My Princess

I have favorites. I know, shocking and scandalous! All of us know people we like more than others, let’s not pretend otherwise. Recently, we attended a very small home wedding. Today, during my union break, I looked through a correspondence folder I’ve been keeping for the bride. I found this.

16 October 2012

My dearest Little Red Haired Princess,

I loved seeing YOU. I have been thinking all about you and, for reasons that are not entirely clear, it has been unsettling. You’ve reached a pivotal place in your life, a place that can seem filled with resignation- “This must be all there is; I thought there’d be more than this.” I suspect seeing your friends have babies and marry (traditionally, it’s the other way around but I haven’t seen a lot of tradition lately) and seeing your parents and me plodding along, doing the same things we’ve always done, isn’t exactly awe inspiring. You’re out there in the world only to discover the world is lacking some of the things you hoped to find.
I was 24 when all of my friends began getting married (for the first time) and 25 when you were born. It appeared as though everyone but me knew what they were doing. I was the only one of my childhood friends who was unsettled. I remember panic and worry that I’d always be out there loose, alone, without a plan. No one could articulate to me that my life wouldn’t always be so confusing, that it would take shape and I’d find my place in my own good time.
My message for you, LRHP, is that patience and time will reveal the life that brings you satisfaction and intermittent happiness. No one is happy all the time; happiness appears in short bursts in between boredom, confusion, and weariness. You are loved by friends and family alike. There will always be a number of places where you will be welcome and safe. Take your time looking around. Get yourself an apartment if that’s what you want, a year is a drop in the bucket, don’t be afraid of the commitment and don’t be afraid of failing at independence.
Life is a long walk, meant to be taken slowly, enjoyed for all the simple pleasures it offers. It is not about reaching one final goal, it’s about the little treats along the way. That is the TRUTH, I promise.


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Kayla’s Letters 1.15.16


Dear Kayla,

I got your letter today, the one where you wrote about not having any friends other than your family. I haven’t written because I’ve been working from 4A-8P, 7 days a week- I’m old and tired.

Please try not to worry about anything. Spend as much of this time as you can on yourself; use the peace and quiet to your advantage, thinking about who you are and who you’d like to be. You’re capable of a lot more than you give yourself credit for. I remember how happy you were to spend time alone with Joe, Kayla. I liked to see you come over with him after meetings. One of the commenters on the BDN said you looked like a young Joan Crawford, that’s a compliment. You’ve got a lot going for you, think about what you’re interested in, what do you love to do? If you can work at what you love you’ll be happy.

I sent you a card when you first went to jail, it was returned to me because cards aren’t allowed. In it I asked if you were in love with the young man who died, I still wonder if you were. I wrote to you that I was sorry for your loss and I’m still sorry. It must have been a frightening situation; even if you were way high, it still must have been pretty scary.

I feel sorry for the cop who shot him. He’ll have to live with it for the rest of his life. No one gets up in the morning thinking ‘Oh good, maybe I’ll shoot someone and they’ll die today.’ His life has been impacted as much as yours has been, probably more so. If I’d been in his position I would have done the very same thing. If you want to shoot at me you’d better be prepared to get shot at.

I’ve read the charges against you. I know why you went to court last week. Under the right circumstances I could be where you are.

The good news is the State is becoming proactive about the narcotics pandemic. I’m hopeful your sentence will include treatment and some kind of maintenance program. You might consider the many ways you could help others in similar situations or just help people in general. I realize that you have your kids to think of first but you can always help someone else in some small way. Maybe you could start writing your story, the truth about how you became a junkie. It could help someone, Kayla. You went from being a girl who loved pink and wearing cute outfits to a life that is very different than you or any of us would have imagined. If you wrote about how that happened you could help other people. Think about it.

You liked the way drugs made you feel so you indulged yourself. People do it every day with cigarettes, booze, sex, gambling, shopping, and food. You’re not a bad person. If you identify specifically what it was that you liked about being high and you think about why you liked it, you’ll be better able to find meaningful ways to feel good. Concentrate on yourself; your kids are safe with your mother and they’re so young that they won’t remember any of this. Think about the best, happiest days of your life. List the reasons those days were the best, why were you happiest, what can you do to be happy again? You’re going to be surprised by the strong woman who lives inside you.

Each day is a fresh start on a happy ending.

