Heroin(e): A Love Story

This is different than anything I’ve posted on Sprinter Life before.  It’s long, confessional, and due to content and language, possibly inappropriate for children. It may not even be appropriate for the blog.  Yet, for some reason, I felt compelled to write it, to share my story, maybe as a way to reach out and bridge the gap from where I am to where I want to be.  So here you have it, a personal essay on how I found myself on a journey that led me from death and addiction to love and happiness–and ends, I hope, in grace.

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When I was twenty-six, I was asked to be the 10 minute speaker at an AA meeting.  I was still very ‘new’ and nervous about sharing my story, but in the 12 step program, one learns not to blow off a request to be of service. I was told to take a deep breath and just start from the beginning. So I did.

“Hi, my name is Stevie, and I’m an addict.”  “Hi Stevie,”  the room replied. I inhaled deeply, and from the podium in the most matter-of-fact voice that I could muster, I explained, “I started shooting heroin when I was 21 because my cat Spencer died.”

The room burst into joyous, wild, open-mouthed, hardy har-har hysterics. I did not expect this. I stared at them in wide-eyed shock as the blood rose to my face in a hot confusion so intense my ears pounded. This wasn’t a joke any more than the tracks that lined my arms were. There was no punch line. Why were they laughing at me? At 90 days clean after a brutal five-year addiction, I was too raw and sincere and demoralized to appreciate how hilarious this was to a room full of veteran alcoholics and addicts in recovery who knew, even if I didn’t, that shooting heroin because a cat dies isn’t what ‘normal’ people do. According to the unspoken wisdom of the room, I shot heroin because I suffered from the disease of addiction and that’s just what addicts do, whether they break a nail or lose a limb. It’s a chicken and the egg argument that I don’t want to get into right now about addiction, but, it suffices to say that my reaction to Spencer dying was a bit excessive, and my “explanation” was undoubtedly endearing to the old-timers because it surely reminded them of similar cock-eyed theories they had told themselves, and whole-heartedly believed, many years before.

What the good people in AA were missing, however, was that Spencer actually had everything to do with why I shot heroin. Spencer was my hero, or heroine to be precise, and the love she showed me was unconditional.  Looking out from the eyes of my small self, she was who I wanted to be when I grew up: brave, defiant, tender, loving and wild.

On the way home from the pound where we adopted Spencer, my mom held the new kitty on her lap and told my little sister and me that in a past life, when she was Cleopatra, Spencer had been her cat.  As my mom regaled us with the details of her and Spencer’s shared history of nobility and power, the two-pound flea-ridden fur ball pissed a bladder full of concentrated cat urine all over Her Majesty’s lap. My sister and I didn’t dare laugh, but inside, a deep admiration swelled in our hearts. In the years to come, when either my mom or dad hit Spencer or flung her off the deck so that her tiny body slammed against the side yard fence and slithered down into the trash cans, she didn’t run away and abandon me, as I often feared she would. Instead, she snuck back in the house later that evening to shit in my dad’s shoe or piss on my mom’s pillow before slinking into my room to sleep for the night. Unlike me, Spencer wasn’t diminished by the abuse.  She never cowered or played nice to try and win their love, nor did she allow herself to be shamed into submission. It was as if my parents rage was something that occasionally spilled over into her world, in which case she’d promptly exact revenge but then carry on with her daily routine–take a nap, lick her crotch, kill a bird–seemingly unaffected by it. She wasn’t defined by the bad things that happened to her.  I wished that I could be brazen and fierce and untouchable like she was–that when I was smacked or slammed or kicked or choked that I too would shit and piss and hiss and bite and fight back like a person who wasn’t afraid, ashamed, and longing for acceptance.  But I didn’t even raise a hand in my own defense. I was pathetic; Spencer was strong.

And, yet, at night, once tucked into the safety of my bed, she nursed on my ratty crocheted ‘baby’ blanky well into adulthood, belying her toughness with a vulnerability for which I fell madly in love.

On my 18th birthday, as I moved out of my parents’ house with a black eye and some matching trash bags full of clothes while my sobbing 11 year old sister hung on my leg and begged me not to leave her, Spencer moved out, too. Unbeknownst to me, when I failed to come home that night and every night following, she saw no reason to return. Two months later, my mother left a message on my answering machine saying that my cat hadn’t been home since the day I left and was most likely dead. Devastated, I drove to my parents’ street at a time when I knew they wouldn’t be home and parked in the cul-de-sac in front of the little league field where Spencer liked to hunt. I stood outside of the car with my face pressed against the tall chain-link fence that separated the street from the field and cried a blur of hot tears while making the kissing sounds that I hoped would beckon her soul. I was a mess. After five or ten minutes, ever present of my parents’ house a half a block away, I turned to go home.  Just before I got into my car, however, I looked back one last time to pucker a final farewell.

And then I saw it.  A tiny brown speck streaking across the field.  I couldn’t believe it.  It was her!!  She climbed over the short baseball diamond fence, hit the ground running again and squeezed through the big gate on the tall chain-link fence where I had stood just a minute before. Then, from a solid eight feet away, she leapt directly onto my chest, landing with a thud, followed by a deafening purrr.  I felt loved beyond measure.

I took Spencer home to live with my boyfriend and me in our tiny house in Redondo Beach where she settled in just perfectly.  I worried that she’d miss hunting in the church and baseball fields by my parent’s house, but she didn’t seem to mind the sedentary life of living with two college students who studied and worked all the time.  The formerly lithe huntress even put on a few pounds, lending her a more matronly gait as she sauntered about the house.

Now, if, a year and a half later, when that boyfriend decided that he was done playing house and opted to move back in with his loving family, I hadn’t decided to move into an apartment in West Hollywood closer to UCLA that didn’t accept cats and then drop Spencer off to go live with my parents again, well, then this story may have ended very differently. But, too absorbed in my own drama, I did abandon Spencer, and in my absence, she developed cancer and no one noticed until I finally drove down to visit and walked through the door and exploded into tears when I saw her ravaged body, a shadow of her former self. I scooped her up, all bones and fur, eyes dull with disease, and took her to the veterinarian. She crawled behind my neck beneath my hair, frail and terrified as we waited for the vet to see us. The vet told me that he was going to cut her open the next morning to do an exploratory, but that given her condition, it didn’t look good. He said to come back at noon tomorrow to hear the results. Even though I heard the vet with my own ears, I refused to let the information sink in. Spencer was dying and I just went numb. That would be the last time I saw her. The next day I did not return to the vet’s office, nor did I call. Instead, my mother went and the vet informed her that Spencer’s body was ‘riddled with disease.’ She had to make a choice between taking Spencer home to die naturally of cancer within a few weeks or to mercifully put her down that day. She chose the latter option, as I most likely would have done, as well, had I been there.

But I wasn’t there.  I didn’t make the choice.  I didn’t hold Spencer.  And I didn’t gently scratch under her chin, telling her I loved her, as she passed from life to death. No one did.

When Spencer died, and I wasn’t there for her, the already thin thread that tethered me to my better self burned in shame and remorse. I hated myself with a passion that should be reserved for child molesters and murderers.  I had failed her in the end, and the end is resolute and silent in a way that can only be described as fucking maddening.

And boy did I go down that wacky rabbit hole.

Was I too hard on myself?  Absolutely.  Was so much of my shame misplaced? No doubt.  Was my pain self-inclicted? Of course.  It almost always is. Yet, it was all necessary.

For five years I punished myself for failing Spencer, for childhood shame and pain that I was nowhere near understanding, for working so pathetically hard to be perfect, get straight As, look pretty and always just a little more skinny, and all for what?  What did it matter when on the inside I was not brave, defiant, tender, loving and wild?  When I looked in the mirror, I saw a girl who was meek,  insecure, obedient, and desperate to be loved. And, yet, the irony is that I probably was loved. In fact, I know I was, but not by whom I thought should love me and not in the way that I wanted to be, so all the other love in the world passed through me like sand through a sieve. Like Spencer, my insides were ‘riddled with disease’; the center could not hold. I had a hole in my heart. 

In fact, one doctor even told me as much.  It was the 26th of December in San Francisco, and I had just turned twenty-four.  I had flown up to San Francisco from Los Angeles two days before on Christmas eve to get clean alone. The boyfriend with the loving family who didn’t want to play house with me anymore had moved to New York a year prior and was home visiting briefly for the holidays. On Christmas Eve, he said he’d come pick me up and presumably take me back to his parents’ house. I was so excited to see him and go home to his loving family. It would be like it used to be. I would be like I used to be! The loving family had known me since I was fifteen–their son being my first boyfriend–so surely they could help me get back to the girl who had conversed with them in french, played Fur Elise on their baby grand piano, and spent many past Christmases at their house. I put on a long-sleeve sweater and packed up my sparse belongings into a vintage pink, hard plastic Samsonite and waited for him by the door. When he showed up at the abandoned house near Hollywood and Vine, where the ‘rooms’ inside were no more than cubicles separated by old sheets, and the tenants living there were otherwise known as junkies, I quickly realized that I had made a big mistake.  He did not see me as I used to be–not even a little bit–and he definitely was not going to take me home to his loving family. So, he did what he thought best to do, which was to drive me to LAX and put me on a plane to Oakland at midnightAlone. On Christmas Eve. He explained that I had to get clean alone, because only then would I know that I was really doing it for me. Sadly, I believed him. (Why so many addicts think they can do it on their own escapes me, but I blame my folly on the arrogance of youth and Ayn Rand.) Anyway, I never saw him again, and the next day I spent Christmas in a residential hotel in San Francisco, South of Market, lonely as fuck, nodding out watching infomercials.  But, the day after, when the methadone clinic reopened, I set out to get clean…ALONE!  During the perfunctory medical examination that you get before they give you the toxic pink syrup meant to cure you, the doctor listened to my heartbeat and informed me that I had developed a small heart murmur, a somewhat common repercussion of IV drug use. Finding the idea of my heart whispering sweet nothings to be wonderfully poetic, I asked “What’s it saying?”  “It says to stop shooting heroin. You’ve got a hole in your heart,” she quipped.  “Well, of course I do,” I snapped back, “why do you think I shoot heroin?” Again, like an idiot I argued a case of the chicken and the egg, but I couldn’t help it--the irony was too sad, true and tragic to not be glib.

Needless to say, after countless attempts, I did not get clean alone in San Francisco or anywhere else for that matter.  It took a village for me to get clean and to that village I will forever be grateful.  My official clean date is April 5th, 2002.

About a year and a half after I stood from the podium at the meeting and introduced myself as an addict, I met Kiki.  I was living in Cyndi’s back house in Hermosa Beach, when Layla, Cyndi’s daughter, moved back home with her three year old dog and two cats.  Within a couple of months, Layla realized that she needed to find a home for Kiki, but by then I had fallen hard for her and would be damned if we were going to give her away. So, I took ‘official’ responsibility of Kiki, and it was a win-win for everyone.

I continued to go to AA meetings for a total of three and a half years, most of which Kiki attended with me.  Throughout that time, I worked an outside sales job and took acting classes–again, with Kiki in the backseat while I met with clients or outside the theater practicing my lines with me. Towards the end of my time in AA, however, I began to feel boxed in by beliefs that no longer served me. In recovery, I had been playing my life ‘safe,’ based on a fear of relapse. The more I made choices based on this fear, the less authentic my life felt, and the more angst I developed. My sober comrades seemed to suggest that I could either be bound to my program or my disease–my choice–but I didn’t see it that way.  I understand that A.A. vs. addiction is the choice for many people, but that dichotomy didn’t feel like my truth. I was no longer afraid of relapsing on heroin.  I have an immense respect for the drug–it is not to be trifled with--but I came to realize that heroin was simply my way of self-medicating, and it could be replaced by a host of other problematic ways–such as sex, work, money, power, status, food, love, shopping, the list goes on–to cover up what was festering on the inside. In other words, heroin was not the problem.  My own mind was.  And, really, it still is, along with the stories it tells me, the feelings it generates, the constant craving for more of the good stuff, less of the bad stuff, and especially, especially the way it tells me that if only I could control you, her, him and that guy over there, then finally I’d be happy.

