Independence Day


I’m going to do it. I’m going to quote Bono.

No, not U2’s lyrics that have left me many times goosepimply over the 30+ years I’ve been a die hard fan, but one of Bono’s eye-rolling pontifications (even for me, the woman who still can’t get his 1992 “Achtung-Baby”-black-leather-catsuit out of my head) upon this amazing country I call home.

“America is an idea. The idea that you and me are created equal. That idea belongs to everybody who wishes to serve it.”

I know. Lame. I’m a decent writer, so why would I quote a rock star who wasn’t even born here?

Well, I wasn’t born here, but I am an American citizen.

It was November 1996, and Kevin and I had driven our cherry-red, used Toyota Tercel from Toronto, due West across Route 66, and into the smoggy, bedazzled heart of LA. What a cliché. But it was our cliché. We even wore matching tracksuits as we sang along to Nat King Cole along every golden mile.

Venice Beach boardwalk! California sunset! Sparkling American flags on baseball caps! Dude! I was smitten. So, so, so stoked. Spine erect, ambition ablaze, I turned to my new husband and saluted my future. Watch me! This 28-year old was going to conquer Hollywood in one fell cinematic swoop, claiming stardom for her very own.

Saw the pamphlet. Heard the call. Registration complete.

I was now in service to myself.
But something happened on the way to Superstardom. It didn’t. And instead of saluting my homeland, I was now giving it the finger, while the other hand threw back opiates, benzos and speed.

From dabbling to desperation to devastation.

100% dependence.

Drugs usurped my blind ambition as I became drawn and quartered by addiction and began serving a life-threatening new idea: Pills would fix everything.

(Spoiler alert: They don’t.)

When I got sober, it took me a long time to understand what addiction is. That it is a disease that did not excuse, but explained my behavior. But for a long time, I struggled with recognizing the difference between being a reprehensible woman, and having done reprehensible things.

I was just very, very sick.

“We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness.”

Today, my grateful and sober heart pounds this belief: We are all created equal. I am just sick. I am not bad.

America, I believe, is very, very sick right now, not bad. It is a choice. To love those whom it’s harder to love: the addicted, the criminals, those-of-reprehensible-actions. The megalomaniacs, those-who-do-not-recycle, the Kardashians. But they are equal. To him. To her. To you.

All men are created equal. And worthy of Life.

I got sober in America.

I found freedom and independence from drugs in America.

I found my God in America.

Today, I love America even more than ever. Every morning, as I squint into the California sun, I am granted a divine reprieve. Dude! Today, I get to love, to help, to serve an idea bigger than myself:

The idea that we are all created equal—in sickness and in health.

I’ve heard the call. I’m here to serve.

You made this 4th of July complete for me. — Dale Stewart
You are incredible! Such a gift with words! I have read so many of your posts and laughed, hurt, and had tears streaming down my face. You are amazing, courageous and I thank you for your candor, honesty and vulnerability. You are an inspiration and a gift! — Marin May
You are so wonderful! — Elizabeth Rose Figuls