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Archive for April 11th, 2010

  • Day 43: In Memory of Erin/Don’t Get in the Car

    Date: 2010.04.11 | Category: Scary Motivation! | Response: 2

    My blog about quitting candy is about fear in a way. Fear that I have just this one life and I’m capable of not taking full advantage of it.

    (OMG. Yes, it’s…Earnest and Serious Sunday!)

    Fear that if I don’t rein myself in on at least one self-destructive habit – eating candy – more will take over. Fear that every day I can sabotage myself in big and little ways.

    Self-sabotage is a scary subject. My friend Barbara and I talk about the idea of “not getting in the car.”  The idea comes from the 12-step fellowship rooms. Meaning “don’t get in the car”  driven by someone drunk or impaired because you might be the one who ends up getting hurt – or worse.

    It’s also meant in a larger sense. Like, don’t get involved with, or say yes to, something that’s not going to be good for you.

    But sometimes if you grow up getting in the car when you don’t know any better, the car keeps calling to you even when you should know better.

    Which brings me to my friend Erin, who not long ago had it all – looks, personality, money, adoring husband, gorgeous house, two beautiful Dalmatians – who died in January 2010.

    When she burned to death in a fire, Erin, 44, was a divorced amputee living at home with her mother.

    How could someone fall so far so fast?

    This sounds mean and is not meant to be.  But I think Erin brought her end on herself, probably unconsciously, and that’s scary.

    It was as if she felt she didn’t deserve the great life she had and decided to wreck it.  Literally.  The below graphic is from the local CBS news station about her death.

    I’m not using Erin’s last name because I don’t know all the facts leading to her death.  We lost touch a few years ago and only reconnected on Facebook a few months before her death.

    What follows is only my interpretation of events. Erin’s not here to explain herself.  But her death shocked me and she haunts me. I miss her not being on the planet. She was one of the different, magic people.

    When I met Erin shortly after 9-11 on an island off Brazil where my friend Mike runs a yoga, hiking and kayaking adventure week called Body Soul Adventures, she was a star.  We bonded by trying to beat everyone in the mountain and kayaking races.

    She was very pretty – a dead ringer for Sandra Bullock from some angles.  She was charismatic.  She had a high, sweet, excitable voice.  She was fun and mischievous, somebody who made you feel life was an adventure.

    She could be very loving and  generous, routinely sending her friends around the country incredible care packages with candies they loved and cute clothing picked out just for them. She could sometimes be difficult. She’d push you to the point where you’d want to yell at her.  One time I did.

    Erin had amazing style. She was one of those people who always looked as if she had just walked out of a fashion magazine.

    In conversations in Brazil, she described growing up on the wrong side of the tracks in California. Her father left when Erin was young and Erin hardly ever saw him.

    Once, she said, when she was about 11, he showed up high on mushrooms and took her out driving in his car. Then he disappeared again.

    Her mother was immature and sometimes neglectful, she said. Her mother used to keep her out of school whenever she felt like it and then take Erin for a lunch at Taco Bell.

    But Erin was a survivor. “There was always a teacher who’d take me under her wing,” she said.

    She grew up and went to a local college where she met her future husband, the scion of a wealthy, Social Register family, the kind you see in magazine and newspaper pictures of people at charity balls.

    Erin and Peter (not his real name) got married and had an amazing life.  Peter’s family seemed to be everything that Erin’s wasn’t.  Erin said she loved Peter’s father, a wealthy businessman, as if he were her own.

    Erin and Peter lived in an old, enormous house that Erin decorated and often filled with white roses.  She and Peter had this huge bedroom with a fireplace, the ultimate cool boudoir.  The Dalmatians slept there, too.  “I’m obsessed with them,” Erin would say.

    They threw popular parties.  Her Halloween throw-downs were legendary. Erin loved candy like me.  Big glass jars packed to the brim with candy corn and orange candy pumpkins dotted the rooms during her Halloween parties.

    Below is Erin (on the right) with me and Mike Mitchell, who runs Body Soul Adventures in Brazil.

    Erin got up every morning and went on a run with her dogs. She opened a yoga studio. She was a striver, all about self-improvement – at least for a time.  When I visited her, I  saw a word document on her computer listing her goals for the year.

