An Open Letter to The Father I Can Not Love

Up until the age of five, you were my entire world. The sun and the moon, the grass and the trees, the only one I wanted to see. I loved my mother, but you were my favorite. The one that always kept me laughing and had the hugs I craved. I was your favorite little girl, a great replacement for the son you had always dreamt of. The girl who loved to watch WWE wrestling and reenact the chair smashing moves, the girl who was more interested in playing spider man with you than Barbie with my mom, the girl who helped you skin a deer on the back porch, the girl who at the age of four shot a groundhog dead with your pistol under what seemed like the most careful supervision. You were who I wanted to be when I grew up.


When you went on that hunting trip in 1998 and my mom secretly moved herself, my brother, and I to a new house in a nearby neighborhood I viewed her act as the ultimate betrayal. I thought she was purposely severing this special and all important bond simply to hurt us. As I sat on a blanket soaking in the sunshine of a beautiful summers day with my infant brother and watched her move all of our things from the house with her own brother, I kept waiting for you to come home; you to say, “Sorry I couldn’t help you guys with the packing and moving, but I’ll meet you at the new house!” You never did, only spiraled deeper into the alcoholism that my five year old mind could not yet comprehend. My mother robbed me of all joy. She moved me away from my happiness, my idol, my best friend. I thought about you daily and waited for your call.


In 1999 I remember sitting outside of your house with my mom in her teal Dodge Caravan bursting with excitement to finally see my daddy. It became clear, after what seemed like two hours, that you weren’t going to show. We went back to our new home.


As you and my mother waged a war against each other, being the oldest child, I was often left a casualty from the misplaced bludgeons. The stories of your alcoholism, laziness, poor upbringing, and statements calling you my, “sperm donor,” colored my pristinely clear vision of you. When I would get to see you, I would excitedly tell you stories about my life, which greatly included the presence of my mother and her new boyfriend. You got angry and felt hurt, and no longer wished to hear me speak. I wanted to share every part of me with you, but you wanted to preserve and nurture your own heart at the great cost of mine. And yet again, you were gone.


Was it that you didn’t know how to be a father? Or could you not handle those eyes of mine with colors that shifted with my mood, so perfectly mirroring the woman of whom you still greatly loved? Or was it your pride that needed to be saved, not bearing to hear the stories of your wife’s new boyfriend and his delicious homemade spaghetti and meatballs that your daughter raved over for days?


In 2002 or 2003, you had finally decided to reignite the relationship with my brother, Mitchell, and I. Mitch, having only been an infant and not quite understanding that you were his father rather than the live in man who was raising us, was nervous and confused. I, on the other hand, was filled with joy to finally have my daddy back. The first few months were incredible. I counted the days till our next visit where we would play paintball, go to parks and festivals, play with your girlfriend’s dogs, and just enjoy each other’s company. I didn’t mind sharing what little time we had together with my brother, because I was so happy for him to get to know the world’s greatest dad.


But as our visits continued, you drew away from me as if I were filth. Instead of taking me to Home Depot and teaching me how to do projects around the house you would take my brother and leave me home. As I was sitting on the floor in the living room between your then fiancés legs as she would try to fix my nappy African hair that my white mother still could not understand and maintain, you were choosing ceiling fans with Mitchell, joking about different heavy fixtures falling and crushing me to my death. As I was sent to the nail salon with said fiancé, Sally, to fix the nails that had broken whilst hiking, you were picking up paintball supplies and ammo with Mitchell remarking on my resemblance to Gollum from Lord of The Rings, and again fantasizing of my death. While you, Sally, and Mitchell, spent a weekend doing activities like bike rides, yard cleaning, picnics, and dinners, I was sent to my room for two and a half days with no food or companionship, forced to watch the fun through my windows. While Mitchell was sent to spend time with our step siblings you would sit me down at the kitchen table and interrogate me for hours on end about what my mother and step father, Dan, were up to; forced to say I didn’t love them, forced to understand that they were very bad people. And if I defied? If I said I loved these people that loved and cared for me? Clumps of hair were torn from my head and thrown to the floor in order to teach a memorable lesson.


In 2005, you came to pick me up from soccer practice and it wasn’t your custody scheduled day. Fear had consumed me. I decided I couldn’t see you any longer. I couldn’t keep feeling this hurt. I couldn’t keep allowing myself to be crushed by the man I had held on a pedestal for the past thirteen years. Every name you called me, every time you laughed at my tears, each time you chose my brother over me simply for being a boy, every time you screened and ignored my phone calls, every time my mom had to hold me as a cried myself to sleep wondering why you didn’t love me, every time you cackled at the idea of my death….


