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The Descent of a Lady
I was born in 1950's Los Angeles, California, where everything seemed oh, so, perfect. As I aged, I grew used to the unique palm tree-lined streets around our home once I was allowed to visit childhood friends. The neighborhood we lived in was what is now called the Wilshire District, and was kept immaculately by the homeowners who had come primarily from the Midwest at the turn of the century. My family owned two of these homes on Wilshire Boulevard, and pristine maintenance was a priority. The pride my family took in their respective residences was evident inside and out, and family gatherings were held with joyous regularity. We also enjoyed the bustling downtown area; Bullock's Department store I recall from my very first visit. I was four years old, dressed primly in a maroon velvet dress, and cast my unblinking eyes on the most beautiful toy department imaginable. My mother had also insisted that I wear my white cotton gloves, however, thus I was cautioned against touching any of the irresistible playthings. I would never have considered handling such objects of beauty simply because my mother had instilled in me the importance of being a lady. Mama was a woman of high society, enjoyed her Country Club bridge games, and golfed as often as she wished.
My mother had been a 'Delta Delta Delta' in college, a sorority known for beautiful young ladies, had been a beauty queen and model in her life-thus I felt much pressure even as a child.
Mama took me often to the Wilshire Club and allowed me to roam both the grounds and the clubhouse while she socialized and enjoyed her cocktails. That's exactly what was expected of women at the time.. I spent many hours in the Ladies' Locker Room with African-American women who allowed me to pester them rather than be a bother to my mother and her friends. I have never forgotten these kind women-my caretakers.
Before the Storm
As a budding young girl, I was eager to learn of the subtleties of womanhood, and in so doing, I came to understand that alcohol was an essential part of female conviviality. While many of my father's kin declined second and third drinks at gatherings, I began to notice that my mother did not. Nor did some of my aunts. The womenfolk thus cheerfully retired to the kitchen to drink far from judgmental eyes. These times were particularly precious to me as I grew, for, even before I took one sip of alcohol, I belonged.
Womanhood, though, threw me an unexpected curve at the age of nine. The pain and shame of the experience I remember to this day. No one had thought to teach such a young child about menstruation, and I bore the experience alone as long as I was able to hide it. Given my upbringing and pristine clothing, I was loathe to admit such an unthinkable occurrence. But I had heard of a 'period,' and knew I had to reveal my now stained status. At nine, this was not easy, not ladylike to talk about, but I was fortunate to be in the home of one of my aunts, who thankfully provided me with the necessary pads. She also handed me a bottle of pills.
My aunt said that I would be needing the medicine-Darvon-for the pain. I had no pain,thankfully, but my substance-abusing career began there and then. I remember the feeling to this day as I took my first dose, and it was glorious. In the years that followed, I learned to acquire these drugs through doctors.
As the daughter of two alcoholics, my addiction was in full swing before my aunt handed me those medications. But as the daughter of a lady, I found it more 'civil' and 'proper' to go to the physician's office rather than to score off the street. For many years I found it quite simple to doctor-shop, getting drugs from 3 or 4 doctors at the same time. Needless to say, my addiction and tolerance were at their peak many times-the need for more became increasingly hard to handle.
And All the Rest
My romance with prescription pills had its limitations, however, since over a period of 10 years, doctors were becoming more aware of behavior such as mine. Cut off, I turned to both marijuana and alcohol as substitutes, although I did not have a great reaction to weed and had swore to myself I would never touch liquor as long as I lived. So many years have passed since I last went looking for doctors who would prescribe to me that it actually stuns me.
Alcohol and I said our final goodbyes on June 24th, 2008 when my pancreas hit its own agonizing bottom.
I relapsed in 2010 at a funeral
I finally had to give up all of my ladylike wiles and become a woman.