to build a home
33 x 47 x 3. Original painting by Taylor Redler, set in a hand-crafted custom made Mahogony frame built by my partner, Connor Robinson. plaster + ink + oil + concrete + sand + wood stain.
When I was a teenager I would spend some of my summer vacations with my best childhood friend's family in New York. I would extend my trip lasting almost the entire 2 month summer vacation. My family and I moved to Florida when I was in middle school and I vividly recall this deep feeling of wanting to go "home". When I would go back to New York I would romanticize the feeling of my roots being set back in this place that wasn't physically my home any more and I would have to replant myself back in Florida at the end of every summer. I had formed really beautiful friendships in Florida with other kids I met in school, but now looking back I think the feeling I was longing for was feeling deeply safe/supported at my friends house. I loved her mom as my own. I got to see them recently and it's wild how those feelings of comfort and safety rushed back over me like I was that 14 year old girl getting off the plane running into my best friends arms again. Home. Safe.
I talk about this often that I had a habit of picking up and impulsively moving when faced with a problem or an imagined problem that I convinced myself a fresh start can fix. My parents did that too. We moved from NY to FL to SC my senior year. Soon after I ran to Rhode Island. My addiction to self soothing in alcohol, drugs, abusive men, and over working was taking over my life. I was deteriorating mentally and physically. I got down to under 100 pounds, was empty and running out of hope. I ran back to South Carolina looking for help, looking for myself, and hoping my family changed and maybe the home I was searching for was STILL only found within them.
From the time I moved back to South Carolina in 2016, I relocated within the city 14 times. I attempted to get sober in 2016. Jumping from apartment to apartment, getting kicked out for my drug use, and ruining relationships, jobs, and opportunities. No matter where I ended up calling "home" I still had most of my belongings in my car, basically packed and ready to go. Then there were times I lived out of my car. Sometimes I truly moved in, and got settled. Tried to root down. When I moved into my first sober living home, Oxford House, that was the closest I felt to true safe and comfortable. I knew the women I lived with helped make sure I was staying sober, it felt safe having accountability to walk through recovery with women who understood. I could talk myself into self soothing with alcohol/drugs so quickly, reasoning with myself how it would be different this time. Living in Oxford gave me an opportunity to have time to seek help if I felt like my mental health was declining, leading to a relapse. I would love to say I stayed sober from there but I didn't. I would relapse. Homeless. Friends couch. Detox or rehab. Sober living. repeat. I went to treatment in 2018 and stayed sober until late 2020. Within that time I had some of the most incredible days of my life. I did things I never in a million years thought I could do. I opened 8 sober living homes while working for Oxford house. Even after living in them in the past, getting kicked out for relapsing. They still saw my potential and I did some of the most intensive healing and growing within my time working for them. Yet I still found myself basically living out of my car. I had to travel to Myrtle beach half the week and lived in Charleston half the week with 2 friends in an old apartment downtown that felt haunted. I barely slept home. I did that for a few months. Along with a ton of trips to Florence, Columbia, and little towns I never thought I would ever see in South Carolina. Even though I felt my heart was filled with purpose, I still didn't feel like I truly had a home.
I obsessed about this. "I would be less anxious if I had a space that was truly my own to unwind in". "I would be more organized and manage my time better if I had a real home base". I accomplished a lot and helped a lot of people but also saw the devastation of substance use disorder right in front of my eyes every single day. I couldn't manage my emotions, I felt like it was my mission to keep people sober. I got so close to so many of the residences, and one by one I kept seeing so many people loose their fight to addiction. At the time I didn't realize the emotional tole it was taking on me. Looking back, I wasn't alone for more than a few moments before I would go to sleep at night. Typically so emotionally and physically exhausted I would just collapse into whatever bed I would be sleeping in that night. Time alone with myself frightened me. Spending time alone even in the car while driving for work, I had to find stimulating distractions like long phone calls or intense podcasts. I hated the thoughts that crossed my mind. I spent so much of my life just running from the trauma I had to work through even as more and more traumatic events kept piling up on top of one another. I was completely numb. Sometimes I miss that numb feeling, instead of feeling everything. It was a turning point realizing I was sober but still completely numb and terrified to be alone with myself. That's what I aimed for when I was using, numbing the feelings away, and pushing myself so far away from my core being that I wasn't able to acknowledge my trauma.
