“But You’re So Young”

“But you’re so young…”

This short sentence, these four miniscule words, are like a punch in the gut every single time I hear them.

Though I know most of the general population does not fully understand the nature and progression of this disease, it still feels like the slice of a knife for so many reasons.

During my active drinking days, I would constantly reassure myself, like a classic mother in denial, saying things like “But I’m so young… this is just a phase, my drinking will calm down eventually.”

It didn’t. My disease worsened by the day as I dug myself into deeper and deeper pits of denial with a duffle bag of other means of justification on tow.

The fact of the matter is that there is no right or wrong age to figure out that you have a serious problem. I so wish that I had been able to truly understand and grasp the severity of what would become my life as I continued down the path that I did. But I just couldn’t connect the dots.

I didn’t realize that my colds would last for weeks or months on end because I refused to stop drinking, smoking, and snorting everything I could get my hands on. I didn’t understand that my DUIs were caused by my drinking, and not strokes of bad luck. It didn’t even cross my mind that people didn’t like me because of the obnoxious drunk scenes I would make at EVERY SINGLE function I attended. I didn’t think there was anything wrong with refusing to take my antibiotic because it would make me violently ill when mixed with alcohol…

I could truly go on endlessly about all of the dots I didn’t connect. I am still connecting more each and every day that I stay sober, and it blows my mind each and every time I find a new one.

The second reason that I cant stand hearing this forbidden phrase, is that I didn’t live a normal childhood. To be completely honest, I never had a childhood. I grew up with an alcoholic step-father and a mother who had absorbed all of the unhealthy behaviors that characterize this disease. I was not allowed to do anything. Without exaggeration, I was grounded for a minimum of SIX YEARS. From age eight to 14 or 15 I was not allowed to do anything. I went to school and when I came home watched TV or played The Sims by myself until bedtime. I had absolutely no idea how to interact with people as a functioning human, or how normal lives were lived. Real life was non-existent to me. Then suddenly my step-dad, Dan, moved to Maryland and my entire world changed.

Fast Forward to age 16

I now have my own apartment with my 21 year old boyfriend, and I’m drinking every night, many mornings going to school still hammered because I hadn’t stopped until around 4:00 am. At this time my parents relationship is crumbling faster and faster and my mother has drained every single bank account to her name including mine and my brothers college funds to pay off Dan and get him out of the house. Being the drunk that he is, he spent just about every cent in a matter of weeks and moved into a shithole one bedroom shared apartment on Alison Hill (For those of you that don’t know the Harrisburg area, it is the most dangerous and impoverished part of town).

My mother soon left our family home and moved in to Dan’s apartment leaving me with the immediate responsibility to take care of my 11 year old brother.

I realized quickly that I wouldn’t have enough money to pay for my apartment AND all the bills for the family home while still in high school, so I decided it was in the best interest of everyone if I dropped out.

Thankfully, the man I was in a relationship helped me so incredibly much. As I was working 13 hour days as a grill cook, he would help my brother with his homework and make him dinner every night. Thank god, for his help.

This experience went on for some time until my mother finally came home. Though I am happy that I was able to help make my brothers life better than my own, it saddens me deeply that I had to take on such responsibility at such a young age. I was thrust so quickly into an adult role that I was never truly able to go back to the delightfully immature state of others my age.

I think these moments only plunged me deeper into my disease, for I no longer was living the life of a child. I was spending time with people who led similar lives; as in people who were out of school, paying their own bills, raising kids, working full time, and consequently, drinking leisurely because they were of age.

Though I know when someone says “but you’re so young” in reference to my sober lifestyle they don’t mean it in a hurtful way. But I just can’t help but take it personal. It feels as if they are belittling what I’ve experienced. It feels like I need to defend my choice, and if I were in a bad state of my recovery, it could easily be the phrase that catapults me back in to denial.

But my recovery is not up to them. It is not something I need to explain or defend.

What I hear is so staggeringly far from what they actually have said. I am a being that perceives things according to my history. And though it may sometimes give me an edge of enlightenment, it also gets me into a mental battle that is unfitting for the occasion.

