Tuesday, August 7, 2007

Old letter: Temple 'In Recovery'

I've been slowly digging through a musty box I hauled out of the garage, filled with old letters from various people. Today I pulled one out from my now dead younger sister Temple, written a few years before she killed herself, from inside a residential drug & alcohol rehab facility in New Jersey. I've shortened the name of the place to 'The Lodge', just to maintain its privacy.

It's interesting to me to read this seventeen years after she wrote it, since I now work with youth who are 'in recovery' (or avoiding recovery, as the case may be), and so I recognize some of the language Temple is using as standard 12 Step terminology. Temple did actually stay sober for a while after being at this facility. Paige, who she refers to in the letter, is one of our older sisters. She was the one who helped Temple the most during the time Temple was trying to get sober towards the end of her life. While this is a private letter, I thought it might hold some more general interest for others... a peek into a moment in the life of a young woman struggling to overcome some of her personal demons. And Temple always loved the spotlight, so I’m sure she’d approve of her words being publicized on my blog. So, here's what she had to say to me on July 1st, 1990:

Hi! I'm sitting in a lecture (it's a very boring lecture) and thought about it being your birthday and so… Happy Birthday!

I’m sticking with things here, though it’s hard. Paige came by yesterday and we had a really nice visit! (The last one was a disaster.) She brought me some clothes because I’ve been yelled at for wearing ‘inappropriate’ clothes. We have a ‘look’ here- The Lodge look is pixie hair cuts, long skirts, long sleeved blouses, stockings and usually blazers. It’s scaring me ‘cause I’m wearing Paige’s old suits (blazer & skirt) and I’m starting to like them! My favorite is a lime green jacket/blazer with a long white pleated skirt. I look like Aunt Kate, or any typical rich Princeton society lady. I call Paige’s clothes my ‘sober clothes’.

Paige was telling me what we were like when Mom was dying. We sounded like real animals- spoiled rotten brats! I’ve been doing my life story – it’s something I’ve always said I’d do – but always gave it just a half assed try. It’s difficult – gives me migraines (and we aren’t allowed any aspirin here) but it’s supposed to be good therapy, let’s us see our behavior patterns. I notice character defects that I have, popping up as early as 6 years old. Maybe I’ll end up publishing my ‘memoirs’ someday. It could be a good book to teach addicts and alcoholics what to avoid. I’m just about to start writing about the ‘boat years’ with Kate & Tina. Should be interesting. I think the hardest part to write about will be the first Miami years, at 18 years old, when I was into free basing, etc… Oh well…

I’ve been trying to practice rigorous honesty because they say you can’t get sober without it. So I’m going to have to write myself up for writing you this letter during lecture. Mrs. D. has been in my face all fucking week and I’ve been feeling like I’m in reform school rather than at a rehab.

I miss my cats! We see deer here all the time – they are so beautiful. A guy & girl got kicked out yesterday for passing a note to each other (fraternization) and we all just found out that they actually had sex here! That’s virtually impossible to do here. Also 6 people have walked out in the last 2 weeks so the place is in a lot of turmoil now.

Did I tell you about __________ ? (Name of famous rock & roll star edited out by Jaya – Temple had met him in another residential rehab center she was in before The Lodge.) I just got another letter from him. Well… Write Please! Love ya, Temple

Temple Climbing Out Of Ruin
Ireland 1977

© 2007 All Rights Reserved.


Anonymous said...

Dear Temple,

I finally figured out how to use the comment thing. Well, Jaya helped like someone helps the blind across the street. She's like that.

I love this blog about you and I love the picture of you going AWOL. Especially that it is black and white and lots of greys.

I don't want you to be alone here, so I am permanently and binarily? joining you in this space. We can tell stories from the trenches and if you need me to shut up and give you space I can do that too.

I love you retroactively, Temple, and thank you for your part in the formation of the wonderful human we know as Jaya, your sister. And I'm not just saying that because you knew a rock star.

Ever your friend,


Jaya said...

So very kind...

I know Temple is
digging having you
as her new friend.