Haiku by Tony

Sitting in a room
Unfamiliar to me
Sidetracked by daydreams

Her skin’s smooth terrain
Traveled by my fingertips
Again and again

Brown eyes shine brightest
In the absolute darkness
Of a tortured soul

I built a new soul
Using the remaining pieces
Of my broken dreams

I always wanted
You to fall in love with me
But did not know how

Spirits pass through me
On the same wind traveling
Over my body

The road I travel
Can’t know my destination
But it supports me

I get close to you
You lean forward with a smile
Our eyes close to kiss

Moonlight and midnight
Walking downtown boulevards
Under neon lights

Under troubled skies
People scurry for cover
Leaves dance on the wind

Sometime memories
Reappear in night’s quiet
And I can’t escape

San Francisco night
Two birds fly past my window
Your face in the fog

Lovers in search of
Barren, isolated places
To hide broken hearts

A lie silences love
As an empty heart echoes
Sobs of betrayal

I know what I’ve found
Every time you’re around
Sight, touch, taste and sound

You lost one lover
You thought it was all over
You ran for cover

The night air crackles
A footstep breaks the silence
We are on our way

Naked emotions
Am I only what I feel
When I look at you?

The small of your back
A sweet spot for massaging
S-shaped oasis

We walk through a dream
Two shadows from one moonbeam
We’re not what we seem

I awake at dawn
A lonely companion
To my surroundings

Wild nights by firelight
Smoke and sparks jumping upward
To a cool climax

We meet on the street
You put your arms around me
We walk hand in hand

Rain on the windshield
Rainbow in rearview mirror
Black cloud overhead

Without a shadow
Love can stand unrecognized
In the light of day

I’m on the outskirts
Is there a map to your heart?
A road paved to love?

Wake me up slowly
As the darkness disappears
Around you and me

I sit in silence
Listening says, “I love you.”
Louder than my words

An inner vision
Only when you close your eyes
And see past the dark

 

Thank you, Tony, for sharing your Haiku.

Find out more about Tony’s work here.

Submit your art to nikki@nikkidubose.com

 

Poison by Amanda M.

“The air I’m breathing is toxic. As soon as it enters through my nasal airways, as it goes down my esophagus entering into my lungs, it turns into poison. Filling up the emptiness, the hallow spaces in my stomach. My chest. My heart. My veins. It’s as pure as innocence of a child at first. Until it meets my thoughts. Until it meets my inner demons. As soon as it touches me. As soon as it enters me. The pure air never leaves pure again as I exhale. It has been poisoned. I have poisoned it. And I am filled with sorrow and panic when I feel the air fluctuating through my lungs. My body is working so hard to keep itself alive. While my mind is trying to kill itself. It’s quite the irony you see. Both ends fight just as hard as the other but I feel both ends exhausting more and more at each end of each day. It’s a race to see who’s going to get to the finish line first. One step in front of the other.”

55254f58940b42a910721fc5_565f99a6e33e6f1249fe975e_320

Kelly’s Story: Beating HIV and Loving Her Life

Kelly Gluckman is a truly inspiring and beautiful woman inside and out. I had the honor of working with her at Mondays at the Mission at Union Rescue Mission. Together we helped to instill life skills and values in young people on skid row and now Kelly is telling her personal story across the United States. I was blown away by all of the struggles she has been through, and yet she continues to hold her head up high and encourage others. Thank you Kelly for contributing your story.

