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September 28, 2017

I Speak My Voice With No Fear


"When my son committed suicide, I lost it"

Those are Bonnie's words, among the few first words she spoke to me when I first met her at the workshop.  They were words that I did not expect, I hadn't prepared a response and I was caught with my camera in front of my face, as a few tears welled up in her eyes.  And in mine.  What do you say when someone is opening up in such a complete and trusting way, telling you her life's story and the reason why she is here today.  I just nodded, and let her speak from her heart.  It is my intention to honor that trust, so the story I am sharing is not a biography, but a glimpse into a person's life, a feeling, an understanding of what can make someone fall into addiction and then find the strength to recover, living a full, productive life.

If you really listen, you hear the inflection of the voice, the way words are spoken, put together, and asking questions comes naturally, yet I found myself a bit unable to say anything.  Bonnie's life has not been easy, and I think I knew it when I honed in on her at the workshop for some reason, maybe it was her tattoo...


She was so intent in her art making that I didn't want to interrupt the flow by asking her to be my first subject, so I waited, observed her open interaction with literally everyone who came into the room and smiled big when she agreed to share her story with me.  As heartbreaking as that story is, her loss, her struggles, her admitted rough lifestyle, what struck me the most about Bonnie is that she is here today, resolute, on purpose, clearly defining her intention to help others overcome the same struggles and to shine that light at the end of the tunnel.  She doesn't think about the past anymore in a way that holds her back, rather she deliberately thinks about things that make her happy.  Like animals.  Of course, when she mentioned her love for animals, I wanted to hug her.  "Animals make me happy" she said, recounting all the birds, squirrels and raccoons she feeds every day.  "When I was a bad person, I didn't care about anyone else.  Now I give, those are investments". 

And at that precise moment, I kid you not, a butterfly came out of nowhere to circle our heads and make both of our jaws drop.  A patient walking by started laughing, pointing at the the wildly flying butterfly just a couple of inches from my face, making us all laugh out loud, the thought of the whole day spent painting butterflies and caterpillars clearly very present in our minds.


So we laughed, we hugged, we shared.  Her smile contagious, her laughter full and her voice with not an ounce of fear in it. 

"It feels good to be on the other side"



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