Short Story Sunday
Welcome to Short Story Sunday – This is Mandy’s story from my book My Demons.
The gym is just as I remembered it. High ceilings, bright blue tornados painted along the concrete block walls and chipped blue and white bleachers on both sides.
Tonight, the gym is transformed into our senior prom theme. Our senior prom from 20 years ago. Mandy Kippner, high school prom queen, most likely to succeed, most popular, and let’s not forget, cheer captain. Well, this is what the banner says anyway. As I stand in the gym staring at the several banners hanging from the ceilings, plastered with the elite or in the crowd, I think back to that night. Prom night. That was the night that changed everything, or at least it was the night that changed me.
May of 1999. The graduation ceremony was this morning, and tonight was the prom. The big one. The one all seniors and high school students dream about. My date of the night was Stevie. He was captain of the football team. We had been dating for several years. His mom took me shopping several days before prom and brought me my prom dress. It was perfect — Royal blue sequin gown with a deep neckline and opened back. Amy, my best friend, and I did our hair and makeup together. Stevie and her boyfriend rented a limo, and we all rode together to our decorated gym for the night of our lives.
Prom was everything I imagined it to be. Of course, Stevie and I were prom King and Queen. I mean, we were a shoo-in. We were the couple; you know the perfect high school couple. I just knew he would be giving me a promise ring prom night. We had just graduated; he had been accepted to a local college to become an electrician, and I was going to be a wife and mom. At least that was my plan.
After prom and a late-night dinner, I was dropped off at my front door by our limo. I had to hurry because I was almost an hour past curfew. I was a little miffed that I had a curfew on prom night, but my mom and stepdad would not budge a bit on that. I kissed Stevie at the door and quietly let myself into our little house. I glanced at my mom’s recliner, and it was empty. I smiled; she will never know. I quietly crept down the hall so I wouldn’t wake her and open my bedroom door, and there was my stepdad. God, I hated this man.
“Mandy Kippner, is that you?” someone asks. I honestly have no idea who this person is, but of course, I did not make it a goal to be kind to everyone at school back in the day. A lot of people knew me, even when I treated them like total shit. “Yes, well, its Mandy Greene now,” I say with a fake smile plastered across my face. “It’s me, Jenny. We were in History together. I did all your homework senior year,” Jenny spits out as she did me such colossal favor, and now I should remember every detail about her. I took her over. Twenty years later and she is still an attractive lady, a little plump but still pretty. “Of course, Jenny, how are you? You look amazing, by the way,” I smile as I reply. I faintly remember her now. I think her dad was the pastor at our local Baptist church. I look around and notice the gym is starting to fill up. I can no longer stand in one spot, staring at all signs and going down memory lane. I have the story all worked out in my head, and now it is time to play the part.
I am nervous as a whore in church with a date waiting outside, I think to myself. I glance down at my hands to my chewed nails. Oh, I should have down something about those. Black hair dye has stained certain parts of my hands too. I head to the bathroom to freshen myself up before I start mingling. I am beginning to get jittery and realize it has been several hours since I did my last line. It was all I had left too. I dig through my purse until I find my bottle of Vicodin. While standing in the bathroom stall, I crush it up as fine as I could get it and snort that with a rolled-up dollar bill. Just to help me get through the night, I tell myself. Immediately I feel the head rush, and immediately I know that I am still the queen of this place. I went from
Nervous to cocky in less than 60 seconds. I stop at the bathroom sink to wash my hands. I missed some spots when dying my hair earlier. Some of the bright red is peeking through. I guess trying to dye your hair in a gas station bathroom is not the best idea. My dress is pretty. I bought it from a thrift store in Sacramento. I am sure it is probably two years old and perhaps not the most fashionable clothing. However, it fits me perfectly and it is the same royal blue that my prom dress was. Besides, I still got my body, I think. I look hot!
I stop at the bar and grab another drink, it is an open bar, and I am on drink number 2, but who’s counting. I start to mingle and talk to people I barely remember. I share the same story with everyone. The story I created while driving to Kentucky.