Fortunately, however, I had figured out that I could quiet the brilliant, neurotic, and wonderfully wacky trap called the mind–at least to a manageable din–without the use of heavy narcotics. Sure, this was a skill I’d have to practice for the rest of my life, but my mind was no more “broken” or “diseased” than a “normal” person’s.  It’s just a mind, and that’s what minds do: They fuck us up if we let them. Granted, I was certainly spooked by the AA prophecies of my impending doom, but, deep down, I was more terrified of conforming to a life that felt too small for me to unfurl my limbs and run with the wolves.  As safe and warm and familiar as the womb was, I wanted out. I needed out.  It was time to reach for the stars…

…Or at least for Europe.  Without ceremony, I left AA, quit my job, and boarded a plane to London.  I backpacked through eight countries by myself, a dream I’d had since I was an adolescent.  Along the way, I ate a space cake in Amsterdam, drank Trappist beer in Brugge, and enjoyed more than a few glasses of Bordeaux in Paris and Brunello in Rome.  Just as I suspected, my “disease” did not ambush me.  On the contrary, I felt brave, defiant, tender, loving and wild! I was alive and free, but not in the Light-as-a-Feather-Who-Gives-A-Fuck-Because-I’m-Wasted way, but rather in the I-Just-Had-An-Existential-Crisis-And-Am-Terrifyingly-Responsible-For-My-Own-Happiness kind of way.  For the first time in my life, I didn’t feel diminished by my bad childhood, my bad choices, my bad feelings, and my very bad behavior. In the five years I was loaded and the three and a half that I was sober, I had a lot of time to deconstruct these stories that I believed about myself and my life, and after careful reflection, I realized that there was nothing bad about any of it.  They were just experiences, and what I decided to do with them was my choice. I could choose to 1) be ‘diminished’ by them and punish myself with drug addiction, 2) spend the rest of my life identifying as an ‘addict’ and steer the ship from that vantage point because at one point in time I was moored there, or 3) embrace the art of alchemy and turn that bad shit into glorious motherfucking gold.  I chose the latter option.  I chose to view my past as fertile ground to grow me into a better person, a more compassionate being of my own creation who can better hold you when you’re aching because I know what it means to hurt so much you shake with pain, who can risk it all to pursue crazy dreams and live in a van and pee in a funnel because I know what it is to lose everything and still be okay, and most importantly, who can love love love with utter abandon because I’ve had a holey heart and I know how to stitch it up and march onward chanting Long Live the Ubermensch! all across Europe.

Shortly after I returned, I turned thirty and re-enrolled at UCLA to finish my literature degree, an accomplishment that Kiki earned right along with me, attending classes and staying up late writing countless papers together.  Also, completely disregarding my friends’ reasonable concern, I fell madly and irrevocably in love with a devastatingly handsome rock climber, who was living in a van in Las Vegas, the very second I sat on his luscious lap–which is meant to say, IMMEDIATELY, because that is how we met.  From a distance, I walked right up, sat on him and said, You Are Mine Forever. Okay, I didn’t say that. What I really said was, “Whoah! You’re cute!” as I squeezed his face in lusty adoration, but the subtext was clear. And when Kiki met him a few days later to go on what would be our first family hike together, she pretty much said the same thing but with less words.  Neither Kiki nor I had ever taken to a man with such vigor before, but what can I say, we knew that he was the One for Us.

 

In the following years, I have continued to make decisions that honor my truth, even when they have defied social norms and at times earned me outright disdain.  Along the way I have been abandoned by friends and family for choices I made that were beyond their comfort zones, I have ripped my heart out of my own chest while it was still beating, and I’ve had my heart smashed into a million tiny pieces.  But, ultimately, none of that matters.  I followed my heart and that path has led me to here and now–the happiest I have been in my entire life.

And who has been by my side for nearly ten years as I’ve moved from city to city, job to job, made friends, lost friends, found myself, fell apart, and found myself again? Darling Kiki.

In the near decade that I have spent with Kiki, I have been my best self more than ever  before.  If  Spencer taught me to be my own self–to not be defined by what happens to me but rather by what’s inside me–then from Kiki I have learned to go where the love is and not dwell in the absence of where I want it to be.  If you ever see Kiki in a crowded room, you’ll know exactly what I mean.  First, she sits next to someone and offers up her head or belly to be scratched, fully assuming that all people are spilling over with love and want nothing more than to give some of it to her.  Given that she is downy soft and adorable, most people oblige. But, when that loving person finally tires of giving her affection, as is wont to happen, she simply moves on to the next person and repeats the drill until she’s worked her way around the entire room.  What she doesn’t do is waste one single second not being adored when she’s surrounded by so much love.

So, if some people could no longer be friends with me or “support my choices” because I wasn’t sober anymore, or I was going through a tough time and was a total shit-show to be around, or I moved into that van and married the devastatingly handsome rock climber and got knocked up while driving from Mexico to the tip of South America and said fuck the American Dream… well, then, so be it.  I have lost whole villages at a time, but you know what, if you lose one village, you have to go find another one. There is no special honor in doing it ‘alone.’  In fact, doing it alone is stupid, it sucks balls, and it doesn’t even work.  We absolutely need love, connection and community to thrive so we simply must go where it is and not dwell where it isn’t.

Of course, it hurts deeply when people fail to love and accept us for who we are, but it doesn’t hurt nearly as badly as betraying our own truth in a futile attempt to win affection or approval that isn’t there to begin with.  And there’s no point in suffering anyway when Kiki is right: Love is in abundance. Why surround ourselves with anything less?

In learning to speak Kiki’s language, I have learned to be present, observe, listen, and participate in the here and now without projecting my crazy trap onto it. So has Tree. In fact, the three of us spend an inordinate amount of time just staring at each other with dopey looks of love on our face–every non-word sinking deep into the wrinkles of our soul.  Kiki has also taught me the importance of having a pack and keeping it together.  I’ve learned that no matter what hardship befalls me, I can show up for the ones I love, and that, above all, has made me feel so very good about who I’ve become.  And even though I can never go back and right my wrongs in life, this feeling of being my best self allows me to forgive myself for failing Spencer, my friends and family, and of course myself.  I have learned to have compassion for my suffering and all of yours too–especially for the “you” that have hurt me.

So, by now you may be wondering, why the hell I am telling you all of this?

A couple of weeks ago, we found out that Kiki is very sick with not one, but TWO heart problems, and I am now faced with perhaps the biggest lesson Kiki will ever teach me: how to let go with grace, or rather, how to face down the end, the resolute and silent end, the fucking maddening end, without losing my shit.

 

William James called death “the worm at the core” of man’s pretensions to happiness.  I agree and would only add that I think it eats at the heart of love as well.  I often push out horrible thoughts about losing my lifeboat people, the ones that I would automatically save if the ship was going down. That is unequivocally my biggest fear, the one that’s been with me my entire life.  My biological father died of a heroin overdose when my mother was five months pregnant with me, bequeathing me a world in which I could feel the presence of ‘loss’ long before I understood what a dad or a husband was, or what it meant that he was ‘dead.’

I learned that grief is polymorphous.  At times, it has dimensions, weight and texture.  It’s like a giant octopus that sits on your chest, steals your breath, confounds your fingers, trips up your feet, cuts out your tongue and leaves you wailing so loud that you don’t even realize that you’re the one screaming.  And, yet, other times, it’s a thick, diaphanous ether: silent, invisible and everywhere.  It refracts light and warps the mind’s eye, distorting everything you see, touch, taste, hear, and smell–it all becomes disfigured by grief.

Grief is the boogieman that crawls under your bed and waits for the lights to go out.

When Spencer died, I was wholly unprepared for the vacuum that would besiege me and siphon out my insides.  I went straight mad, no stops along the way.  Looking back, however, I realize that I was but a waif, a wispy little thing–I had no internal substance or external support to brace myself when the invisible octo-beast came tearing through my fragile being.  It’s no wonder that I sought to self-medicate with a world-class, knock-out pain-killer. It feels good.

I have been asked many times what heroin feels like, and I always answer the same: Relief. Blessed sweet relief. It’s like crawling into a hot bath after a lifetime of bone-aching cold. At least that’s what it felt like to me ten years ago, and I imagine it would still feel the same today.  It would tint my world in sepia, softening its tones, creating a hazy warm buffer between me and the worm at the core of my consciousness, the gnawing fact that I and everyone I love is going to die. But, as nice as it is, I don’t want relief anymore, or at least not the kind that insulates me from my core, regardless of what discomfort is wiggling around down there. I want to be present for friendship, love, hope, fulfillment–and even disappointment, loss, pain, and grief–because the truth is that they are all interrelated.  I can’t just pick out the piña colada jelly bellies and leave the buttered popcorns in the bag. If I could, I would, but since I can’t, well then I want them all.  I want the whole rainbow of bellies, and even the worm, because, again, it’s all necessary.

To elucidate this point, today I draw strength from somewhere ancient inside me that I discovered, ironically, thanks to heroin. Heroin stripped me of everything–college, cars, apartments, beauty, friends, family, dignity, and five precious teeth–but left me with what can’t be lost, with what is essential.  In losing everything that I thought mattered in making me a decent and lovable creature, it was as if my life went on rewind all the way back to when that sperm fertilized the egg and BANG! I started over.  I was reduced to nothing more than potential again: perfect in every way, a locus of divinity. And, in recognizing my own miraculous Awareness,  I realized that I am but one bright speck on a planet shimmering with Awareness.  And, guess what?  So are you. We are all wonderfully interconnected, made of the same sparkly stardust, and yet tasked with endlessly unique ways of expressing the divine consciousness within us.  How wondrous and radical is that?

And from this wondrous place of radical divinity, I started healing. I was able to look at why I reacted to losing Spencer the way I did and admit that I wasn’t just grieving my dead cat. I was grieving my dead heroine, specifically because I had become nothing like her. I hadn’t just failed her in the end, I had failed myself in becoming the woman I wanted to be because I hadn’t done the necessary work to be her. I hadn’t sorted through the child abuse or the resentment or the adolescent expectation that life should be ‘fair’ or any of the feelings and responses those things bring up. But, finally, stripped of all pretenses, left with nothing but twenty-seven teeth, a shitload of track marks and a little lamp unto myself, I was willing to let go of my druggy buffer blanky, dig deep into the icky muck, and attempt to sort it out.

And, lo and behold, if I didn’t find a little Spencer in me after all! It was a brave, defiant, tender, loving and wild little girl who walked through the doors of AA and asked that village for help, and it was an even more brave, defiant, tender, loving and wild woman who walked out to help herself.

It is also from this magic place of strength inside that I am compelled to throw myself into the fire pit of love for Kiki and Tree and family and friends and even strangers on a daily basis, where I let those hot flames melt and mold and forge me into a better version of myself.

And even though my mind reels in anguish at the thought of losing Kiki, my lifeboat dog, the one whose constant love has saved me when my ship was sinking, the one who has been by my side more than anyone else, the one who is like a root that travels deep into me and connects all the manifestations of who I’ve been for the past ten years, still, from this place inside me where my essential being dwells, and where Kiki will forever dwell, I will let go with grace.

I accept that suffering is part of being human; death is part of life; loss is part of love.  And as painful as it is, I’m eternally grateful for it.

And it’s in this wondrous place of radical divinity that I also find you and all your little lamps unto yourselves, ready to light my way when the darkness comes, and the boogieman comes out, and it’s time to cross the river without my darling Kiki.  When I stand on the shores of grief, possibly losing my shit, you will send me missives filled with kind words of condolence, encouraging me to let go and float across on my shaky boat to your shores of compassion, where I will march onward.

-Stevie

 

 

 

 

Comments

  1. The hardest part of “owning” a dog is that you’re probably going to outlive him/her. We lost our puppy last Fall after 17 wonderful years and I still look out the door every morning expecting him to be there waiting for us to get going.

    Your excellent essay needs just one minor correction: it should read ‘told my little sister and me’, not ‘I’. As I said, minor point but you might as well make it perfect.

    • Hi. Thanks so much for commenting. I’m so sorry for the loss of your beloved friend. Seventeen years is a very impressive run, but it’s still never enough, is it? There is nothing quite like the love shared between a human and a dog.

