This book explores quantum forgiveness using the engaging storyline of my shocking and sometimes taboo life through a venue similar to the Disappearance of the Universe (DU) trilogy by Gary Renard. Next chs 3 & 4 — Island Trouble, Sailing Adventures
Chapter 3 – Island Trouble
The two years of untenable waiting and living as the third guilty cog in a wheel of infidelity finally ended. James and I moved in together, much to my excited relief, on a little island near Savannah, Georgia. Just before running away with the novelist, I landed a position in the big city of hot ‘Lanta, in one of the medical ICUs downtown. The job was at a large teaching hospital, and was a great opportunity for me to expand my experience as a nurse. But I really wasn’t focused on nursing. Instead, I only worked weekends so I could spend the majority of my time at the beach cottage with James 250 miles away. The fly in the ointment was the 5 hour drive to work. Monday mornings I was so tired after the second 12 hour night shift, I’d hallucinate while driving home. One time, I remember seeing the flat, desolate countryside spread out in front of me and a nurses’ station smack dab in the middle of the freeway. I jerked my chin up from my chest in alarm.
While at work, I took care of patients with end-stage AIDS, long-term lung patients on respirators, patients with heart attacks, sepsis, and many other medically complicated and critical conditions. In 1986 and AIDS was just becoming a medical crisis as there were no medications as yet to treat it. The prognosis was dire, certain, and swift. It wasn’t widely known that it was not really contagious in the medical environment, except for blood-to-blood contact. We nurses all dressed in full protective isolation gear before entering the room and beginning patient care. I remember trying not to make eye contact with the charge nurse when the assignments were made, hoping not to get the short straw. It could be a long weekend sweating under the layers of isolation gear filled with fear that one wrong move could expose oneself to the deadly virus. At least they gave a full time salary for the weekend. And at the time we felt it was necessary to keep the appearance that I still lived in Atlanta, since James and Tanya were bound by the common-law marriage. Neither of us wanted to hurt her as she did not know consciously of our relationship at that time.
It was the winter when we moved to the island. We were able to rent a little house half a block from the beach for a song, since it was the off season. Most of the time we hunkered down and wrote and edited and drank. Occasionally we’d try to bar hop. Several streets over was a small, local pub. It was a strange, spooky little place. We couldn’t get a conversation going with anyone. People just didn’t seem to like us very much, or something along those lines. After a few times, when they saw us coming in, the bar would clear out. It was unsettling. And then we began noticing other oddities on the island.
One day, we decided to try the 4-wheel drive feature of our Toyota 4Runner. On a highway map, we’d seen some backroads sketched in, winding through the natural preserves near the river. We needed detailed maps of the off-roads and the terrain so we could take a drive there. We figured the police station would be the logical choice as it also served as the Chamber of Commerce. The alarm on the woman’s face was visible when we showed her the map and made our request. “Oh, no, no, no! People aren’t allowed on those roads! They’re strictly off limits!” she told us. We both had a queasy feeling in our stomachs as we left the station, like we’d done something wrong just for asking.
There were no cell phones in 1986, and we hadn’t spent the money to have a phone turned on in our little beach shack. So we spent a lot of time communicating with family, work, and friends via the phone booth at the end of the street. We didn’t think much of it at first, but we began aware that others – including police – would go by in cars or on foot and stare us down during conversations. One even pretended to get on the phone next to ours and talk to his Mamma. But he wasn’t good at making up both sides of the conversation and then leaving out the other side. It was obvious he was pretending.
Another odd fact we noticed was that many police lived in the fancy homes on the ocean front. We wondered how they could afford those places on their salaries. As we read the local papers, we also discovered that there were many unsolved murders in the area. An island over, several different people were killed in the driveway of their homes. And then, the one young man we met who would talk to us, was found murdered at the end of our street where he lived. To top it off, we also discovered the island was sovereign. It had its own courthouse and judge. The situation was becoming creepy.
One evening, however, we were in a celebratory mood. Two New York literary agents had just expressed interest in James’s novel, The Doubtress. Despite the bitter wind that whistled around the eaves of the tin roofed beach shack, we decided to make a foray outside. We bundled up against the cold and walked the 3 miles up the beach to where the Shipwatch Lounge overlooked the vast scenic dunes. The river marked the northern boundary of the island there, and I never tired of looking at the unusual wave patterns created by the outward flow of the river swirling around the island tip and converging with the Atlantic Ocean.
