I sat in the Supercuts chair buzzing with hopeful anticipation after my mother finally surrendered control of my golden locks. I had the keys to the kingdom. I would longer have freakishly long Crystal Gayle hair.
Today was the day, oh yes, today was THE day.
I had hair down past my butt as long as I could remember, and as long as I could remember, I hated it. I’m talking hate. Red flaming balls of fury kind of hate tingled all over my body every single stupid time I had to lift up my hair to go pee or sit down or do anything else that even remotely involved my butt.
And my parents wouldn’t let me cut it. Oh no, they wouldn’t. And the more I begged, the longer I went without a haircut.
When I was 5, I took the power into my own hands with a big-ass pair of scissors. Wack, wack, wack. Big clumps of my straw-colored locks fell to the floor. I felt freer with each snip. That was until my mother came in and ruined my fun. I was like a caged lion just able to see the Serengeti only to be shipped back to the circus before getting to roam free.
OK, maybe I’m over-dramatizing a smidgen. And I’m talkin’ only a smidgen of a smidgen.
So here I was finally placed in the pilot’s seat. I’m pretty sure this was actually my first haircut at a salon – I use the term loosely, this was Supercuts after all. Up until now my mom gave me trims. I’d actually never even had a CUT, just trim upon miserable trim.
Trims are for hedges. Cuts are for warriors.
The cut I wanted was a bob, but I had no idea that was its name. It was cool because I had a perfect description of the style; the only problem was the hairstylist – again using the term loosely – hadn’t actually seen “Howard the Duck” starring Lea Thompson which I was unfortunately and absolutely banking on. She obviously hadn’t even seen a one-sheet. In fact, I’m willing to lay down some ducats that this silver-haired, Bedazzled sweatshirt wearing, “honk if your horny” kinda cowgirl’s last cinematic adventure was most likely “The Best Little Whorehouse in Texas” because she “just loved that Dolly Parton.”
Plan B. I tried to explain the haircut to her. She tried hard to follow me. I’ll give the cowgirl props – she really tried to decipher my muddy and ignorant-of-anything-remotely-hip explanation. But I still had hope. With every snip, my hopes held high that somehow magically the things she was doing to my head would turn into Lea’s duck-loving do once I added a curling iron, Aqua Net, and a little faith.
I left the salon with a dripping wet – you don’t get a blowout for eleven bucks – short, feathered mess on my head.
The second I got home I fired up the curling iron and pulled out my “Howard the Duck” poster. In a few minutes, my transformation would be complete.
Try an hour-and-a-half to look like this:
Which looked nothing like this:
And that was the reason Tina was going to kick my ass after school.
Well, kind of. Plan C soon emerged – my last hope – was it would magically turn into a bob as it grew longer, but it ended up looking like an outdated Farrah with bangs I could chew on. And that I did. My long bangs actually became a protection of sorts – I could hide behind them and it was second best to hiding under the covers protecting me from serial killers. Same rationale.
Tina was one of those unfortunately prematurely tall girls. She was about 6-feet tall and over two hundred pounds. Basically a linebacker by the 7th grade.
She was in my History class right after lunch, so I rarely was able to eat my brown bag lunch.
It was a Thursday. The bell rang. We all got up and Tina hovered over me.
“Hey freak, I’m gonna kick your ass if you don’t cut your bangs by tomorrow.”
Damn, my bullies were getting creative.
Fear racked my body. I said nothing – my usual response – as my head reeled with possibilities. Would I beg Mom to take me to Supercuts immediately? How could I explain a sudden undying need for a trim? What if she had – gasp – plans? How would I find the five hours of studying I needed tonight prepping for the two tests I had the next day?
On my walk home, that small voice inside of me said:
Trims are for hedges.
The buck stopped. I was done. Telling me to cut my hair was too far.
I woke up the next morning, long-ass bangs and all. I knew that somehow – someway – everything was going to be okay. And it was. The second I got to my locker, there was Sandy, shoving a Vodka bottle into my locker.
“I’ll get expelled if I get in trouble one more time so I need to stash this in your locker.”
This was not a question.
I’d never been suspended, but I did get detention once for excessive tardiness. I had yet to perfect my rebel streak.
“Let’s get fucked up at lunch. It’ll be fun!”
And with that, Sandy bounded down the hall to first period. It all happened so fast, I didn’t even realize that Sandy had just saved my life for the second time in my first week of knowing her.
She brought a clear Tupperware bottle halfway filled-up with orange juice to lunch and I brought the vodka. I hadn’t had a drink in over 3 years and it was long overdue. (Bio Dad let me drink every night at dinner. New Dad did not think wine with dinner was good for a child. What did he know?)
I poured myself a goddamned mothafuckin’ screwdriver right under the teacher’s noses. And then I chugged it. I poured another one and chugged another one. My frenemies changed tables.
Sandy laughed. Fuck them.
And then it hit me. The warmth that reminded me how horrible it was being cold all those years. That made my knees weak in the strongest way. That warmed me all the way to my toes.
And in that moment, I made a promise to myself. A secret promise that I would lock in my heart.
