Author • Speaker • Activist
One year ago, my son, Rikki, a professed “sneakerhead” decided to give away some of his coveted collection of shoes to those less fortunate than he. That idea turned into Hav A Sole, and since then, he has given away over five thousand pairs of shoes.
It was the early ‘90s, and I was renting a small apartment at a women and children’s center in Santa Monica. Other than going to a 12-step meeting, I didn’t know what to do with the other 23 hours of the day. It was hard not to do what I had always done before: consume massive amounts of drugs and alcohol. But having lost everything, I hoped this would be my bottom.
Gripping a Starbucks cappuccino in one hand I rode the creaky elevator up to the sixth floor of Brotman hospital. It was back in the mid nineties and I was on my way to the local detox center where I had been working as a drug and alcohol counselor for a year. My qualifications for the job came from my own intensive research with mind-altering substances. However, finally sober, it felt as if all the stars had aligned and I knew what I was put on earth to do. Change the world, one addict at a time.
With the Santa Monica Mountains in the background, I gaze out my bay window, in the early morning hours. The sun is breaking through the clouds and the sky is lit up like a water color painting with blue, orange and pink hues. Like many of us this time of year, when I ask myself what am I grateful for, thankfully, I don’t have to look too far.
La Puente is a barrio, with low-income families 30 miles east of Los Angeles. I was fourteen years old, from Santa Monica and pissed off that my Probation Officer (P.O.) was even considering putting me into a foster home that didn’t have a beach.
Early friendships can provide the core of what you will need later in adulthood, which is connection, a shared sense of history, and sometimes a relief that you actually survived those tumultuous teenage years. This indeed, is the case for Michelle Butler and Ai Kusuhara, who have been friends for over twenty-five years.
Standing inside the gymnasium of an after-school youth program called PAL, I can’t help but be pulled back to when my son, Rikki, played here as a kid. It was the early nineties, and I had just hit a bottom with alcohol and drugs. After separating from my husband of 20 years, I didn’t know where I was going to go. Thankfully, CLARE Foundation provided me an affordable one bedroom at their women and children’s center, which would ultimately lay the groundwork for my recovery.
Officers Armond and Dodson, whose personal histories uniquely qualify them for this outreach effort, have personally gotten 49 people off the streets and into drug and alcohol treatment.
After I pushed in the plunger, all the anguish, self-hatred and regret faded into blackness. Heroin was an anti-depressant and the only thing I found to ease the constant sadness that clutched my throat.
How I Found My Mother Through Forgiveness
I realized that in order to change my family’s lineage I would not only have to forgive everyone who ever hurt me, I would have to learn to forgive myself.