The bar had tables positioned near the large picture windows overlooking the beach. We sat at a corner table and took in the scene. Candles had just been lit, and we felt warm and safe. We were happily surprised when the locals decided to be friendly, making small talk and smiling instead of the usual habit they had of not making eye contact and leaving the place. We bought the people in nearby tables a round. Several came over to sit with us at our table and talk. We joked and laughed and watched the dim twilight turn to night. Then, they bought us a round! For some reason, I didn’t drink my drink. But James drank his. As if on cue, our three new friends suddenly left our table. Within minutes, the lounge was a ghost town. The bartender disappeared in some back room. By this time, James could no longer speak coherently. He had an extremely high tolerance for alcohol and a couple of drinks normally didn’t affect him. Something else was going on.
We knew we had to get out of there right away as he was fading fast. James draped his arm over my shoulder and I did my best to hold him up and help him outside. But he was too heavy for me to carry, or even drag, and he collapsed in the dunes on the edge of the lounge parking lot.
I was terrified. We were several miles away from home without a vehicle. It was nighttime in February and the temperature was freezing with an icy breeze creating a dangerous wind chill. We were at the mercy of local hostilities. I had to go for the 4Runner and hope for the best. I covered James with my jacket and his own, and ran south along the surf. Every few minutes I stopped to catch my breath. ‘He’s going to be OK, he’s going to be OK,’ I told myself, over and over.
I don’t know long it was before I was able to make it back to the lounge with the SUV. I roared into the sand parking lot. Tears were streaming down my cheeks as the headlights scanned the dunes on the edge. There was his motionless form! I pulled the 4Runner close and rushed to his side. He wasn’t conscious, his limbs were useless, but he was breathing. I got under his 6’4”, 200 pound plus frame and somehow got him into the floorboards of the back of the vehicle. He was coming around, but his speech was abnormally slow and slurred and his skin was cold.
I can’t recall how I was able to get James into the house. Once there, I assessed the situation. His temperature was only 93 degrees, far below the normal body temp of 98.6. He had a serious case of hypothermia, an unknown drug overdose, and the presence of alcohol. I filled pots with water, put them on the stove, and immersed towels into the steaming water. I covered his body with the hot cloths and laid plastic trash bags over the cloths to hold the heat in.
“Breathe, James, breathe!” I reminded him as I rushed back and forth between the stove and his bed. By the time the grey dawn peeped through the cottage blinds, his temperature had risen to around 97 degrees and I knew he was out of the woods. I heaved a gigantic sigh of relief and collapsed into bed, exhausted.
After the mickey-slipping event at the Shipwatch, James and I were watched even more closely than we had been before. Every time we made a phone call at the booth down the street, the police showed up. They didn’t overtly harass us, though, which was confusing.
A few days later, I left the island a couple of days before my weekend shift. I visited my parents, my sister, and took care of some other business. After the family stopover, I went to another nurse’s place in Atlanta to spend the night before doing the weekend shift. I had given James the phone number there, in case of an emergency. Late that night, I got a call from him.
He was excited and seemed to be talking to me in some kind of code. I began to realize that he was in danger. Finally I was able to make out, “You’ve got to quit your job, Sandy, and then we have to leave the island immediately.” He said some more things, part of which I took to mean he was being pursued. All I knew for sure was that James believed he was in extreme peril, enough peril that he felt I needed to quit my job right then and there. And so I phoned the nurse manager that I wouldn’t be in and was quitting, told my nurse friend, packed my bags, and frantically drove the 5 interminably long hours to the island.
When I arrived in the wee a.m., I found him alive and hunkered down in the cottage, fully armed with several pistols and a long gun. He told me his harrowing ordeal while we packed some things from the house. Without being accused of anything, he had been chased by police and the locals, the ones who wouldn’t talk to us at the bars, down the streets and alleys throughout the island. They seemed to have formed a sort of posse, of sorts. At one point, he hid in a ditch behind some trash cans, at another he had to run through the icy surf to avoid being detected.
