Posted in Recovery


A blogging-friend commented the other day that my writing reminds her of another writer’s, and (with that sense of shame peculiar to a bibliophile when she discovers there’s something she hasn’t read) I immediately downloaded Anne LaMott’s Traveling Mercies: Some Thoughts on Faith. The action of downloading the book brought home to me, actually, how little I’ve been reading in recent months. And by “little,” in this case, I mean “not at all.”

I used to read incessantly–a book a day on average–and tell myself it was feeding the writer-in-me… But for years I was shying away from my keyboard, incessantly “feeding the writer” and never turning her loose. In recent months I’ve been writing, writing, writing–and not picking up a book.  (Or, in my case, my book-loaded iPad.) Clearly balance is an issue for me.

And in fact, I’m feeling supremely off-balance today, thanks to a vivid nightmare that’s been clinging to my mind. Usually I don’t remember much of a dream, even moments after I wake. But this dream, from two nights ago already, has its tentacles dug into my mind. It was a nightmare of triple-imprisonment.

In this dream, I am working again for my old boss, the  Hell Boss. This was a person who fully believed she owned her employees, body and soul, lashed out at any hint of “disloyalty,” and thought the legal-reminders by the human resource staff were laughable jokes to be ignored. (If you watch “The Office,” think of the Steve Carell character’s disregard for human resources warnings about inappropriate behavior—minus the bizarre and quirky humor—and that would be The Hell Boss. In this dream, I am back in her claws.

In this dream, I am back in my first marriage. Tiptoeing around the temper that controls the house, bowing to insecurities that require me to be dumber than I actually am, and less myself than I should be.  And worst…

In this dream, I am drinking. Which means I’m imprisoned by myself, the alter ego who takes control with that first drink, and who destroys mercilessly everything I care about, in deference to her single priority: getting the next drink. She goes to ridiculous lengths, tells ridiculous stories to try and protect her drinking, endangers my children, destroys my integrity. And if I’m able at some future point to wrestle her back out of control, I’ll be faced with her wake of destruction–because to anyone not living inside my head, she is the same person as myself. And I do have myself to blame–for handing her the keys when I took a first drink–but she is not me.

I used to hear, in Recovery circles, the saying that if you commit suicide when you’re under the influence, you’ve killed the wrong person. That never made sense to me. (Why? Who am I supposed to kill?)  I understand it better now. My last relapse, drunk and destroyed, I swallowed as many aspirin as my shaking hands could get from a full bottle, and took a kitchen knife into the empty bathtub, where I went to work along a wrist vein.  It sounds so melodramatic to my sober-self, but at the time there was simply a grim determination to rid myself of her.  And the me that’s me felt so destroyed already that I didn’t care that she’d take me with her. It would save me the heartache of facing up to this new wave of destruction, wreaked after almost two joyfully sober years, when I somehow convinced myself that she wouldn’t be lying in wait if I just had a beer at the end of the day.

That was the dream. I’ve been unsettled since–despite the overpowering relief of waking. And this afternoon, feeling an uncharacteristic aversion to writing, I started reading LaMott. And found myself right back in the nightmare, with her vivid recounting of her own spiral into addiction and hopelessness.  Ultimately, that’s the most devastating darkness of active addiction–the utter lack of hope.

I had to put down the book in order to breathe.

I took myself to the front porch and huddled in a patio chair, breathing. It’s not a day for huddling–it’s above seventy degrees, brightly sunny, my husband raking up the mowed grass wearing my Tilley hat and singing along to his iPod in the Hawai’ian language, with an occasional exclamation in Pidgin thrown in (the Island equivalent of a yeehaa)…  And I gradually found myself again. And reached out for reassurance that God is still there (of course! but there’s nothing like addiction–even remembered–to make you doubt).

I’m humbled by the comparison to Lamott’s writing, and unworthy of it. But I’m grateful to have been put onto her book–clearly I needed to read this right now. And always, always, I need to remember what lies in wait if I become complacent about my Recovery.  Synchronicity strikes again.


I am... a writer, an explorer, a coffee-drinker, a recovering addict, a barefoot linguist, a book-dragon ("bookworm" doesn't cover it), a raconteur, a sailboat skipper, a research diver, a tattooed scholar, a pirate, a poet, a spiritual adventurer, a photographer, a few kinds-of-crazy, a joyful wife, a mom... a list-maker! :)

37 thoughts on “Nightmare

  1. While I don’t suffer from addiction, I know all too well the dark place that takes you there. The world is so much more beautiful with you in it, Kana.