This is the last letter I wrote to her. It was returned to me because she refused it. I think she read things I had written that she didn’t want to know. The piece in the paper was written in 2008. I wrote it in harsh opposition to methadone/suboxone treatment after Joe broke his neck. As blog followers know, I didn’t mince words in the post immediately following Joe’s death; it didn’t flatter her mother and one’s mother should be sacred. Maybe in the future she’ll decide she’d like to hear from me again, maybe not.

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Kayla’s Letters 1.7.16


Dear Kayla,

Please try not to be scared for the future. At this point there is not a lot you can do to impact the judicial system. It won’t hurt to ask your lawyer if your case could be transferred to a county where Drug Court is established. It’s a good program for people who take their recovery seriously. In the meantime, do the best you can each day.

I’ve made mistakes too, sometimes the mistakes I’ve made have been intentional, in which case they weren’t mistakes at all but selfish choices. Regret is a waste of time and energy. You are not a bad person. I feel confident that you will make the most of this experience, learn from it, and put those lessons to work through the rest of your life.

I understand that you’re probably overwhelmed, for now it might be a good idea to focus only on the things you can change today- you know, one day at a time, sometimes one minute at a time. From my perspective where you are is not so very different from boot camp. You have a uniform, a routine, and limited control over your life. This is not a permanent condition. You will be released at some point. You have access to a lot of things people in boot camp do not have access to, TV and books for instance.

I’m not mad, Kayla. I don’t have any particular emotion attached to your behavior. I suppose if anything I’m disappointed that you saw firsthand what drugs did to your father and the rest of your family and you didn’t grasp the enormity of the consequences. I can’t begin to describe to you how painful it was to watch Joe deteriorate before my eyes. There are no words to convey the terror I felt for him when I knew he would spend the rest of his life as a head on a pillow. I wrote a piece in the paper that I have enclosed for you. I have also enclosed something I wrote in the days immediately following Joe’s death.

32 days clean is very good. Work your program, ask yourself the hard questions and be honest in your answers. If you hadn’t been caught would you be using today? What changes and sacrifices are you willing to make to insure that you will maintain sobriety?

You can do this Kayla, you are the ONLY one who can do this, no one else can do it for you. Keep at it, make your light shine.

Each day is a fresh start on a happy ending.


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Kayla’s Letters 1.3.16


Dear Kayla,

As a young adult, the difference between want and need is sometimes confusing. None of us needs more than shelter, clean water, heat, food and basic clothing to keep us covered. Your generation has been bombarded by advertising to convince you that you absolutely, positively, must have piles, heaps and mountains of crap to give your lives meaning.

Your life has meaning without all that junk. The minute you drew your first breath, and your parents saw you and loved you, your life had meaning. A rich life is one that has deep solid connections in it. I discovered just how meaningless things were when my mother died. We were left with an entire house full of stuff and none of it was important without Mum there as its curator. I imagine you felt the same way when you saw your dad’s empty bed. It is the people who are significant in our lives.

I have a friend I’ve known for 35 years. We’ve seen each other at our best and worst. When we talk there is no need for pretense and no need to explain because we have a shared history. We tell it like it is and was and we laugh inappropriately. I hope you have one friend in your life, who knows who you really are, Kayla. We all need someone to see us as we are and to love us because of that. A true friend is more valuable than anything you can buy.

When your cousin was about 3 years old, her parents were separated. I lived with her and your aunt at the house on the beach. We had no money at all. We lived paycheck to paycheck. I remember one time, it was a Thursday before payday, and all we had was beets and flour. We cooked the beets and I made Irish soda bread and we were fine. We didn’t have a TV so we listened to NPR at night. We often had peanut butter and jelly picnics on the beach for supper. Our lives have changed dramatically. Your aunt and I talk about that time and we always remark on how happy we were. We had more fun when we had less stuff.

There is no shame in a simple life. I think about the things I buy and I always ask myself if it is something I want or something I need. If it’s only something I want, I ask myself if I will keep the item for the rest of my life (the rest of my life isn’t as long as it once was) if the answer is no I don’t buy it.

Keep your life simple and it will be less stressful and easier to manage.

Each day is a fresh start on a happy ending.