Over the next 24 hours I need to monitor my responses to outward stimuli, because nothing is as appears to be in my eyes. I need to be aware that I operate overly defensively, I assume an oncoming attack at all times. But 99% of the time, it is not an attack. It is only my disease working in amazingly cunning ways to make me feel less than.

But today that is the farthest thing from the truth. Today I am whole, and it is because of Alcoholics Anonymous. Today I will ignore the words that feel like snakes venom, and know that I have made the right decision, I am in the right place, and most importantly, I will thank god, for letting me see my disease as early as I did.

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I am NOT a “cute” drunk

I LOVE romantic comedies. They would be the only genre of movies I would watch if it weren’t for the fact that almost all of my friends and family hate them. However, last night my mom was over to watch a movie, and being the hopeless romantic that she is, happily obliged to the movie of my choosing.

It was the typical rom-com story line with a slight twist.. Man falls in love with Woman on HER wedding day, spends the entire next hour working to woo the crap out of her and convince her to leave A-hole husband for him. Of course Woman eventually does leave A-hole and finds Man to let him know what a good noble human he is in comparison to A-hole. When she finally does go see him, she is piss drunk. And ADORABLE.

This got me thinking about all of the rom-coms I’ve ever seen… 9 times out of 10 there is a scene that the girl is obliterated and the man just finds her even more endearing.

It is this moment, every single time, that makes me think “ahhhhhhh that’s why I need to keep drinking!”

In my drinking days after seeing this moment, I would always think to myself “This is exactly why I cant stop drinking, if I get sober, I’ll never have adorable moments like this that make men fall madly in love with me.”

This time when I watched “the moment” my first thought was “crap. I am never going to have that again.” I then realized, that I am never going to have that moment whether I’m sober or drinking. Because I am NOT cute when I drink.

I am a fall down, black out, break my ankle, punch you in the face, piss my pants kind of drunk.

I believe there were one or two times in my drinking career that at the beginning of a relationship, when I was on my absolute best behavior, a man said “you’re kind of cute when you’re drunk.”
There are no sweeter words on earth that could have been said to a female alcoholic like me.
There was nothing I wanted to be more than the girl who could be classy with a glass of wine while also being able to handle shots of whiskey with my man.

Unfortunately, I am not that girl in any way. I am the girl that drinks two bottles of wine at dinner, spills most of it on myself, begins slurring my words, tries to have sex with you in a closet, and passes out in the middle, then wakes up and punches you in the face for not finishing.

Yes, that’s the kind of drunk I am.

So after watching this movie and thinking for a moment that maybe, just maybe, I could try to be that girl one last time… I decided to play the tape through. Sometimes, it’s really hard for me to get to the end of that tape because those tapes end in black outs. Which means I’m only left with the parts that seem adorable in my own mind.

Now here’s where it gets interesting for me. I used to always tell my friends not to tell me a single thing that I did or said when I was blacked out that would make me cringe. Being the obedient friends that they are, they decided to record black out Steph on her 21st birthday. I have avoided these videos for the past 8 months as if they were the black plague.

But last night, as I had trouble playing the reel through in my own head, I thought it would be a good idea to use a visual aid.

I texted that friend and asked her to send me the videos from that night. *shivers*

As I tried to watch these videos my stomach immediately began to turn. I couldn’t hold myself up, I was screaming at people, I had pizza sauce all over my legs, mascara down my face, and a cigarette burn through my favorite shirt. I finally couldn’t take it anymore at the scene with me on the floor with my legs spread yelling about needing more pizza.

Adorable, right?

Now I know, many people may say “well, that was your 21st birthday, everyone gets a little crazy.” But what’s really scary to me, was that I had been THAT messed up at bare minimum 4 times a month for the past 5 years.

YIKES.

Moral of the story: Sober me is cute, Drunk me is a fucking disaster. For me, there is no in between.
I will never be the adorable drunk girl in the rom-com box office hits. What I will be is the girl who is honest, clear minded, comfortable in her own skin, and not fearful of telling someone how I feel without chemical aid. That is more than adorable, that’s real, that’s admirable.

That will be me.

My Wost Day Sober is Far Better than My Best Day Drunk

Over the past two days I have had a terrible stomach virus and head cold with a gnarly cough. While at first I was quite upset about feeling like I had been dropped off the top the empire state building, now I feel immense gratitude.