Mandy Greene, a makeup artist, happily married to a great husband and two kids. “No my husband could not make it tonight,” I repeat this lie several times, “he is a famous chef and works for some pretty demanding clients.”
As I spin my web of lies, I keep grabbing free wine. Liquid courage is what my mom used to call it. She introduced me to liquid courage before I even could drive. Well, I was going to need a lot of liquid courage to get through this night. About that time, I see him. Prom King from 1999, the boy I thought I would marry, the boy who dumped me in the early morning hours after our prom and that horrible incident at my house, the boy who I have not talked to in 20 years. He is still handsome but does seem to have aged quite a bit. His hair is thinning, I notice his once ripped abs are now rounded and hanging over his belt, and his face turns really red when he is laughing at someone’s joke.
Our last conversation was terrible. I showed up at his house at 5:00 A.M. the morning after prom. I was still in my prom dress, which was now torn, my cheeks were stained with black mascara and tears. “What the hell are you doing here Mandy?” he barked. I started crying. “He raped me, my stepdad, he raped me. Again,” I cried as I threw myself into Stevie’s arms. “What do you mean again?” he stiffens as he asks me. “Again, as in he did it a month ago. I am sorry I didn’t tell you. I was so embarrassed,” I reply. Stevie pushes me out of his arms, “It is like you cheated on me then. Why wouldn’t you tell me or tell someone? Mandy, you are some messed up. Were you flirting with him?” he asks with a look on his face of disgust. I can’t believe this. He is acting just like my mom did this morning when I told her. She threw me out. Told me I was 18, she was done raising me, and if I didn’t prance around the house looking for attention, then attention would not have found me. She yelled at my stepdad to learn how to keep it in his pants and told me to pack my shit and get out.
“I need your help, Stevie. We can get married now and get an apartment. You are gonna go to school, and I can get an office job or something,” I say as I keep trying to grab his arms and put them around me. “I don’t think so, Mandy. I think its best we take a break,” he says without even a sign of sadness in his voice. He hands me a stack of cash he had in his wallet and tells me he has a cousin in Sacramento. “I will call her and tell her you to need a couch to crash on for a bit,” he pushes me away, “but leave me alone. My parents said you were bad news anyway. Just get out of here.” I stood in his driveway that morning crying in my torn prom dress. I had all my belongings in the trunk of my car, what cash I took from my mom and what money he gave me. My dreams of being a wife and stay at home mom in Paducah were crushed. Being prom queen, head cheerleader and most popular didn’t mean a damn thing when you were the girl from the wrong side of the tracks with a drunk mom and a sleazeball of a stepdad.
Stevie notices me finally and walks over to the bar. He smells of old beer. “Well, look what the cat dragged in, Mandy Kippner!” he says with a slight slur in his voice. He leans in for a sloppy kiss. Ew, what did I ever see in him? “It’s Mrs. Mandy Greene now,” I said contritely. He holds up his left hand as if to proudly display his wedding band, “Well, it’s Mr. Stevie now. My wife is around here somewhere, I think. Do you remember Liza? I think she was the cheer co-captain thingy.” He asked. No way, my blood starts to boil. “You married Liza, how sweet. We hated each other in high school. You know because you cheated on me so many times with her.” I am pretty sure my voice is getting louder. I look at the bartender, “shot of whiskey please.” I drink it and ask for another. For some reason, this seemed to turn Stevie on. “Oh, you like to party do ya? Nothing like Liza. Bartender, keep the whiskey coming for my prom queen and me!”
We stand at the bar drinking shots for another 20 minutes before we start to mingle again. By now, my head is swimming. I am spinning my fake life story into something I will never remember. Yes, I am Mrs. Greene. I am a makeup artist in California and have famous clients. My husband is a chef to the stars! My kids are perfect. My life is perfect. Everything is perfect.