As we gathered our belongings, preparing to leave the beach shack for the last time, we finally put the pieces of the puzzle together. We had swept into the island scene with the romantic notion of running away together and living a writer’s life on the beaches. Instead, we’d run smack dab into a cocaine ring. He was a bearded, tall, narc-looking dude, and I was the decoy hot chick. The only reason we weren’t murdered right away, like the others we’d read about in the papers, was that the police thought we were federal narcotics agents, sent to infiltrate the scene. We appeared to have money – I had the brand new 4Runner and presumably no job. We spent a lot of time talking from phone booths, we tried to fit into the scene, usual narc activities. The cocaine ring members didn’t want to run the risk of having the wrath of the feds unleased upon them. As we talked, we remembered that we had seen a number of people who appeared to be high on some kind of speed – they’d talk quickly, act angry and paranoid – just like someone on cocaine.
When we pulled out of the driveway, the gray dawn was beginning to break. With little more than the clothes on our backs, it was very reminiscent for me of the time that, as a child, my family and I became homeless when our travel trailer was stolen and we had only the pajamas we’d been wearing that evening. This time though, we were able to take some of our belongings. As we left, police and several unmarked cars passed in front of our house and gave us the hairy eyeball. We purposely let them see that we were armed and left the island for good.
James’s heritage included a long line of judges and lawyers. He was able to find a legal specialist among his connections to give us advice and a perspective. The attorney told him he was lucky to be alive. He cited several current cases that were being tried linking local authorities to cocaine smuggling rings in the state of Georgia. Most of these drug runners were in the mountains and used airstrips. But this one, apparently, was more like those in Florida – the highway carrying the contraband was the sea. James was advised to never set foot on the island again.
Wow, the follies of youth, is the first thing that comes to mind when I recollect my past. Why the heck didn’t we go to an emergency room when James was nearly killed? Or tell the police? In either of those cases, we probably made the right choice, by accident. Everything happens for a reason. To paraphrase A Course in Miracles, there is no one or no thing that enters your life by accident.
One of the challenges in this process of recounting my life, is remembering to not make it real. As I’m writing along, it’s easy to get wrapped up in the recollection and the drama. And then I recall that the real purpose of any memory is forgiveness. If I’m going to listen to the Holy Spirit’s script instead of the ego’s script, then it’s important for me to remember that what has seemed to happen to me back then is just a dream. And once I forgive it, I won’t need to repeat any lesson that I didn’t learn back then. That’s the real beauty of this process of traveling down memory lane – it saves time. How is that? If I have forgiven the people in the event, and/or the event itself, I won’t have to repeat the lesson. The Holy Spirit then adjusts the time remaining on my script here on earth.
If I don’t forgive the event now, it will reoccur. The figures in the dream may change and the lesson probably isn’t going to look exactly like the one that already happened and I failed to forgive. But it will contain the same components. And if I have any difficulty in doing my part in salvation, the forgiving part, I can just ask for help from the Holy Spirit and voila! I get the help! I only need to have a little willingness, as ACIM puts it, and He will take me the rest of the way.
* * *
Chapter 4 – Sailing Adventures
We left the island in southern Georgia in 1986 and were essentially homeless for 4 months. We went to Baltimore and hung out with James’s best friend for a few months. We partied, we jogged, we lifted weights. We went backpacking in the Shenandoah mountains. We went four-wheeling on Cape Hatteras in North Carolina. James and Tanya got divorced during this time, so we had to go back to Atlanta. Then his grandfather, the patriarch of his family and a pillar in the southwest Virginia community where his mother lived, died. We traveled there. But I wasn’t allowed to attend the funeral or meet the rest of the family yet, due to the appearance of impropriety as Tanya and James hadn’t been separated a whole year as of yet.
Finally, we headed south to Florida to hang with James’s other best friend in Flagler Beach. One day we decided to visit James’s alma mater – the University of South Florida in Tampa. After the visit, we traveled west to the beaches, where he used to party during his college days. I fell in love with the scenery and the beachy, laid-back vibe and begged James to move there. After months of no privacy and no regular schedule, we were ready to settle down anyway. We had to stop the spending traveling incurred and focus on editing and writing.
Entirely too much alcohol was being consumed. Our relationship was starting suffer. But we had no intention of stopping. James’s father, a retired attorney for the Small Business Administration as well as a recovering alcoholic, sent us a list of the behaviors one might have if he or she had a problem with alcohol. We went down the list, just for fun. We had 90% of them. Still, we laughed it off and rented a tiny shack in Maderia Beach, across the street from the Gulf of Mexico and right next to the biggest dive bar on the beaches. Then we headed out to the Salvation Army and picked up a few items to furnish the place – 2 recliners, a cheap mattress, and a writing desk. We sold the 4Runner to get rid of the payments and hunkered down among the fisherman, the tourists, and the other beach bums.