So I’m dating this guy, right? And it was so awesome because I had just come out of an abusive relationship that lasted two and a half years. This one however, Adam, I considered my best guy friend for a year and a half before we even started dating. He and I would go on hikes, do P90X in the living room, go on jogs around the block, and go to the Venice boardwalk to enjoy the beach and the crazies. He even helped me move…twice. Everyone knows thats the real marker of a good friend because moving furniture sucks. The point is that we had a strong foundation of mutual respect and I was SO happy with him. We talked about everything and had great communication. I felt like I was breaking my cycle…that I’d finally found my companion and it was HEALTHY.
One day, we were talking about intimacy, and about not using protection anymore. I had been tested just a couple weeks before we started dating, and I was given a clean bill of health. I was the girl who got tested every six months even though I used condoms every single time, and even dragged my friends in with me to planned parenthood to get tested with me, so I knew I was good. I was the responsible one. I asked him when the last time he’d been tested was, and he told me that it had been about two years, but that the last two girls he’d had sex with were both tested recently, and they both came out totally fine. I trusted him completely, and believed him. He made it seem like he didn’t have very much sex, so we stopped using condoms (against my better judgement).
Six months went by and I decided it was time for us to go get tested together, just for safety. We woke up at the buttcrack of dawn, and dragged (ourselves) into planned parenthood, because everyone knows you have to get there early to not waste an entire day in the waiting room. We got there, signed in, and sat down. After about an hour, he was brought into the office for ten minutes or so, then came back out. I was playing words with friends on my phone the whole time with my legs swung up over the chair next to me. They almost immediately asked him to come back into the office, and he came back out and told me he’d tested positive for HIV. I thought he was joking at first…that was the kind of relationship we had…we would constantly just be talking (crap) and telling jokes. It was something I loved about our relationship. Without looking up, I said “yeah, OK”. He didn’t respond, and he hadn’t sat down, so I looked up and saw that his face was white. He looked like he’d seen a ghost. He handed some sheets of paper to me, and I saw that there was information about HIV/AIDS on them. I was like, “OH, he’s not joking.” Scenes flashed in my mind from the last six months, and I knew. We had had way too much sex for me to even try and hope. I accepted my diagnosis right then and there.
Now, I grew up in the LAUSD school system, so I had gotten the puberty ed class in fifth grade, the birds and the bees sex ed class in seventh grade, and the big girl sex ed class in eleventh grade. I had even taken a health class in community college, so I was pretty well educated on what was out there. Up until that point, I knew what HIV was, how you get it, and that I was never going to. I thought HIV was for hyper sexually active gays, drug addicts, and sub Saharan Africa, and I didn’t fit any of those categories. I remembered being taught that once you get HIV, it takes five to seven years until it turns into AIDS, then you die. So I read the pages my boyfriend handed to me, but nothing I read was registering in my mind. I was searching the pages for when I was going to die.
It was taking them way too long to call my name, so I went up to the window, and asked very nicely for them to open up the door so I could ask them a question. They buzzed me in, and once the door to the waiting room closed, I looked over the counter at the receptionist and said very firmly, “my boyfriend just tested positive for HIV, you need to bring me in there as soon as possible.” It took them fifteen more minutes to call me in, arguably the most stressful fifteen minutes of my life. I finally got back there, and they started poking my fingers for the Western Blot test, which works similarly to a pregnancy test, but instead of pee, they use blood. All the blood rushed out of my extremities. They had to go through three tests and poked three or four fingers seven or eight times before they could get enough blood to administer the test. They also drew blood from my arm and collected a urine sample, then sent me back to the waiting room. Fifteen minutes later, they called my boyfriend and I back together and confirmed what I already knew. I was HIV positive.
They brought us into an office, and sat us at a desk, then tried to give us hope by telling us that it was only 99% accurate, and it could be a false positive. While that was nice of them and all, I looked at them like they were idiots. There’s no way both of us have a false positive. They handed us some pieces of paper with a list of clinics we can go to for care and medication, and then sent us on our way.
We walked back to the car from where we were in the Third street Promenade, and drove home in complete silence. I get asked a lot whether I was pissed at my boyfriend. I think I might have asked him who he had been sleeping with or something while we were walking, but it really didn’t matter. I immediately took personal responsibility. I knew that we should have been tested before we stopped using protection and I knew my sexual health is my responsibility. I figured it had to be hard enough for him to know that he had given this to the girl he loved, I didn’t want to make it worse. As far as I was concerned, it was he and I against the world. I didn’t care where he had gotten it from, it was just nice to have someone on my team. We got home, I parked, and we sat in complete silence. I looked over at him after five minutes or so, and he looked defeated and scared. Pathetic. All of a sudden I got really angry. I still don’t know where it came from, but I looked at him and I said “NO.” “We are not letting this take over our lives. We are going to go in there, do research, and find out how to beat this thing. (seriously, I gave him a coach pep talk and it was pretty awesome). We’re going to learn about medication and what it does, we’re gonna look at possible homeopathic ways of taking care of ourselves, diet, mindset. EVERYTHING. We will NOT let this beat us! Look at Magic Johnson! He’s cured. Watch. In one year, we’ll be HIV negative. One year!” (I seriously thought this was possible…I saw it on South Park, so it must be real, right?)
Anyways, so we go into the house and the very first thing I did was Google “Is Magic Johnson cured of HIV” and of course I didn’t even have to write the whole thing because everyone and their mom has heard the misconception that Magic is cured. The predictive text filled in the rest of my question, and the answer is no, website after website told me no, he’s not cured. Magic Johnson takes medication just like everyone else living with HIV. So then reality set in. I was really going to have to deal with this. My boyfriend and I had made plans to hang out with our friends later that day, and I didn’t want to go after just having my dreams crushed, but my boyfriend was like “Kelly, remember what you said? We’re not going to let this take over our lives. We’re gonna start fighting it” My partner in crime. So we hung out with our friends, and took the curtain off our window that night so we wouldn’t wake up in darkness.
I spent all of my free time after diagnosis doing research like I said I would. That was my coping mechanism. I researched everything I could find, and I actually kind of became a little bit of a nerd. HIV fascinates me. How it replicates, what the life cycle is, how the medications interrupt the replication cycle. I stumbled upon HIV denialism, which is insane. I joined an online forum and started talking to other people around the world who are also living with HIV. I got a book and read what I should do in the first year after diagnosis. My mom always taught me that knowledge is power, and I felt like I could gain back control of my situation through learning what was going on. I also talked to friends and coworkers about it. I was never the kind of person to keep a secret. It makes me feel better when I talk to people. I don’t feel so alone.
My boyfriend took a different route for coping. We lived in Venice at the time, and our neighbor was Buddhist and he chanted twice a day. We would always walk by his house to get to ours, and we constantly heard the chanting coming from his apartment. The energy coming out of there was so positive and resounding and my boyfriend was drawn to it. He started visiting and chanting with our neighbor. One day, my boyfriend came home after chanting and he was FREAKING OUT. He told me that our neighbor was HIV positive too, and that he’d been living with HIV since 1986. That was before we were even born! Gerald had been living with this for twenty some odd years (which is a lot longer than Magic Johnson, and he wasn’t rich like Magic Johnson). Gerald was robust. That’s the best way I know how to describe him. He was one of the happiest, healthiest people we knew, and we thought that about him well before he told us his status. Just knowing that someone like him existed made us feel so much better. All the sudden we weren’t the only ones we knew who had it, and we could live at LEAST twenty something years.
A little over a month after diagnosis, I was approached by our coworker, Mike, whom I had known since before he started working with me. I considered him a friend since we had hung out outside of work several times and we always had fun together. I noticed that Mike had been acting weird for a couple weeks, but didn’t think anything of it. He pulled me aside while I was on a shift one day, and says to me, “Kelly, I am so sorry. I am so sorry.” I was confused, what was he sorry for? I hadn’t talked to him in weeks. Mike says, “I slept with Adam.” I looked at him like he was crazy, I didn’t believe a word. I said, “No you didn’t, there’s no way.” He said, “Yes, I did. Why would I be telling you this, I have nothing to gain from it. That time we all hung out, and you went into the house because you were tired, Adam, my boyfriend, and I went to a hotel. When my boyfriend left to go to 7-11 for snacks and beer, Adam came on to me and asked me to have sex with him. He was actually pretty aggressive about it” He continued to tell me that a couple weeks ago, he had heard from Gina (another coworker of ours who I had confided in) we had tested positive for HIV, and he freaked out and went to get tested. He was afraid that he had been the one to give it to us. It turns out that his test had come back negative, and he showed me the results on paper for proof. He hadn’t given it to us.
It all started to make sense…this is why Mike couldn’t look me in the eye for two weeks. Until now, I had no idea my boyfriend was sleeping with men and this guy decides to tell me while I’m still on a shift, working with the public. I started freaking out, as you can imagine. I was wailing crying in the back of the restaurant. Screaming crying, throwing myself into things. Mike tells me to calm down, tells me he can be there for me as a friend. Tells me I deserve better. He mentioned that the Gay and Lesbian center in West Hollywood had a great clinic, and that he would go with me and that I was not alone. I was not thinking straight at this moment, so I just nodded, calmed myself down, and went back inside and finished my shift.
I biked home after work and confronted Adam about it. He seemed shocked at the accusation at first. He denied it for like forty-five minutes saying, “Are you really going to believe him over me?!” He was a pretty convincing liar. I was on and off the phone with Mike confused, not knowing what to think. Finally, I decided that there’s no way Mike is lying to me…why would anyone lie about having sex with someone’s boyfriend? I went back into the house and sat down with Adam. I said to him, “I’m already gone. If you want any glimmer of hope as far as keeping me in your life at least as a friend, you’ll tell me the truth right now.” We were such good friends before we started dating and we had several conversations about how we wanted to make sure we stay friends if things didn’t work out. He gave in and said, “Yes. I did it.” It was silent for a little and I finally said, “I have to go.” I had committed to Hanukkah at my parents house that night.
I stayed with him for another nine months, but hear me out. Seven days after diagnosis, our room mate had given us a thirty day notice to leave. I begged her for thirty extra days, but she refused, even though I told her about our diagnosis and that money was tight. She didn’t like living with Adam. I was a server and Adam was a part time cook, so I carried us financially to our next place. Just to go over the timeline real quick to make sure you’re following. We got diagnosed on October 25th, November 1st we got our thirty day notice, December 1st we move, and the very next day, December 2nd, Mike comes up to me and tells me he had sex with my boyfriend. I was financially and emotionally drained. My relationship with my mom had been extremely tumultuous since I was a teenager and at this point, it was in a particularly dark place. I was not about to break down and ask her for money and certainly not to move back in. I hadn’t even told her I had HIV yet. I didn’t plan on telling her until I felt like I had everything under control so this was definitely not the moment to do that. I was well liked at work, and had a lot of friendly acquaintances, but there was no one who I was close enough with to feel comfortable asking for help. It was just Adam and I, and I loved him. To me there’s no such thing as “unconditional love” because love IS unconditional. I honestly did not care that he had slept with men. I would have still loved him and been with him if he were honest with me from the beginning. What I cared about was that he lied and cheated, but I was really scared and needed my partner.
Over the next few months, I asked him questions and we talked about it, and the real story started to come out. He initially said he had slept with maybe four guys total, but eventually admitted to having slept with at least twelve guys and a few other women in the year before we dated (some protected, some not). He had no idea from whom he had contracted HIV. He made no attempt to contact anyone he had slept with, that was really big for me. I started to see who he truly was and how deep the lies went. I knew I had to get out, I just didn’t know how I was going to do it.
I was getting my medical treatment at the Gay and Lesbian Center that Mike had told me about, and they hKelly_Gluckman_Nikki_DuBose_Beauty_Projectad free mental health services, so I took advantage of it. I found a great psychologist and went to therapy every week for twenty-six weeks. I also found a woman who I now get to call my best friend. She recognized my call for help when I told her my story and convinced me to move out from my apartment with Adam and into hers for a month while I regrouped and found my own place with a roommate. She saved me, to be honest.
Since then, I’ve been presented with opportunities to tell my story, and I’ve taken every single one of them. I do this because what I’ve been through is completely preventable. No one should have to go through this, and if I had known someone like me before I made the decision to stop using condoms, there’s a very good chance that I would not have stopped using condoms. The number one means of transmission of HIV globally is heterosexual sexual contact. HIV is a human disease because sex is a human condition, and anyone can get this. HIV does not discriminate.
Today I’m on medication, and what’s called undetectable, which by the way is what Magic Johnson is too, living a healthy life. I look forward to living into my 80s, which is what my doctor tells me I can expect, given I don’t get hit by a car or cancer, and I honestly wouldn’t change this for the world. Through this process, I’ve found my strength and my purpose, and I’ve learned to forgive and love myself. I feel truly lucky to have access to effective medication and I’m truly excited for what the rest of my life has to offer.

The Golden Letter

The Golden Letter to My Mind_Nikki_DuBose_Poetry_2015

Late one winter’s eve

as the wind mocked and moaned

I uncovered a golden letter

and here is what it read:

‘O, Frankly my mind

I am no respecter of your thoughts

No longer your slave

A prisoner of your delusions

I am not.

