“Nipples” Fiction. Based on a True Recovery in Berlin.


“When he left me, on my birthday…wow…I lost everything at the same time. I lost a band, I lost a love, the first love, and the apartment, and the car, and the cat, and the t.v. and the whole package. And of course, I was devastated. And I thought I would stop music at that moment…it was too difficult for me to continue and then after two months of crying, I called a friend who played the saxophone in this band…and he said, ‘come, I have my other band playing in Paris…’”

–Cecille Guillemain

This journal entry is inspired by true events. Some of the characters, names, businesses, incidents, and certain locations and events have been fictionalized for dramatic purposes. Any similarity to the name, character or history of any person is entirely coincidental and unintentional.


Fiction. Based on a True Recovery in Berlin.

by Mingjie Zhai

The Race to the Top

You listen among the three wise men who, like you, are also recovering from emotional dependency and romantic intrigue. You realize that you’ve been a love anorexic for the past nine years. You were dancing around the mountain, think you’re going places, but what you were really doing was going in circles. If this were a weird snowboarding analogy, you would be leafing rather than carving your way up the mountain.

The man to your right shared, “I know that when I take my eyes off Higher Power, nothing works. I think we all want to go to the top, but each path getting there is different.  Still, the closer you are to the top, the closer you feel the presence of those who are also at the same level as you. The circle also gets smaller towards the top. In the end, even though we come from different paths, we all want to get to the same top.”

The night before, you read a piece of Paul the Apostle’s first letter to the people of Corinth:

“For all the things which I do,

I do for the gospel’s sake

So that I might become with it

A fellow who does partake.

Don’t you know that in a stadium

All the runners run therein,

But only one receives the prize?

Run so the prize you’ll win.

All competitors in all things

Are disciplined for this aim:

To gain a perishable wreath,

But we, one that will remain.

So I myself run in this way:

Having no uncertainty,

And I myself box in this way:

Without swinging aimlessly.”

1 Corinthians 9:23-26,  translated by Michael D. Wester in

The Poetic Scriptures of Paul: God’s Word in Rhythm and Rhyme

You think about this race to the top, into the land of milk and honey. You realize that you must fight for The Love Story with all that you’ve got. It’s going to take you 9 years or 13 years, depending on how faithful you are to the mission. Perhaps your last hospitalization less than a year ago could serve as a reminder.

You learned that the problem with love addiction is that it is designed to distract and derail you from your mission, your call to adventure. You sit inside illusion’s door when you are in it. The thing about spells is that when you’re under a spell, it’s hard to catch that you are under one.

Your goals must be clearly outlined for this to work. You open Rick Warren’s Daily Devotional:

Faith Helps You Focus Your Goals

  1. You need to set goals because it is a spiritual responsibility
  2. You need to set goals because it is a statement of faith.
  3. You need to set goals because they focus your energy.

What are your goals for 2019?

Get The Love Story Publication and Program seed funded.

Get The Love Story Playbook Published.

Get The Love story Journals Published Quarterly.

There it is. Pure and simple. Anything that is designed to distract and detract you from these goals is a spell, an illusion. Even finding a partner…you’ll know when the right one comes, because the right one will enhance your efforts to manifest the fruits of your goals not discourage you.

Stop chasing love.

Allow love to come from within so that it emanates. Let it be so rooted in God that nobody, not even the devil itself can take it away.

Those who are searching for wisdom will discern you at the time when you have it.

This is where opportunity meets preparation.

Faith over fear. That’s the arch.

Noah’s Arch. God’s protection against the flood.

Walking on Water with God.

The next day, you are at Saddleback Berlin church and the sermon was on the character of Peter, one of Jesus’ favorite disciples who is quick to rush towards Jesus, even in the storm, but the minute he took his eyes off Jesus, he started to falter and the storm started to crash upon him.

Peter jumped into the storm when he knew that Jesus was walking on water amidst the storm.

When his eyes were fixed upon God, he was also able to walk on water amidst the storm.

It was when he took his eyes off God, that he began to sink.

This is not a coincidence.

People are relying on you now.

No more slips.

No more rock bottoms.

Sure God gives more and more grace, but you’re already sick and tired of going in circles around the same level of the mountain.

You know that God has a greater plans for you with gifts beyond what you can comprehend.

It’s time to forgive yourself.