  2. Dearest Kana:
    Your heartfelt insistent honesty and clarity are an inspiration and your rudder. I pray that the horror of your nightmare recedes and is replaced as always by the Peace that surpasses all understanding. If balance is an issue, then you know, despite those writing deadlines that you must ink in some you time to give you the balance. I know that knowing it and doing it are two different things. You are such an upfront friend, mentor, wife, mom, writer, blogger…..may your day be extremely blessed with peace. Stay the course….fill your sails with God’s healing winds. sending hugs and prayers–kate


    1. Hugs & prayers received! ;) And words of wisdom as well–“balance” may continue to be a goal rather than a reality, but it’s one I need to work toward


    1. I didn’t think so–but that nightmare (and the reading) are vivid reminders not to let myself grow complacent!


  3. You’re a beautiful and talented writer. What you’ve gone through has made you stronger and I love reading your blog. You talk about your past with wit and humor (which I know are really the same thing). I’ve never met you but I have faith in you.


  4. Oh, I love Anne Lamott, and you do remind me a bit of her.

    I know a bit about fear–for me it’s about bipolar disorder, not addiction, but it’s still the fear of feeling so out of control and the terror that things will never get better Hang in there, sweetie.



  5. I used to keep several copies of Traveling Mercies to give to friends – and several copies of Brother Lawrence’s The Practice of the Presence of God. Out of copies now – need to stock up again!

    Molly Ivens and Anne Lamott were great friends and Kindred Spirits – through their Drinking Days – and after they both kicked it. Spiritual and Intellectual Friends.

    Lamott’s Operating Instructions and Bird by Bird are excellent reads. As is Grace (Eventually). She recently published another book – Some Assembly Required: A Journal of My Son’s First Son. I’ve not yet read it, however it is on my To Read List.

    I agree with lenleatherwood: your posts are ‘brutally honest and wonderful.’

    Thank you for sharing with us.


  6. Postscript: from Anne Lamott’s book Plan B Further Thoughts on Faith:

    “Help” is a prayer that is always answered.


  7. As much as I know about our lives then and as much as I know about us now, I couldn’t finish reading this. Me Kealoha Pumehana, Ko’u ‘Ele Makule
    and Thank You for waking up next to me everyday!


    1. Baby, thank you for the sober breath we get to take together every morning, and for being there with your arms around me when I DID (thank God) wake up. Thanks for praying with me every day to keep the beast at bay. Me kealoha pumehana, ku’u ipo, ku’u ‘ele makule, ku’u pilikia e pilikua!


  8. I had one of those kinda nightmares the other night – childhood horror – woke up and was SO glad it was a dream.
    Seems our ghosts never truly leave us … but perhaps they transform into Messengers to tell us to pay attention to our present.


  9. You’ve done it again, Kana. From the minute I started to read, you ‘sucked me in’ and your heartfelt story of your substance problem is deftly told in such a way that the reader holds dear to the heart-the information that he/she has been entrusted ‘with.’ (you know, a preposition is a word you don’t end a sentence WITH!!!)

    I’m sure we all have an addiction, some to a greater extent than others, but I maintain that it is what we take away from the experience that is so much more important than the experience itself. Many wouldn’t write about their nightmares. You did in an artful way. Thank you again.


  10. Your friend’s suggestion is fortuitous… Any of Anne LaMott’s writings will soothe and uplift you… Go read and enjoy! Plus she has a great sense of humor.


  11. Kana, I think you have taken me on a journey into my granddaughter’s mind. My heart is with you and with her and with all of us struggling with our particular addictions.


    1. I’ve gotten into the same habit; I think it’s because I don’t know hows to slow down and smell the roses. Even the books I have, for the most part, are audiobooks. I need stimulation and writing is active and listening to audio is active.



  12. I just opened this post and, Roomie, you’re the absolute bomb! I can’t believe how brave you are to discuss something so personal and intense on your blog. Never having an addiction problem but having been around several that have and, of those, one who got help and has been clean for five years from cocaine, your insight has helped me to better understand the world from their point of view. thanks.


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