    But when I met her in Brazil, she had party girl tendencies that seemed to be intensifying.  She kept a photo of her husband by her bed in her bungalow and it was clear she loved him very much – but made a fool of herself chasing a guy who was on the week with us.

    After our abstemious week – exercising about 10 hours a day and eating only pure, organic food – about six of us hit Rio for a few days. We ended up in the bars on Copacabana Beach and began drinking lethal Caipirinha cocktails.

    Erin got so drunk once that I had to help her out of the bathroom, where I’d found her with her with her jeans around her ankles.

    When I visited her in California, I met her husband.  Peter was rich and good-looking but not a player.  He was a down-to-earth homebody who liked being at home with Erin and the dogs – and wanted kids.

    Unfortunately, Erin was bored staying at home and didn’t want kids.  She started having casual affairs, doing a lot of Ecstasy and flirting in front of Peter.  “That guy’s in a lot of pain,” said our friend Gary at the time.

    During one Thanksgiving I spent with Erin, everything seemed so wonderful. Peter’s family was nice and fun; Erin’s mother and sister were there also and everyone got along.  The dining room table was decorated to perfection.

    But before the meal was served, I saw Erin walking around the table, tearing up pieces of bread and dropping them on the plates – as if to mess everything up. It was strange and sort of disturbing.

    By the time I moved to France in 2005, Erin and I had lost touch.  The last time I saw her was at a party at my place in New York after which she went home with a guy she met at the party –and slept with him.

    Erin and I reconnected on Facebook in 2009 but she never responded to my messages. I emailed her ex sister-in-law, Jill, who told me that she and Peter had gotten divorced. Jill then told me about the car accident.

    Erin had hooked up with a “bad, bad boyfriend” after her divorce, she said, and had been a passenger in his car when they crashed.

    Jill, for whatever reason, didn’t mention that Erin lost her leg in the car accident.

    I didn’t find that out until I read the brief news accounts of her death. So even though I knew Erin wasn’t doing well, I was alarmed when I saw a post she wrote on her Facebook page last August in response to a message from another friend.

    I’ve cut and pasted the post below:

    Can’t – too down and depressed – just can’t deal with life anymore. I never have reason to smile anymore – in a few short words – everything I used to pride myself upon, is now sadly gone. I have grown to become lonely, painful and utterly bitter. I can’t feel happiness about anything and pathetically am beginning to feel uncomfortable around others who are/have what I once was. I don’t feel/ gain any hope from others – but rather bitterly find myself resenting others’ happiness, success with their lives and families. PLEASE UNDERSTAND…

    August 29, 2009 at 4:06am

    I was worried because she sounded suicidal. I emailed her but got no response. I emailed Jill who said that Erin had injuries from the car accident and was very depressed about them but also wouldn’t accept anyone’s help.

    In January, I happened to click on Erin’s Facebook page. Her status update concerned the date and time of her memorial service.

    I searched online for news accounts of her death – and was shocked to read her described as a “disabled woman” and an “amputee.”

    The newspaper and TV reports varied as to what  happened.

    One said she died of smoke inhalation while trapped in her bathroom trying to extinguish some burning objects in the toilet.

    Another account said that she died from burns covering 70 percent of her body.  Someone who knows her told me she had left her bedroom fireplace unattended and then fell asleep.

    The articles said her mother was leaning out of an upstairs window when firefighters arrived, yelling that her daughter was also inside.

    Erin’s mother and cat were rescued and survived.

    Later I learned that not long before she died, Erin had to put one of her beloved Dalmatians, Winnie, down and her alimony payments from Peter were about to end.


    I do.

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This American candy addict/journalist in France writes about quitting candy – and all desserts – for at least one year beginning Feb. 28, 2010. Follow my progress – or relapses – as I delete candy corn, moelleux au chocolat, peppermint patties, Carambars, tarte tatin, After Eights, crème brûlée, Nutella, tapioca pudding, mint chocolate chip ice cream, Haribo Polkas, M & Ms and more from my life. Learn about the evils of white sugar and its effects on mood and health from my interviews with experts and friends! Let the sugar fog lift!

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