When I was in my active drinking days there wasn’t a cold, virus, or flu symptom that would keep me away from a drink or drug. In those days my illnesses typically lasted about a month or more because I refused to give my body the rest and time to heal. I remember so many occasions where my head was pounding, nose was running, body was aching and I still went out and shut the bar down.

photo

Yes, I did actually post that on instagram.

That day I felt so terrible, and I actually thought that the only thing that would make me feel better was alcohol. I was convinced that a few shots were exactly what I needed to clear my sinuses. I was under the amazingly misguided impression that if I dressed up and looked “pretty” by some stroke of psychological genius, I would suddenly be healed.

At the end of that night I was slurring my words from not only drunkenness but physical illness as well. I couldn’t breathe out of my nose, my pockets were overflowing with used up tissues, and I could barely walk in my 6 inch tall red pumps because I was so woozy from medication and alcohol.

What started out as a logical thought, to go home and hit the sheets, turned into “why should I let this awesome night end?” So I flung myself behind the wheel of my chevy, flew over to the corner store for some nasal spray and made my way to my coke dealers house.

That is the insanity of my disease.

Today, instead of planning out what bars I would be traipsing myself around later on in the night, I planned what time I would go to sleep, what food would best nurture me back to health, and what medicines would keep me as right minded as possible while still somewhat masking my symptoms.

Today I can love myself enough to give my body the rest and respect that it deserves.

I would say thank God for restoring my sanity, but it is clear that I’ve never had that. So instead, I say “Thank you God, for opening my eyes and giving me a little bit of sanity for each and every day that I stay clean and sober.”

That is just one of the many amazing gifts that I have received from the wonderful program of Alcoholics Anonymous… The ability to take care of myself, and better yet, the ability to ask for help from a power greater than myself to take care of me when I am unable to do it myself.

Thank God for this program.

Body Image DOES NOT MATTER

Today I was home sick and decided to spend the entire day watching documentaries. While normally I love watching/reading/listening to thoughts on body image, I found myself thinking, “who cares if you’re not beautiful?”

As someone who used to significantly value my physical appearance, I was slightly taken aback by this thought. For I used to spend countless hours in the gym (almost three hours every day) and spend hours and hours gazing in the mirror convincing myself that not only I think I am beautiful, but the rest of the world does as well. I always overdressed for every occasion waiting to scoop up all of the compliments from who ever was willing to give them to me wherever I went.

Not only did I value a beautiful exterior for myself, but I believed everyone else needed to hear how beautiful they were as well. I thought everyone needed that validation of outward beauty.

Today, those thoughts and actions seem so… silly.

When thinking of the personal traits and strengths within myself.. my outward beauty does not even cross my mind. I value my intelligence, wit, silly sense of humor.. my giving nature, the love that I have for everyone around me, the relationship that I have for my higher power.

If someone today, told me that I am beautiful, it would be nice. But it certainly would not raise the levels of which I value myself.

I know that what makes me valuable is not anything physical. What defines that value is the way that I treat myself and others, my spirit, and my mind.

 

Worrying about outward appearances now seems so much like judging the food in the fridge by what Tupperware container it resides in. I wouldn’t ever say “Look at that plastic wear! It may be old and have wrinkles from the microwave, but it is still beautiful!” I would immediately disregard how the container appears and look at its inner contents. The same way I look at humans, I don’t care how you look. I want to know who you are.

Whether we are aesthetically beautiful or ugly, it does not matter. We do not have to try to be anything but healthy. For I don’t want a lover or friend to think that my worth is derived from my appearance… I want person in my life that sees who I am as a human with thoughts, ideas, and emotions.

 

I cant ever expect the entire world to suddenly realize that it doesn’t matter, and if that does happen it certainly wont be overnight. But what I can do, is go out of my way every day to give someone a compliment, not on how they look, but comment on the innovative ways of thinking, or their positive leadership, or their viewpoints on scenarios, their funny jokes, or the kind actions they have taken.

 

 

Maybe if we all start talking about and affirming who a person is rather than how they look that day, our world will finally start to change.