The announcement comes shortly after that. “Ok, our 1999 graduates, it is now time to announce our Prom King and Queen for our 20-year reunion. By a unanimous vote, our King and Queen are none other than Stevie and Mandy!” the announcer says of the loudspeaker. I try to act surprised, but I knew it was going to be us, like who else would it be. Amongst clapping and congratulations, we make our way to the dance floor where we get our cheap crowns and start the traditional King and Queen dance. We are both high and drunk at this point and seem not to care what anyone else thinks. I am not sure if we were dancing or making out or doing both. However, I notice Liza making a beeline for us. Stevie is so drunk he could care less. “Stevie, you are making a fool of yourself. The damn dance is over! Let go of her,” she yells. Stevie laughs and pulls me tighter. I give her a look like he’s mine bitch. Why am I so hateful? Liza storms out of the gym. People are pointing. I see some shaking their heads and even a few disapproving looks. Well, I could care less. I deserve to have this crown and Stevie.
“Do you have any coke?” I ask Stevie. “I do. Never leave home without it,” he laughs. Ten minutes later, we are back in the same bathroom stall I snorted crushed Vicodin in earlier. I snort two lines of pure white cocaine off the back of his cell phone, and he does the same. We go to leave, but Stevie locks the bathroom door. He pushes me up against the wall and starts to kiss me. At this point, I should have said no but it was Stevie, and no one has touched me that way in years. Before I knew it, my royal blue dress is hiked up, and Stevie is inside me. I am so high and so drunk that I could not even make sense of it. Did I say yes? Several minutes later, he hands me brown paper towels from the old sink and tells me to clean myself up. I walk over to the sink and attempt to do just that. Wow, I look like hell.
I don’t know how long we were gone from the main reunion, but by the time we get back into the gym, only a few people remain. We walk out to the parking lot together. I follow Stevie to his car. I just assumed he was going to take me with him. “Uhm, I gotta go, Mandy. I must get home to Liza. See you around,” he says. And just like that, he is gone. Again. Standing there in the empty parking lot, I start to cry. My car is several blocks away. I did not park it here because I didn’t want anyone to see what I was driving. However, now I am freezing and walking three blocks to it is making me cry even harder. Twenty minutes later, I fall asleep in the front seat in my royal blue dress and a tattered quilt over me.
I wake up to someone banging on my car door window. “Hey, you, you can’t sleep here,” the old man is yelling. Where is here, I ask myself. I start to piece together the events from last night. Stevie left me in the parking lot of the gym. I walked several blocks to my car and passed out evidently in my front seat. I roll down the window, “Sorry, asshole!” I flip him the bird as I start my old car and drive away. I was parked in front of the diner. And my stomach was growling. However, I just pissed off the owner, so I will have to find food elsewhere.
I stop at the nearest gas station and grab my bag. I use their restroom to clean up. Sink baths are becoming routine. I change clothes, attempt to do something with my hair and put on some chap stick. Twenty minutes later, I am walking up and down the aisles of the convenience store trying to find something that doesn’t cost a lot, will fill me up and has some nutrition value. I end up with chocolate milk, peanuts, and pop tarts. As I make my way to the register, I notice several people in the store watching me. “You, the young lady that was sleeping at the diner?” someone asks. “Why, what’s it to you?” I reply. “You were scaring away old man Donnie’s customers, that’s why!” the old man stated matter of factly. I roll my eyes and pay for my purchases — damn small-town bullshit.
Armed with my breakfast, I hop back in the car and head out to my momma’s. It has been years since I have spoken with her. The address I have for her is a trailer park just outside of town. I pull up to her trailer and notice immediately how unclean it is. Bags of trash are stacked at the door; weeds have grown up everywhere, and an old dog is sitting on the little makeshift porch. On the porch is an overturned pickle bucket with a cushion on it and a large ashtray next to the bucket chair. I knock several times before I hear a voice. “Come in dammit!” I hear my momma yell.