Remember, you chose to reinvent yourself. You had pushed Sonny away first.

Always remember that.

You had sabotaged the relationship first.

You had to leave for the call to adventure.

Somewhere, in your heart, you knew that your karmic time with him is up.

You thought you had lost everything, when he left, but on a subconscious level, this was done deliberately so you can take on the call to adventure.

You no longer enjoyed the same routines, the same conversations, the same substances to numb and keep you asleep and complacent.

You no longer could turn another blind eye to who he could be but is not.

You had to leave him or else he would have been the spiritual death of you.

The key is to fix one’s gaze upon the source of all the grace, gifts, and power. You remember how low you had to go in losing it all to find God. At one point, you had made Sonny your god, your idol, so when he left you for the older woman, you lost the appetite for teaching, you no longer cared for the house, the animals you had fostered, giving away your cats to a colleague, and then selling the house that you two had started building together.

Truth be told, you felt trapped in the relationship. It was as if you were spiritually stunted. You knew you had an alcohol addiction problem, but he had liquor all over the home. He said he wanted you to quit, he said he supported you in theory, but when push comes the shove, he could not stop drinking himself and he was not willing to make accomodations for you, even if that meant life or death for you. Truth is, an addict is not capable of loving someone else until he or she loves himself enough to take care of his own body, his own home, and value his own self-worth. Perhaps, that is why things needed to fall apart.

Rylie was right when he responded to your declaration of love towards him: “You don’t love me.”

He’s right. You were too in the addiction–alcohol and emotional dependency–to be healthy enough to give yourself to another human being in commitment, discipline, and responsibility. You wanted all the gifts he could provide but not willing to make the proper sacrifice of staying where he lives to see how it can bloom.

Prior to leaving for Berlin, you had spoken to a relationship coach who specializes in matching singles who are professional and of “good standing” in society. You assess yourself on paper and you seem to check all the boxes…a masters degree, a solid Linkedin resume, a colorful portfolio of hobbies in traveling, photography, and networking, and you have founded your own non profit media company from ground up. You have wit, humor, and you’re pretty decent in physical attractiveness–perhaps a 7 or an 8 depending on your day and the city you’re competing in. You’re not so bad in bed either, you might add. So what’s stopping you?

It’s the id.

There is something quite insidious buried deep within the subconscious you. It’s the id. You finally subscribe to Talkspace for a DBT and CBT therapist to address this id. You are now willing to do both 12 step programs–one for alcohol and the other for love/anorexia. This beats being in the mental institution of America where you only see the skies for 15 minutes a day and you’re forced into taking medication to keep your mind numb, dumb, and asleep. Chemical “washing” of the brain. A place where you are playing elementary games and treated as if you were some experiment ready to be exploited in a system that pays its watchers–the nurses, the security, the so called doctors–to keep you barely alive enough to justify this panopticon to continue.

The prison industrial complex is real and it feeds only one thing: the id.

Also known as the shapeshifting id. Also known as the serpent in the grass.

Your prison is unforgiveness.

You observed several paintings both at the Neus Museum and at the Gemaldegalerie where Jesus is presented on the cross with the sinner to his right looking at him in repentance (the “right” hand path) and the other sinner to Jesus’ left who turns away from Jesus in shame (the “left” hand path). You think about the two disciples, Peter and Judas, who both, in their own ways, denied and betrayed Jesus, but the difference between heaven and hell is in the way of repentance, which is the act of atonement with the Father, forgiving to be forgiven.

Judas could not forgive himself for the crime he committed against Jesus.
Judas took the left hand path. He looked away in shame.

Peter took the right hand path. He believed in Jesus’ strength and power over his sin.

Forgive to Live

Third Step Prayer

God, I offer myself to Thee – To build with me and to do with me as Thou wilt. Relieve me of the bondage of self, that I may better do Thy will. to those I would help of Thy Power, Thy Love, and Thy Way of life. May I do Thy will always.

You wonder if this could be the last thing trying to stop you from rebuilding your family again.

Forgiving yourself.

The signs point to yay.

It was Christmas Eve.  You listened to Holy Spirit, and it directed you to the pews of St. Mary’s church. Once you entered the medieval church, you were moved by the blessings of this sanctified space and you got the download: I’m here to forgive.