      About a year after I adopted Kiki, it occurred to me that I would probably only get around 10-12 years with her, max (I adopted her when she was 3). Realizing that she was dying exponentially faster than me, I made it a point to spend as much time with her as possible, taking her everywhere…work, school, errands, people’s houses, and if I could drive somewhere instead of fly, I drove so that I could take Kiki. Now that I’m closing in on my max time, I’m so grateful that I didn’t waste any. I think this might actually be yet another lesson I’ve learned in loving Kiki….life becomes more precious in dog years :)

      Thank you also for the grammar catch. I’m a bit of a perfectionist when it comes to it, so I really appreciate the edit. Please always let me know when you catch one!

      Sending you some light from my little lamp unto myself. xo.

  2. Stevie my dear…your strength and courage is remarkable and as a member of our family you have added love and awareness beyond measure. All my love, all my compassion is with you and Kiki, my son and grand daughter.
    SR

    • Thank you Senior. I love you so much and feel so blessed to be a part of such an incredibly supportive, loving, and fun family. Can’t wait to see you for Christmas with our newest member. xoxoxooxox

  3. This post is exceptional Stevie. The best yet. Honest, insightful, tender, heart breaking and inspiring. . Thank you for having the courage to share your story. What a beautiful way to honor Kiki. I wish I was there to give Kiki lots of love and tummy rubs, and to give you a long hug.

    I remember when we first met Kiki. We were so surprised that our big burly Tree was so smitten with a big puffball of a dog (he was more of a Rottweiler kind of guy back then). But smitten he was with Kiki and with you. I remember being struck by how quietly loyal Kiki seemed to be to both you and Tree. I know now why. She has been along with you through such amazing times she knew what felt and therefore loved Tree as well.

    I’m sorry for all of your pain. I’m in total admiration of your ability to be so raw and inspired by your ability to learn, reflect and to take things head on. I love how deeply you love.

    KIki knows your deep love. And because she knows you so well, she knows how much you are hurting. And she would want to do whatever she could to make you feel better. That is the grace of your story. How you will both do anythiing to make the other feel the love you have.

    You, my beautiful sister, are Brave, Defiant, Tender, Loving and Wild. You are Fierce and you are Loyal. You allow Vumerability that has the potential for pain, but allows you to live such a Rich and Deep life.

    I admire you. I love you. I am so sorry you are going through this. We are so blessed to have you as part of our family. We will be sending much white light.

    • Thank you sister. My biggest source of comfort and strength today is knowing that I can lean into Tree and the rest of the Trujillo/Polito tribe. I know that if I were to lose my shit and sink to the depths of despair, you guys would dive down and pull me up by my hair if you had to. I have never seen a family as close and fiercely loyal as the one I am now a part of. Not only did I really hit the jack pot, but I feel like I belong.

      As for Miss Kiki, we’re taking it day by day, doing everything we can to prolong her life. I said I’d let go with grace…but not without putting up a good fight!

      We’ll be giving her another EKG, echocardiogram, tick titer, blood panel, and chest xray in about a month to see if our treatment plan is improving her condition…..fingers crossed. We’ll of course keep you posted.

      I love you!

  4. Oh my gawd! I’ve said it before and I will say it a million times over…you are AMAZING! I am awed by what you have travelled through to become the wonderful person you are. Kiki has been blessed to have you in her life, as are all of us who float in your aura. My heart aches for you for what you will experience when she passes but you will reflect often on the sweet memories of what you and your dear partner lived in your lives together. I am so proud to know you. I love you.

    • Thank you Cheryll. I’m so happy that you got to spend such quality time with Kiki. She really loves you! Thank you so much for helping us get the meds she needs from the vet in Oregon. Those meds will address one of the heart problems and possibly prolong her life for 2+years!! Now all we have to do is figure out how to fix the other heart problem….fingers crossed. My new motto is: I said I’d let go with grace…but not without putting up a good fight! Hopefully we get to see each other this Christmas. xoxo.

  5. Thanks. Tough and honest, but heartwarming. That is what hooks me with this blog. We had a very sobering experience last night with our dog. Jack who is a 10 pound, 6 month old Jack a poo ran off when we were setting up a late dinner, 10 miles up a logging road filled with coyotes and cougars. He was gone in a blink of an eye. We stayed, calling for him, knowing he was swiped by something twice his size. The guilt was unbearable, and listening to our kids ask if we would be as upset if they went missing.. was just too much. I went back up and called for him, leaving a trace of our clothing, hoping he would stay calm and quiet like I knew he would not.. Posting on facebook, listening to all the stories of dogs lasting for weeks and months, brought us peace, and we calmly drove up to the place in the morning where he was lost. I truck drove by, and I stopped him and gave him the missing dog poster that we were platering all over the countryside.. And all he said- I have your dog.. Elation!!! Turns out he found the dog 2 miles from us, not knowing anyone was around he decided it was best to grab the dog and look for the owner in the morning.. since he was hunting in the area and would be back first thing in the morning. Jack stayed outside for the night on a chain.. but heck.. I think we both learned our lesson. Animals bring so much, and the minute we take them for granted.. poof they are gone. Well I know we both have one thing in common. Pets mean the world, and teach us valuable lessons, and sometimes we do get a do-over.
    Cheers

  6. You are an amazing writing. I have been following your posts for over a year, and whether it is politics, or a gift from your heart, your words often mirror my own thoughts and feelings which I couldn’t dream of having your literary talent to express in such a meaningful, raw, and poignant manner.

  7. At 26( I am now 40), I had been in and out of NA and AA for 7 years, relapsed with needles, heroine, cocaine, and crack, and through a strange chain of events ended up at a raft outpost. I am probably the only person to clean up at a raft outpost! I used to have to guide with long sleeves in summer b/c as I tanned the track marks would outline in white. I bet the people of AA have lots of stories about me and my assumed death, but they have no idea that I’ve gone off chasing waterfalls. Maybe I’ll have the courage one day to tell my whole story too–I’m shaking violently just from this. Thank you–you are not alone. I am not an addict–I am a person who deals with demons like everyone else! We’re friends on facebook and I was going to post this there, but I am still afraid of not getting a job, etc from judgmental people.

    • Hey Anonymous. I know exactly what you mean about all your assumed death stories. I think there’s a few of those floating around about me! Hahahaha! Anyway, I’m so happy that you’re off chasing waterfalls now…isn’t life grand?

      Thank you so much for commenting. And I understand about going anonymous this time. I was a little wary hitting the ‘publish’ key myself, and as a writer, I’m my own employer :)

      Take care and please comment again….otherwise we might assume that you’re dead :)

  8. I know how you feel. Bella has been with me through the darkness and loved me into my “happily” ever after. It crushed me when Spencer, Tom & Cubbie passed away. I can’t even bare to think about Bella & Breez; at least I’ll have Phil. And you have Tree & your daughter. Maybe that will be Kiki’s last gift to you. Is to really show you-you’re not a little lost kite anymore. You’ve landed in a big safe Tree where you have made your home. You have family and friends who are like family and you have me. Me who would have been lost without you. I am so glad none of that ugliness is swarming around us today. Yuck….And we all lived “Happily Ever After” :)

    • Little Sister!!! I have landed in a big safe Tree, haven’t I? And I am soooooo grateful that we are BOTH living our happily ever afters, because it wouldn’t have been a very happy ending for me without you in it. I love you my preciouuuuuuus!!! Love, Found Little Kite xoxo.

  9. My best friend of all time just gifted me this. I really don’t know what to say except that you touch the Universal Truth, and that is that we are ONE. We are all in this together……And those souls who have preceded us are right there across that river waiting patiently for us to arrive. While I was reading this two U2 songs played….
    “Pride” and “With or Without U” so there!

    Luck and grace
    Robin

    • Hi Robin. Welcome to Sprinter Life! And thank you so much for commenting. I love that the U2 songs played while you were reading the post….coincidence or cosmic synchronicity? Fun to ponder :)

      Yes….we are ONE. And we are all in this together. I wish more of us made that truth a practice. There’d be a whole lot less suffering in the world.

      Hope to hear from you again. so.

  10. Stevie thank you for sharing, so well written and honest. Even more thankful to know you both. Most have a story, and in most cases it is not an easy one, but I see yours having a happy ending.

    Take Care

    • Thank you Chuck. We are very glad to know you, too, now. The community that our blog has created has been an amazing and unexpected gift to us. As for my happy ending, I feel like I’m already living the “happily ever after.” I just hope I can stretch this part with Kiki in it for as long as I can :)

  11. Aunt Debby & Uncle Barry says:

    Dearest Stevie,
    You are such an amazing woman! Your strength, grace, love and pain all shine through in this post. We are so proud to know you and to call you family! I agree with your sister that you have landed in a supportive, loving place and have family and friends in your life that will ALWAYS be there for you. When Shadow passed away last November I truly felt that he knew we were all in a healthy place and that we would all be ok. Kikki will always be with you and what a journey you two…three, have shared.

    We love you so much and our hearts are sending you all lots of White Light!

    • Hi Aunt Debby. Thank you for your sweet comment. I’ve been thinking of you a lot lately as I make Kiki’s homemade lumps and disguise her pills in tasty chicken treats, remembering how you walked with such grace by Shadow’s side, helping him crossover as comfortably as possible. You showed such great strength and love. I hope to follow in your footsteps. Thank you for leading the way.

      And, yes, I really have landed in a safe place, haven’t I? It’s incredible!! I am so grateful and proud to be a part of the family. I love you guys with all of my heart. xoxoxooxxooxxo.

  12. Amazing Stevie, truly amazing. Your courage and love shines through in your writing, it inspires me. Thank you for sharing.

    • Thank you James. I hope we get to see you guys again soon. We really enjoyed hanging out with you. Hope that washer isn’t still giving you problems. That facebook post was hilarious!

      Take care – Stevie

  13. I remember some of this story all too well …
    Thank you for sharing your journey with Kiki. With all the wonderful pictures and memories it will be hard to ever forget her.

  14. Stevie, You forgot one wonderful thing to include and that is your amazing ability to touch others with love and grace. When you wrote “I have learned to have compassion for my suffering and all of yours too–especially for the “you” that have hurt me.” I cried because of all things in life this is one of the hardest lessons we must learn. Some never reach this point, but you model for all of us the art of caring, tenderness and of course how to grab the best in life and follow our dreams. Know that I will always be part of your village and that although I am quiet never doubt that I am there for you, Tree, and that blessed baby that will be with us in just a few weeks. I am so proud and happy to be part of your family.
    With Love,
    Auntie Candy

    • Thank you Auntie Candy. I too am honored to be a part of your village. I have never met a family more loyal, fierce or supportive, who rallies harder, or with such strong, loving, creative and intelligent women. I am soooooo blessed to have joined your tribe. I hope we get to see you guys in December. xoxoxoxoxooxo.

      • Aunt Candy says:

        You were a brave heart to marry into a family with all of these women. LOL I am so excited that you will soon be the queen mother to our new little one. (Not a surprise she is a girl… Grammy is going to be smiling down when you and Tree were blessed with this new bundle.) Let’s make sure that we all get together when you are here in December.
        I love you both a bunch. Kiss Kiki for me.
        Auntie Candy

  15. OMG Stevie…I love you…I don’t even begin to have the emotional vocabulary to share with you what I feel for what you have shared…only that I feel a lot for you ….and for Kiki…her spirit, life & soul will forever be with you, Tree and that glorious baby girl who YOU are bringing to life!!

    You are a most amazing young woman who has experienced more than the depths of despair only to arise from these flames to become a unique, loving, compassionate beautiful woman and soon to be amazing MOTHER!!

    Thank you Stevie, for who you are…. love & hugs :-) Diane

    • Thank you Diane. Losing Kiki is definitely going to be a tough one for me, but I find comfort and strength in knowing that I am part of such a loving and loyal family. I know that I can lean into Tree and the rest of the Trujillo clan until I feel okay enough to march onward. I haven’t always had this kind of support, but I sure won the lotto in marriage!!

      Can’t wait to introduce the newest member.

  16. You could put Barbara Kingsolver to shame. Publish. Publish. Publish.

  17. BRAVE, DEFIANT, TENDER, LOVING AND WILD.
    And unfailingly kind, and beautifully gracious, and loyal and passionate and FUN,
    and oh so obviously intelligent!
    and lovely beyond belief in every part of your Being.
    And FREE, Stevie!
    You are FREEDOM.
    I adore you.
    mamatuyas

  18. Sorry to hear about Kiki, Stevie.
    Hard to face the loss of a friend.
    Thanks for sharing your journey on how you’ve grown to accept life’s up’s and down’s.
    Though we mat disagree on a few things,, always enjoy reading your life’s challenges and adventures.
    Rub Kiki’s tummy for me, and give her a pat on the head.
    Though I never met her, it sounds like she has been a great friend to you.
    I wish her the best.
    Cheers,
    John

    • Igualmente, John, I enjoy reading your insights and musings on life. We don’t have to always agree…that wouldn’t be very interesting, if we did. There is truth in diverse perspectives.