You wail in the night

singing for my soul,

and whisper quietly in the stills of the day

concealing your intentions

But I,

I am free

Frankly my mind

I am me.’

©2015 Nikki DuBose

Never Let Them Stop You

Je Suis Charlie Emma_Beauty_Project_Nikki_DuBose

Emma believes that “you shouldn’t kill because of art. People should be allowed to make any art they want. (Creating art) doesn’t mean (individuals) should purposely make something for no (reason), offend… and hurt (people). But by
no means should people kill becuse of art even if it is disrespectful.”

Have a B.E.A.U.T.Y submission of your own?

Email me nikki@nikkidubose.com

 

Be*YOU*tiful by Susana Fernandez

Be*YOU*tiful by Susana Fernandez
Be*YOU*tiful by Susana Fernandez

I am honored to share this kid’s art diorama by fellow teammate and recovery warrior, Susana Fernandez. Susana uses her artistic talents every day in her personal life and in her profession as a teacher. She inspires countless young people to hone their energy into pieces that can change the world for the better, and Susana continues to motivate me, too! I had the pleasure of meeting her and her wonderful family last year at the NEDA walk, and I was touched by their passion for recovery and helping others heal as well. Susana believes that art is an incredible tool to bring about social change, and that is what she hopes to achieve with the LA Artist Initiative Team.

“Gifts Come With a Struggle” by Emma K.

What do you see? by Emma Klein
“Gifts Come With a Struggle” by Emma K.

This piece is by a regular contributor thirteen year old Emma K. from Los Angeles. Emma is a talented young artist who understands the beauty of the pain behind her creations. She has struggled with obsessive compulsive disorder but has overcome so much of it through channeling her energy into her incredible artwork.

Emma normally draws in anime style, but her teacher encouraged her to paint something figurative. Emma agreed to step outside of her comfort zone and through the depiction of the Mona Lisa she and her teacher not only formed a stronger bond, but she was able to open up about her OCD.

When I observe this painting, I sense a raw wisdom and emotions that reflect Emma’s remarkable inner beauty and strength. As Emma’s mother remarked, “It’s a true gift that comes with a struggle.”

Thank you Emma for sharing a part of your soul with us today.

B.E.A.U.T.Y hopes to redefine our understanding of beauty. Have a painting or artistic representation of inner beauty you would like to share? Please email me nikki@nikkidubose.com to submit your poem, drawing, painting, recovery story, photograph, song, or any creation that represents your inner self…which is simply beautiful!

Apple of my Eye

Mountain Rose Apple
Mountain Rose Apple

 Our authentic beauty comes from within. Sounds cliche, right? Oh, but how true it is.
Just like this rare Mountain Rose apple grown in the Mountain Hood River Valley of Oregon, we never know what we have to offer until we cut beneath the surface. If we take the time to meditate on the inner beauty in others too, we can form longstanding, rewarding friendships and relationships that otherwise might have been missed.

Raw Reflections of Self Esteem From a Thirteen Year Old

*Note: B.E.A.U.T.Y is meant to serve as a tool to release feelings and to build confidence in an otherwise damaged society. Our perception of beauty today has been lost and many times we feel ugly inside, instead of the perfectly created souls we are. The content submitted is raw and unedited, as every individual has the right to express their perceptions that have led them to where they are today.  The sole intended purpose of B.E.A.U.T.Y and all content therein is to bring healing and the message that full recovery from all eating disorders, mental health issues, abuse, and negative situations is possible.

When we hear the word “self-image,” what comes to mind? The mental pictures we form about our identities may be a reflection of  the positive and negative experiences we have encountered over a lifetime. Sometimes the manners by which we perceive ourselves is consistent, while other times we are capable of changing our mirror formations radically in the blink of an eye. Whatever the case may be, our self-image is critical in how we interact with ourselves and the world around us. Our image is a mere representation of what we show to outsiders; are we giving a correct portrayl of who we are to those around us? Are we honest in our spirits first, and letting that flow to our physical image?  So often in life we wear many masks to various associations and crowds of people; we desire our image to be one thing to one group, and another thing to another. The problem with this is that we can never be anyone but our true selves, and if we don’t know who we really are, we will never live fulfilled. We musn’t live life for others because truly no one is going to be approving of us all of the time. We must connect with a self-image that is peaceful and content at our core, and be satisfied with the image that is projected for all of the universe to see.

How and What I feel about Image

by Jacaila, age 13

 Image to me is a bunch of crap society makes up to make us feel bad. I mean I didn’t receive proper care when I was five years old! Don’t get me wrong, I care about image too. Whenever I think I look good, somebody always has to tell me I look horrible. It brings my self esteem to an all time low. I’ve always tried to figure out how girls can be “ana” or “mia.” I tried to be like that once but food is just too good! When I say, “I tried,” I meant it. I purged and starved myself, tried diet pills without eating anything after words. In fifth grade things were changing for me, just because of someone’s opinion of me. The boy called my “ugly.” It took me awhile but in my mind I thought he was right. Every time I looked in the mirror, all I saw was ugliness. My whole attitude changed, grades slipped and relationships slowly disappeared. In sixth grade, self-harm played its way into my life. I couldn’t stop, therapy wasn’t helping at all and life wasn’t getting better. So I feel that self esteem, image and what we think about it is restricting us from thinking better about ourselves. In conclusion, image is just society’s way of keeping us down.

*Jacaila is now fourteen years old, and has a more positive view of herself through working recovery.

Mondays at the Mission Four Year Anniversary–A Celebration to Remember

About six years ago I had the pleasure of meeting entrepreneur and author Christopher Kai, who became my friend and inspired me to continue writing and working with young people.  Christopher Kai founded the wonderful program Mondays at the Mission at Union Rescue Mission, and on September 8, 2014, I had the privilege of celebrating the four year anniversary with the mentors, staff, and inspirational young people. Christopher works incredibly hard to uplift and instill worth and value in others, and that is life-changing for countless young people that go in and out of those doors at the Mission every year.

My tumultuous past gave me a sense of a connection with Christopher, the team, and the children. In June, I told my life story, and taught a B.E.A.U.T.Y. art class, where I had the students paint a picture that reflected what inner beauty meant to them. After that day, I couldn’t stop coming! I felt privileged to be able to give of myself every Monday night to young people, to help them grow and to see in themselves what was already there. I have so much respect for everyone at Mondays at the Mission and at Union Rescue Mission, and will never be the same because of their dedication and support to helping others transform their lives. I thank you all for letting me be apart of such a phenomenal program with devoted volunteers. You guys are remarkable in every sense of the word!

Thank you to Andy Bales, Matthew Bennett, Christopher Kai, Kiersten Brown, Jason Kwon, Darin Leach, Ariel Yarrish, Kelly Gluckman, Vani Murthy, Antonio Spears, Justine Sophia-Rabia, Lisa Nola, Adam Marks, Marco Curreli, Cindy Ghali, Kevin Lee, Tim Mudd, Cheri Hodge, Rozzi Crane, all of the inspirational mentors, speakers, staff, and of course, the reason why I kept coming back and will live a life of passion–the leaders of NOW–the young people at Mondays at the Mission!! You all are more talented than you will ever know.