The Mad Beach, as it’s called locally, proved to be just that – crazy! The Surf and Sand dive bar next door was the hangout of the local fisherman. Johns Pass, on the south end of Madeira Beach, is a large inlet with a deep channel leading out to the gulf. A number of longline fishing boats were moored by several large fish packing houses on the bay side of the island. It was widely rumored that the majority of the Florida West Coast’s seafood came in through this port. The fisherman were out to sea nearly half the time – the other half they were in the bar. It was the ideal writer’s sleazy environment. James began writing a new book, using the local colorful personality for inspiration for his characters. We’d write most of the day and at dusk start drinking cheap vodka followed by beer chasers. For entertainment, we had a throwing knife that we’d hurl at a large piece of plywood, seeing if we could stick it into the grain. Large palmetto bugs – roaches – would come up from the broken flooring and we’d hurl the knife at them. For exercise, we’d walk or jog on the beach.
One day we were out of money. I had to go back to work as a nurse to support James while he wrote – something I’d promised I’d do if we ever got together. We got a local rag for the ads and found a more decent condo on Blind Pass in Treasure Island, the next beach south. I signed up with a nursing agency and began to work. But we were still drinking every chance we got and often times fought.
James decided that the prescription to fix our diminishing happiness was to go boating. We shopped around and finally purchased the finest inflatable boat made at the time – an Avon. That evening, we put the inflatable together on the condo’s dock and lowered it into the water of Blind Pass. Then we tossed in a cooler filled with vodka and beer, jumped in, and began rowing down the long pass toward the Gulf of Mexico. We were ignorant of tides, weather, or anything nautical. It was July 4, 1987, and we set forth on our maiden voyage, the first of a myriad of adventures in a decade of boating.
Our goal that evening was to see the fireworks. The calm, glassy waters and spectacular beach fireworks lured us to drift farther and farther out to sea. From our vantage point in the gulf, we could see at least 7 municipal beaches’ firework displays. We keep drinking and talking and enjoying the night, heedless of just how far away from land we might be. At some point, we decided it was time to head back and began rowing in earnest. James rowed and rowed. But the specks of light that were the hotels and condos on the shore didn’t get much larger. Then I rowed and rowed. Hours passed. Our hands developed blisters. We were exhausted. A full moon was in our wake when we finally arrived at the Beach Club condo dock at 5 a.m. We calculated that we had drifted 10 miles to sea with the outgoing tide – the only way we could have even left the inlet – and were helped back in with the incoming tide. Had any wind arisen during that night, we would not have been able to row against it. We made a wise decision to get an engine.
For the next couple of years we took the inflatable up every river on the west coast of Florida, some in the interior, on the east coast, and in the panhandle. We went to the Keys and boated on both the ocean and gulf sides. We took a trip with another couple from Everglade City to Flamingo, in the Everglades, 100 miles each way where we encountered a 10 foot rattlesnake, hundreds of alligators, thousands of birds, and millions of mosquitos. It was called the Wilderness Waterway and was an incredible and memorable journey.
Our love of the water led to a decision that we should live on it in a sailboat. In preparation for this, we moved to a small apartment with a private boat dock. In between writing and nursing we began searching for sailboats. We were revising a novel James had written 20 years earlier. This was just before the advent of personal computers and our electronic typewriter boasted some limited word processing features. Still, I typed thousands of pages to get just one relatively clean manuscript of a couple of hundred pages. For a paying job, I worked for an agency, nursing wherever I was needed in the ICUs, traveling from hospital to hospital throughout the county.
Finally we found an old junker sailboat in Siesta Key, Sarasota, Florida. James convinced his wealthy mother to loan him money for the 33’ Morgan Out Island, and we began our nautical adventures on a bigger scale. It took the better part of a year to acquire the sailboat and make it seaworthy enough to sail the 45 or so miles through the Gulf of Mexico to our dock in Treasure Island.