      Thank you for commenting. I would love to give Kiki some belly rubs and pats on the head for you! My pleasure ! Take care. xo.

  19. I’m so terribly sorry to hear about Keke’s illness. It just breaks my heart!

    That being said this is one of my favorite blog posts/essays ever. Anywhere. You’re such an amazing person and have an amazing outlook on life and the challenges you have faced.

    • Hey Riley. Thank you for your compassion and for taking a moment to comment. Hitting ‘publish’ on this post was a little scary, so your kind words are comforting and encouraging! I really am so grateful to our expanding blog community. It’s been such an unexpected pleasure in our life.

      • Well I’m certainly glad you did find the courage. It’s the type of post that will help many people when they are in a bad place and need some encourangment and light!

  20. Such an awesome post. Thank you so much for writing it.

  21. Such an amazing brave soul you are. True, real beauty you do possess. I’m so proud and happy for you. You inspire me! I have always and will always have you in my heart. I’m sorry about KIki. I’m happy I’ve had the pleasure of being around her on a few occasions. She mirrors your soul.
    Looking forward to your baby girl joining the world.

  22. Your prose is beautiful.

  23. What a touching and beautiful post. We are SO sorry for your loss. We just lost our beloved, Maddy, on the 9th of August and are still reeling from the loss of her in our lives. Our hearts go out to you!!! Thank you for continuing to be her hero to the end. I recently saw something on Facebook that said “Heaven is where all the dogs you’ve ever known come to greet you”. I can’t wait for heaven.

    • Hey Rhonda. Thank you for commenting. I’m so sorry to hear about Maddy. The bond that we share with our animals touches such a unique spot in us. As such verbal creatures with judgmental minds, it’s an exquisite pleasure to share love with a being that loves us unconditionally with such a quiet persistence that it just seeps into your soul. That truly is heaven! As painful as the grief is, eventually it will lighten its grip on you, and you will once again feel the sweet perfection of the love that you’ll carry with you always.

      As for Kiki, we’re taking it one day at a time, trying our best to find a treatment plan that will prolong her life comfortably for as long as possible. We’ll know more in a month when she gets another EKG,echocardiogram, blood panel, liver test, and chest xray whether or not she’s improving. I said that when the time comes, I’ll let go with grace, but I never said that I wouldn’t put up a good fight along the way:)

      Sending you lots of love and light.

      • You’re all in your thoughts as you try to work it out. One of the hardest parts is knowing when that letting go with grace needs to come into play. Our prayers for Kiki.
        We have since adopted a new boy in need of a home…. Porter came home last weekend from the humane society and, even though he very much resembles Maddy in looks, he is absolutely his own boy. Our hearts are still mourning Maddy, but having someone new to love has made a world of difference in our day.
        Love to you all

  24. Stevie and Tree, You are two of the most amazing people I have had the pleasure to know. Thank you for friending me. Your story is so moving, I too have had hardship. I think most of us have. I too am about to have to put down one of my beloved dogs, Mia.
    Love to you,
    Kathy

    • Hey Kathy,

      I’m so sorry to hear about Mia. My heart goes out to you.

      It’s going to hurt, no way around that, but I’m thankful that you get to be there with her, cradling her with love as she passes. That’s always been my hope with Kiki. I want to walk with her until the very end.

      Be gentle with yourself. Surround yourself with love and compassion.

      Sending you some light from my little lamp unto myself. xoxo.

  25. Cate Brubaker says:

    I know “like” doesn’t even express a fraction of how that made post me feel. I applaud you, always.

  26. Sophia Flores-villa says:

    Thank you for allowing us to hear your story. It touched the core of my heart (and eyes…I need to refill my Kleenex box). You are truly an angel ♥

  27. Aimee DeLuccio says:

    Beautiful

  28. Bobbi Scott says:

    Thank you for sharing. Beautifully written. It will end in grace :)

  29. Claire Abbey says:

    Brave, honest, powerful and deeply moving. My heart goes out to you, Stevie.

  30. Alexis Mobley says:

    Stevie,
    That was an excellent story from beginning to end. I cried, laughed, admired, and could not help reflect on our teenage years around each other. I had no idea of anything, you did cover it up well. Anyhow, I admire the crap out of you, your man, and your animals….and most of all, being unwavering true to who you are regardless of what anyone thinks or says!!!
    So, here are the key words that came to my mind throughout the reading…..love, passion, sublimation (!!!), warrior, survivor, dedication, self-actualization, lover and object-relations-theory (in regards to Spencer and KIki:)……

    Mucho love to you and your family and dig deep for that grace in your upcoming parting, you are no longer that fragile child that is weak and will crumble under pain……

    Thank you sincerely for sharing intimate details of your life,
    Alexis Mobley

    • Hello beautiful lady! Thank you for taking the time to write me such a lovely comment. You are very right that in high school, I wasn’t open at all about what was going on at home. A couple of our friends knew–Julie and Heather, and of course Jonathan–but it’s not like we ever discussed it. Heather’s mom found out at one point and told Mrs.Strong, and after an ‘incident’ I had to fill out a police report and meet with her once a week for my entire senior year to report on how I was doing at home or else she said they’d send a social worker to my house–all of which terrified me. I ended up developing a strong affection for Mrs. Strong, which was funny since everyone else was so afraid of her. Anyhow, hitting ‘publish’ on this post was definitely a little scary, and even stranger were the feelings that I started having when I noticed people from high school were reading it! There was a part of me that cringed in sort of a “Oh no!!! They know my secret!!” kind of way. That feeling passed quickly, of course, but it reminded me of how fiercely I used to protect it. Oh, it feels so good to let go of silly shame!! A friend of mine recently wrote to me that “Shame is illusory and only when you decide to let it go do you realize that it was exclusively yours”. True indeed!

      Thank you for the key words! I especially like sublimation and the object-relations-theory for giving me some food for thought.

      As for finding grace when the time comes, yes, I will dig deep, but in the meantime, I’m fighting the good fight! I’m working hard on finding a treatment plan that will prolong her life. In a month, she’ll get another battery of tests (EKG, xray, blood panel, etc…) to find out if the medicine is working.

      Much love to you. You shine bright these days….I’m so happy for your happiness. I’d love to get together sometime when I’m in LA. xoxo.

  31. Uncle Barry says:

    Stevie: An amazing read. Thank you so much for sharing. We are here for you as you would be here for us. When I was younger, a wise teacher asked a group of us, “Why do we say ‘fall’ in love?” It’s a good question. The teacher suggested we change “fall” to “rise” as in “rise in love.” I like that a lot. Seems to me that you, Tree, Spencer, Kiki and all of us have risen in love one notch higher with your inspiring words.

    • Oh my goodness!!! I love love love it!! I’ve often struggled with the term “falling in love” but have been unable to stop using it for lack of a worthy alternative. But to RISE IN LOVE, that is perfect!!!! That is exactly how it feels. Thank you for this. What a gem. xoxxoxoxooxoxoxoxoxoxo.

  32. Heather Villano Heyert says:

    Beautifully written, Stevie! You all are in my thoughts

  33. Steve Scherrer says:

    GREAT story! Thanks.

  34. Jim Essenberg says:

    Beautiful writing. Sending good thoughts for Kiki. I have three kitty boys and love them dearly. Thank You for the Post.

  35. Addie Arboleda says:

    Oh beautiful Stevie … I can not thank you enough for sharing your story. I remember when we would have our lil talks at cheesecake. And as your story of life love and adventure continue I hope one day to go to a bookstore and buy your book. (if you decide to write one) which I think you should. Because what you have been through and what you have to say is so spot on. And needs to be heard. And will be of service to others. God bless you and your family… Luv ya!

  36. Roseann Hanson says:

    Beautifully written, thank you so much for sharing. You are a heroine, too. You made my day, even though it’s a story that in the end will have such sadness (we, too, know what it’s like to be so close to our furry companions), it’s also uplifting. Keep up the writing, it’s a gift.

  37. I applaud you first for being clean for 10 years, next for ecoming the est person you can be. By being a better person and staying clean you may not be able to take back the things you have done while being on heroin, but you can definatly right your wrongs everyone makes mistakes. I grew up with a drug addict who terrorized my mother and my grandparents. after she got clean, it was still about her and her sobriety. All fine and well we were all happy but not once did she apploigize. It was the drugs i don’t know what to tell you. she never once tried to better herself. had the same junkie attitude. I do believe drugs ruin good people, but some are just born evil. I was with a junkie his addiction changed my life, was not a good time in my life ot of decisions i had to make. example of a good man gone bad with drugs. the fact that you on your own have risen above it never looked back is a great accomplishment. Your lose of spencer taught you not to take the one you loved you unconditional for granted. kiki has taught you that the fact that you have loved kiki uncondtional you have learned from that mistake. this time you will be by kikis side and return the favor. and who says kiki isn’t spencer watching over you all this time. mabe she needed you most in this way not his former self.
    As far as losing an animal only an animal lover such as myself real know what that lose is like. Remember what well my grandmother your grandmothers sister and my mother has said for every lose there is a new life to be born. well you have a new life coming. mabe this is what is meant to be. Ok i’ll stop babbling and stop crying now. if you need anything let me know.
    you cousin,
    Theresa

    • Hey Theresa. Thanks for such a heartfelt response. I’m so sorry that you and the rest of the family had to endure the wreckage that often accompanies an addict and even an addict in recovery. It’s true that while drugs can eat away at someone’s moral character and make them do things that they otherwise would never do, some people don’t have very good character to begin with and don’t develop it in sobriety. Getting clean physically is just that…a physical feat, it says nothing about the root problem or potential for healing that happens on the inside. Likewise, doing drugs doesn’t automatically make someone an asshole (I’ve known many kind and loving, albeit struggling,doped up souls along the way), although many users seem to fall into that category. In any case, I hope the ‘terrorizer’ finds his or her way into mental and spiritual recovery. He or she must be very lost and suffering immensely to behave so badly. All you can do is have compassion for the suffering, forgive the person not the behavior, and, of course, the most important, set firm boundaries that keep the suffering maniac over there, and you safely over here :)

      Thank you so much for your deep compassion about Kiki. I know you love your animals with all of your heart and understand what it means to lose one. We are blessed to know this kind of love!

      By the way, Meme used to say the same thing “Out with the old and in with the new”…must be a Sicilian thing. What amazing women those Toscanos were. I’m proud that we are of their ilk.

      Love you Cousin!! Stevie

      • P.S. That last part made it sound like Kiki is dead…and I DEFINITELY don’t want to get ahead of myself here. For the record, we are doing everything we can to prolong her life with a combination treatment plan….we’ll find out in a month or so if the medicine is working and we can eek out another year or two out of her failing ticker. I really, really want my daughter to know her, to say her name, to stand in her loving gaze. xoxo.

  38. Shahdiya Kureshi says:

    Stevie, this is a beautiful piece — shines of tenacity, intelligence and a certain self-possession that can only come from a woman who’s really lived a bit. You need to whip this story up into a novel. I am so proud of you!

  39. Bryon Blofstein says:

    You are a strong woman. There is someone close to me who I wish to have the strength you have to take care of their own addiction. I applaud you for sharing something so personal that maybe the push that one may need to keep themselves clean. Kiki you may need to release with grace but you and Tree have someone great on the horizon that the two of you made together.

  40. YES! A novel.

  41. Thank you so much for sharing your story of triumph over seemingly unsurmountable obstacles to create a life of YOUR design. A story of someone that has travelled the path to becoming a brave, adventurous, loving, compassionate and selfless soul. There is a lesson there for us all, no matter where we are in our lives. I now see areas in my own life where I can step beyond the comforts and obstacles to reach for something greater. Thank you for offering your life story as an inspiration. My thoughts and heart are with you, Tree and Kiki.