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Kayla’s Letters 1.2.16


Dear Kayla,

By now you’ve probably heard the 12-step adage, “Take what you need and leave the rest.” I hope you do that throughout your recovery. There are many spiritual, emotional and physical disciplines that may be helpful to you.

I’ve found bits of yoga to help me relax, Eastern religions taught me how to let things go, and Psalms that have been comforting throughout my life. You can tailor your belief system to make your recovery practice work for you. Think about what is most appealing to you and concentrate on that.

You may find that having a good sponsor to partner with you in maintaining your sobriety will be helpful. In the future, you’ll probably want to extend your hand to help someone else in their recovery. I have a good friend who was lost in drugs and booze, spent some time in jail, and is now sober 20 years and a nurse practitioner, something I never would have imagined for her when she was at her worst. It can be done and YOU can do it!

I have a ton of year-end work to do but will write more later when things settle down. Do not get discouraged. Lots of people care about you, and we all believe you will succeed.

Each day is a fresh start on a happy ending.

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Kayla’s Letters 12.30.2015


Dear Kayla,

I think of you and I try to remember things I felt at your age and how I reacted to situations to see what I learned that may be helpful to you.

It’s taken me a long time to identify precisely where my happiness comes from. At your age I was influenced by what the rest of the world told me I should want. Satisfaction doesn’t come from stuff, it comes from inside. It’s the feeling of accomplishment you get from completing something very difficult, like going through withdrawals for 8 days and coming out on the other side to say, “I did it!”

People are happiest when they have a purpose and achieve objectives. I’m not especially fond of dusting the ceiling fan and the woodwork in fact I loathe doing it but once it’s done I feel a sense of accomplishment. At work, I dread the year end accounting that I have to do, it takes a while and it’s tedious but when it’s complete I feel happy.

On a personal level, I find delight in knowing that I have done something right to connect with someone and maybe lighten their load just a little bit. I felt that way when I received your letter. It’s the little things. The little things are what keep us chugging along; knowing that we are making a difference to someone somewhere, that somebody out there hears us and cares.

I found a cool little paperweight when Michelle and I went to Blue Hill one day last summer it says- BE GOOD, BE TRUE, BE REAL, BE YOU. That sums it up, be good inside and do what you know is right, be true don’t compromise your integrity, be real fill your life with sincerity, and be YOU because your genuine self is the person people want to know. Don’t waste your time trying to be someone other than who you are.

We all have a choice every day in how we greet the world. I like to anticipate success. I’ve found that most people will sink to my suspicions or rise to my expectations. You are rising Kayla, there’s nowhere to go but up.

Each day is a fresh start on a happy ending.

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Kayla’s Letters 12.28.15


Dear Kayla,

I know you can do it, I KNOW you can. You’re doing a great job of thinking about things and accepting responsibility for your life. You’re trying hard to make a plan and get it all together.
That’s what it’s all about- showing up and saying “Yup, I did it and now I’ll do what I can to fix it.” Some people never learn how to face themselves and own their mistakes but YOU have.
You just do what you can for today and be patient.

Kayla, I meant what I said before- there is no point in feeling guilty about the past because you can’t change that. You are a good person in a bad situation. The only person you need to prove anything to is yourself. The people who love and care about you just want you to be safe and happy. I know your family has been worried frantic about you because they love you. They love you and they worry and they might even yell at you but they’re just so relieved to know you’re all right. Don’t take it to heart if someone yells or if they’re so mad they don’t speak, they’ll come around just like I did with Joe. People get mad because they’re scared; they’re scared for you because they LOVE you.

I wish I could tell you something wise about your kids. The good thing is they’re safe with your mother. I’m sure they love and miss you; you’re their mom. I wonder if raising 3 toddlers was just a bit stressful for you? Maybe there are some classes or counseling sessions you’ll be able to attend to learn how to manage that stress.

Life is stressful, Honey. The trick is to learn to be in the moment, right here right now, take a nice deep breath and do what you can. Don’t worry about what might go wrong in the future, stick to your plan and look for some small thing that makes you happy. Happiness is everywhere you are. Just find a memory of a happy time and know that you’ll have more happy times in your life. I’ll keep writing. I look at the jail log every morning to see if you’re still there. You’re okay and you’re going to continue to be okay. I think you’re right and your dad is with you. I found adult coloring pages online, printed a couple for you.

Each day is a fresh start on a happy ending.

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