You open the Bible app on your phone and it opens to James 4:3 KJV

Ye ask, and receive not, because ye ask amiss, that ye may consume it upon your lusts.

What have you been asking God?

For revenge or for redemption?

What were your actions for the past few years? How come you were almost but never when it comes to building true intimacy, building relationships, friendships, and a sustaining family?

On paper, on social media, on the image driven media formats, you’ve managed to build yourself up to a persona. But that is still the id driving the wheel for the ego to manifest.

Where is the superego in this? The ideal future you. The real authentic you.

You could easily articulate this to Aaron when you made the critique:

I don’t want your “nice.”

“Nice” is double-minded, double-tongued, trapped in illusion.  

I want your authentic.

Authentic is real, raw, and the truth.

So where are you?

Where is your needle pointing towards?

Is it towards revenge or redemption?

You think of your time with Paris.

When she brought you into her personal life–her family, you saw authenticity for what it is. It can be felt, it is palpable, and it is full. The many hard conversations have been worked through. You remember that her mother’s story is one of tremendous loss and yet tremendous arching.

The redemption is in her nuclear family.

Family will deliver you through hell.

As you close your eyes and meditate before Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, you ask from the heart:

I am here to forgive. Father, please help me forgive.

You forgive your ex-husband,

You forgive the other woman,

You forgive your family,

and now

Can you forgive yourself? 

The second you said, Yes, I forgive myself, as if on cue, the organ started playing.

Yes, it’s that dramatic and synchronistic.

That’s how Jesus intervened in your first suicide attempt.

You knew when you met Rylie at the time you did, he was still an unrecovered addict in heavy denial. You could not rescue him. He would only drag you down to hell with him. So you pray for the hell revelation upon him, because that is the way you had found and received God into your life–it was out of desperation and helplessness. It’s the painful way, but perhaps it’s the only way for intelligent and beautiful stubborn addicts like the two of you.

As with Aaron, he served as your darkly mirror–a twin flame. Your sister had shared on Thanksgiving day that twin flames are not meant to be together–they are designed to help each other see the blind spots, and you saw it clearly through him and he you, and move on. You are nine years older than him. When you finally mustered up the courage on Christmas Eve to reassure his partner of five years that you were no longer going to be in the way of their working their issues out, you made peace in knowing that this is God’s will for you and for them.

The right person will come along for you. After the sermon, after your heartfelt text, you went to the restroom and waited in line. Two elementary girls came from behind you oblivious to the fact that you were the next up in line. As soon as someone opened the bathroom door, they both rushed in. You smiled. You knew it’s a sign from God. Let children be children. They don’t know any better. Don’t make a big deal when they don’t meet your adult expectations. And yet, children teach you as well. Children train you on the practice of forgiving and turning the proverbial “other cheek.”

Turning the Other Cheek

It was in forgiving that you are sustained in 2018 and how you were able to come to Berlin in the first place.

Nine years ago, you had the choice of taking Sonny’s half of the retirement during the divorce, but that would also mean that he could take half of your retirement. You did not touch any of his savings and he did not touch any of yours. Nine years later, your retirement has given you the mobility to travel across the Atlantic Ocean and into a foreign continent where God has called you to explore. There is something here you must see, write, and formulate. It started with the choice to not seek revenge. What you do to hurt him will also hurt you.

Forgiveness is a must.


Your first Drinker’s Den meeting is at a beautiful church with Jesus on the cross. You shared the story of how a man you started falling for a year ago had told you that you were sick, to get help, and to come to Berlin. He was generous enough to tell you the ugly truth about yourself so now you are here to do just that.

You are mentally ill.

This is truth.

The “service dog” sign around Roxy’s back is a clear reminder of the rock bottom of where you had true communion with Jesus and a humble reminder that you are indeed mentally ill.

Don’t forget that you are sick.

Part of recovery is in the admittance and in the surrender to this fact.

You remember reading the bible to hear more of His truth in the white walls surrounding your captivity in the mental wards.


Stay still.

Stop the busy-in-ness.

Stop the noise.

All quiet on the western front.

Faith over fear.

Practice faith over fear.

God’s Will, not yours, be done.

God’s Plan, not yours, be done.

God plays a non zero sum game.

And as much as you want to play a non-zero-sum game, you will never be able to do it as effectively as God’s way, so trust and let go and let God.