    GregV

    “Do not go where the path may lead, go instead where there is not path and leave a trail” -Ralph Waldo Emerson

    • Hi Greg,
      Thanks so much for reading, and for your comment. I love the Emerson quote!
      May your step beyond comfort be fulfilling and successful!
      -Stevie

  42. Joey Richardson says:

    I love you

  43. Tim Wilson says:

    Cheers Kiki !!! RIP Spencer!

  44. Terry Buchanan says:

    Such an outpouring of pain, honesty, heartbreak and triumph. Your grace in going through the pain of losing Kiki has already begun. I’m inspired by your words and strength – your courage in being so honest is more then just admirable…I’m in awe.

  45. Stevie, Thank you for sharing your herstory with the world so honestly and gracefully! Looking back on everything and seeing the crucial role that only your Kiki could play is so beautifully respectfully to her.
    Kiki, Thank you for loving and taking care for my dear friend in a wonderful way that only you could!!!! Thank you for ALWAYS being there for her through everything!
    When I was pregnant with Maxine our Katie Duke passed she also had heart problems. Her heart was swollen, it was to big! I know that the two souls mingled and imagined Duke telling Bean all sorts of stories. The parting of a life partner is so hard and also beautiful and I know your tenderness and love will make her journey as comfortable and loving as possible! And she will always be alive, filling the place in your heart that is her home!
    I love you sister!
    Big hug and kiss to you both!

    • Hey Bree. I’ve been thinking a lot about you and Katie Duke…the parallels are freakishly similar. Besides the fact that Kiki and Duke look alike (impossibly adorable) and I’m pregnant, as the final touch, Kiki has a swollen heart too. Those pups are just too full of love. Anyhow, I’m so sorry that you had to lose Duke, especially while you were pregnant. I remember thinking that somehow it must have been easier for you since as Duke was passing, you had a baby coming. But, now that I’m facing a similar possibility, I realize that hearts don’t work on a quid pro quo basis exactly. The love we share with another being is unique and perfect unto itself. I’m sorry that I didn’t understand that then and show more compassion and support, but I’m happy that you and Shan were able to lean into each other and share the love, grief and healing in Duke’s passing. Anyhow, I love your visual of their two souls mingling, and Duke telling Maxine sweet stories before her big ‘birth’ day. So beautiful! You, my soul sister, walked with such grace. I love and admire you with all my heart. xoxooxoxoxoxoxo

  46. Donna Clary says:

    Thank you for sharing. You are a brave warrior, a vulnerable warrior, a giving, loving warrior. Outstanding writing expressing yourself. A real inspiration. You know how Lorraine puts sayings in pictures? I saw two for your pictures, …learned to have compassion for my suffering & especially for the “you” that have hurt me” and “love is in ablundance. Why surround ourselves with anything less?” There are more. I am going to share your piece because I want those I love to be further awe inspired, giving hope where it appears there isn’t any. Good work, keep it coming.

  47. Ferdinand Steinvorth says:

    BIG whoa… speechless. this should be read by more people.

  48. Awwwwww, I honestly could not read past Spencer’s death….. Brilliantly written, I will finish it. Just to emotional now….

    • Hey Steve,
      Finish it when you can. No worries. I know you’ve been through a lot lately. Tree and I have been thinking about you. Take care of yourself.
      Sending love, Stevie

  49. Pilar Ryan Crew says:

    wow, I’m speechless & full of tears….well done..the writing & the life filling pockets of treasures…with the lint too…xo

  50. Graeme Bell says:

    Something is always born of excess, great art was born of great terrors. And now your baby will be born and your life will be saved again. Thank you for sharing.

  51. Stephen O'Hara says:

    Holy shit, that was intense. Freaking balling my eyes out.
    That was a truly beautiful piece of writing

  52. Cathy Fanandakis Alexander says:

    Hi Stevie: I read the whole story! I’m 66 and have been through many terrible losses of family, friends, pets and pretty soon I’ll be facing my own mortality! Death is a mystery and if you notice someone one is born while another has died. it’s the cycle of life! However we are never prepared and it leaves you empty inside! It taught me to love more and appreciate what I have even more. Matterial things make us happy for a moment but the objects are cold and can easily be replaced. True love is unconditional, not compromised and will always be there in your heart! You have been blessed to have Kiki, Spencer, Tree and now your own child! Even our children are a loan from God to be their care takers! Our pets if we choose to have them are the same. We love and take care of them. Still they only stay with us a short time! I still miss every single one of mine! The one thing I noticed that animals give us is unconditional love and they don’t care what we look like either. Some people I wish could be like that unfortunately they are not. So if you have the love for animals, then you are that person that can love a child just as much. Sorry for Kiki I noticed he or she has been by your side a long time ago. Take care: Love Cathy

    • Hi Cathy. Thank you for commenting. You really hit the nail on the head here, in regards to death: “It taught me to love more and appreciate what I have even more.” Words of wisdom. Some people close down and let their hearts retract from the pain of heartbreak, but you have it right…the response is to love and appreciate more, not less. That is the key to life. Thank you for sharing it. oxoxooxo.

  53. Stevie,
    I commend you for sharing your story and for being sober for 10 years. Being consumed by drugs is no life at all. It does destroy everything around you. Its funny how no matter what our animals love us unconditionally and make everything in our life so much better and so much richer. My husband was a drug addict for nearly 30 yrs before he died, but his cats were the only living thing he could truly love. He couldnt love his family, his son, me because he always felt judged and felt shame. But he was a tortured soul that could never be repaired. Its sad because i saw the huge heart that he had beneath the torture and hatred. Im so glad you found someone that loves you, you are going to have a beautiful daughter, that is a wonderful blessing. Im sorry that you are losing Kiki, i wish it was something we didnt have to go through but everyone and every being is with us for a reason, a season or a lifetime. May Kiki forever be in your heart and watching over you! I love you my dear cousin. With tears in my eyes , i send you a hug from afar. Xoxo

    • Hey Jeanine. I’m so sorry for your loss and that your husband suffered so much, that he didn’t find his way out of that darkness. You are wise and compassionate in your ability to see the huge heart in the tortured soul. He was blessed to have you by his side. Anyhow, thank you for writing me such kind words of compassion and sending me such a big hug. I can feel it all the way in Peru. xoxoxoxo.

  54. Josh Brown says:

    Jesus lady! You’ve got me welling up with tears in the middle of a parade.

  55. Michael T. Bishop says:

    My eyes were tearing up too much that I couldn’t get through it.

  56. Atom Crawford says:

    Thanks for sharing..

  57. Candy Richey says:

    From the first time I ever spoke to you, I knew you were special. As our friendship grew, every interaction, every long phone call, every lunch, every conversation where we shared our dreams and hopes with each other, revealed just how special you really are. Your words are a reflection of you. Simply beautiful. Thank you once again, for sharing a piece of you with all of us.

  58. David Leher says:

    Stay strong! The waterfall is better then the lake! You will have a baby soon….life marches on. God bless!

  59. Sarah Lechago says:

    I am proud of you and I remember spencer. I think though that this story raises many questions for me as we met as little girls. I wish I could have face time with you, there is much catching up to do. RIP Spencer and so much love to Kiki. And of course much love to you and your growing family. ♥

  60. I too am impressed by your strength and so sorry for the loss of Kiki ♥

  61. Sheila Withers Erickson says:

    A heartwarming story .Thanks for sharing. Glad I had the opportunity to meet your Kiki and you in Mexico.

  62. Tanya Diaz says:

    I am sitting in a cafe with tears streaming down my face. This spoke to me on so many levels. You are a brave woman with a beautiful soul that I am so grateful to have met. Continue living and speaking your truth. Sending love to Kiki, a truly special being, and to you and Tree as you go through this. Un abrazo fuerte!

  63. Judy Shuman ‎ says:

    Incredible! ~ You are truly an Inspiration! ~ Through every Storm there is a Rainbow and it’s a New Day! ~ ♥ Several years ago, I had a very Dark time in my life when I lost my baby daughter and thought I would never make it! ~ One day, I walked into the living room and it was all Lite up, bright like the Sun and shimmering! ~ I didn’t tell anyone for years because I thought they would think I was crazy. Then I talked with a Therapist and he said, ” You were Blessed by a Spiritual phenomenon! ~ You are Blessed Dearest Stevie! ~ Thank you for sharing! ~ ♥

  64. Cindy Chischilly says:

    Your not only Brave, Defiant, Tender, Loving and Wild you’re inspiring. Thank you for shining your light on my path.

  65. Zayna Zane says:

    I take pearl to the the little leage park and pass your old house all the time!! Pearl loves it but she always is trying to escape and run up the hill to the church cuz she is off leash! Its so peaceful there…..next time i go I will say a prayer for kiki! Kiki is so lucky to have a mama like you, not too many doggies get to see the world …you have shown her so much!! xo

  66. Lisa Labon says:

    Beautiful post, Stevie. Best of the best. Some great writer said “if the writer sheds no tears, the reader sheds no tears.” Many readers are mulching in recognition of the human experience. Thank you for allowing me to remember similar themes and regrets. Xoxo

  67. Terri Thatcher says:

    Stevie,

    I dont know you. I know Dave Adair and have actually only met him once. So I found your blog through him.

    I enjoy reading about your adventures. you guys are my heros. I loved your post today. it was absolutely appropriate. I am passing it on to a friend in a bad space actually.
    When I’m at work and I see your posts come through, I drop what Im doing to read them. You are an inspiring couple. KiKi is lucky. Tree is lucky. Your daughter is blessed to have you for a mother.

    Much luck to you all.

    Terri Thatcher

    • Hi Terri. Thanks so much for writing to us! I was definitely a little scared to hit ‘publish’ with this post, so your kind words are very much appreciated. It also feels good knowing that our blog brightens your day. From our perspective, keeping the blog and connecting with so many people from around the world has been so rewarding. It’s enriched our experience so much, so thank you for sharing it with us!

  68. Thank you for putting into words what I have been feeling. I just lost my black lab Kelly after 9 years of love. I did not think anyone could truly understand what she meant to me and how much I lost when she passed. I have tried to explain, but there are no suitable words to express the kinship we shared. She was always just there. She made everything better because she was there. This made me cry and I weep for You and Kiki. I think dogs like this are an amazing gift that some of us are lucky enough to get. Lots of love to you all. Nancy PS you are an amazing writer and should publish if you have not already!

  69. Truly incredible. Thank you Stevie.

    • Thanks for reading Brianna. We’ve been following your new adventures. Although we miss you down here in South America, we’re excited for the new prospects that lie ahead for you and Logan!
      Hugs – Stevie

  70. We haven’t met yet and I really hope that we do someday. Since crossing paths on Facebook I’ve come to love your posts and thoroughly enjoy hearing about your adventures and stories with Tree. I also find your writing, your confidence and your witty humor to be wildly inspiring. I want to thank you from the bottom of my heart and soul for your honesty and love in the post you shared today. I read it as I was waking up snuggled with a cup of coffee and my four legged buddy. Your words made me laugh, cry and appreciate my day in a way that I otherwise might have overlooked. Your ability to tell this story, to put it out there and to offer so much of your personal experience to a public audience WILL change lives and it will also inspire more of us to do the same. Thank you for that. I hope that someday I might return the favor. Thinking of you, Tree, and Kiki, wishing you strength and comfort and sending you much thanks and love. -Anna

    • Hi Anna.
      Thank you so much for your kind words of encouragement. I really appreciate them. It was a little scary hitting that ‘publish’ button on that post, but at the same time, there’s something inherently cathartic about telling the ‘whole truth,’ and not just what’s safely within the conventional parameters of public conversation.

      As for Kiki, I’m working my ass off trying to piece together a treatment plan to prolong her life. We’ll know more in about a month to find out if our ‘plan’ is working. I know I said I’d let go with grace, but not without putting up a good fight first

      I too hope that someday we get to meet in person over a bottle of wine. Next time Tree and I are in HR, let’s get together.
      Much love, Stevie

  71. Your writing is beautiful. Thank you so much for being brave enough to write this.

  72. Suzanne TenBroek says:

    I don’t even have the words for for most recent post on the blog. I had no idea your childhood was what you said. No child should live like that. Ever. I am so glad you’ve found Tree. Much love to you with this ordeal with Kiki. It is always awful to lose a pet/loyal companion. My love goes out to you both. wanted to make sure you got the book too. Talk soon:) t minus 47 days til 10/20!