When I opened the door, the cloud of cigarette smoke hits me in the face. It is so thick it takes my eyes several minutes to adjust and even see my momma. She is 58 this year and looks so much older. It is May, and she is covered up in a vast blanket that probably weighs more than her. Her voice is hoarse, and she looks so unkempt. “What do you want?” she gestures for me to sit down as she asks. “It’s me, Mandy,” I say. “I know who the hell you are. I said, what do you want? Why you back in these parts?” she grabs another cigarette. “Reunion, 20 years. It was last night. How are you? It has been a while since I talked to you.” She takes a long drag on her cancer stick then coughs for a good 5 minutes before she answers. “Been better. You, daddy, left me shortly after you left 20 years ago. I tried to make ends meet but lost the house. So, I am living out here in the hell hole. It’s your damn fault you know,” she barks out between coughs and smoking. Am I hearing her correctly? Before I could say a word, she continues. It seems she has a lot to get off her chest. “You pranced around the house, flirting with him. Then you threw yourself at him! What was I supposed to do? It was hard competing with a younger woman!” she fires at me.
“Momma he raped me! Twice! I can’t believe you didn’t kick him out. Am I competing with you? Are you kidding me? I left here to get away from him. My boyfriend didn’t even want anything to do with me when I told him what happened. I didn’t ask to be raped, Momma,” I cried out. “I came back for the reunion but would love to spend some with you. I don’t have a place to stay right now. I can clean up around here and help you out.” She stared at me with the meanest look ever, “I don’t need your help! Get out!” With tears in my eyes, I backed out the front door and ran to my car. What was I going to do now? I have nowhere to go. I was living in an apartment with a friend in Sacramento but lost my bartender job and couldn’t pay rent, so I had to leave.
I just thought if I came here, she would let me stay with her. My ex-husband will not help me anymore since our kids are grown. I got pregnant with my first little girl right after I got to Sacramento. He was a regular at the bar. He sold pot and pills to the locals. I think he even dealt a little heroin. Shortly after I gave birth to Eva, he got arrested, and I never heard from him again. I met Johnny when Eva was one. Johnny helped me get back on my feet, and we were married within six months. He is a nurse. Nine months after we got married, I had my second little girl, Joy. Johnny adopted Eva as his own.
Life was pretty good for a while until I got hooked on drugs. I was in a car accident and was prescribed oxycodone for a while. Months after the accident, when, according the doctors, ‘ nothing was wrong with me, they cut off my prescription. I started buying oxycodone from friends. This led to other drugs, pouring vodka into my morning OJ and even cocaine. I told myself it was ok because I was still taking care of my girls and my husband. Until I wasn’t. Johnny got home from working a 12-hour shift to find both girls playing outside at 8:00 at night. I was passed out in my vomit on the bathroom floor. This wasn’t the first time. It was the 5th time. I promised to get help, but he didn’t hear it anymore. He filed for divorce the next today and for full custody of the girls. And he got it. I spent the next 15 years seeing my girls every other weekend and one night a week with supervision. I did several stints in rehab and would clean up for several months. However, something always happened that would make me start up using it again. Johnny did everything he could to help me, including giving me money when I needed it. But since our youngest turned 18, he doesn’t help.
I call him, he answers on the third ring. “Johnny, it’s me,” I say with tears in my voice. “I know who it is,” with disgust in his voice. “What have you done now?” Johnny asks. “Nothing, I swear. I am in Padakuh and need a little cash to get on my feet. I was going to stay with my momma, but she doesn’t have room in her trailer. But I got a job at this diner and promised to pay you back,” I lied. “I’m not sending you cash again. I will pay for you a motel for a couple of nights, but I am not sending you cash to use on drugs,” he says. Well, a hot shower and a real bed does sound nice. However, I only have a few oxycodone left. “That would be great Johnny, and there is a Motel 6 right near the diner, I will text you their number so you can call and pay for me a room. A week please?” I ask. “A week.” He replies as he hangs up on me.