One day, with great trepidation, we cast off lines from the Sarasota dock and set sail for home. The sail took over a day, and halfway through it our engine died. We had to stop and drop anchor behind an island at the mouth of Tampa Bay so we could do makeshift repairs. It was a rocky anchorage in the open Gulf of Mexico, hot and humid. We were greener than green in the marine environment. However, after hours of trouble-shooting in the rolly-polly anchorage, we finally discovered that the fuel filters were clogged. We had the presence of mind, fortunately, to have included a spare set for the trip home. As the most mechanically inclined one, it was up to me to find the filter housing and replace the clogged filters. I wedged myself in the opening between the quarter berth and the cavernous engine compartment and reached to the back bulkhead where the filters were mounted. The boat lurched and tossed and the filter housing was just out of reach. After what seemed like an eternity, I was able to replace the filters and purge the air out of the diesel fuel line.
Late the next evening, we limped into Blind Pass and approached the tiny dock behind our 4-plex apartment. The currents of the pass combined with the un-maneuverability of the single screw of the engine made docking difficult. Double propellers with opposing pitched screws, we later learned, allowed for easy and precise maneuvering in close quarters. More importantly, we were just learning the effects of wind and current on the approach one should make when docking.
Finally, using double dock lines, we made fast to the single berth we’d rented for this transition. We began working in earnest making preparations for the transition to becoming liveaboards. We had a limited budget and a limited time before the lease on our apartment ran out. The boat had been badly neglected and would take years to completely restore. So we started on a medium-sized renovation of the boat – just enough to move on board.
We rolled up our seaman’s sleeves and taught ourselves a little bit about the nautical life. We began studying any topic on which we were unfamiliar, from marlinspike seamanship – how to tie knots – to the language one should use when referring to parts of the boat. We learned, for instance, the right side of the boat was the starboard side, the left, the port. The lockers under the seats in the cockpit were called the lazarette. The way the lights on a boat were arranged – red for starboard, green for port – allowed the sailor to determine at night whether the boat was coming towards you, and if it would hit you or not. Then there was self-instruction on knot tying – bowlines, fisherman’s knots, square knots, and half-hitches. A rope on a boat became line, unless it was attached to an anchor, in which case it became rode. Anchor rode was the rope and chain that secure the anchor between the sea bottom and the bow of the boat. Rope that was attached to a sail was called sheet. The mainsheet, for instance, lowered and raised the mainsail. To round out our knowledge, we took a Coast Guard Axillary course on entry-level seamanship.
Our sailboat was equipped with two banks of 12 volt batteries, separated by a large switch. One battery was strictly for starting the engine. The bank of batteries was called the “house” battery bank and ran the lights, small TV, electric typewriter, and whatnot when we were not plugged into electricity at the dock. They had to be recharged daily and so we had to create a plan to restore the number of amps used. One part of the plan was to get a solar panel. This could restore several amps per hour when the sun was shining. But the majority of the depleted energy would require running the engine in order to restore the amperage. Regular alternators lower the number of amps – the amount of juice – that is put into the batteries – after just a few minutes. So the salesman at the marine store sold us a contraption that tricked the alternator into thinking there was still a draw from the batteries and that the alternator needed to keep pumping out electricity at a high rate. Of course, one had to install the device, and when it came to mechanical tasks, James could get confused tying his shoes. I remember having a long swill of vodka, wiping the back of my hand on my shorts, and reading the instructions. I managed to get the alternator apart, and began searching for what the directions called ‘brushes!’ I didn’t see anything that resembled a hairbrush, and so I took another drink. At about 1 in the morning, I decided that we’d better get professional help. And these types of tasks went on and on.
You see, our plan was a terrifying one! In a matter of weeks, we were going rouge. We were going to leave the comfort of the dock and land and find places to live anchored out. It’s one thing to move all your worldly belongings onto a boat, tied up neatly to a dock, and, when the weather is sunny and slightly breezy, take an occasional sail out on the bay. Then you sail back into the slip and there are hot showers with good water pressure and tie your boat up, all safe and sound. You’ve also got a place to park your car and walk up to your boat, just like you would a house. Marina life itself has its challenges, particularly if one’s entire history is that of a landlocked lubber, but it’s doable and can even be fun. It’s another thing altogether to live anchored out! That’s pure insanity. Of course that was my choice and that of my partner. Little did I know how many forgiveness lessons my boating career would provide.