  73. Dearest Stevie,
    You are such an incredible women, My heart breaks for the loss of your beloved KIKI, I know this pain far to well, I sit here crying my eyes out for your loss, From the day I met your mother, you were 1yr old, I was a fan of your beautiful heart and soul.. I was aware of most of your journey, and always new you would emerge from the depths of hell to be the loving, brave, and exciting young women that marches into the future with the experiences of your life as your strength, sharing your story is such a cathartic gift to your soul and to all those that may need just a little support on there own journey. My love to you and KIKI, Tree, and baby makes 3, ..You know I will always be united in loving energy for your healing and your life filled with Love, and happiness, I am a member of your Tribe, near or far, my joy reaches out to embrace your family , your heart. your commitment to the healing and teachings of peace, and love. I Salute you,
    and so proud of the amazing human being you have become. Leave no stone unturned , search every corner of the earth , and share your light and love with all that cross your path,
    R.I.P..KIKI. Feel my love,,and my arms wrapped around you in your grief., and joy of the birth of your child.
    Forever, and ever, …namaste Stevie…
    Love you,,Jenie

  74. Stevie,
    The most incredible and moving posts I have ever read. Thank you so much for sharing your life. I believe that Kiki will always be with you,animals always know when it’s time to move on. She has been your teacher and more than a friend for so long now and she’s done an amazing job,as have you. My belief is that her spirit will be in your baby and she will be there to continue to teach and guide you thru this crazy wonderful world.

    • Hi Sandy,
      Yes, when Kiki goes we hope her spirit will stay with us! Our real hope is that she will be around after the baby is born, for as long as possible. I want our child to know her.
      Thank you for reading. :)
      Stevie

  75. Wow, Stevie, that was the real deal. Such a brave and open-hearted life-and-love story. Beautiful! It’s a real talent to be able to move so many people, as the number of comments show. And a generous act, as well, because everyone benefits. Lovely!!

  76. Thank you…..I am crying with every possible emotion as the motive. I am so sorry to hear about your darling KiKi, I lost my Po only a few months before I became pregnant with Bodhi. I don’t know if you remember him, my chocolate lab. Much like your precious girl he was at my side for 13 years, through thick and thin, from the West Coast to the Gulf of Mexico. Your story is so beautiful and so potent, thank you for reminding me of all of our potential. I love you, and I am embracing you with all my love from a distance and I have no doubt that we will see our furry friends again someday, Po visits me in my dreams to this day and I am sure KiKi will do the same. She is always with you…but you know that

  77. WOMAN ALIVE!
    WE LOVE YOU STEVIE!
    YES!
    Aloha,
    Little Lava

  78. Stevie, I know you will be fine.
    Your deep feelings and passion benefits everything around you and for that WE are all blessed.
    Life just gets better and better when you let it.

    Rick

    • Thank you Rick. I know I’ll be okay too. It’s just going to hurt like a motherfucker…but not forever. “This too shall pass….” In the meantime, however, I am relishing every second I get with my precious girl, and I’m working my butt off to make those seconds last as long as possible. As I’ve been fond of saying lately, I said I’d let go with grace, but I never said I wouldn’t put up a good fight along the way :)

  79. Jodi Dailey Tolzmann says:

    Stevie, what an incredible and intense life journey you’ve had. You are a strong and resilient woman. Losing Kiki will break your heart, but as you’ve proved, you now know how to heal, and move forward in life, w grace. Thanks for sharing your story with candor and thoughtfulness. You are a great writer. Much love to you and your fluctuating family.

  80. So sorry to hear about your loss with Kiki. I had to take my first dog- KuKu to the vet when he was put down. I was 16, and was there the day we picked him up at 5.5 weeks (as a 6 year old- I remember the amazing day clearly). Kuku’s death was it was a very sad moment in my life. I cried. I felt the moment fully, and then things got better. I am sure there is some seriously ironic shit you will write about in the future as you bear a child with Tree… the paradox between creation and loss. You are one hell of a writer.

    That said… there is one statement you made- that you should trademark… I am putting it on my facebook, and will use it as a mantra as I strive to expand a legacy.

    “embrace the art of alchemy and turn that bad shit into glorious motherfucking gold.”

    You are brilliant. I can see why Tree fell in love with you:)

  81. DeeDee Collier Lody says:

    Beautifully written Stevie! I wish nothing but the best for you and your family!

  82. Heather Amaryllis says:

    thanks for sharing your story ~ told so eloquently…. striking

  83. Walter Burkhardt says:

    Love!

  84. Corbett Leith says:

    I only had to stop reading twice because I could not see out my eyes…you are beautiful (mind,body,spirit) Yes! All our love!

  85. Peter Plimpton says:

    wow. thanks for writing and posting this. meaningful to me on so many levels.

  86. My Sister is a friend of yours and she forwarded me this. Great writing. I was a junkie for a long time. Started at age 9 with weed and progressed rapidly. I got in trouble with the law a few times and finally decided to stop. I tried all the usual ways but really, like you it comes down to me. I posted this on facebook recently and it sums it up a bit.
    ” I am working so hard to exorcise myself of the sins of man. Its a lot harder then i ever imagined. Ive spent way too long living with negative learned behaviors. I’m tired of anger, resentment, sadness, etc., all the things that made me embrace darkness. I’m trying to see the beauty again. The way i was born too. I’m tired of chaos. Its time to let go. I need to contain the fire and focus it on growth. Thank you to my beautiful wife and son for being a perfect reason to see beauty in things again. Balance.”
    One day I will most likely tell my story in book form. I am a painter, “bad” writer, obsessive need to document everything-er, dare I use the word “artist” and I know one of my projects will be to purge my story.

    Anyhow, thanks for sharing.

    • Hey John. I’m so happy that Heather forwarded this piece over and that it struck a chord with you. Thank you for taking the time to comment and let me know, and for sharing your own words with me. I personally relate to your line, “I need to contain the fire and focus it on growth.” When I was getting clean, I remember thinking that if only I could redirect all the energy that I put into my addiction into something positive, I’d be unstoppable. I know you know what I’m talking about. Being a junkie is a full-time job that requires incredible ingenuity, stamina, dedication and a certain balls-out belief that you WILL score no matter what. Junkies “manifest” what they want way better than any reader of The Secret could ever hope to. Put to the right use, those qualities are superhuman. And it sounds like you know exactly what the right use is ..direct all that intense energy towards your beautiful wife, son, and art. You are a husband, a father and an artist…embrace that. And remember that you MUST express who you are–your best self–or else the beautiful amazing crazy energy turns rancid and makes you bitter. So paint, write, document, create and love love love!

  87. Saba Firoozi says:

    Beautiful, inspiring, amazing story. Thank you for sharing this!

  88. I love you Stevie and I am very sad about your precious partner Kiki.

  89. Well, I,ve never been much of a a hugger but I’m sending you one now. It took a lot of courage to tell this story in this forum. Kudos for that. Engaging, insightful and artful storytelling – your best to date. So sorry to hear about Kiki’s health problems. Sending a hug for her also.

    • Thank you kindly Colin. I appreciate the compliment and especially the hug!!! I really hope that we get to hang out with you and Kathy sometime soon. I used to love our fireside conversations. I’m thinking Mendoza….its’ gotta go down.

  90. Ah, Stevie, your raw honesty completely blew me away. As I read (through sobs) I thought of the scene in “The Prince of Tides” where the kids jumped off the dock into the water to escape their abusive reality. What a special human being you are. I’m so happy our paths crossed on our earthly and spiritual travels. Love you to pieces. I deeply felt the pain in the photo of you and Kiki at the vet’s office…we went through that sorrow when we said goodbye to the world’s best Wesite, Duffie, a year ago. I know you will keep Kiki safe, happy, and comfortable then say goodbye with grace when the time comes. Kiki will pass in the arms of your love and she’ll connect with the spirit of your Spencer. Much love to you, Tree, and Kiki as you await the most amazing joy of the birth of your precious baby girl. Abrazos Kris y Ken — back to Roca etc.. in October

    • Hey Kris. Oh no, I’m so sorry to hear about sweet Duffie. I know how much you guys loved him. And he was definitely the world’s best Westie. He will be missed at Chapala, I’m sure.

      Thank you for the kind and loving words. I am truly so happy that our paths crossed…we immediately felt an affinity for you guys, birds of a feather for sure. Hopefully our paths cross again in the future. Tree and I have been talking about driving back up to the States so that we can spend some more time slow living in certain countries, and of course Mexico is #1 on that list. Perhaps we’ll spend a little time being your neighbors! Much love to you always. xoxoxoxoxo.

  91. Jennifer Cornett says:

    Wow…. Triple wow….. I just went around the house crying, scooping up my animals and telling them I love them. Damn Stevie! This is my FAVORITE piece you’ve ever written. BRAVO!!!! Now the rest of the world is starting to realize what I’ve known for a long time. You are a shining, intelligent, compassionate, feminine FIREBALL. Turning the pain into wisdom is the hardest part, and you my friend, are an alchemist.

  92. As I write this… tears are running down my face – you are so beautiful in so many ways. There are just no words. My heart is full of so much love for you. I wish you all the happiness in the world for you, Kiki, Tree and your baby. All my love always, Alexa

    • Hey Alexa. Thank you so much for writing me. You made my heart fill up with your kind words! I know your best amigo, Titan, is getting up there in age, as well, and has been having a little bit of trouble lately. When the times comes, a long time from now I hope, I too will send you lots of light from my little lamp unto myself to help ease your suffering. In the meantime, enjoy the sweet perfection of the love you share. We’re blessed to have such exquisite doggies in our lives. Hopefully I get to see you the next time we’re in HR with our newest Outdoorplayer!!! Much love to you. xoxoxo.

  93. oh fine, I might as well chime in. Amazing post my love. You’re such a talent. I love you.
    xoxox -TREE

    • I love you my devastatingly handsome husband. You are both the ballast in my boat and the wind in my sails. I’m so grateful to be sharing this life with you. xoxooxoxoxoxo.

  94. Stevie, my eyes just misted a lot after reading that post. I didn’t realize you had such a difficult time throughout your childhood and early adult life. You are so brave to share such an intensely personal and painful story. Those who are in a similar situation or have experienced the darker side of life as you have, will appreciate having someone to identify with.

    Our pets are not only our pets but they are our family. I completely understand the bond and love you had for Spencer and for Kiki. They can be our saviours, and they are definitely our mentors. I have learned so much from raising Nala about life and about myself, about compassion, patience, love, and loyalty. Kiki will always be a part of your heart and soul, and you will never forget the way she has impacted you.

    And as you so eloquently wrote, life has its ups and downs, gains and losses, and ultimately, we must all walk our respective paths to the end. If we can make the most of the precious time we have, whether it’s challenging ourselves to reach our potential, spending time with our loved ones, or raising a family of animals or babies, then we can leave the world hopefully with our everlasting sprit illuminating the skies.

    I send all my love and healing energies to Kiki.

    • Hey Liv. Thank you so much for such an inspiring and beautiful comment!

      Seeing pictures of you and Nala together on your site always makes me so happy. I can tell how special your bond is…it shines through the photos. We’re both so blessed to know such exquisite love and even more so because we appreciate it! xoxoxo.

  95. Lis de Stefani says:

    damn girl. well-written. thanks for sharing. thinking of you, kiki, and tree

  96. Pamela Dennis-Bussa says:

    I read about a life lived with fierceness…you are not a picky eater but take life by huge spoonfuls! Sometimes that means we can gorge ourselves and it causes pain, but we eventually start learning to eat slower, enjoying every bite. I think your just about to sit down to a banquet.

  97. Barrett Elizabeth says:

    ♥ Thank you for sharing! :)

  98. Balling my eyes out………….Stevie, I know I don’t know you but I am so drawn to the way you and Tree Live, the fact that your not afraid to love, that you like going against the the grain, taking the path less traveled and the entire time your doing it together! My heart aches for you and Kiki. You know how I feel about animals, I couldn’t live without my boys and I know that one day I will have a huge hole in heart but like you, I choose to love the shit out them why they are here! : ) I often remind myself that every day we are living is one day closer to dying so I make the most of it. Dogs can teach us so much and I only wish that more people would take the time to listen. You and Tree are so inspiring and Kiki and Mongo are lucky that you have touched their lives : ) Sending good vibes your way mama ~ Court

    • Hey Courtney. Thanks for reading my super long post and especially for leaving us such an awesome comment!! Although we’ve never met, I can tell we’re like minded ladies. And based on your unwavering love and dedication to helping doggies in need, I can tell that our hearts hang out in the same neighborhood too :) I hope someday our paths cross. xoxoxo.