Here are some highlights and a video from the night, made by Darin Leach, one of the Mission’s motivating mentors! Also I would like to share some memories at MATM and with my mentor friends 🙂

 

Mondays at the Mission 4 Year Anniversary Photo :)
Mondays at the Mission 4 Year Anniversary Photo 🙂
MATM 4 Year Anniversary Banner I made, and everyone signed :)
MATM 4 Year Anniversary Banner I made, and everyone signed 🙂
A Poem I wrote for the students :)
A Poem I wrote for the students 🙂 Thank you to the team for all of your help in putting the composition books together 🙂
Most of the students at the 4 Year Anniversary Party with Christopher Kai :)
Most of the students at the 4 Year Anniversary Party with Christopher Kai 🙂
With Vani Murthy, fellow mentor and talented writer, see my resources page :)
With Vani Murthy, fellow mentor and talented writer, see my resources page 🙂
Receiving the biggest hug at my inner beauty art class :)
Receiving the biggest hug at my inner beauty art class 🙂
inspiring students creating inner beauty art :)
inspiring students creating inner beauty art 🙂
Students working on the Inner Beauty Art Project for B.E.A.U.T.Y :)
Students working on the Inner Beauty Art Project for B.E.A.U.T.Y 🙂
with Maggie and our precious students, on a class discussing how to develop their life's passions :)
with Maggie and our precious students, on a class discussing how to develop their life’s passions taught by Kiersten Brown 🙂
Kiersten Brown, the fabulous Associate Director of MATM :)
Kiersten Brown, the fabulous Associate Director of MATM 🙂
Lisa Nola teaching a fascinating class at MATM. Lisa and Adam not only mentor at the Mission, but they took a family into their own home and helped them get back on their feet, and helped the children through school. I just can't say enough about Lisa and Adam! :)
Lisa Nola teaching a fascinating class at MATM. Lisa and Adam not only mentor at the Mission, but they took a family into their own home and helped them get back on their feet, and helped the children through school. I just can’t say enough about Lisa and Adam! 🙂
Dance skills with Adam, one of the awesome mentors :)
Dance skills with Adam, one of the awesome mentors 🙂
Nikki DuBose and Antonio Spears for the Young Literati Social with the Library Foundation of Los Angeles
With Antonio Spears for the Young Literati Social with the Library Foundation of Los Angeles
Antonio Spears is one amazing person. He is a true friend, and dedicates his time to inspiring and helping others. I am proud to know you, Antonio! Christopher Kai is the founder of MATM, and has a heart full of compassion to see others succeed. Thank you Christopher for being my friend all of these years!
Antonio Spears is one amazing person. He is a true friend, and dedicates his time to inspiring and helping others. I am proud to know you, Antonio! Christopher Kai is the founder of MATM, and has a heart full of compassion to see others succeed. Thank you Christopher for being my friend all of these years!
With singer Rozzi Crane!
With singer Rozzi Crane!
Kelly Gluckman and Darin Leach, two of MATM's dedicated mentors :)
Kelly Gluckman and Darin Leach, two of MATM’s dedicated mentors 🙂
Inner beauty art by Sanivvia for the B.E.A.U.T.Y Project :)
Inner beauty art by Sanivvia for the B.E.A.U.T.Y Project 🙂
Max and Damien, two leaders in the making :)
Max and Damien, two leaders in the making 🙂
A funny bunch, with Pascal from France! :)
A funny bunch, with Pascal from France! 🙂
with Vani Murthy and leaders of today :)
with Vani Murthy and leaders of today 🙂
With Justine Rabia and Anastasia from Russia. Justine and I mentored at MATM, and Justine and Anastasia are both talented ballet dancers! :)
With Justine Rabia and Anastasia from Russia. Justine and I mentored at MATM, and Justine and Anastasia are both talented ballet dancers! 🙂

B.E.A.U.T.Y is in Your Heart by Emma

This precious drawing comes to us from my sweet and talented neighbor Emma. She explains that this cat sees life in a very different way than most of the other cats in her world, for although her body iB.E.A.U.T.Y_Project_beauty_is_in_your_heart_Emmas filled with scars and bruises, she has a kind and gentle soul. Many of the other cats cannot see past her outward appearance, and fail to be her friend. She doesn’t let life get her down though, for she knows that her in
ner beauty shines and defeats all of the negative attitudes that the other cats have. Her positive attitude builds a world where love is all she sees, and therefore, she can never be sad or lonely.

Thank you Emma, for your endless light and love for the world.

God Bless,
Nikki DuBose

 

B.E.A.U.T.Y Project Story–Self Esteem: A Long and Winding Road

“Self Esteem: A Long and Winding Road”

by Sam, from New Jersey

When I was growing up, you might not have noticed there was something wrong with me. I was a healthy-looking, fit, active boy. You could have asked me about it, but I wasn’t aware anything was wrong. The problem was subtle and invisible: the face and body everyone saw was not the face and body I saw in the mirror with my own eyes. Where you might see a nose that was proportionate to the rest of my face, perhaps a handsome nose, I saw a weighty, unwieldy, shapeless thing. Some people would compliment my broad shoulders, and I would focus on my imperceptibly protruding belly.

If you’d asked me who I wanted to look like, I would’ve said Superman. As child of the 1980s, I specifically wanted to look like Christopher Reeve as Superman. The fact that I didn’t look like him didn’t make me feel sad or depressed. I believed that if I exercised and did enough push ups, I would build a strong physique. It didn’t bother me that I couldn’t have his face.

There were things about my face and my appearance that did cause me distress, however. Both of my parents had difficult childhoods, and less than loving parents. My mother and father were both regarded as good-looking people; though I inherited their features, my parents would make offhanded comments about my appearance which hurt. These comments were not intended to be hurtful, and I couldn’t have known at the time that some of the things they’d say stemmed from insecurities they had about themselves. My mother didn’t like her nose. She wished I had my father’s nose. In fact, my father didn’t like my nose either. He developed a routine where he’d clench my nose between his thumb and forefinger and hold it tightly until I managed to wriggle away. He thought it was funny. Having a swollen and red nose for the rest of the day wasn’t funny. “Like Rudolph,” my mother would joke. I began to wonder if I had inherited any of my parents’ preferred parts. Were any of my features the right ones? Still, my appearance wasn’t something I thought about every day. Not until I reached high school.

In high school, it seemed like everyone was dating or socially active except me. Other boys would get attention from girls and I wondered why they didn’t seem to notice me. I questioned my looks, I questioned my personality. Most families in town were upper-middle class, and there were periods where we didn’t have much money. Was it my lack of designer clothing?

I wondered about race, too. I’m an American-born East Indian. Around this time, the demographics of my hometown and neighboring towns were changing. East Indians were moving into the area in droves, yet my school’s population remained nearly all White. I got teased a lot for looking different. I was bullied over my religious differences, mocked because I developed a beard and chest hair before the other boys. Some White adults in town were quietly unhappy about Indians buying up homes, businesses, with little to no cultural integration. You could feel something was simmering underneath the surface of tolerance. Walking to school or walking home, the threat of violence from other kids always existed. Having a healthy sense of humor helped me diffuse a number of intense encounters, but jokes didn’t save me every time.

I remember getting caught in a sudden, heavy rainstorm with a friend. His house was a few blocks away, so we ran for it. It was futile, we were soaked in seconds. When we reached the front door, sloshing clothes hanging off our frames, his mother swiftly opened up. “Get inside!” she yelled. My friend ran in first. When I stepped forward, his mother shut the door in my face. How could she not see me? I rang the bell and knocked. Through the hard crackle of rain I heard the muffled sounds of an argument inside. They never let me in.

I was surprised, and yet, not surprised. In all the years we’d been friends, his parents had never allowed me inside their home. All of our mutual friends had been inside. I wasn’t a troublemaker, I got good grades in school. What made me unfit to enter?

It didn’t take much more before I developed a full-blown self-esteem crisis. I returned home from the barbershop one summer day with a crew cut. My mother told me I looked ugly. Looking back on it, she probably meant, “I don’t like that hairstyle on you.” English was not her native tongue. Nevertheless, her actual words were, “You look so ugly. Your face looks too long. And with that beard you look even worse.”

I wasn’t aware that I had a beard. I’d been so busy with activities that I’d forgotten to shave for a couple of days and had some stubble. I was a sensitive kid who wanted to please his mother, and those words injured me deeply. A subtle dig here or there might not have fazed me, yet a lifetime of them can wear down all but the most self-assured. The next time I looked in the mirror, the gap between reality and my own perception had become a chasm. I felt trapped inside an ugly thing, an ugly thing that was not a part of me, not who I wanted to be.

My mother had been injured this way too. Despite being a beautiful young girl, her brothers and sisters constantly teased her about her weight. They didn’t call her by her given name. At home, “Chubby” was her name. She wasn’t chubby. She was a standout athlete and as strong as the boys in school. Her physique reflected that. Sadly, the criticism didn’t end with her childhood. My father criticised her weight as well. She had never been overweight, but he expected a model-thin wife and expressed his desires plainly. I was 4 years old when I realized something was wrong with my mother: she wasn’t eating. What could a little kid do, except wonder why his mother was always sad, why his mother was always feeling sick, always coughing, always throwing up?

