Once Upon a Time
Once upon a time, I was living a fairy tale life in Paradise, married to a very charming prince. In the very small, and exquisitely privileged community of Aspen, Colorado, my Cinderella fable unfolded as I played the role of socially acceptable, no-trouble, non-threatening wife of “the unofficial mayor of Aspen,” as someone once described my husband.
At least that’s the facade I worked so desperately to project out to the world. So they’d all leave me alone. So I could feel safe.
For heaven’s sake! I had no business being part of that life. I was no one. I knew nothing.
Cinderella Gets Lost
The facade begins crumbling. Cinderella gets lost. She begins drinking more. So desperate to fit in, so ill-suited for this fantasy life, I drink for camouflage. To hide from everyone else, as well as from my own miserable self. To fit in. To cope.
There are legendary poker games with the long-time sheriff and his wife; the Pulitzer-prize winning war correspondent/newspaper publisher who goes on to run NPR’s foreign desk for several years and his wife; the Tibetan Buddhist scholar who later becomes the founder of a respected interdisciplinary spiritual school; the executive director of the internationally famous visual arts facility and his wife.
One fine summer Sunday evening around 9:30 pm, Hunter S. Thompson sets off firecrackers outside the open window, then climbs in said window to hang out for a while. He lives next door to the Tibetan Buddhist scholar.
How cool am I? These Cinderella shoes are getting pretty comfortable.
How do I end up at that table, with these incredible people, trying to understand even one word of whatever it is that Hunter is mumbling? It sure isn’t because of my skills as a poker player.
Yes, Please, I’ll Have Another
Hostess to the best classical musicians in the world, along with extremely wealthy patrons and politically powerful locals during marathon after-concert dinners in the private dining room at the fabled Little Nell Hotel.
No, it’s late. Not another bottle. How about just a glass (OK, a large one) for now?
I drank in the gorgeous second or third vacation homes of people who flew into Aspen for the weekend on their private Lear jets. Cinderella was very polite and empathetic listening to people complain about the difficulties of owning more than one (large, and very grand) home.
Yes, that must be so hard for you. Oh, yes, thank you, I’ll have just a little more.
Before the world-premiere opera performance at La Scala in Milan, during an unforgettable chef’s-pleasure private dinner at Sukhothai in Zurich, all through the late-night dinner with the Paris Opera’s musical director and the oh-so-famous opera diva who just happened to be in the restaurant at the same time? I drank.
In 1995 I got so sick of myself that I packed up my car, and headed out to the desert for a month-long solo road/wilderness camping trip that included an Outward Bound rock-climbing course in Joshua Tree.
At the end of the course, I was voted “Most Courageous.” The second day in the desert, I’d stumbled on some loose rocks while we trudged from one camping place to another, falling heavily into a cholla cactus. A broken-off piece of the cactus was embedded deep into my left forearm and hand by its fish-hook spines. It took both course guides tugging on the foot-long piece of cholla, their hands protected in thrice-wrapped clothing, to rip it out of my skin.
Emergency trip into town so the urgent-care doc could dig out some of the buried spines. The rest, he said, would take up to a year to work themselves out.
“Most Courageous.” What no one knew, not even me, was that I’d lost my balance and fallen because I was detoxing from the absence of alcohol. No alcohol allowed on-course.
Much of the exquisite Southwest landscape upon which I spend the rest of that trip is on Native American reservation land. Can’t buy alcohol on reservation land. Or on Sundays in Utah. I find myself plotting crazy detours, based on geography and day of the week, so I have enough alcohol in the car while camping in remote locations.
When I eventually get back home, odd little lumps under the skin in my left arm from cactus spines, there’s an entire case of wine and four 6-packs of beer in the back of my car. Just in case.
Four months later, I stop running — it wasn’t working — and face the demons I could no longer ignore.
Healing my Broken Heart
I started walking the long road of healing my broken heart. I learned how to begin healing the pain of childhood sexual trauma. Of selling myself and my dreams out, over and over again (boy, that’s a book!). It took some doing to peel back the layers of built-up defenses and heal the wounds.
Has it been easy? Not always. Would I do it differently if I could go back? Well, sometimes I wish I could reclaim the years I spent running away from myself. I started out with a good career in marketing and PR, but I didn’t step into my power as a professional until I began working with a good therapist and started healing.
Has my personal journey made me a better psychotherapist? Oh, hell yes. More about me here.