  99. Corbin Crimmins says:

    Ive been waiting to read this post. So now after another sleepless night as the sun begins to rise I have read it. Thank you so much for all of your strong words and loving guidance. Peace!

  100. Gabe Gunning says:

    Hey Stevie – though I really only know Tree, and I only occasionally read your blogs, i saw this one awhile back, i knew it would be worth the time to read. I finally found time this afternoon and, I’m glad I took time to really be able to sink my mind into it. It is, after all, all about the mind indeed. Thanks a bunch for putting words on it, and I feel for all y’all regarding Kiki. May you, by the grace of all things decent, be able to feel [and feel more] after your nerves lose their inflammation.

    peace, love, and happy surfing,
    Gabe

    • Thank you Gabe for taking the time to read this post, and thank you especially for commenting. I really appreciate it. And I promise to keep feeling more and more :)

  101. Joseph Campbell wrote about the Hero’s Journey. He wrote that the hero would be accompanied in their journey by magical helpers that would appear in their life when they needed them. Maybe that’s how you and Kiki came together and it isn’t until this point, looking back on your time together, that you can see she was one of your magical helpers on your journey. Kiki might know that you are ok now and it’s time for her to continue on her own journey.

    Also, I can personally say that I always thought the people I met in NA meetings had so much more far out and interesting stories than in my AA meetings. Damn we did have some laughs and wondered how we were still alive. Looking back on those it is amazing that I am alive. I must have a purpose here just as you do!

    • Hey Pat. Thanks so much for commenting and sharing the part about Campbell’s Hero Journey. I can’t think of a better way to describe Spencer or Kiki….they are most certainly my magical helpers.

      As for meetings, you touched on my favorite part about the program: laughing! The rooms definitely taught me how to release the ‘pitiful and incomprehensible demoralization’ through humor. There’s nothing more cathartic than one addict sharing their story with another, and then the two of them bonding over the utter absurdity of it all. Come to think of it, if I hadn’t learned how to do that, I don’t think I ever could have written this post. Sometimes I actually miss going to certain speaker meetings just because they were always so inspiring, uplifting, and frickin’ funny!

      Anyhow, YES you definitely have a purpose!!!! Looking forward to hearing more from you again :)

  102. Victoria Hubler says:

    Thank you for sharing Stevie. We haven’t met, but I am truly in awe of you. Love to you and Tree and Kiki…

  103. Finished reading this post… and can’t help but be in awe of the raw honesty, bravery and strength it took to share that… many good thoughts and wishes your way.

  104. Eleanor Kelley says:

    Stevie,

    I am sad to have not actually had the pleasure of meeting you in person, you are an amazing woman! We are connected because of the famous Mike Kelley! I remember speaking to you on the phone while your time at Rhinotek and I always ask Mike how things are going for you.

    With the above said, I am honored to have your above story/life. I can not express in words how profound it was for me. Wow! I am speechless and this does not happen often.

    Lots of love,

    EK

    • Hey Eleanor! Congratulations on your recent matrimony!!! I’m so happy for you both you and Mike. And thank you so much for your kind words. I, too, hope that you and I get to meet in person during one of our visits stateside. It’ll happen eventually…let’s just try for sooner than later :)

  105. reagan gagnon says:

    miss stevie……….it’s taken me too long to read and respond to this post, but i knew this one was special and deserved to be read with an open heart, no distractions, and some time for my eyeballs to recover from crying. i even had to turn the music off as i read it today, because it felt disrespectful to you to have it on. you are serving up your organs on a platter- gifting the reader with your pain, your guile, your grit, your immutable lightness of being, your ever abundant love, your growth…..in your commitment to “your own little lamp unto yourself,” you challenge every reader to do the same.

    as you well already know, i had a “magical helper” whose stay by my side was far too short…..i realized in reading this that in some sense i am a few steps behind you in what always feels like parallel lives. i dove headlong into a vicious rabbit hole after sophie’s horridly vivid death because she was my anchor to my best self, and when i lost her, i lost hope….well, in fact, i ended up losing everything, my (shitty) partner at the time, the home that i owned, most of my belongings, friends who couldn’t stand to watch me slowly annihilate myself, any shred of dignity i had been propping my self up with. in fact, i lost the desire to live at all, but not being a flamboyant person, i preferred a slow, tortuous, death by a thousand arrows to some event in which i painted my pain for all to see. i actually think that the self hatred was so insidious and unrelenting that i felt my death didn’t deserve to be noticed, ie that no one would care if i jumped off the cliff my dog fell off, so i preferred to slowly whittle away at myself until the eventuality occurred.

    it is astonishing that an animal can connect us with our best selves in a moment to moment, visceral way, such that over time, by the virtue of their presence, we are our best selves more often, more fully, and in more arenas. the animals “grow us,” as we care for them. i feel confident that in most cases, they give us far more than we give them.

    but given the potency of the connection, it is not at all surprising to me that you or i or any other human who has suffered enough as to be shrouded in shame, would fall apart when we lose the animal who has so effortlessly reflected our true essence back to us. that essence being love. a shitstorm, unstoppable, infinite kind of love.

    i know why i became my own worst enemy when sophie died- because i felt responsible for her death. there are a hundred things i would change about the day of her death, but as you wrote, “I had failed her in the end, and the end is resolute and silent in a way that can only be described as fucking maddening.”

    what interests me about this post is that, while i, too have clawed myself out of that motherfucking rabbit hole, a task i would only wish on human traffickers, wife beaters, child molesters, and war makers, I’m not sure i did so out of love. or possibly the task was initially driven by love, but then became co-opted by fear.

    at some point, some lovely little manager that lives inside me, decided that we were going to get our shit together, and the work of that began……..i became the best little obedient worker bee that anyone could ever hope for, but in some ways, i think i LOST THE LESSON of losing sophie. this saddens me deeply. since i failed to keep her safe in life, the least i can do is honor her in death. and while i do feel she has been watching over me and continuing to be my magical helper, which i appreciate, i feel that the fucking point of all this agony has been lost in the midst of endless tasks, deadlines, standards, and handbooks.

    the fucking truth is, if i had been brave enough to slow down for one minute and listen to the little lamp inside me, or sophie speaking to me across the airwaves, when i was at the crossroads about the “next phase” of my life, i would have become a vet. i know this might sound like i am reducing her boat-toppling death to a career choice, but she taught me that what lies in my heart is the juice of life, and to betray the heart only begets pain, emptiness, even madness. all my heart wants to do is love and work in the service of animals, and by being a vet, i would have something invaluable to contribute to rescue organizations that i don’t have now. further, i would spend my days adoring, comforting, and beaming love to animals, which would, by default, “grow me” inch by inch each day.

    i want to grow into my best self, and i feel like i missed an opportunity to do so after sophie died. im glad for the sanity of my life, but i still have a huge hole in my heart, because i failed to truly listen to it.

    and no, i am not going to drop out of PA school, but there is part of me that repeats (in a whisper), “if not now, when?”. when will you heed your heart’s calling?

    i sit in awe because you have taken insane risks to achieve the freedom you now succor. you are truly happy in a way that most people aren’t and will never be, because they would never dare to defy fear and convention the way you have. they didn’t have the grace of spencer’s presence to show them who they truly are. i feel that i have made more “sober” choices than you, comparable to a life you would have lived if you stayed in AA/NA until now. not a bad life, better than the rabbit hole, but simply not enough- not genuinely heart healing.

    i balled reading this post, in part, for your pain, for spencer, for kiki, for your father, for the “worm at the core” of all of us……..and in part because your triumph reminds me that i have, yet again, bargained with the gods in favor of security, in utter neglect of my heart’s calling, and in appalling amnesia of the gift sophie gave me.

    so i sit with this discomfort, and at least this time, i’m listening. i’m not going to “do anything rash.” but heart, dear sophie-bo, i fucking feel you, and i know this isn’t it……..i know i am here to do more than have a stable job, earn a good living, make babies i’m not even sure that i want, acquire shit i don’t need and watch my days flicker by in a pleasant but passionless TV show about lily-white patrician contentment.

    my heart’s calling fucking terrifies me. sometimes i want to extinguish it because it causes me such pain. but i know that if i want a life truly lived, i’m going to have to defy fear and convention as you have. you don’t get the reward unless you are willing to take a risk.

    i have no idea what any of this means for me “logistically,” but i feel it is a step in the right direction to even dare to speak about it, as there are many people who would have strong feelings about my even mentioning wanting more.

    miss stevie, i want to honor sophie as you have honored spencer. i want to attend to my own little lamp unto myself as you have so tenderly attended to yours.

    i can’t tell you how precious this post is- it is an invitation to genuine authenticity and the fulfillment that follows. you are bestowing such “motherfucking gold” upon your readers…the love that beams through you is sturdy and bright enough to lay hands on people thousands of miles away. i hope you know, in every molecule of your being, what a gift you are. because baby, you are “brave, defiant, tender, loving and wild.” i feel blessed to be connected to you, and your lamp shines so brightly i can feel it warming me now.

    thank you, deeply, for having the grit to write this, and the tenderness to tell your story in a way only you can. this is your best work yet, girl. you had your readers right there with you, and that is the reason (most) people read- in an effort to make sense of our own lives, to feel connected to something that is both universal and intricately personal at the same time.

    i am so excited to be right there with you as you continue to speak/write in your own true voice, love abundantly, fall to pieces, and go get your wild on. and in case of disaster, i got a rowboat- it ain’t kiki, but i’m sure can weather you through a storm.

    from my lamp to yours- adoration and respect.
    muah!
    reagie

  106. Louisa Baxter says:

    Jesus Stevie, you have blown me the fuck away

    ” brave, defiant, tender, loving and wild”

    yes you are a million trillion times. You rock my world

  107. Beautiful post, Stevie. Thanks for being so open & sharing your story in such a real & raw way! :)

  108. I am sobbing – sobbing – sobbing. I don’t even know what to write. My heart has been touched – my soul has been moved – you’ve scared the living daylights out of my sheltered life – you’ve re-opened my mind – you’ve made me a better person by sharing this.

    I’ve been meaning to read this post for awhile and when I saw you had Sol I thought I’ll celebrate by reading your personal piece. I had no idea what I was tucking into. Thank you so much for sharing this – I was so truly moved and so truly impressed.

    • Good grief, I didn’t want to make you cry. Okay, maybe I did :) Thank you so much for your kind words. Can’t wait to give you a big hug in Hood River someday.

  109. Just wow. Thank you.

  110. Stevie,
    Thank you,
    I wish I could describe how moving and insightful your story was for me. I’m so blessed to feel like part of the tribe and reap the awesome rewards. You are amazing and give me hope that I can be where you are.
    Can;t wait to hug you and hold Sol. I;m sending enormous gobs of healing light to Kiki and the whole tribe.
    Willy

  111. Stevie,

    Gob smacked by your write-up. What an outpouring of emotion…Little did I know when I talked to Brad and Sheena (Drive Nacho Drive) last night here in our apartment in Buenos Aires – we’re sharing a container to Kuala Lumpur – that I would come across such marvelous and honest writing, “rise in love” indeed, as someone commented. And all I really wanted was some info on Sprinter vans and tips on installing cabinets. At least I got a decent lesson in dealing with my emotional black water tank …. :-)

    • Woohoo! We got a believer!!! :)

      Seriously, thank you kindly for the sweet words. Stay in touch with us along the way. It sounds like you have an awesome journey ahead.

  112. you story touched me and made me cry. I miss my little Tesa.