The catalyst for her recovery from eating disorder was not one she could have predicted. My father died of Leukemia. Her recovery began not so much with relief, merely the removal of her most outspoken critic. Years of starving herself left her with severe asthma, a significant loss of smell and taste, and lots of weight gain due to metabolic changes and medications. As time passed, I’d tell her that her weight didn’t matter. I’d tell her that her size didn’t matter. All that mattered was that she ate enough of the right things to make her feel strong. That’s all. Some 25 years after she’d married my father, I think she finally came to accept her appearance. I’m very happy for her.

My wounds would close, for a time. When I got to university, I was part of a diverse population. I wasn’t a weirdo or a social outcast. Many of us began university with a clean slate, and I felt liberated. Girls spoke to me, I went out on dates. I made better friends than I’d known in years prior. For a long time, all I wanted to feel was normalcy, a peace inside my own skin, and not some great desire to wriggle out of it and hide. It was a good time for me.

Then something hit me, hard. I came down with a bad case of the chicken pox. I never had it as a child, and for some adults it can be quite serious. My body looked ravaged, and I was covered in scars despite my dedication to proper skin care. The fit body I’d build up over the years shrunk down by 40lb. in a month, and my overall health in the following years would be poor. Infections, fevers, body aches, sharp muscle pain, tiredness, allergies, they became constant. I was diagnosed with Chronic Fatigue Syndrome. Best to keep working, I thought. I’ll eat healthy food, I’ll exercise, I’ll do whatever I can to stay functional. Nothing helped. My muscle pains became worse and worse. Then migraines started. Weekly, then daily, then my life was a big migraine. A doctor prescribed a drug called Neurontin. He said, “Take this, you’ll feel better. Don’t worry about side effects, you should be able to tolerate it. It seems to work for Chronic Fatigue Syndrome. I believe this will help you.”

Neurontin significantly reduced my pain while introducing new problems. My hair fell out in handfuls, I was constantly tired, and my weight ballooned. Every month I’d need new, bigger clothes. The image I saw in the mirror—an image I’d sculpted through hard work and healthy habits, an image I’d finally made peace with—was getting away from me. I saw a face and body that felt like my own melt away into something else. What I saw in the mirror was far worse than what anyone else saw. Some of my friends noted the weight gain, but they never said anything unkind. My hard-won confidence turned out to be quite fragile, and it crumbled. Any compliments about my looks were disregarded as insincere, or I deflected them with self-deprecating humor. I stopped socializing and buried myself in work, all because I couldn’t stand how I looked. I mused, “How crazy am I being? Why can’t I accept how I look and move on? I look like a normal person.”

The self-affirming ideas I had on an intellectual level didn’t sink in emotionally. Therapy didn’t help. I just couldn’t believe that I looked like a normal man to everyone on the street when my eyes saw a distorted mess. I became deeply depressed. I fell into a hole so relentlessly bleak that I didn’t feel like I was supposed to be there. Is this really how I feel, or is it the drug? My doctor and I suspected the drug, so I tapered off the Neurontin.

Within a few weeks, the darkness faded but I hated how I looked and felt. Despair gave way to malcontent. I was overweight, and all of the physical pain I’d compartmentalized was back up front. The pain was more acute than I’d remembered it. We tried other medicines, but nothing helped. I gave up on pharmaceuticals and tried meditation and alternative medicine. Nothing helped.

The stress of dealing with my health problems, work, family responsibilities, and damaged social life became too much for me to handle. My doctor advised me to take a long vacation if I could. I could, and I did. On the second day of my vacation, I felt a searing pain on the right side of my face. When I looked in the mirror, I saw lines of red bumps. An allergic reaction to something, perhaps? I saw a doctor, and he didn’t need too long to give me a diagnosis. “Yep, it’s shingles.” He gave me anti-viral tablets and a topical cream before sending me on my way.

Shingles is caused by the chickenpox virus. Once you’ve had the chickenpox, the virus never leaves your body; it simply goes dormant. In people who have compromised immune systems, the elderly, or the seriously stressed out, the virus can wake up and cause all sorts of damage.

Doctors became worried about nerve damage when I lost hearing in my right ear. Soon after, my sense of taste disappeared and my eyes became extremely light sensitive. And then, things got worse. At some point during my shingles ordeal, I picked up a very serious bacterial infection.

The regime of anti-virals and anti-biotics that saved my senses didn’t come without a price. First, all the undesired weight I’d gained on Neurontin dropped. I was happy about that. Soon, a couple dozen extra pounds dropped too. We realized I was having problems digesting food. The good bacteria which live in healthy intestines, helping us extract nutrients from what we eat and lending balance to our immune systems, were wiped out and replaced by bad bacteria.

Two years after the shingles, the waves of bacterial infections and immune issues left my face scarred and discolored. The skin that grew back on my forehead was fragile and unhealthy. The look was familiar, I suffered some small but deep burns on my body a few years prior. Only this time, I couldn’t cover up. I looked at myself in the mirror, and saw a face like pizza. Skin dark brown and yellow, mottled and rough, striations of bloody red and moistureless white: this was not the face I’d known. It wasn’t the face I’d come to accept during the good times. It wasn’t the chubby face I’d come to hate, unjustly, in the difficult times. This face cracked and bled when touched, it split when I moved my eyebrows. It burned when I cleaned it. It burned with every gentle breeze that kissed it. It was so sensitive and vulnerable that it easily became reinfected, and it often did. Months passed, and the scarring seemed to set itself in stone.

I could have fallen into despair, but I didn’t. There was a specific turning point: one day I looked into the mirror, sulking, and my cheerlessness, my indulgent self-seriousness became comical. A small laugh ascended into a laughing fit. Had there been a witness, they’d probably describe the scene as a psychotic break. It wasn’t. This was a break of clarity. I experienced one calamity after another. It was amazing that I hadn’t lost my eyesight, I could still look at myself in the mirror. It was amazing my hearing was returning, I could hear myself laugh. Yes, I was unlucky to have fallen so ill, but I was so lucky to have survived largely intact.

Suddenly, the smoke of self-hatred was clearing. For so long, things I didn’t like about my appearance overshadowed things people liked. The distorted view of myself was one I believed everyone else could plainly see. The distortions were phantoms of my mind. Now, everyone could see my scars. There was no hiding them.

I made a decision. I control how I feel about myself, no one else does. Why do I have to look like anyone else but me? And who decides what the best version of me is? I don’t have to look like my friends, I don’t have to look like people on TV. And most importantly, it is not how I look that matters, it is who I am. Taking care of myself physically and emotionally is my goal. If looking good to others is a side-effect of this, so be it. If it isn’t, why should I care? Those who are good, those with values I respect, those who truly care about me will accept me scars and all.

With healthy eating, plenty of water, exercise, and gentle natural skin care, I have begun to reverse the damage my body endured. Every day I feel a little bit stronger, a little bit healthier. The chronic pain and migraines are fading, even my skin is recovering against the odds.

When I go out, people rarely notice my scars. When they do, I don’t take offense, and understand it is usually benign curiosity. If it isn’t, it’s not my problem. It’s strange that my appearance had to become worse before I could learn to accept it. Pain can be a swift and merciless teacher, but I respect its power. I don’t know how long I will carry my scars, but they remind me that I have a life to live, and I can’t allow a negative mindset or hang ups about appearance prevent me from living the kind of life I want to live. Our time in this world is limited, and time is an arrow pointing in one direction. Forward.

B.E.A.U.T.Y Art Project by Justine Sophia

Beauty Project by Justine SophiaJustine Sohpia, one of the dedicated mentors at Mondays at the Mission, created this drawing for the Beauty Project. She said that the “fingers in the picture are the engergy points where we reach out to all the things in the world, and in that way there is a lot of power in the hand. The hand of action, which allows us to search out beauty, earn beauty and create beauty. The pictures are just examples of things inside the universe that are unbelievable. Yet here we are. And we exist.”

Thank you, Justine, for your powerful perception on inner beauty!

God Bless,
Nikki DuBose

B.E.A.U.T.Y Project Art by Jordan

Jordan sees beauty as being outside and playing in the fresh air, surrounded by nature and a dog, too! I think that that’s not a bad way to see life, what about you?