I drive to the Motel 6, praying that Johnny called and booked me a room. I decided to call both girls. Eva and Joy are so beautiful and both so smart and talented. Neither were cheerleaders nor never cared about being popular. Both were in college, had terrific grades and worked. Maybe they will lend me some money. I call Eva first, “Eva baby; it’s your momma,” I say when she answers the phone. “Hi, momma. How are you? Daddy told me and Joy that you are in Kentucky,” she states. Damn, Johnny has already warned her about lending me money. I decided not to ask her for any. I have done so much damage by not being a fulltime mom to both my girls. “I’m good. I got a job at the diner. I have even reconnected with a few friends from high school. And I am clean,” I lied again. That much be the 5th lie today. “You promise, momma?” I try to hide the tears in my voice. “I promise, Eva girl. Tell Joy. I love her. Both of you are my angels.” I hang up the phone and stare at the Motel 6 — my home for at least the next week.
After I get settled into my room, I decided to do a little investigating and find out who is still around 20 years ago. I go to the local library and use their computer to get on my Facebook. I methodically search names I can remember. Stevie was first. Stevie and Liza have a joint Facebook account. How lame, I laugh to myself. He owns a car lot! I write down the address and decide I will pay him a little visit. He owes me after last night.
Stevie’s Buy Here Pay Here the sign says. He has some beautiful cars I notice when I drive-in. Sure, as hell more beautiful than this beat up piece of shit, I am driving. I pull up to the first parking spot. Stevie walks out of the building as I am getting out of my car. “What are you doing here Mandy,” he asks nervously? “Liza is here. She runs my finance office.” Stevie says quickly as he is pushing me back into my car. “Wait a minute, buddy. I don’t give two fucks about your wife. Does she know what you did to me last night? Maybe Liza and I need to have a little talk about what Prom King and Prom Queen did,” I say sarcastically. I am exceptionally on edge at this point and can’t decide if I need to play hardball or beg him for money and something to take the side off. He can read my face evidently, “How much do you need?” he asks as he pulls a wad of cash out of his pocket. “Take this. Where are you staying? I will bring you some stuff later, go for now,” Stevie pleads with me. I take the cash and shove it in my jean pocket. “You better,” I shouted. “I am staying at the Motel 6,” I tell him as I get back into the car. Liza walks out of the building as I am pulling away. I look in my review mirror and see them yelling at each other. Well, he is the jack ass, I think. I didn’t do anything wrong.
I decided to stop at the diner and get some real food, now that I have some money. I sit in my car and count it. Damn, he probably doesn’t realize how much he gave me. Who carries $1000 in their pocket? I pour some vodka into my water bottle before getting out of the car and head into the diner. “I don’t want no trouble,” the old man says that knocked on my window early this morning. “I am not here for trouble; I am here for the food. And I am looking for a job.” I replied. “Fine, I can do the food but don’t know what to tell you about a job,” he says. “There is a sign in the window saying you need a waitress. I have experience. I can start tomorrow,” I say as I point to the sign. “It’s been filled, just forgot to take the sign down, what do you want to eat?” He is lying, I think to myself. Whatever I can find a job somewhere else. I order a chicken patty melt and scarf that down in a matter of minutes. While I am looking over the menu to order something else, someone taps on my shoulder.
“Mandy, is that you?” I would recognize that sweet voice anywhere. I turn around, and there stood my best friend from high school, Amy. She is still very pretty, a little pudgy around the middle, but still pretty. She is dressed nice. I notice her nails are painted a pale pink, and she smells like lavender. I take stock of what I am wearing and immediately start to feel embarrassed. My tattered jeans and Axil Rose tank top don’t even compare. “Hey Amy, it is so good to see you. Do you still live in these parts?” I ask her. “Why yes, never left. I married Bill, you remember him, right? We started dating when I was a freshman. He played on the football team with Stevie.” She says as she sits herself down at the stool next to me. She keeps talking, “I saw you last night at the reunion, but you disappeared before I could over and talk to you.” I swallow a big drink of my soda. “Yea I didn’t stay too long, I needed to check on my momma,” lie number 6. I am now keeping count. “Oh, well, that’s good. I heard you were a big-time makeup artist in California. That is so good.” She replied. Ok, so maybe I am on like lie number 10 or something. I just smile and shake my head. The next 30 minutes I spend talking to Amy and consuming two more meals from the diner. I gather from her that she married right after we graduated. She has three kids, all in college. She and Bill own their legal firm, and she works with a lot of charities. Sounds peachy keen, I think to myself. Just peachy keen.
