This is a photo of me at Kansas State University in August 1998. It’s from the time that this entry is about, at least the part where I’m away at college and not smoking crack. You can’t see the 4 eyebrow piercings, but they’re there. I’m in my dorm room and excited to start a new life. Too bad it didn’t work out. I wanted to share a picture of myself from this time because it was when I still had some semblance of innocence.
While I don’t believe in God, I do have spirituality. It’s a hybrid of philosophy and truth. Truth meaning what I’ve seen, done, and experienced. It’s my truth. For me, in between my truth and philosophy lies the Universe. I’m going to capitalize Universe, because if I’m going to capitalize God to be respectful, I might as well show respect for what I believe.
I never attached the word Universe to my spiritual beliefs until a visit to Reno and some long talks with Elise and Kat. We talked about the way the Universe gives us what we need, and that sometimes all we really need to do is ask the Universe for what we feel we badly need and it will provide. Now, it might not happen today, and it might never happen in the way we “want” it to, but patience almost always leads to an answer or at least a culmination.
Working on some of the toughest parts of Magical Shrinking during that time, I told them I needed to talk to Walt. I had to, because otherwise I might never feel real closure. The life I’d lived in Las Vegas, which I was currently writing about, had been so emotional, so difficult. I asked the Universe, most sincerely, to please let me talk to Walt again someday.
Elise bought me a rock, at this fabulous store we visited, The Melting Pot, which says, “Ask and you shall receive.” It’s a big rock. I was skeptical about flying home with it (not huge, but at least as big as my band). The first thing I asked for was to be able to talk to Walt again someday. I brought the rock home, and it’s in the drawer next to my bed. I’ve asked it for many things, and many times it has come through, because generally my requests are pretty reasonable.
Walt was so important to me that he has his own chapter in Magical Shrinking. It’s called “Trusting Walt” because that’s what happened. I don’t know for sure, but it felt like I ended up trusting him more than anyone I’d ever met. The way he dealt with me was amazing, and I’ll always be grateful for that, but the result was that, in my mind, he became a god-like figure.
I’d always been told that no one is perfect, but Walt was perfect to me. He could do no wrong. I believed Walt would never abandon me, would never hurt me.
I knew this. It was truth to me. That neither Walt, nor his wife, would ever hurt me. They were perfect. I assumed their home life was perfect, that Walt was the perfect father, and I was jealous of his children.
The faith I had in this man changed me by the end of my time in Las Vegas. But not in a way I’d ever have predicted six months or a year prior.
A time came when I feared losing him, so I pretended to be okay. I did all I could to hide the horrors of my life, because I was certain if he knew I was a crack head, and try as I might, I could not stop smoking crack, he'd be done with me.
Before this period in mid-1999, I thought life had been very hard for me, that it had been a real struggle. But no, apparently I hadn’t seen anything yet.
The months I spend smoking crack daily are a horror story. I lived in hell. My respite came in two forms – spending a night at my parents’ house or going to see Walt. Otherwise I had nothing. Nothing but crack, my horrible companion, and homeless men.
After spending an occasional night there, I’d leave my parents’ house with such regret and ambivalence. Their lives were so hard, a nightmare in a completely different way. I’d return to my life in the ghetto and wonder what would become of me.
Outsiders, as I had once been, would come into our underworld lair to smoke crack. White people from the suburbs who had lost their fear due to addiction. They weren’t afraid of our scary ghetto anymore. Time after time they would overdose. And whoever sold them the drugs would drag their asses under the stairs by the payphone until they regained some composure. Or they’d leave via the police and/or an ambulance.
When would the crack kill me? I waited and waited, but I have a freakishly high tolerance for drugs. No matter how hard I tried, I never overdosed. It became clear I wasn’t going to die from crack or drugs in general. It seemed more likely I’d go to prison.
Leaving Walt’s office after our sessions was torture. The shame I’d feel was nearly unbearable. I’d want to vomit, and often would actually puke from the turmoil. Trying to purge that shame, but it didn’t work. Again, Walt was perfect to me. How could I possibly admit to the things I did? I was a lowlife now. Addicted to crack and living on the edges of reality.
For about a month, each day there would be some point when I’d have to find a place to be alone and cry. Just for a few minutes. My heart would pound, my breathing became very rapid, and I’d feel myself panic. Then I’d go back.