Beauty Project Art By Jordan
Beauty Project Art By Jordan

How about getting back to nature and reconnecting with the simplicity of what God has created?  Life is naturally beautiful; sometimes we just need to stop and pay attention.

Thank you Jordan, for your art and zest for creation!

God Bless,
Nikki DuBose

B.E.A.U.T.Y Project Art by Saunvvia

Saunvvia drew a big, happy heart surrounded by a rainbow and colorful dots!

Inside of the heart were positive words such as “love” and “harmony.” I suppose Saunvvia was trying to tell us that inner beauty is a reflection of all of the wonderful emotions we should focus on, right? 🙂 BeautyProject_Saunvvia

It’s not that we don’t experience the negative feelings, it’s just that the more we magnify the positive, the more the positive emotions will grow, and that makes us stronger!

Thank you Saunvvia for your deep insight and excellent addition to our Beauty Project!

God Bless,
Nikki DuBose

B.E.A.U.T.Y Art by Damien

Damien believes that “Beauty” is Without Words! I have to agree! What do you think? Perhaps the most meaningful things in life are only felt, and not seen?

Thank you, Damien, for your insight and creativity!

God Bless,
Nikki DuBose

B.E.A.U.T.Y Project Art by Elijah

Elijah lent his creative eye to the Beauty Project and drew Sonic the Hedgehog!BEAUTYPROJECT_ART_Elijah

Beauty can be expressed through art and however we choose to see it. Thank you Elijah for this incredible drawing of Sonic the Hedgehog, it’s fantastic!

God Bless,
Nikki DuBose

B.E.A.U.T.Y Art by William

Here is William’s interpretation of B.E.A.U.T.Y!

Pretty amazing, huh? When you have love inside your heart, it

Beauty Project Art by the very talented William :D
Beauty Project Art by the very talented William 😀

spreads, and that is the most powerful tool that you can ever have, right?

Thank you William for your inspiring art, it is special, just like you 😀

God Bless,
Nikki DuBose

Mondays at the Mission B.E.A.U.T.Y Art

I was Blessed to be asked to speak to a very talented and special group of students at a Mondays at the Mission class which is held at Union Rescue Mission here i10557387_696745177065814_9206829365795818469_nn Los Angeles. Each and every student greeted me with open arms and warm smiles, and they taught me just as much as I had to tell them!

I opened up the class with my story about how when I was a little girl my dream was to be a supermodel because I thought that that was the greatest thing in the world! I imagined that a glamorous life filled with clothes, hair, makeup, and outer beauty would cover up all of the pain that I was experiencing in my home life.

I went on to explain to the10514750_696745340399131_4614670960225177032_nm that sometimes in life we are drawn to superficial standards of beauty and happiness because we are deeply unhappy with circumstances on the inside of us and around us. I told them that as a child I was sexually, physically, and emotionally abused by a couple of people close to me and that as a result I often felt afraid. I also isolated myse10478176_696745303732468_9223166261376901884_nlf as a child and young adult and never felt that I connected well with too many people. My mother died a couple of year’s ago from alcoholism so I felt detached from her growing up as well. On top of everything I was also hiding a big secret for more than seventeen years: I had an eating disorder that spiraled deeply out of control.

I grew away from God for many years of my life because I felt angry as a result of all of the things that were happening to me that were out of my control. I was often suicidal and I made many poor choices. I then explained to them that when I became a model, I had all of the material things that I thought that I wanted that would have made me happy, however all of the people who were around me only wanted to be with me because of my job and because of the way that I looked.

I learned throughout everything and all of my struggles that God always was there with me, even when I didn’t feel His presence, and that I could always rely on Him. 10524340_696745250399140_8240041549169040004_nI learned that true beauty came from the inside and that it was more important for me to share my hard times and be a role model for other people, than to place so much importance on my outer appearance alone. I now am determined to help others with their difficulties in life because I went through so many in mine.

The class went so well, and the students responded tremendously to the message that it is really what is inside that matters. They disc10517452_696745470399118_4765589994542415532_nussed all of the qualities that a role model should have such as believing in God, the abiltity to persevere, confidence, humility, helping others, and more! The students broke into several groups and each person drew a picture of what they thought inner beauty meant to them. I will be displaying their artwork right here on the B.E.A.U.T.Y section!

I think today we can get lost more than ever with all of the social media, television and hate in the world that we really need to just be still and…quiet. In the secret, private places of our hearts, we will find the answers to what really matters. Have we as a world complicated ourselves with too much? Does the answer to life really remain…love, inner beauty, and God, above all? I believe it does.

God Bless,
Nikki DuBose

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B.E.A.U.T.Y Art Project “Shine”

DuBose.Nikki.BeautyProject.Shine“All of the stars twinkle for you. This world needs your beauty! You shine so bright!”

I hope you never go another moment wondering if you are special.  Look up at the stars in the sky at night and know that God made them for you.  The stars shine for you to soak in and meditate on.

Did you know that you were born to do great things in this life, and burst with your inner beauty just like the stars?

God Bless,
Nikki DuBose

B.E.A.U.T.Y Art Project “You Are Amazing”

 

“All of my love coming your way. Just want to say, you’re amazing!”♥♥♥♥

We can change the course of another’s life simply DuBose.Nikki.BeautyProject.Amazingby spreading love and kindness. What can you today to spread love to others?

God Bless,
Nikki DuBos

B.E.A.U.T.Y Project Art “I am Free”

I am Free!

Focusing on our inner beauty allows our true nature to shine through. When we build our identity based on our spirituality, values, strengths, and gifts, we are free to be happy!

What are you made up of from the inside? Do you feel free? Why or why not?

God Bless,
Nikki DuBose

B.E.A.U.T.Y Project “Healing” Poem by Joan

My heart caught on fire

with a glimpse of heaven

wounds of sins healed…

touching my soul.

I asked Jesus for forgiveness,

purple of the summer night

moon bounced off the silver sea.

Heaven embraces the horizon

feeling the winds of passion

I heard Jesus whisper…

‘follow me.’

Recovering From Anorexia and Bulimia: Loving My Jiggle

After taking a year and a half off work from modeling to recover, I feel so freaking happy to say that I am getting my booty back, my boobs back. I feel things jiggle when I walk. I have arm muscle now. I can eat to my hearts content and have a big, curvy body that is sexy.

Do I regret coming out about having an eating disorder? NO!

Do I regret sharing photoshoots that show myself at a low weight?  NO!

Why?  Because I am proud to help others who are also suffering from anorexia and bulimia and I am not afraid to show how recovery looks like, the good, the bad and the scary.

I am so happy that my body is growing to whatever size God made it to be. Let it grow baby!!

How am I preparing for NYC? Eating to my hearts content and letting go of all fears that used to consume me!

We are all already perfectly made!

Let the journey continue!

God Bless,
Nikki DuBose

My Reality of Recovering from Anorexia Nervosa and Bulimia: A Happy Life

When I entered into recovery in 2010, I was in for the shock of my life. I was blindly going where I had never been before and I was accepting all of the bells and whistles that were to come.

Fast forward four years later and here we have January 2014. Where am I now in recovery? I am very grateful to say that God has seen me through some (for lack of better words) hell-hole days, weeks, and years, and He has Blessed me with pot holes of light that have kept me going. I have had months of steady recovery and then BAM!, I have fallen into relapse so fast that I thought I wouldn’t make it out alive.

*I have seen my body go up and down and up and down and I have felt myself have the emotional capacity many times of a 5 year old.

*I have had to re-learn to eat and have had to learn pretty much the library on nutrition and how to apply it to my daily eating habits.

*I have had some MAJOR physical side effects as a result of hurting my body for 20 years, and have had to accept and take care of myself in a whole new light, and not complain.

*I have had to relearn how to percieve myself and how to relate to the world and to others.

*I threw out the scale. I do not know how much I weigh, nor do I care! I am a firm believer that my worth and value are not rooted in my weight, size, or physical appearance. I believe it is the inner person that is important and this is what I have been working on.

*I have been working with the National Eating Disorders Association for the past year and I am so grateful to God that on March 8, 2014, we will be holding our Los Angeles Walk in Santa Monica, California. NEDA formed the Artist Initiative Team and they asked me to captain it for LA! The Initiative is for people working in the entertainment and artisitc industries who want to stand up for divirsity and fight against eating disorders. I am very honored and proud to be apart of this developing program with NEDA!