One day, our lease was up in the apartment. Liveaboards weren’t allowed to stay moored to the dock. We christened her Gravity’s Rainbow with a cheap bottle of white wine. Then we took a deep breath and unhitched the dock lines. We’d managed to find a little basin by the Veteran’s hospital that we thought would work, even though it was very shallow. As we motored that evening out Blind Pass to the Gulf of Mexico, we watched the breathtakingly beautiful sunset, shaking in our boating shoes. Behind the yacht we towed the same inflatable that we’d used to traverse the Florida rivers and waterways. It had now become our tender, our link to the land. Fortunately, the seas were calm and we were able to make it through the riptide currents of infamous Johns Pass, under the drawbridge, and into the inland waterway – Boca Ciega Bay. The anchorage was accessible through a narrow channel just off the main waterway.
It was dark by the time we dropped the hook. Our boat’s shoal draft allowed us to get into these rarely used anchorages. We battened down the hatches on the sailboat and turned on an anchor light to mark our presence. We drew the inflatable up to the stern of the boat and lowered ourselves into it. Through the darkness we sped, keeping between the flashing red and green channel markers of the intracoastal waterway in the center of Boca Ciega bay. We could see the lights of city on either side of the channel – the beaches to the west and St. Petersburg to the east. Our goal was to retrieve the van, which we’d left parked at the old apartment complex. Conveniently, next to the complex was a small public boat ramp which we’d used many times before. Here we went ashore, dragging the dingy onto the beachlet. We brought the van close, dismantled the inflatable, folded it, and loaded both the collapsed hull and the motor. But we weren’t through yet! We now drove the van, carrying the tender, 5 miles back to where the sailboat was anchored. We had to locate an area near the bay where we could park the van, get out the inflatable and put it back together. Then we parked the van on a street where parking was allowed, walked back to the place we’d left the dingy, got in, and rode the inflatable to the boat in the basin! This is just one example of the types of complicated procedures that are required to live on a boat without its being directly moored to a dock on the land.
I found a hospital, coincidentally by Boca Ciega Bay, where I could work more regularly and make good money. In order to have all my time off in one block, I’d work Friday night 3-11, 11-7 – a double, then get off Saturday morning, exhausted. But I had to make the most of the time on land so I would buy the beer, the milk, the vodka, a few groceries, and two large blocks of ice for the built-in cooler in the gallery that were needed to keep the milk and beer cold since we didn’t have refrigeration. James would meet me at a dock near the grocery store, load up the dingy, and wait while I parked the van. I’d walk the several blocks back to the dock, and we’d head off in the inflatable to the basin so I could get a few hours of sleep before my next shift – usually an eight hour shift, 3-11. Then I’d drive the van back to the anchorage, park on the street, and walk to the edge of the basin where James would pick me up. I’d climb into the V-berth in the bow of the boat, our ‘bedroom’, crash by around 1 a.m., sleep until noon the next day, get up and do another double. It was insane.
During our time in the basin, we continued our repairs of the boat. An interesting couple sailed in one day. The man, Dan, was completing the building of his boat, a catamaran. The two had sailed around the world and been through several hurricanes on their previous sailboat. During the time in the anchorage, their boat was struck by lightning, knocking out many of the electronics. The wife, Andrea, was a teacher.
Our dingy was stolen once. We recovered the hull, such as it was, but not the engine. The inflatable had been slashed to sink it. On board the sailboat, we repaired the slashes with patches. We had a small generator we would haul out of the lockers in the cockpit and put up on the forward deck, to keep the fumes from going below. This little Honda generator powered our tools to aid with this dingy repair job as well as numerous other tasks.
We experienced storms – our boat dragged anchor and nearly hit another boat. Our big boat engine died once while trying to leave the harbor in the middle of the passing of a cold front which had a lot of wind in it and we were driven into the super shallow side of the basin. To get out of the shallows was an arduous task. We put an anchor out front, off the bow, and connected the line to the mainsail’s winch. Then we connected another one anchor to the mast to tilt the boat sideways. This reduced the draft by tilting the keel to one side. We spent 3 days winching during high tide to drag the boat off the muddy shoals. Another time a waterspout hit the boat and knocked it over flat. Fortunately, it bobbed upright 30 seconds later.