The aching for Aaron and Rylie comes and goes like ebbs and flows of the Santa Monica ocean you also miss.

Today, you are five days into withdrawal.

Images of Aaron holding you tight from behind, of his hand holding out to you in the middle of the night when you were leaving his bedroom, of his observing your full naked and supple body and saying to you, “You are beautiful,” and knowing in your heart of hearts that he means it. Aaron, who, despite putting up with your yelling while you were moralizing away at four in the morning, still made a meek effort to reconcile with you. Your foolish pride and your insistent ambition to catalyze his transformation blinded you to your own character defects whilst you were projecting your wounds onto him, and making him wrong for choosing you over both The Love Story organization and his ex-girlfriend. You pushed him away. Yes. You did that. Now, the man who chooses you tells you that he can’t handle your crazy and you respond with relief.  

Images of Rylie taking the strands of your stray hair on your lips and moving it behind your ears so he could see the fullness of your round face, Rylie gently pulling you closer to his body, tilting your head upwards so he can fully kiss you, Rylie who listens to you intently without interruption, with humility and with respect, with a willingness to learn from you…Aye. You. Who then made Rylie wrong for prioritizing life outside of you. For not making you his idol. You who made him wrong for being not good enough for you because he was still an addict like you. You judged him for being someone like you and for being someone you wanted to become–patient and kind. You. Aye. The man who tells you he loathes you. You respond with righteous self-loathing apologies and emotional dependencies, whilst hunting and objectifying him.

Aaron had good intentions, you tell yourself, but he, like you, was more eager to fix others than humble down and deal with self. You showed him the worst of you and you had cursed him in the disgust of his addiction, and that was a clear indication that you were not ready to take on a partner–at least the kind of partners you enjoy being with and are worth taking on. You are what Jordan Peterson calls, “The Underground Man.” You are sitting on your fourth step. Now revisiting steps 1-2-3 to work this 12-step program thoroughly you tell yourself, because these steps are lifers–they are treatments not cures and they produce miracles not magic.

You have your own step work to do, your own mystic journey to take on, and you were the seductress, the snake in the grass, for both of them, and you have been blind to it because you were still fixated on giving away something you don’t have.

It was you who 13th stepped Aaron.

You must take responsibility for that.

You apologize to him, telling him that you are still indeed sick, and relieved that he made the decision to let you go.

Boundaries mean let your yea be yea and your no be no.

You still need more practice.

Perhaps discipline is the discipleship of seeking more wisdom, and when you happen to come grab bits of it, to meditate on it through practicing, fumbling, and trying again until it becomes intrinsic in your character to embody it.

Though you illustrated the worst in him through the gift of written word, he also helped you see the devil on your shoulder through his observations of you. He told you that the same bum smell he had picked up next to the homeless man near the atm bank he was withdrawing money from happened to also linger in the car where you spent most of your days driving back and forth from your parent’s home to the LA city.

That is the sulfuric smell of demonic strongholds. He cared about you enough to show you that you still have daemonic strongholds to work through.

More faith needed.

Resentment shows you where you are living in the past and not allowing the present to be as is.

You’ve been resenting Aaron for choosing you over Amy.

You’ve shown him negative reinforcements for choosing you.

The moments when you’ve been around him, he asks you to wait for him. He sings it as his way of expressing it.

You bought him a Pink Floyd original cd and got Postmates to deliver it. He got paranoid and thought perhaps a stalker may be after him so he did not respond to your gift. He tried calling you but you did not pick up. You wanted to test to see if it was meant to be. But had you picked up, he would have joyfully received it.

You were doing the self work while dating him. Your Drum and Bass ex boyfriend had given you the golden piece of wisdom. You must sit with your own emotions. But you did not do that. Instead, you acted upon it by projecting onto the one who cared about you the most at the time you were working through it.  Aaron.

He told you what you needed to work on and you told him who he needed to work it out with.

