"Home Sweet Home"
Imagery Donated Kindly By the Harshness of Reality
The Ex was not always as fortunate as me to find a warm bed and a sympathetic embrace. He lived on the streets as best as he could. Sometimes we just couldn't be together from within the comfort of a motel room. Sometimes he would have to sleep outside. I would stay with him as long as I could, trying to make something out nothing, gathering whatever I could find to provide some kind of padding or insulation against the coldand cruel elements. It tore my heart out to return back to the women's respite centre, but he would always insist. The streets were no place for a lady. He was not allowed to stay with me - No Men allowed after ten. If you broke the rules, you were back on the streets, no questions asked. You were just another warm body on a lumpy bunk bed, there was plenty more cold and shivering women that would take your place. Every night spent on the streets was an education for me. I thought I had it bad. I have learned in recovery that everyone's abuse is valid. There is not a sliding scale of how bad you were abused or how long it went on for. I know that we all have the right to heal. We all have the right to be children. Why must they fight for this. Why did I get that right taken away from me ? Doesn't matter anymore - I have taken that power back. I saw children as young as eight, wandering the streets wondering if the shopping mall held more warmth than the beachfront. Curled up inside rancid smelling blankets like gumnut babies, strewn across the shore.
Teenagers that had lived on the streets for not months but years, living on the edge of life and death. Not all of them were addicted to heroin, some sniffed glue or drank metho. What ever dulled the pain. To make it even harder to go home would be the lure of free dope handed out to them by dealers in return for peddling the rock to the "higher end". They got paid in Heroin, not money which they could then maybe find a place to stay. But those were the lucky ones, in a sad kinda way. Most kids just couldn't go home. Dad beats them and Mum can't do anything as he will beat her too. These kids feel like they have already failed at life so young, you would not believe how hard on themselves they are. They feel that all they have been in life is a burden, they have absolutely no hope that they can be forgiven for just being alive. The dealers loved them because they had nothing to lose by using these lost souls. I didn't hear about every kid that faded away, it's very normal for street children to just 'disappear'.
Pretty much every week someone went to jail, had a drug overdose or got beaten in a violent attack. If one of my friends on the streets died, it was only news for a week until someone else got sent to jail at the age of eighteen for car theft or got beaten by somebody desperate. I don't think stealing is the answer to support a drug habit ; personally I found it easier and more fruitful to just work on my back. It took a bit of getting use to (becoming a working girl) as I had to teach myself and trusted no-one to help me along the emotional part of the journey that begins when you start to sell a part of you, that maybe was priceless? I did it though and I tried to keep us warm and sheltered for most of the time, but I would just get so tired and sick. He tried to understand , he knew I tried so hard every day to do whatever I could to get us a cheeseburger or a motel room. I became the streets and let it all go eventually.
I would sometimes find The Ex in abandoned stairwell that he had staked out the night before. He would be snoring so softly in the flickering lights, my shattered angel. He has covered himself in newspaper ( like in the movies) and from the empty bladder lying beside him now, probably drank himself to sleep to face the fear and discomfort of being this alone. The shame of it all. Imagine sleeping in a public place, where everyone walks just above you but no one knows your actually living there. You wake up in the morning , you have that hit and you almost think it's worth it, except your shedding dignity all the time. You start to not value your life - why would you? You don't care if you fall pregnant. You don't care if you start getting into punch-ups over who gets to sleep in the park. You're so hungry every single day of your life but some of you can't even go home because they will only call the police or just not answer the door. If you go home , then it's over. The drugs, The Love and The Journey itself. Almost 80% of homeless youth have been abused either sexually or physically. Most are addicted to a substance. Some have tried prostitution, some of these kids, seventeen year old boys. They didn't leave home - it left them. My friend, Working girl , was raped repeatedly by her Mother's new boyfriend and had fled to The Gold Coast to become a "famous" stripper. She found Heroin first though, so that is how I found her. She was sharing the stairwell with some other "friends" when I introduced myself to her. We started to hang out together at "Have A Feed" a drop in centre for the homeless. Over plastic plates and cold roast beef we tried to maintain animated chatter, talking about hairstyles and fashion, even though my hair was nearly in dreadlocks and she was wearing her boyfriends clothes. Our laughter rang though the halls regardless, rising over the clatter of cutlery hitting the china of the thirty plates that fed the starving homeless youth that day. As we bowed our heads to thank the lord for the meal of goodwill, we both peeked at each other from our hands held in prayer. Desperately trying to stifle a shared giggle., I had finally found a friend that wasn't after my drugs, my clothes or my dignity. But we know how that ended. I knew straight away though that WG was special. For most of us, the abuse that kids (like myself ) suffered makes us feel angry or sickened that adults could do this. We try and fix problems overseas and cure world hunger but there are children as young as ten sleeping in toilets , about twenty minutes from your bed.
It's not the big things we wanted. Maybe it was a razor , a comb or just a panadol because you have a headache that is from hunger that has been around for weeks. Maybe we just wanted our parents to be like other parents. Maybe we need counseling. Maybe we need rehabiliation. The Ex and I would always try to remain positive, we would go for walks on the beach and look to the clouds above and try and make shapes of better things than needles and teardrops. Things that didn't cost anything. Making out in a park on a summer's day. Listening to a really good busker, hanging out with him and hearing his story. Telling him mine. Dancing in the ocean and kissing away the tears. We still were kids. We still wanted to go to parties and have bbqs with our friends, people that we thought could still could see us as the same.
But they couldn't and that was ok.