We were sailing a few miles offshore one time and a bearded man on a suspicious looking speedboat tried to get us to stop sailing so he could hitch his boat to ours. It made us very nervous, particularly me, since I was alone at the helm, wearing only a bikini. When I called for James, he came up from below and the man, after a few more gestures, departed and headed straight out to sea. Strange, we thought.
Then, just a few minutes later the coast guard roared up in several boats. One was a cigarette-style board and it zoomed out to sea in the direction of the guy who’d tried to get us to stop. The other was a large and well-equipped inflatable, which docked on the back of our boat. The uniformed coastguardsman came on board with guns drawn. We were told to stay in the cockpit while they searched for drugs. Naturally, they didn’t find any, as we knew the laws. Even a small amount of marijuana would allow them to seize your boat. They left rather quickly and we headed back to the safety of our basin and dropped anchor. That evening, on the small 12 volt-powered TV mounted in our V-berth, we discovered that a boat fitting our description had been confiscated just to the south of us. It was full of marijuana. Apparently the suspicious looking boat was part of the deal.
For the next two years we lived like this, anchoring out in a number of different locations. We spent several months one summer in a sweltering boat yard – repairing the boat’s fiberglass bottom blisters, painting the hull and topsides, and re-plumbing the entire boat. It was miserable, back-breaking work. Additionally, the alcoholism was really starting to take its toll on our relationship. James would go into long rages where he’d use his linguistic acumen to rail against me. So many times this would be just before a shift I’d have to work. He’d keep me up until he passed out.
Finally, I could no longer take the abuse and the alcoholism. I didn’t believe I had a problem with alcohol, but I knew James did. I told him I was leaving, I was done. He could keep the boat. He could get sober by himself if he wanted, but not on my account. Because I cared for him, I helped him find a slip in a marina, helped sail the boat from the beaches around the southern end of the peninsula of Pinellas county to the east side where St. Petersburg Municipal Marina was located, assisted with securing the docking lines to tie it up, and left.
And now I have to take a deep breath, reader, because there are parts of my story I’ve left out. Not that I’m going to release every little detail of my dream life, but because the Holy Spirit is telling me to describe another facet that I have purposely left out. The reason for this disclosure is, once again, not to make it real, but to offer my experience, strength, and hope, to borrow from recovery terms, to others who may have shared a similar dream experience. This one is a little painful, but it just means that I have an opportunity for a giant forgiveness lesson with tremendously rewarding after effects.
You see, as a child, I went through the experience of sexual abuse. I’m not going to say who the perpetrator appeared to be, because we really all are innocent. It might have been a close friend of the family, or distant relative. It doesn’t matter. What happened in the dream is that this event, this series of events, appeared to affect all of my relations with men, particularly ones that I really cared about. I developed deep patterns of codependency. You may have already suspected the codependency issues, given the behavior I’ve described that I would put up with at any given time. This codependency pattern is something that I have been recovering from for over 23 years. I’ve focused on building new, healthy patterns of interdependence. But now that I have the tool of quantum forgiveness at my awareness, I can experience the miracle and speed up the process.
So in 1992, I had my own reasons for leaving James, distinct from his abusive alcoholic behavior. I was having an affair with a respiratory therapist. Yes, James knew about it. We’d agreed to have an ‘open relationship.’ This particular individual was even more controlling than was James, so of course I was attracted. I moved into an apartment; one that he had a key to. I had no vehicle. He drove me around. Once I’d moved off the boat and into the apartment, as he’d begged me to, he revealed to me that he had another girlfriend, that he was keeping us both until he could decide between us. I was devastated. Suddenly I was literally a prisoner in my own apartment. My dreams of freedom from James’s controlling behaviors and alcoholic rages had landed me into a prison of my own making.
But, then, isn’t this how the world of the ego works? The serpent is always quick to hold out the candy-red apple, ready to beguile the confused and sleepy Son of God to trade one illusion for another. But either is meaningless. And when a relationship is not based on the kind of love that ACIM describes, where no one loses – then you have a special relationship with special love. A special relationship seems to fulfill the need of the persons involved at the time. The Holy Spirit has a better idea, the holy relationship, which is eternal.
My boyfriend had the key to my mailbox and filtered everything that came in, including a letter from James about how he had gotten sober and joined AA. He read parts of it to me. I was secretly intrigued. Yet I continued the path I had chosen. Even when this man and I did activities together, we had a miserable time. Once we vacationed for 3 days in the Florida Keys at a rental house with a boat dock and boat. We went scuba diving and fishing, but the dark cloud continued to rain upon us.
