the paper(s) and only AFTER you have really
FELT everything, each word, each fear, each emotion, I want you
to plug the shredder in and place the page(s) into its lovely mouth.
Step Four: Close your eyes and listen to those loud, beautiful,
grumbling noises as that little liberation machine eats and shreds
everything that has been holding you back from being the
beautiful, amazing, wonderful, loving, creative, and fabulous
woman that you are.
Repeat Steps One-Four as needed.
Some people pay a therapist.  
I bought my therapist at Target for 16.99.
Happy Shredding Heather!