It only made me more determined to get better, so I love you ;)
Maybe it is nobody's problem but my own ? I was a teenager and should have known better. But then again, who fucking cared back then to tell me that life could go this wrong? By the time anyone realized I was a drug addict, I was too far gone. No one really knew what to look for. Do you ? Before you read this blog? Everyone thought I was smarter than that - including myself. Heroin proved us all very wrong. Everyone dealt with my addiction in ways that could be best described as personal coping mechanism. Most of my support came when I was ready to say - I fucked up guys and I want you to kick my ass and keeping kicking it until I stop putting needles in my arm. But right now there are children out there, that have no such light at the end of the tunnel - just another piece of unwanted rubbish that makes up the 'gutter trash' in the underground of the forgotten.
I remember so many pastors and volunteers working through many a bitter winter, who would delight in cheering me up with a cup of soup and a warm smile. We loved these guys and would do anything to protect them. They became icons of hope and change and we worshipped them, looking up to these helping hands for a new way of thinking. I am not leading to a point of the story where I say I found Jesus. That did not happen, no matter how much they tried. I have faith though, in many things that make my life special. I am gratefully alive now to type this to you - so I know someone out must be watching over me ? I'm saying that I found many kind and caring people that faced the mean streets and the dangers that entailed were terrifying - so next time you are asked to donate to charity to aid the homeless - maybe think of me - as I really did get those pillows and blankets and roast dinners - so thank you. I go out of my way to give back to these charities. They fed me when many wouldn't or couldn't as Elton says in Mona Lisa and Madhatters, a beautiful song;
And now I know, "Spanish harlem"
Are not just pretty words to say.
I thought I knew,
But now I know
That rose trees never grow,in New York city.
Subways no way, for a good man to go down,
Rich man can ride,
and the hobo he can drown.
And I thank the Lord for the people I have found,
I thank the Lord for the people I have found.
Some nights were cold and so empty that even the Heroin failed to keep us warm. Some kids were sick yet couldn't go home or even talk to anyone about it. They contracted Hep B or Hep C - who wanted to deal with that ? Lucinda got kicked out of her home after she fell pregnant after being forced to have sex with her mothers fiancee. When she confided about the abuse, her mother couldn't handle that her Partner had 'cheated on her' with her own daughter and then accused the daughter of trying to ruin the mother's life. The pain involved for these kids is monumental. I wasn't ever hit and I am glad for that but we all have our secrets. Rather than work through life , as social education teaches us , Lucy's mother closed her heart and eventually the door to the family home. Lucy became one of the thousands homeless young women that "live" in Australia. Lucy had to find a way to 'do it on her own'. Lucy met us and stayed in our loungeroom for a while, staying for most of her pregnancy. I liked having her around and teaching her some survival spirit. I was always preaching myself, telling the girls how one day I would write a big fat book about all this shit and how I would come and find them and take them to the pub and we would dance like queens.
Even though we were very poor ourselves, we tried to put up as many homeless people as we could even though most would steal from us or sometimes become almost critically dependent. We knew we could never be like them, as long as we stuck to each other. So this attracted alot of kids, this goodwill. This was in part our fault, due to the fact we always had Heroin and each other and that was a huge magnet for leeches, not the nicer people we had hoped they where. We had more than most , so I guess we felt that we could do whatever we could to try and help these kids.
I still think about Lucy sometimes. You will be pleased to know she gave birth to a healthy baby girl and now lives with her Mum again. Her Mum kicked out the shithead guy and opened her mind and heart to the fact that maybe we are all not perfect - including her. Lucy just turned 17 and she named her daughter, Hope. Both mother and daughter are doing great. Lucy is on Methodone now and although Hope was born addicted to Heroin she has since recovered.
It seems so hard for me to just talk about me in these memoirs, when so many people are out on the streets still. I am typing from my computer snuggled in my warm robe and slippers, sipping a frothy hot chocolate with a marshmallow foam on my lips. I mean who will tell anyone about Chad? A charming young boy with a freckly face whom at the age of 15 had tried to defend his mum when his dad started beating her bloody in a drunken rage. His father threw Chad across the room, then went outside, bought in the boy's dog and promptly cut it's leg off in front of him. Chad fled from 'home' and when he tried to go back, only after the harshness of the streets almost killed him, he was told that his parents have moved, leaving no forwarding address.
None of these kids can blog about the shit that goes down.
But from the gutter to the stars, I will still tell their story when I tell you my own.
I don't want you to feel guilty. What I ask from you is simple. I want to enjoy what you have. I want you to snuggle into your blankets and don't moan about the cold. Tell your partner what a wonderful meal they made and how delicious it tastes. Enjoy your next shower. Get in touch with your parents. Ring your girlfriend. Dance like queens , for the girls and boys who can't. Play with children. Smile. Just like me. I promise you I am smiling as I type this to you, even though I can barely see through my tears. It's about all of us. We are the same.
When you walk down a street and you see some less fortunate , please don't look the other way. Just be yourself and smile. I don't want you to donate money - only time to appreciate love and life. If you want to donate money, then do it bcause you want to, not because anyone told you to. Only with compassion you personally feel that can you truely understand what the world really needs right now. A little bit of tender loving care. Look out for me, and I will look out for you.
I am lucky.
I am so fucking lucky.
And so are you.
One of the songs that The Ex and I used to listen to and think of better times...
Foo Fighters - Hey, Johnny Park!
Come and I'll take you under
This beautiful bruises colours
Everything fades in time it's true
Wish that I had another stab at the under cover
Was it a change in mind for you?
It's impossible I can't let it out
You'll never know
Am I selling you out?
Sit and watch your every mood
Your eyes still remind me of angels that hover above
Eyes that can change from blind to blue
Now that I've found my reward
Throw it away long before
I'd share a piece of mine with you