I knew what I needed to do. I needed to move! I moved to Asheville taking another job in the addiction field working at a rehab center. In which I lived at the rehab for one week, then lived with friends for the week I had off. Still, basically living out of my car. I moved February 2022. Right before the world changed, and COVID-19 shutdown started. Which was even more intense and emotionally draining. It was hard to leave work at work. I took it home, attached to me like a dark cloud. I found myself sleeping most of the time I had off. Falling deeper into depression. I kept piling new traumatic experiences on top of one another re-activating core wounds I haven't even started to work on. My main focus was always numb and move on. Continue trucking along, head down joining the rat race. When in reality, the events I was believing I was forcing myself to forget were replaying silently, constantly in the back of my mind. My body was physically reacting and protecting me from feeling the intense feelings. I eventually burst. I felt everything. I knew nothing. I felt so alone, a feeling that cannot really be described. This deep loneliness longing for somebody to understand, when I couldn't even connect to myself. Eventually leading to my last relapse. The worst of all that completely shattered everything I thought I knew about myself, which was exactly what I needed. I just didn't know it yet.
From Asheville, the last treatment center I went to in which I've stayed sober since was back in South Florida. I was there for 90 days. I decided to move back to Charleston since I still felt new to Asheville. I convinced myself Charleston felt like "home". I wanted to root down in Charleston. I started to act out in the same behaviors. All of the programming and reconditioning I told myself I would change and stick to while I was in treatment slowly started to disappear. Old habits came back. I started to run from myself trying to find instant gratification. I didn't start doing the work. I pretended like everything was ok, not to worry those around me. I felt like a ticking time bomb. I felt impossible to love. I felt deeply that it was so hard to love me. Especially those walking on egg shells around me, not knowing when I would or could relapse. Or if I would make it out of the next relapse alive. Not allowing themselves to get close to me again. Which I do not blame them for. If I had someone like the old me in my life today, I would lovingly distance myself from them too if they were completely unwilling to change.
Then I met Connor. February 13, 2021. Everything I learned in twelve step programs, and self-help books say another person CANNOT be an influence to heal. That it has to start with yourself. Love yourself first. Know yourself first. Then welcome love and love the same way I deeply love myself. Knowing that and learning that it feels taboo to give him immense credit for helping my healing journey begin. I felt this deep connection with this human the moment I met him. I psycho-analyzed myself wondering if what I thought our love was, was built on trauma-bonding. His intentions were pure. He saw me. He saw me in a way no one else did. I told him things I've never told other people. He truly became my best friend so quickly, I never felt real deep un-conditional love in the way he showed me love. Love, kindness, patience, respect. I have always dated men that had no patience for me. Told me my anxious reactions were "crazy". Never took accountability. My negative energy attracted the sickest of partners. I had real intentions of healing. I had real intentions of loving myself.
I've done such deep work this past year. Every single day I work so desperately to unlearn these false narratives I have told myself. Narratives created at an age before I wasn't even suppose to have memories. He allowed me to unravel these huge shields I had around my heart. Allowed vulnerability in. Encouraged me to openly share how I truly felt about situations as my nervous system lied to me about what to consider a threat. Speaking these things aloud, to my partner, helped me to truly see patterns I've never been able to before. Further into our relationship I saw how love was suppose to look and feel. The examples of love I saw growing up was selfish, sneaky, manipulative. I truly believed at the core of everyone's being that there was always ulterior motives. "To good to be true".
We have a home. A tiny old apartment that we fill with so much love, laughter, and the cutest little furry children. Even though I had this safe place, this place I imagined would change everything, the relationship I thought would change everything, I still struggle with that feeling. One of the biggest realizations I have become aware of is that I have everything I thought I needed to be able to fully love myself. To fully start healing. A blossoming business, finally a "home" to call my safe place, the most incredible partner, and the ability to set boundaries protecting my sanity from things/people who don't serve/respect me. With all of these incredible blessings, I still do not feel like I am at home with myself. That feeling of wanting a "home" was a feeling of wanting to love myself. My body is my home. I am the only home that could bring me comfort and safety. If I do not feel safe in my body I will NEVER feel safe anywhere.
Everyday I work to plant roots within MYSELF. Clean my HOME that is my body. Furnish my body/home with things that bring me joy. Embrace movement that feels good for my body, hobbies that make me feel connected to myself, and build self esteem and self worth by doing esteem-able acts. No matter the relationship I have with anyone on this planet, no matter the comfort of any space or state or country I live in: I live in my body. My home is my body. I am lovingly trudging everyday to come home to myself. The people, hobbies, nature, activities I surround myself with are merely a reflection of how I think I deserve to be treated in that moment. The more I declutter the toxicity in my home, the safer and more secure I will feel to move about this life knowing no matter what the circumstance I will be okay because I am me.
The journey to self love is an endless one. We are faced with adversity daily that challenges the beliefs we have formed of who we are at our core everyday, it is our responsibility to keep rebuilding and improving our souls structural core foundation.
“to build a home” was started on February 13th, 2022, the 1st year anniversary of my relationship with Connor. Named after one of my favorite songs "to build a home" by the cinematic orchestra.