Amy suggest we meet for breakfast tomorrow morning. “We can meet here,” she said with a big smile on her face. How is she so happy? She hasn’t stopped smiling for the last half hour. “Sure, sounds great,” I reply, maybe too quickly. I must get out of here. I can feel my body starting to shake and realize it has been hours since I took anything. I pay my tab and tell Amy I will see her in the morning. I race out the door without looking back. I jump in my car and take off before I even think about the fact that Amy, whom I just told I was a famous makeup artist, may see me get into a 15-year-old car in three shades of red. Oh well, right now, I need to get back to my room.
An hour later, Stevie shows up. “Why are you in the dump?” he looks around. “Stop asking questions. Did you bring me a bump?” I ask impatiently. “Well, I did come to the party, right?” he replies with a smile on his face. God, I used to love that smile. He is no different than any other man. Always wants something in return. “What about Liza? Does she know where you are, that you are with me?” I ask with a smirk on my face. I will make him squirm just a little. “I’m kind of in the doghouse right now, so it doesn’t matter, are we going to the party or not?” Stevie grabs me around the waist and pulls me in for a kiss. I used to love his kisses. Now it revolted me. But I will do whatever because he is the one packing the blow.
The next morning, I wake up with the worst hangover. I try to recount the night before. I know I did more coke than I ever had in one evening. And I am pretty sure Stevie must have slipped something into my drink. I am half-dressed, and my body hurts everywhere. I can only remember bits and pieces from last night. As usual, I let another man take advantage of me. I look at the clock and realize I am supposed to be at the diner in less than 15 minutes. I climb out of bed and pull on the nearest jeans I can find and my shoes. I run my fingers through my hair and put it in a knot on top of my head. This will have to do I think to myself.
I pull at the same time Amy does. Damn, if she didn’t see my car yesterday, she surely is seeing it now. “It has sentimental value,” I say pointing to my car as I walk to her car. “It must,” she laughs. She looks perfect. How is she so put together this early in the morning? I mean its 9:30. I am usually not even up this early. “Are you okay Mandy,” Amy questions me as she looks me over from head to toe. “Why?” I say defensively. “Well, that is the same clothes you were wearing yesterday, and your eye is bruised, and you have blood on your lip,” Amy says with genuine concern. What in the hell did Stevie do to me last night?
“Uhm, I’m fine. I just had a long night. And I woke up late. We can do this another time,” I say as I turn around and start to head back to my car. Amy goes to grab my arm, and my purse drops to the ground. The look of shock on Amy’s face doesn’t surprise me. “It’s nothing,” I say as I try to pick everything up off the ground. I look down and realize why. I am shocked. The contents of my purse included a small bottle of vodka, a bottle of pills, and two brown bottles of cocaine that Stevie left for me last night. Not the average contents of a woman’s purse. No lipstick, perfume, hairbrush, or cute little calendar. No, not my wallet. It was at this very moment that I knew I had a problem. It was at this very moment that I sat down in the black asphalt, surveying everything that was in my purse and began to cry.
I half expected Amy just to walk away. I mean I wouldn’t blame her. I am a junkie, a drunk and homeless. But she didn’t. She helped me put everything back in my purse and helped me up. “Let’s go get you a hot meal
And some coffee Mandy,” she said kindly. I didn’t say anything. I couldn’t say anything. I followed Amy into the diner and let her order for me. A patty melt, fries, and a coke later, I tell her my story.