You will never let them win again.
I walked into History class ready for the consequence of my inaction. I was not to be fucked with – I was now a warrior. I sat at my desk, drunk, highly aware of how unaware I was of the world around me.
A calm numb pervaded my being.
Class ended without even a peep out of Tina. Weird. We filed into the hall and somehow ended up waking side-by-side.
“You didn’t cut your bangs.”
And with that she walked away. Never another word of it. She actually stopped threatening me. I felt as though I’d somehow beaten the system, but had no idea how I had actually achieved victory.
Alcohol worked. At last I’d found the key – it wasn’t a haircut; it was not caring. It was the numbness. It gave me strength to finally not give a shit.
Although a bob would’ve been a healthier answer to my problems, I was just fine with fixing my broken life with a lunchtime screwdriver or ten.
I met Sandy toward the end of 7th grade at the graffiti wall where all the smokers hung out. She had porcelain skin, dyed hair, tiny feet and balls of steel.
You guys get to meet her next week. You’re welcome.
We were best friends for 10 years. Our addictions brought us together and then tore us apart. I watched the sparkle in her eyes fade as her parents divorced, she gave her daughter up for adoption and her father died. Yes, she was not the only person on the planet to suffer loss, but it was simply too much for her.
Sandy struggled with drug addiction her entire life. She used meth daily until she lost all of her teeth. Then she quit meth. Unfortunately, she switched to abusing prescription medications and those eventually killed her.
She was only 43-years-old when she died.
I write this blog because I think my misadventures drinking and using are pretty hilarious. Reno is hilarious. Sparks is beyond hilarious. And all of the characters I met along the way made me who I am. It’s healing for me to find the humor in my tumultuous upbringing.
But I could write this blog a very different way. It could be dark as hell and very tragic. Unfortunately, this isn’t going to be a funny post. Because losing someone to addiction isn’t funny. It’s simply fucked up.
There are no hard or fast rules. Some drug addicts can quit their drug of choice and can drink and use recreationally. Others cannot.
Sandy could not.
I’m coming to believe addiction as a disease similar to cancer. Some cancers are so aggressive they simply cannot be overcome, some cancers are defeated completely and some return. The relapse is generally harder to defeat, just as the return of a cancer is often. Some people beat cancer five times!
Sobriety was never on her radar. She knew I was sober, but she didn’t understand why I had to quit everything. Her brain was also damaged from all the meth.
The Sandy I knew died a long time ago, so this grieving process has been very strange for me. I’m happy that she’s with her dad again and I’m sad for all of us left behind. It’s the death of the hope of a miracle. When an addict gets sober, it’s a miracle.
I’ve been working a 12-step program for a long time, yet there was no magic cure I could offer her. Christianity saved her mother and sister, yet they couldn’t save her. In my experience, the only thing that could’ve saved her was a Higher Power.
So am I saying God hated her? Absolutely not. We’re born with free will – the will to surrender to something bigger than us to solve our problem. Maybe her disease was just too terminal for her to surrender.
Or not. I don’t know.
The best way I can illustrate this is comparing addiction to Godzilla. The addict is a little, teeny, tiny ant. Godzilla is ginormous and breathes fire. And here’s the worst part – nothing, and I mean nothing, feels as good as hanging out with Godzilla.
When Godzilla and the addict hook up, it’s limos and glamour and excitement all the way. We feel like we’re in heaven, but when we want to go home, when we get tired, Godzilla says “Oh hell no, little ant, we’ve only just begun.”
I have no idea when Godzilla’s going to be done partying and the addict has no vote for when we’ll stop. Only the monster has the power of choice and he can choose to squash us at any time. That’s the risk we take to hang with the biggest and baddest of them all.
We have to stay far away from him, but it’s not easy. I have friends who hang out with him still and assure me that he’s cool. I get in my car and there are billboards with him looking fly in a tuxedo. He looks so good it’s hard to remember how bad he truly is for me. He even comes to me in my dreams.
In L.A., I can actually call Pink Dot and have him delivered to my house.
I got in his limo after 15 years sober and he almost flattened me. Every time I’ve even looked in his direction, he’s been on to me. He’s magnetic. He says things like:
“Girl, we haven’t hung out in so long you don’t even know me anymore. I’m so much more chill now.”
“I promise we’ll just have a couple and then I’ll take you home.”
“You’re so boring now. What happened to the party girl I remember?”
If he gets me, it doesn’t matter how hard I fight, only an act of Providence can save me. I cannot fight him on my own. He only laughs at my feeble attempts.
I’m an ant, remember?
All of the knowledge I have about the disease does nothing for me if I go near him. He’s too magnetic. The years I’ve been sober only make him want me more. I cannot rest on my laurels because he’ll be right there, Gucci sunglasses on ready to go.
I miss Sandy. I got to be there after her family made the impossible decision to unplug her (because her brain was dead), and I got to hug her and kiss her and stroke her hair before she left this realm. I just returned from her memorial and my heart is heavy.
But I know, beyond a shadow of doubt, that none of us could’ve saved her from Godzilla.