Work it out with your ex. Don’t run away from her. She needs you. She’s dealing with some major issues in her life and she needs you to lead her. Don’t escape into my arms. I’m the temporary distraction–I’m the ideal future of what you want her to become, but you can not cheat your way to having this gift from the other without doing the work, without making the proper sacrifice, without doing the inner work that you must do in order to pull yourself out of the misery and hell you two have created. The solution isn’t to jump ship. The solution is to man up even more and be the Christian man who can lead her and deliver her from the bondage of the Jezebel spell. Have more faith in Jesus Christ and pray over her so Jesus can break the spell of the Jezabel and the curse in her matrilineal bloodline. Break all strongholds and soul ties according to your faith in Christ Jesus. Break the witchcraft, black and white magic, voodoo spirits, and all daemonic spirits that have  strongholds over her so she can spiritually grow with you, so she can rely on you to cry on, build on, and reassure herself that she is perfect in her process. Inspire her through your faith in Jesus to justify her, love her, so that she may one day be transformed by the same holy spirit. Even when she spurns you, rejects you, projects onto you. Go with your faith, be filled, and keep praying for her for deliverance. Even if you have walk away, do so with integrity. Do not jump ship while you make time to be alone in your communion with God, in your recovery through the step work of the Fellowship.

Do not give up on her prince.

Do not give up on yourself.

Do not choose me.

Choose God first, then choose you, then your destiny will unfold.  

You and Aaron together made a beautifully ugly disaster that had its silver lining. You don’t blame him, because after observing who his ex girlfriend had become, it made sense why he wanted to leave. But his wise father and the wise woman in you knows better. He must face the dark unknown and defeat the evil witch that has its stronghold over his partner rather than make her wrong and jump ship. The solution is to ride the dragon–you can’t fight it or feed it, you must ride it. The stronghold is frightening indeed. For the last 9 years you were becoming more familiar with this negative feminine–this femme fatale, siren, medusa, poison ivy, persona. You were playing this character for some time, long enough to know that this is witchcraft that aims to charm and harm both the player and the played.

You knew within your heart that he must work things out with her without any distractions. You were the distraction. You must learn to let go and let grow. You must pass this test that has been presented to you. When you and Sonny had made the agreement of working things out nine years ago, it was the other woman’s presence that still made it difficult for the two of you to do so. A relationship is grounded upon trust and that trust was broken every time he saw her, talked to her, and was seduced by her. This woman. Older and more desperate for children, who had the tools to deceive, conceive, coddle, enable, and self-justify the sin with the sinner, created the illusion for Sonny to bite. For Sonny, at seven years her junior, had not the chance of resisting her charm. And you, now that you are of age to become that older “other” woman competing for a younger man, you knew that if you really tried for it, Aaron would have been yours instead of Amy’s, but it was not a fair fight. Just as it was not a fair fight back when you were competing with the older other woman over Sonny. She had years of experience over you at a time when you were most weak and vulnerable.

When you were nine years old, you remember your mother signing you up to compete with the younger kids for the fifty meter sprint because you were born on a date that was on the cusp between competing with younger kids or with older kids. You initially wanted to compete with the older kids, but your mother insisted that you compete with the younger ones for the increasing chance of winning the gold metals. You remember, standing next to the younger girls and they looking at you with disdain, as if you were the bully in the yard. It was not even a competition. It was not a fair fight. Even though you won your gold metals, it did not feel like you actually won. It felt like you had cheated.

That’s what the older woman had done. She did not win Sonny. She had cheated you out of Sonny. And that was what you were about to do to Amy nine years later had you accepted Aaron’s advances towards you.

Should you actually win Aaron, you would not have won Aaron. You would have cheated Aaron out of Amy.

It is not right.

Do the right thing. -Spike Lee.

You were searching for an image to cover your wounds. You looked for men who could serve to bolster that image. You had chosen the Leo Dicaprio looking, six pack wearing, funny man over the intelligent, deep thinking, and considerate starving artist. It was the starving artist who showed up when you were most vulnerable, not Mr. Leo.

You had chosen to sabotage the relationship with the man who had a home, a career, and a kindness and consideration for you because you did not want to grow fast enough to keep up with him. You had chosen the crazy persona to scare away promising prospects. And if they showed a level of tolerance and understanding, you would dial up the crazy to see where their breaking point was. You did not have to call Aaron when you got the return mail from Rylie. Rylie did not accept your apology. He was still hurt by you. He still resented you. And instead of waiting it out, you had sought for plan B. This plan B had almost damaged whatever chances Amy and Aaron had in working through their issues together.

When they throw their hands up in surrender, you proclaim victim and victory.

Still, knowing all this, all this self-work and self-knowledge, does nothing for you.

Knowing does not change.

The key is surrender.


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