If I could tell my 8 year old self to never lean over the toilet again, I would scream as loud as I could, “STOP!”

Please do not ever ever hurt yourself! There is SO much more to life than ourselves, and our weight, and what we look like. We can think beyond ourselves and help other people who are hurting, for starters. Addicitons are so self-centered, and once they start, they are almost impossible to stop.

Now I just eat when I am hungry and stop when I am full. If I feel like I ate too much, oh well! It is just a feeling, and like everything with time, that feeling will go away. I don’t need to do some crazy hurtful thing to myself. It is just nuts. My body deserves so much love and delicious, healthy food is love. I work out, but I do not over exercise. I just focus on living a healthy lifestyle. I focus on health, and not on a size or a shape. I want to be happy! Don’t you?

Understanding How Perfect You Really Are!

Recovering from anorexia and bulimia IS a long and tricky road. There are so many days when I feel on top of the world and others when I feel like I want to throw in the towel.

Feelings and emotions are normal, however, and should be welcomed openly because they are signs that we are not numbing or stuffing them down with addictive behaviors.

Physically, we see our bodies grow and change into the way that they are supposed to be as we re-feed ourselves, and this can provoke many uncomfortable thoughts and behaviors.

Its ok! If you need to cry, scream, yell, write, call someone, whatever, please do so. Any form of healthy release is great and encouraged. Don’t expect others who have not gone through an eating disorder to understand how you feel because they just cannot. Instead stick to your doctors, therapists, 12 step support group friends, etc. Anything else is really just co-dependency.

One of the things that has really helped me during re-feeding and watching my body change as I gain weight during my anorexic recovery is constantly asking God (my Higher Power) to help me to see myself the way that He sees me. To understand that I am beautiful and wonderful in His sight. I have to break away from that child-like box that anorexia put me into and accept that I am growing into the beautiful 28 year old woman that I AM! It is a renewal of mind, body and spirit into this amazing creature that God has made. How dare I destroy that? I am a warrior, a Woman of the Most High God, and He has a big future for my life.

So I just really encourage you today that wherever you are in your life and road of recovery that you are NOT alone. Your feelings, thoughts, physical body and spirit are unique yes, but they are being shared with countless others who are also recovering. Do NOT GIVE UP!! Become the beautiful masterpiece you were designed to be so that you can achieve all that you have in your heart!! YOU DESERVE IT!!

God Bless,
Nikki DuBose

The Hope Diary: Step Twelve: Helping Others

We have now arrived at the twelfth and final step of the recovery program. Congratulations! Give yourself a huge hug and relish how far you have come to reach this point. Your recovery is the cornerstone of the success for the rest of your life.

Step twelve touches on what is single-handedly the most important part of daily recovery. Although all of the steps are essential for a healthy soul, mind and body, the twelfth step is crucial because it instills the importance of giving away what you have been given. After all, where would we be if recovery, support, and guidance had not been given to us by others all along the way?

Helping other people get their life back on track by sharing our experience, strength and hope can be done in the form of sponsoring up to the level of your recovery or by being an accountability partner.  Just being kind to others and allowing positivity and love to flow through your personality to the world around you enables all kinds of continual healing to take place. When we don’t pass on the knowledge that we have received, we run the assured risk of falling back on our own recovery and becoming selfish and proud.

The steps need to be repeated for the rest of our lives. We never become “too good” for program; rather, our success in life is dependant upon our daily surrender to God and being willing to work on ourselves. Recovery is a beautiful thing; how will you pass it on today?

Thank you to The Life Recovery Workbook by Stephen Arterburn and David Stoop for the following questions.

Our Mission
Isaiah 61:1-3

1. How have I passed through the pain and despair of enslavement to addiction and moved into healing and freedom?

2. Having had a “spiritual awakening” after being set free from my addiction, am I excited or hesitant to share my experience, strength, and hope with others who are struggling with addiction? Why?

Our Story
Mark 16:14-18

Describe the story of your spiritual awakening and how the first eleven steps have brought spiritual principals, truth, and healing into your life. Describe what you were like, what happened, and what you are like now.

Sharing Together
John 15:5-15

1. Am I connected to the vine? How do the Twelve Steps help me to “remain” in him?

2. Is my recovery attractive to other addictive/compulsive people because I am becoming more loving rather than condemning those who need my help?

3. What am I doing to reach out with Jesus’ love?

Listening First
Acts 8:26-40

1. What is my attitude about sharing my story of recovery? Am I reluctant to tell my story, or am I the type that wants to share too much, too soon, with too many people?

2. From either extreme, am I willing to wait for God’s timing for sharing recovery?

3. Do I see my story as valuable to God’s plan? Describe how.

Talking the Walk
1 Timothy 4:14-16

1. Paul encourages Timothy to “throw yourself into your tasks so that everyone will see your progress.” What changes in my life can others observe since I have been sober and working the Twelve Steps?

2. Paul wanted Timothy not only to teach others, but to be an example. When I share my story with others, am I preaching, or sharing my experience, strength, and hope.

3. Am I able to let the other person make his or her own decision by relinquishing control and letting God do his work?

Never Forget
Titus 3:1-5

What do I remember about my last drink or my last binge? Describe that last time, including actions, feelings, behaviors, and thoughts that led up to it and followed it:

The Narrow Road
1 Peter 4:1-4

1. Peter pointed out: “You have had enough in the past of the evil things that godless people enjoy-their immorality and lust, their feasting and drunkenness and wild parties” (1 Peter 4:1-2) the pains of recovery.

2. Does the approval or judgement of others keep me from sharing recovery? Do I fear negative rumors?

3. How can I work the Twelve Steps on this fear?

God Bless,

Nikki DuBose

Dont Wallow in the Spilled Milk: Forgive!

One of my sponsees asked how she could be free of all of the people and situations that had hurt her in her past.
This is a common question and something we all have to go through again and again for the rest of our lives. Unless we learn to forgive every time someone offends us we run the risk of holding onto unhealthy resentments that do nothing but hold us hostage in our addictions and keep us from receiving God’s Best Plan.
Let’s say for example you are holding onto resentments from a past relationship.
1. Past Relationship: The fact that you are Aware that you are resentful of your childhood bullies is the first step because it allows you to Accept you have those feelings and then be able to take the spiritual Action you need to be free of it…
3 A’s of Recovery
AWARENESS
ACCEPTANCE
ACTION

Ask yourself “Can I forgive this person/these people”..
If you find yourself saying “No! they hurt ME! I am still messed up inside and hurting because of them”… then just remember this…
When Jesus died for US He payed the ultimate price. He was and is Perfect and Blameless and took ALL of OUR sins and Never ever complained. In fact He did it out of the Purest and Highest Love and Loves us Unconditionally all of the Time. He Forgives us over and over again when we ask Him to sincerely and He is always waiting for us with open and Loving Arms; never judging. Surely we can forgive others just as God Forgives us.
If you still have a hard time feeling like you can forgive remember that you ARE SO MUCH MORE than your feelings and then ask God to help you forgive them. Pray and repent and get down on your knees. Write it out and pour your heart out to Him or maybe say a simple prayer. If you need to ask God to help you forgive them because you know that apart from Him you can do nothing then by all means do it.
But remember that forgiveness is not for the other person it is for YOU. You do not want to waste your life over broken memories and not receive God’s Promises. You do not want to be living off “spilled milk” and find yourself in your eighties one day still bent out of shape because of all of the injustices the world caused you.
After all what have you done to hurt others consciously and unconsciously knowing it…
Ponder that and write it down.

The Hope Diary: Step Eight: Reflecting on Who We Had Hurt

Step Eight requires tremendous doses of humility and courage as we ponder over the courses of our lives who we have hurt while living in our addictions. Sometimes we have mistreated others and were not even aware that we had done so. As we begin to meditate on those who had been affected by our irresponsibility we quickly find that we can list a slew of of people we had hurt.

This was a tough step for me the first couple of times I went through early recovery and now I really try not to hurt others. I may not always be where I need to be but with God’s help thank God I am not where I used to be! Take heart and know that although your healing journey may seem difficult or like a long road to walk on, that it is a path filled with healing and with healing comes many blessings and happiness. And we all deserve to be happy! Most importantly we all need to learn how to treat other people with kindness and love so this is a very important step to accomplish but with God’s help you can do it one day at a time.