This went on for 4 months, but the relationship was untenable. Toward the end of the four months I bought my own car. I didn’t forget the nice letter I’d gotten from James about how he’d gotten sober. He’d seemed so happy and different in the letter. I decided to contact James. But I was under the control of the other man psychologically and he had the key to my mailbox. Finally, I went to a different post office, rented a box, and sent James a letter at the marina. That was early on a Monday. Tuesday morning I checked the box to see if, by any chance, there was a reply. There was! Yes, he very much wanted to talk. There was a phone number to call.
That afternoon we met and talked, the first time in four months. He was truly a changed man. He told me all about his new life in AA. After some hours, we drove out to the beaches so he could attend his usual AA meeting. For a drunken recluse, the only side of him I’d ever seen, he had practically turned into a socialite. He introduced me to a few of his friends, and they were very nice and surprisingly intelligent. It was mid-summer, and the evenings were long. We took a walk on the beach and watched the sunset. Before the night was over, it was obvious how much we had missed each other and why we had originally gotten together. Except this was different. Recovery had changed James into a more humble and kind man. I was impressed.
Within a couple of weeks, I’d moved back onto the boat and started my own journey in recovery with Alanon, a support group for families and friends of alcoholics. This allowed me to begin to get to the bottom of some of my codependency and childhood abuse issues. Over the next few months I read recovery literature, attended several 12 step groups, and saw a therapist. But I wasn’t making as much progress as I felt I should. Something was holding me back.
In October, 1992, James told me he had gotten a couple of tickets while we were separated. He said we needed to go to the courthouse to take care of them. After being particularly choosey that morning about what he would wear and what he thought I should wear, we drove the few blocks there. Once inside the building, we went through security.
“The office for marriage licenses is on the second floor,” the guard told us.
My mouth dropped open and I looked over at James. In the 9 years we’d been together, we’d talked briefly about tying the knot, but eventually we had decided to live an unconventional lifestyle and not do the deed.
“Yes, we’re getting married. I was lying about the tickets,” he said.
I was swept off my feet. My mind was in a blur while the nice lady at the courthouse married us. We walked out of the courthouse a married couple. Back at the car, James opened the trunk and withdrew a bottle of chilled champagne. Even though he didn’t drink now, he had bought two bottles of champagne and put them on ice for me. I wasted no time opening the first bottle as we drove back out to the beaches to tell a friend of ours. Inside his condo, a small reception was waiting.
I should have seen something amiss that day. Within the space of four hours, I had consumed both bottles of champagne myself. We went to a dinner after the reception, and I ordered drinks. I wasn’t driving, thank God, but I was definitely very drunk. Still, I tossed it off as a normal thing, a part of celebrating the marriage.
In review, it’s pretty obvious that the ego has planned some good times scattered in with the bad, just to keep us hooked. And the whole human race is hooked, addicted to the cycle with individually unique manifestations of the obsession. My primary addiction has been relationships, as is often the case with women. We women, particularly those of us who have been raised in a traditional setting, have been taught to find personal fulfillment through the nurturing of and caring for others. Sometimes that nurturing can turn into controlling.
The real solution is true, not unhealthy, connection with others. While codependency, the ego’s plan, may be said to develop through an overwhelming, unwholesome urge to connect to others, it is vitally important, if one wants a trip out of shitsville to coolsville, to listen to the Holy Spirit’s guidance that gently suggests a life-imparting solution of forgiveness, instead of the tumultuous and addictive processes of codependency.
Forgiveness, even on the level of form, is a path out of emotional disarray. At the quantum level, it is the one illusion that leads to reality. How to start that path? Just a little recognition by one of the two enmeshed in the malady, that this ain’t workin’ combined with a little willingness to forgive the other and oneself, and, before you realize what’s hit you, you’re relaxing in the hammock of peace. The less-traveled path of forgiveness has given the imperative known as love a way out of the melee into the safety of the deep green pastures of serenity.
In short, the Holy Spirit offers peace through the forgiveness of what appears to be happening. The ego offers nothingness, surrounded by a glitzy, dazzling frame. It is a matter of which master the chooser decides to serve – the Holy Spirit, or the ego. Ultimately, each person will make the decision to choose a holy relationship over a special one.
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