I tell her about prom night, 20 years ago, how Stevie and my mom both rejected me. I tell her about my first year in California and my relationship with Eva’s real dad. That is when I first dabbled in drugs. I tell her about Johnny and how he helped me and even adopted Eva as his own. Then I tell her about my addiction, several stints in rehab, and how I lost custody of both my girls. I was never a makeup artist, and Greene is my ex’s last night. I tell her about my visit with my momma when I got back to Kentucky and my several run-ins with Stevie.
“Stevie is not a good person Mandy; he has never respected Liza and runs a dirty business.” Amy states. I gathered that I thought. Twice since I’ve been back home, he took advantage of me. Twice. I am pretty sure I never said no, but I know I didn’t say yes. Why else would I have a black eye and bloody lip now? “Mandy, I want you to come home with me. Let me help you. If you are ready for help,” she squeezes my hand as she says this. “Why do you want to help me? I have lied so much since I have been here and I am a horrible person,” I look at her intently to see if I could read her face. I don’t like pity. I don’t see shame in her face at all, though. She replied, “You are not a horrible person Mandy, you have just had horrible things happen to you by horrible people. There is a big difference.”
I didn’t deserve her kindness, I think. However, I accept her offer. I do want to be clean. I am ready to be clean. I knew this was going to be hard, but maybe this was the place I needed to be to get clean this time. We leave my car at the diner. Amy lets the owner know that her husband will send someone to get it tomorrow. I grab my meager belongings out of the trunk and get in her car. That night as I climb into a warm bed, in clean pajamas, I can already feel my body shaking. As if Amy knew this was going to happen, she walked into the guest bedroom with a cup of hot chamomile tea and a grill cheese sandwich. “This will help some, and tomorrow I will take you to your first meeting.”
I fall asleep with demons in my thoughts. I tossed and turned all night.
The next morning, I find myself sitting in a room full of people, some of them I even recognize. Amy walks to the front of the room. “Hello, I am Amy, and I am a recovering addict.” Now I understand. I listen to Amy’s story. Everyone here knows it because this is her regular daily meeting. She told her story so that I would know. Amy started drinking after her third child when she developed severe depression. She would drink all night then take Adderal during the day to stay awake and be able to function. This led to harder drugs and more alcohol until she almost lost her life. She was in a car accident driving home from work one afternoon. She had been drinking since lunch. No one knew she was good at hiding it. She woke up one week later in the intensive care unit and was told she would never walk again. Never walk? How was she going to raise her three little girls? How was she going to take care of her house and be a wife? She told her husband everything including how much of their savings she had spent on drugs. He didn’t ask for a divorce. Instead, he vowed to help her. Exactly one year later, Amy took her first step. She was able to walk again. She started her 12 steps right after being released from the hospital one year prior.
I listened to her story, with tears running down my face. I knew this was going to be hard, I knew this was going to be a long road, but I also knew I was ready. I wanted my life back.
That morning I did not get up in front of everyone. Instead, I listened to everyone’s testimonial. I went to a meeting every day that week. On day 5, I got up and introduced myself, “Hi, I am Mandy, I am an alcoholic, I am a drug addict, and I am ready to get clean.” Five days later, I got my first chip. It was a little plastic gold coin. It was my first 5-day chip. I kept it in the small pocket in my jeans.
I knew I had to start with my 12-steps. I never made it to that part in the past. I sat in my room at Amy’s and kept reading them. Some seemed extremely hard, and others not so much. But I knew now, that was the only way I was going to stay sober.
I review the 12 steps. Mandy said they are a little different than the original ones that were written in 1939. “But it works, it is hard, but it works,” she says with tears in her eyes. I read them again and again.
- Admit you are powerless and have an addiction
- Believe that a power higher than me can help me
- Decide to trust the program and Him
- Search ourselves and determine our triggers, do not place blame
- Admit to God and those that love us that we are addicts
- Were entirely ready to have God remove all these defects of character.
- Humbly asked Him to remove our shortcomings.
