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      The Year My Volcano Exploded

      September 14, 2013
      From the column 'Into the Weird'

      Ink by Joseph Aloi.

      As a gift to myself for achieving nearly three months of sobriety, I got the Hindu goddess Kali tattooed on my right thigh. It was the first tattoo I got without popping an opiate before laying down to be etched for five hours—I worked through the pain with only meditative breathing, the care of my tattoo artist, and the company of someone very close to my heart. Watching the artist illustrate Kali on my thigh, I remembered the time I spontaneously decided to get a David Bowie Aladdin Sane lighting bolt tattoo. Once the the tattoo artist finished half the tattoo, he informed me it looked exactly like the Gatorade symbol. I cried and then got very wasted.

      But my Kali tattoo was different, because my life is changing. I’m sober, my parents are going through a divorce—causing excruciating family secrets to bubble to the surface like lava from a long dormant volcano—and this week I broke up with my live-in boyfriend. In retrospect, I shouldn’t be surprised I broke up with my boyfriend the same week I got a tattoo of a goddess holding a man's severed head in her hand. These changes were a long time coming.

      My ex-boyfriend is a good guy. He’s a brilliant person, whom I will always love and care for, but I wasn't happy, and neither was he. We always fought and disagreed on principles, but I thought when I became sober and stopped being a drunk cunt, the fights would stop. But they did not.

      While I was moving into his apartment several weeks ago, he went on a beach weekend that I had to avoid for the sake of my sobriety. We fought about his choice, but he went anyways. A few weeks later, we fought again about his extended vacation to the Pacific, because he was literally halfway across the world when I needed him to help me deal with drug and alcohol withdrawal and the shattering of my family. I also realized I had romantic feelings for someone already very close to my heart, who was there for me in this time of need. 

      Anyone going through any type of drug withdrawal can attest to the importance of having a supportive partner. My ex-boyfriend did the best that he could, but as I sobered up (both literally and figuratively), I concluded he was not the right partner for me. Rather than end up like my parents who are getting a divorce 30 years after being married, I preferred to be honest with him and end things.  Like unsafe locations, we often remain in relationships longer than we should out of comfort and familiarity—even after the warning smoke has become visible. But I obeyed the warning smoke. 

      Image via

      These changes remind me of a volcano in the Caribbean where I grew up. On July 18 1995, the same year Hurricane Marilyn wrecked my own island, the long dormant Soufrière Hills Volcano erupted on the island of Montserrat, causing two thirds of the population to evacuate. It has remained active since, and the island has never been the same. (Montserrat is slowly regenerating, because Montserrat is a strong motherfucker.) 

      When I was a very young girl, still living in the blissful ignorance of youth, my family visited Montserrat before Soufrière Hills erupted. We hiked the volcano, dormant at the time, and visited the black sand beaches. The volcanic activity below the surface created natural hot tubs, pools filled with warm water and minerals you could float around in. Of all the places I have been, Montserrat is perhaps the most dear to my heart, because I was blessed to see it before the destruction occurred. 

      They may not come with black sand beaches, but we have all spent time in places that will never be the same. Like relationships, the earth’s surface isn’t able to predict what the universe will throw at it. We can work our ass off at a relationship, we can put up hurricane shutters, but sometimes shit just blows up and you have to follow your instincts and flee from the lava. I haven't run from any actual lava this year, but 2013 has been a fucking weird one. I've stayed as strong as I can for my family. After ten years of addiction and alcohol abuse I got clean. I've even talked down a drunk alleged murderer.

      This year my volcano has blown, but I know where I am going. I am going to a lovely room in Brooklyn, surrounding myself with those who care about me. I am not relapsing and buying a bottle of booze or searching through underwear drawers in hopes of finding a leftover Percocet or calling a dealer. I'm not crying on my couch. I am sitting with a cup of coffee and a cat, writing my face off because it makes me happy. When burned in life, you can't be one of the residents too scared to flee the evacuation zone. You have to be strong like Montserrat, stay standing, let the lava cool, and begin the regeneration process. 

      @TheBowieCat

      Previously - This Must Be the Place

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      Topics: depending on the kindness of myself, summer, volcano, sophie saint thomas, Virgin Islands, drugs, sobriety, tattoos

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