  113. Stevie, I don’t even know where to start… my husband and I found your blog a few days ago because we are researching vehicles (looking like a pop up camper and truck for us) and plan to dump the american dream next year and drive to Buenos Aires. Yesterday I started reading this post. But couldn’t finish. It was the same day we painfully, horribly, sickly made the decision to let go of our precious 14 year old golden/border collie mix Lola. I rescued her off the streets of San Francisco from a junkie and she rescued me for the next 14 years. Lola went absolutely everywhere with us including my work for the past 7 years. So when I got this morning up at the normal hour to let Lola out, but there was no Lola, I started this post again. And finished with the comfort of your words of love for your dog. I feel like I’ve lost a limb but thank you for your story. I hope we see you guys out there. Maybe in Africa.
    Paula

    • Hey Paula. I’m so, so sorry to hear about your loss of Lola. My heart broke when I read your comment….I know that I, too, will be getting up to let Kiki out long after she is gone. It’s incredible how bonded and in-tuned, on a moment-to-moment basis, we become with our animals. It’s a profound and pure love. More than anything, I will miss the quiet ways that Kiki imparts her love, strengthening me in ways I could never explain but only show to the world at large. At the same time, I am comforted knowing that you and I both have had the privilege of experiencing Lola and Kiki’s love and giving back in equal measure. We’re better for it for always. Anyhow, I look forward to the day our paths cross and we can drink some wine and tell stories with abandon, unafraid of boring our company about our dogs. Much love to you. xoxo.

  114. Josephine Balzano says:

    I love you so much. I feel honored to have been able to read your story. You have so much love, and anyone of us that you have touched, we are all so fortunate to have shared it with you. I truly hope to find the time to see each other these coming weeks and have our girls meet. When were old and we tell our children our stories, they will laugh at us and we will laugh too because we will smirk to each other. We are all such complicated creatures with so many different reactions to obstacles and bridges we all must cross. I love your willingness to be so free. Your so brave and ravishingly beautiful with the nakedness that you bare your soul with. Mi hermana siempre.
    Josie

  115. You are courage and heart and love, writ large. Thank you for sharing your stories, for all the hope and joy and love you bring to the world. Your daughter is so blessed to have a Mama like you. I’m so sorry about Kiki. We have said goodbye to 5 dogs in the last 18 years, and it is always devastating. They are your family, and they know you as no one else does, don’t they? Love and Light to you, Tree, and Soleil! Many blessings on your journey!

  116. Hello Stevie.
    I am new to writing blogs. I have the attention span of a toddler and reading blogs is something that’s hard for me to care about. I read your blog. I was searching for my blog the first and only I’ve written. I was on a selfish quest to find my story in a website search so I could continue reading again. We share similar search terms as heroin was the target. I felt I had to read it. Minutes into it I fell to my usual habits as my attention started to fade but saw that Spencer was a cat so then I knew I could relate to the deeper meaning. My years of heroin addiction were rough but small in the light of losing a life partner of 20 years before my 13 year old dachshund named Dookie had to be euthanized. I currently am in a battle with family to retrieve Dookies lover Candy who was stolen from me and held for a ransom of my van. Candy is an 8 year old dachshund and I miss her to death. I am somewhat homeless right now and the van is my only possession. Your blog made me cry. I haven’t done any heroin for a while so this story you told really hit hard. I am sorry for Spencer ,she seems like she was an awesome cat. It’s nice to know you found some peace and quit the smack. I will continue to hope that I can be so lucky as to follow that path. I search for reasons to give up in the middle of everything I do. Reading your blog was a moment of perfection in the art of timing. I don’t care if you post this comment ,I’m not feeling selfish right now so that’s not my intent. I wanted to and hope that this thank you reaches your mail receptacle. Your story is amazing with a style that kept this oaf without attention on the edge of my screen with a soggy Kleenex. Your blog is an inspiration to finish my story and rescue my remaining friend. I do not have much education. I know my grammar is bad. I’m sure you overlooked that if you made it to the last of my comment. I want to say thanks again for putting this story out there. I am lifeszerosum.blogspot.com if you get bored you could drop me a line. My story is hard to tell and far from finished. I started it as an apology to a girl I love named Candy. (human)

    • Hey Shawn. I checked out your blog and wrote you a comment there. I really, REALLY think you need to keep writing. Your post and even your comment to me express loss, disappointment, wit, humor, wisdom, and a ton of fucking heart. My favorites :) Thank you so much for taking the time to write me. Although I wrote this piece in a mad fury–it was like it just spilled out of me–and I never considered my ‘audience’ as wrote it, when I learn that it gets inside someone else and inspires him or her or you, it motivates me to keep writing, to keep telling the truth,to keep braving my heart on the outside, where it beats closer to whom it wants to hear its patterned code.

  117. Hello Stevie. I’m on another selfish compliment seeking but “hell I’ll take some criticism too” quest. You can I hope cherish the fact and believe when I say that you are the only person who has a blog that I am currently stalking. All bullshit aside and no white lies to cloud up this line, I was completely inspired by the few sentences you kindly left on my beginners blog. i wrote a blog that started as a desperate ploy to touch the heart of a girl I hadn’t seen in 10 years. I have not talked to her. I’m sure of the ice water fountain that spews a cold shower over her heart does exists with an automatic sensory power switch activated by the slightest memory of me. I don’t give two or one shits about that girl. Yeah I do, that last line didn’t groove with the truth ,however; It’s getting better. She was my original inspiration. For getting me started I will always owe her the decency of continuing to stalk her Facebook profile. You I have more admirable intentions towards. I’m not sure how much writing means to you. I can only assume and I think you’ve heard how that line goes concerning asses. I read over my blog began to expand and realized I was finding a voice then…I realized I had no story. I had an idea and a bunch of cool phrases loaded with exciting Sizzle words. I tried to write the idea from the heart. The truth is hard when you’re me and the story is humiliating and my reason I love passionately. I’m bi-polar. during this process of putting on paper the things most people hide ,I found it easy to stray from the truth and the content suffered grossly. Your comment ,no shit spoke to me when it felt necessary. Your words reminded me that my story consists of things I want to push under rugs and hide in my backpack. I used some energy today from being butt hurt and genuinely pissed to begin to write a story that I can say is true. I have found a voice I hope it lasts. It’s nice to say I found a voice since I’m not a people person just jealous and shy. I don’t know if you care or just write encouraging words on all responses to comments. I would appreciate with more than words can describe if you would please read my blog. The story part is the last paragraph. If you get there soon it might be still raw and hard to follow in two places. I really want you to read it or act like you did and leave a comment. I want to hold onto the thought that I have found a friend in you. I don’t care if your not, I will continue to fantasies for another month or two that you are my new internet blog creating genius of a friend. Bye…see ya later I hope. lifeszerosum.blogspot.com zero_sum77@aim.com

  118. Is it okay to post my comments to you on your blog?
    Stevie, I have been living the future of the story I’m trying to write. I received two important opinions/reactions of what I’ve written. A short paragraph was about a girl I currently like…allot. She read it a was pissed off and shocked saying “I can’t believe you feel that way.” I didn’t understand, this was the opposite reaction I expected. I read it to her and realized the unclear message, Hell I even got lost for a minute. I cleared it up the best I could for her. She still wonders. This blunder came about a week or so after reading your comment.
    I accidentally delete or refresh the page in the middle of a clever saying and fucking lose it. I come unglued. I react to losing these words in two ways. To start, I get pissed off. I finish with gratitude. when I see the page change and my smart bullshit erased I feel robbed. I can’t remember those well crafted sentences because I had to think of them. I created them. The story is already here and never leaves but still I get scared when the page goes blank. I’m impatient . I gain a new focus when an accident of fate tells me it’s time for a rewrite. I can only see the things I don’t have to remember. Did that make sense? The bullshit disappears and the truth remains. I am guilty of choosing to be blind to my audience. I mean surely they know the riddles that tell my story. With my friends I speak in code so I have time to judge the coming reaction. They have all come to love me for this. That’s what I tell myself anyway. This story is about friends and lovers but not for their ears alone. I know what my friends think. Its your opinion I care about, It’s the people I want to but not yet know who matter. i want to hear how I might be pathetic or cool. I want compliments and advice, I need it to come from the ones I don’t care about. I’m a high school dropout, In my one year of community college I was told the exact things you wrote in your comment. I cared about my English teachers opinion with bias from wanting a good grade. You are just fancy words from a machine with a picture. I cherish your effect on me and the presence your words create. I can walk away from you with no harm. I had to read your comment more than once. I lost count but never really took it. My ego was hiding in plain sight. I only wanted to read about how the need to be clever steals the story. I was telling myself “At least I was clever.” What you said was simple and took two weeks to digest. This writing is very important to me and I have no idea what it is. You asked if it was one of three, artistic process or an outline for a book. I’m glad you noticed the possible intention of gifting this to candy, I wont lie it is why I started to write, but that reason drowned when i began to type. All three reasons were true and good. My reason for continuing is now up in the air, but I’m okay with the direction its’ floating. I want to tell a story of an accurate account of my feelings towards love and death, everything in between. I want to show how my opinions are based on situations that I find funny relevant and sad. That is all. I keep waiting for the rainbow, a happy ending. I know I need a hook if I want people to stay awake reading it. I cant do this if I loose myself in a sentence for two hours telling myself it’s brilliant. I know it is. You, the reader doesnt know what the hell I’m talking about. I lose the whole point of my writing, not just structure. I need this to have meaning and make sense. I will try to remember my short comment from a stranger every time I need to write. I will remember it’s not for me but from me. I will fail many times at this in fact this reply is riddled with those failures. I don’t need to edit and rewrite my comments to you. (I did..2 times!) I will have plenty of material to second guess in my future of story telling. This started off as a simple idea to impress a girl with my clever approach to a hard in person conversation. Telling my story in its entire truth will feel like the hardest thing I’ve done. It will yield benefits that make life with myself feel easier, I hope. I love that you noticed my love for words and our English language. I admire a well said phrase or a perfected paragraph. I have only one hobby and share it with none of my friends…I like to think and write and think about what I have written and try to explore all definitions and ways to use these words. “Words” are there to tell a story not just spill something cool. Thanks for reminding me. Emotions are present when my words speak the truth. Emotions can turn simple sets of words into fancy riddles. That’s not the intended. Thank you Stevie for your comments and interest, it means allot. I’m going to start posting my unedited rants in all there ugliness. I’m not sure the point of that but it feels good…see ya later Stevie. I hope all is well with you.

  119. Whoa. WTF. I was searching the web, looking for ideas on how to live in a car, and some how ended up reading your post. Your words ring with such truth and clarity; something that is so elusive in the lives of most people that now live such structured lifestyles. In the midst of this human domestication that many of us now find ourselves in, it’s very refreshing to see that, every now and then, a person breaks free from the bondage of our modern world and finds meaning, beauty and love in its purest sense. I feel you’ve done that and more, your post certainly articulates it very clearly. I can not help but admire your resilieance and courage to face many of the different versions of darkness that a human can confront. Just like a terrifying army marching and approaching in the night, our human experiences can at times haunt us and ravage us will little mercy. Yet, you’ve not just faced it, but marched into a full-front battle with it. What valor, what courage. I’m humbled to have read your post and to be given the opportunity to peak at a life filled with such deep insight. May the rest of your journey be blessed with all the health, love and happiness that you so well deserve. David

    • Hi David. Thank you so much for the kind and inspiring words. You made my day :)

      On another note, if you have any questions about living in a car, hit us up! We’re happy to help out in any way we can.

      Suerte amigo!

  120. I’ve only just stumbled across your blog today and wow! After recovering from crying from reading this post I wanted to say that you, your lifestyle, your journey and family are truly amazing and inspirational. Dogs really are man’s best friend eh! I still miss mine like hell 5 years later. I can’t wait to read more of your journey and your great writing – really powerful post!

  121. Hi Stevie,
    I periodically re-read this entry, or peruse through snippets. It’s always wonderful, and it’s always heartbreaking, and always uplifting. I can’t believe it gets to me even though I have already read it (& I know through the blog that Kiki is still trucking!). A testament to your writing.
    Just thought I’d say hi and let you know that people re-read this, and it’s just as good the 9th time around.
    hugs
    LizD

  122. Linda Bailey says:

    Well this is a “better late than never” post. I discovered your Blog from the page of another person I follow. All my life I have been drawn to travel and people that explore this wonderful, magical earth and when I started reading your blog the other day I had to go back to the beginning, so I didn’t miss anything.
    Your story and writing knocked my socks off, and because I lost my dear Sophie (Bernese Mt. Dog) a couple months ago, was having to use tissue to finish it. Other than the markings, Kiki and Sophie have that same sweet face. Thank you for sharing your story that I’m sure was painful to write – but it is all part of you. You are so brave to share it, but even if it touches one person, so worth it.
    It’s a rainy few days here in Washington (close to Seattle), so I will be continuing to read about your journey..

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