Occasionally there would be moments of crisis. If I thought too much about what I’d done to my life, it would nearly take my breath away. When I moved in with Joe at the Moulin Rouge things remained business as usual in his room. Our room.
Women would stream in and out of our room, either having oral sex or intercourse with drug dealers in our bathroom. I couldn’t believe I was a part of this, but I was, because I was rewarded with crack for letting it happen. And that was all that mattered. Getting my hands on crack and hitting that pipe.
Sometimes the women would want to talk with me when they were done and had been blown off. They didn't realize their time with the dealers was over. I could see in their eyes that they wanted me to reassure them that they weren't whores. And I did that. I didn't think of them as whores. I did let them know that their night was over, and they'd cry. No, I told them they weren't whores, they were women. Who deserved better than this. Who was I to judge anyone?
A year prior to this, Walt and his wife, Emily, decided to try a new tactic to help me get my life on track. I did hypnotherapy with Emily, and it was amazing. It was exciting because I never knew what my mind would bring out in a session. I’d leave with a feeling of wonder, because it was so much better than traditional psychotherapy, which wasn’t helping me at all. Mainly because no therapist could measure up to Walt. They all seemed pathetic by comparison.
It blew my mind that Emily wanted to work with me. The entire experience was healing for me. I was to leave Las Vegas to go to Kansas State University in just a couple months, and that alone seemed miraculous after my multiple hospitalizations and the severe mental illness and addiction that had been plaguing me for years.
One day the clutch died on my truck as I was pulling into the office for a hypnotherapy session. My Mom was working, so I was going to have to spend the whole day at the office until she could pick me up. I was secretly excited about it, because I honestly could’ve spent every day there.
At one point during the day, Walt’s kids came in, and I got to watch him interact with his newborn baby and their other kids. They were a real family. It appeared perfect to me. I sat in his office for a little while and contemplated it.
I was feeling really connected to Emily as we worked together. These were Emily’s kids, and they were so lucky to have her, because she was an incredible person. So caring, so sweet to me despite the constant demands I placed on her husband.
Now, a year later I was letting women whore themselves out in my bathroom. It went against everything I believed in, and yet the lure of crack was too strong. Could it have been just a year ago that I was getting ready to move away to college for a fresh start?
Months later I made the decision to stop smoking crack. It wasn’t just for me. It was for Walt and all he’d stood for and been in my life. I had to make him proud of me. I had to. So I worked hard on my new life after moving to Los Angeles. I never used any drug harder than alcohol or marijuana after leaving Las Vegas.
I spent a decade working hard, going to school, carving out a life with my husband, having a child, becoming a real person. And I wrote a book, Magical Shrinking, which was absolutely one of the most difficult things I’ve ever done on an emotional level. It brought the feelings of needing to talk to Walt to the forefront. I cried about it day after day. After all these years he was still perfect in my mind. Still god-like. The reason for my success.
The book came out in July, and now it’s November. Throughout these past months I’ve still wished hard to be able to speak to Walt. I sent him the book, with a Post-It note on the last page with my phone number, imploring him to call me. It was begging, but I didn't feel above begging him in that moment.
But during these months I’ve reconnected with Emily (through the miracle that is Facebook) and they’re no longer married. I’ve had a huge revelation over the past week or so. Walt is not god-like. He isn’t perfect. He is a flawed person like any of us. A mortal man.
I asked the Universe so many times during the past 7 months for a chance to speak to Walt. I used the rock Elise bought me. I was sure that it was the only way I could get closure. To hear him say to me, “I’m proud of you. You did it.”
Have I expressed how badly I’ve wanted that from him? Is it coming through in this post?
Walt is just a man. A man who may not want to talk to me. And that’s okay. Because I know he knows about my accomplishments. Emily was kind enough to tell him, and she relayed that he said he’s proud of me.
It’s a strange feeling to internalize that Walt is fallible, real, not any sort of deity. He is no longer on a pedestal. And it’s freeing in a way. This realization goes a long way toward my own healing.
So the Universe didn’t let me down. Instead, it showed me what I needed to see. I may get to speak to him someday, or not. I am putting it out there to the Universe and trusting that what needs to happen will happen. As I’ve said, getting what you need doesn’t always take the form of what you want. It’s out of my hands, and I’m relieved.
What really matters now, after all these years, is that I’m proud of myself.