- Make a list of everyone we have harmed; physically and emotionally
- Made direct amends to such people
- Continued to take personal inventory and when we were wrong promptly admitted it.
- Seek through prayer and meditation and knowledge Him.
- Understand that you have a disease, understand that you will always need to attend meetings and help others who are in your current situation.
“Besides the daily meeting and the program, what do you do?” I ask Amy. She smiled, “Stay busy, help others, and pray.”
Later that night, when I climb into bed, I think about what she said. How was I going to stay busy? I’ve never done anything but bartending. I couldn’t very well do that and make this work.
The next morning, I find Amy working in her flower bed. I immediately pull on some gloves and start helping. Two hours later, Amy walks over to me, “How did you know how to do that?” she asked while looking at the plants in front of me. “What do you mean?” I ask. “You just pruned an entire bed of rose bushes,” she smiled admiring my work. “I don’t know; I love working with flowers. When I was pregnant with Joy, I worked briefly at this little flower shop in Sacramento. I loved putting together arrangements and even had people come in and ask for me to do their arrangements.” I said while remembering that job. I only worked there for about six months, but I did enjoy it so much. I looked up at Amy and could see the wheels turning in her head.
Later that afternoon, we pull into a little flower shop right off the highway. “Follow me,” Amy says. We walk to the small house next to the shop. Amy introduces me to the sweetest little old lady. “Mandy meet Ira. Ira meets Mandy. Mandy, Ira’s husband passed away several months ago. They have always run this flower shop, catering to all the weddings, funerals, and every other occasion someone would buy flowers. She is having a hard time doing it on her own now that her dear husband has passed,” Amy explains. She continues, “Ira, Mandy needs a chance to do something amazing, and she loves making arrangements and has a green thumb so she can even help you in the greenhouse.” Amy looks at both of us, waiting for one of us to respond. Ira speaks first, “Welcome aboard Mandy. We got a wedding to plan. A June bride. Can you start tomorrow?” I say yes with tears in my eyes, this time tears of happiness.
The next month goes by in a flash. I attend a meeting every morning and work with Ira every day. We book several more weddings so staying busy is not hard. I start on my steps and spend a lot of time making amends. I have talked to Johnny and both girls several times. They are still apprehensive, but this is the longest I have been sober, and Johnny realizes that. Some days are very hard, and other days I do not even think about getting high or drunk. Stevie has contacted me several times, and I have avoided him. I know he is a trigger for me. I have accepted that I have an addiction. I also have received that I did this myself. Yes, horrible things happened to me, but we learn in meetings that we can not blame others for our actions. I reach out to my mom several times, but she still doesn’t want anything to do with me. But I have also made amends with that as well.
Amy helps me find a little cottage to rent. It is perfect. It has two bedrooms, so the girls can visit and a beautiful red door. I plant flowers everywhere I could possibly plant them. I even make window boxes and fill them with petunias. For the first time since I can remember I am thrilled. I have a life that I can be proud of, I have friends that I can trust, and I have a job that I love. And finally, I feel like a mom. Joy called me to tell me about her new boyfriend. She even asked for my advice. That was pivotal for me.
One year later, Ira and I are putting together little boutonnieres and table centrepieces for yet another June wedding. “Do you like this Mandy,” she asks with a twinkle in her eye. “Yes, it is perfect. Those colors will match Eva and Joy’s dresses perfectly,” I say happily. I am engaged to a man I met while visiting the nursery in the next town over. Jep, my fiancé, owns a considerable nursey that caters to commercial properties. I visited his nursery before Christmas to get help on how to expand our greenhouse. We hit it off instantly. I can’t wipe this smile off my face. In less than 48 hours, I will be a married woman to the man of my dreams, I have been sober for a year, and my daughters have visited me several times in Kentucky. Both are my maid of honor(s), and Amy is walking me down the aisle. I will be moving in with Jep after the wedding but will stay on at Ira’s flower shop. She has become like a mom to me. I can’t help but think where I would be if I had not come to my high school reunion a year ago.