Thank you to The Life Recovery Workbook by Stephen Arterburn and David Stoop for the following questions.

Making Restitution
Exodus 22:10-15

1. How have I failed to respect the property of others.

2. Have I been so harmed or condemned by others that I have avoided responsibility for myself. By whom and when.

3. What excuses have I used for not looking at my behaviors.

Unintentional Sins
Leviticus 4:1-28

1. In what areas have I unintentionally harmed others with my words/moods/self-pity/depression/anger/or fears.

2. In what ways have I acted thoughtlessly without regard for others’ needs or feelings. When; To Whom;

Scapegoats
Leviticus 16:20-22

1. Have I been putting off making a list because I am afraid of some responses. Whose.

2. Have I held on to shame about a certain incident or relationships. What am I willing to do to let go so that I can become willing to make amends.

3. Is there someone I am having trouble forgiving who blocks my willingness. Who.

Overcoming Loneliness
Ecclesiastes 4:9-12

1. How have I allowed isolation due to shame and guilt to keep me from supportive relationships.

2. What is the role of shame and guilt in my isolation.

3. Am I willing to forgive myself for the hurt I have caused others. Write a prayer of willingness to forgive and ask for God’s grace to heal these relationships.

Forgiven to Forgive
Matthew 18:23-35

1. Are there people on my list that I am having trouble forgiving for their part in our relationship. Who and Why.

2. What keeps me from letting others off the hook. Fear/Resentment/Caretaking.

3. What blocks me from forgiving others for the wrongs done to me.

a. Fear of what others would think of me. (Pride).

b. Fear of letting others see my hurts.

c. Fear of conflict. Protecting others feelings to avoid conflict.

The Fruit of Forgiveness
2 Corinthians 2:5-8

1. Is there anyone on my list whose behavior I do not approve. Who. Why.

2. Am I willing to let go of judgement and disapproval to open myself to working this step.

3. Have I been so afraid of rejection that I have delayed willingness to make amends. Who could reject me and why.

Reaping Goodness
Galatians 6:7-10

1. What “crop” did I sow while practicing my addiction.

2. Describe the correlation between healthy living and acceptance of the consequences for my addiction/behavior:

God Bless,

Nikki DuBose

The Hope Diary: Step Four, Coming Clean of My Deepest, Darkest Secrets.

Now that I had one, admitted I was powerless over my addiction, the biggest step towards recovery I could ever take in my life, I then had two, allowed that God could restore me to sanity.

As I have discussed in my earlier Hope Diary entries, this was a journey that took a couple of years to walk down. I was constantly battling with myself, thinking that I was my own god and my pride is what kept me bound to my eating disorders during that time.

Third, I had to finally give in to God and just say, “Lord, Your Will be done, not my own.” I learned that every time I found myself in a tempting situation to give into my addiction, I would surrender to God and pray that prayer. Many times I have failed and slipped into the addiction like a bad habit, and on those times I know better that as a Child of God I do not have to listen to the lies of the devil that I am a failure. I get right back up, learn from my mistakes, and do my very best to not repeat them from that moment on. I see myself as a victorious person now, not as a broken person like I did most of my life. That victim mentality is what used to hold me back and bind me in my addictions. It doesn’t serve me anymore.

The fourth step is one that I see many people afraid to take. It is where we take “a searching and fearless moral inventory of ourselves.” (Life Recovery Workbook). We go through our entire life, even our deepest, darkest secrets. We list all of the people, places and things that we have fears, resentments, angers and sadness against. We look at our own character and evaluate our defects. What about ourselves do not add up? Are we selfish? Angry? Corrupt? Do we use people? Steal? Lie? Cheat? We go by a recovery program workbook and disclose our information with a trusted sponsor, friend, pastor, or someone that we feel we can go to in total anonymity and confidence. We understand that what we share will never be revealed to anyone else and that this is to help mold us into better human beings. We also take a look at our strengths, because it is not healthy to just mark our weaknesses. We seek to become stronger and wiser as a result of this process, even if it is temporarily painful.

If you feel that you would like to get started with your Step Four Inventory, but are unsure as to where to go to begin, I have provided The Life Recovery Workbook Inventory to help get you started. There was a great quote that was shared with me from the AABB that says, “We are only as sick as our secrets”. When I heard that, I realized that a lot of the shame and guilt that I was trying to bury all of these years was dying to be set free. Once I began to share my deepest secrets with my sponsor, I received God’s forgiveness and was truly able to allow for healing to start flowing through my body, starting from the innermost parts of my soul. I had never experienced such Grace and rawness before. It was as if I was free to be the person that God had created me to be! What a glorious concept. No more hiding!

Thank you to The Life Recovery Workbook for the following questions:

Coming Out of Hiding
Genesis 3:6-13

1. When and in what ways have I led a “double-life”, looking good on the outside while full of shame about my addiction inside?

2. By hiding my problems with image management, how has my shame taken root and grown in my heart? Am I fearful to admit what is there?

3. Am I ready to deal with “the dirt”, to wash the inside so I can live free? What holds me back?

Facing the Sadness
Nehemiah 8:7-10

1. What painful memories keep me from going forward in writing a Fourth Step inventory? Describe them.

2; What have I been afraid of facing?

3. What role has shame from past mistakes played in keeping me from starting and completing an inventory?

4. Does pride tell me that I don’t need an inventory? Have I told myself that others who are in more dire straits than I am are the ones who really need it?

Confession
Nehemiah 9:1-3

1. What behaviors over my lifetime have been offensive to God?

2. What destructive habits need to be identified and confessed to God?

3. What blocks and resistances do I have to being honest with God about my wrongdoings?

4. What consequences from past wrong choices am I living with today?

Family Influence
Nehemiah 9:34-38

1. Are there people in my family of origin whom I have blamed for my life situations and resulting addiction? If so, who?

2. What resentments do I carry toward them, even if unrelated to addiction?

3. What truly brought me into the bondage of addiction and dependency (what is my responsibility, my part in it)?

Finger-Pointing
Matthew 7:1-5

1. Is it easier to look at the faults and shortcomings of other people in my life, past and present (such as bosses, coworkers, classmates, church members, pastors), than to recognize my own?

2. What is the “log” in my eye, the blind spot that has caused me trouble and given rise to pride, finger-pointing, and eventually to addiction?

3. Where and when have I stepped on people’s toes and invited retaliation? Have I been proud, blaming, or tearful?

Constructive Sorrow
2 Corinthians 7:8-11

1. In what ways have I avoided facing my sorrow about how my addiction has impacted my life and the lives of others?

2. Am I willing to set aside time to grieve and allow humility to grow in me? When? What is my commitment to myself, my growth, and my recovery?

3. Am I bent on self-condemnation? Am I now willing to let God’s mercy go with me as I examine my faults and their impact on others?

God’s Mercy
Revelation 20:11-15

1. Taking a moral inventory of ourselves here on earth will help to prepare us for the life to come. Is anything standing in the way of my taking action, such as pride or fear?

2. As I trust God in Step Three, am I able to let go of pride and fear in Step Four and allow His Will to be expressed through me? If so, write out a prayer of trust and willingness to complete Step Four.

3. Write down a list and description of resentments, fears, wrongdoings, and character flaws such as pride, jealousy, domination of others, self-centered needs/wants, etc. (Use extra space if necessary.)

Fears:

Resentments:

Wrongdoings (i.e., what actions have I committed which oppose my own and God’s morals and values?):

Character Flaws (remember that honesty and humility are character strengths that we are building here, so be as thorough and honest as possible to move toward long-term recovery):

Where have I acted out of pride, vanity, or a sense of superiority?

Where and when have I tried to dominate others (e.g., at work, home, marriage)?

What makes me jealous, envious, or covetous (wealth, good fortune, successful kids, functional families, jobs, and/or positions of others)?

Where and when have I demanded that my wants and/or needs come before those of others, especially those of my spouse, children, or coworkers?

4. After careful self-examination, am I more convinced than ever that I need a Savior every day, not just for salvation, but to walk in freedom from addiction and sin? If so, write out a prayer to God that expresses your complete dependence upon Him for salvation and freedom.

God Bless,

Nikki DuBose