Every time, every single time, was a tap of the hammer, slowly chiseling away at the porcelain pedestal with my beating and fragile heart encased inside, until I was finally left with just you, a skeleton of me, and the wreckage of our past on the sidelines of a middle school soccer field.


I told you it was over, that I would no longer visit you. I stood with my coach, and he held you back from me. He took me home. My mom held me yet again through tsunami sized waves of tears, trying to heal my broken heart with the power of her own love for me. You called and said I was lucky there were witnesses.


In 2008, you filed for full custody of both Mitchell and I, not for the love of your children, but the lust for revenge on the woman that broke your own heart ten years prior. The court sent you and I to counseling, and after we were held back from a fist fight, the therapist said we should never see each other. Mitchell told the courts he didn’t want full custody with you, only split. He did this after I told him that there was not a chance you would love him less for telling the truth of what he wanted. You never came to pick him up. Neither of us have seen you since.


Saturday, February 20th, 2016

9:30 AM – I’m in the shower getting ready for a day of work, and briefly think about contacting you. This is not an unusual thought, it crosses my mind nearly once a month. I let the thought leave me and think of my plans for after work.


12:30 PM – A man walks into the bar that I serve at. I get the chills because he looks like you, but vaguely different. This man seems shorter, thicker, older, and this man has a rather large circular bald patch on the crown of his head, where you only had a thin patch. I stare with disbelief for minutes on end at the resemblance of you and this man. I see Sally, your now wife of ten years, and I can no longer pretend that this is simply your doppelgänger. This is you. My heart rate jumps to 130 beats per minute, I am sweating through my uniform, tears are rapidly falling down my cheeks, I lose my voice completely, and as I turn around to run I notice I’ve been double sat.


I run out the back door of the building and call my mother. My vision is blurry, I can’t think straight, and I’ve forgotten my cigarettes inside. Has he seen me? Did he find out my workplace because of Facebook? Why is he here? Has anyone helped the people in my section??


My boss lets me leave and I spend the day thinking about you and what this all means. Was this a sign from the god of my understanding that I am supposed to face my fear and talk to you? Or is God telling me to stay the hell away?


As it has all simmered down, and I can now think rationally, I truly believe that I have nothing to say to you that would be constructive. I would only want to hurt you. Being an alcoholic, I know that this disease makes us do crazy things, and I am strong enough now to forgive you for your mistakes… But for what? For a relationship? For your peace of mind? For mine?


Sometimes I imagine you walking into the AA meeting I secretary for, us locking eyes and seeing that we are one in the same and we were both genetically blessed with this cursed disease. That we can have a healthy friendship in the safe environment that is the rooms of Alcoholics Anonymous. However, this horrifically panic riddled moment at work showed me that the reconnection of my dreams is only a fairy tale.


Though I no longer have nightmares or flashbacks in regards to you, no matter how many years pass, when I see your face or hear your name, I am suddenly that scared little girl wishing for the love of her life to reciprocate those feelings, wishing that you would stop hitting her, starving her, and hoping she would die.


I used to feel unworthy. Your words and actions led me to believe that I was a subpar human, a little girl in a world that craved boys, you made me want to kill myself just like you killed the fantasy version of me in all of your “funny” anecdotes. You taught me that men were incapable of love outside of themselves. I believed that men only did nice things as a front to get what they wanted.


Today, because of the alcoholic gene that you have passed to only me and the totally god sent gift of sobriety, I am able to love. I love myself, everyone around me, and life in general, without fear or anxiety. I was taught through the alcoholic men in the rooms that males too are capable of true and pure love. I used to date men that mirrored you and your inability to connect, now I am with a man that proves his love from hour to hour in the most selfless, generous, and kind ways. Today, people don’t worry about me trying to harm myself. Today, I no longer need to gain approval from you (or anyone else) in order to feel and realize the volume vastness of my emotional success. I know that I am enough, and that I am a whole person, not despite of, but specifically because of my serious lacking of any positive male role model.


I want to thank you for ceasing the fight for custody when you did, for teaching me the invaluable lesson that love must come from within and that I can’t depend on someone else to take care of my emotional needs. Thank you for giving me the wisdom to walk away from any relationship that does not suit me, or more importantly, one that’s riddled with abuse. Thank you for teaching me how not to raise a child, and the importance of a parent’s unconditional love. I’ve learned just as much from you about what not to do in love as I have from AA about what I should do.


Today, I am grateful for the struggle that was our relationship and I am grateful that you are an alcoholic that could not give me the love I so clearly deserved. Today, because of all the pain and suffering, I am trudging my way to a very happy destiny.


The Move From Fear to Faith

For the past two months I have been a dry drunk. Dwelling in the pits of fear. Turning that pit into a home.. putting up artwork and getting new living wear which will perfectly compliment those crusty blue drapes.

I moved into this home shortly after I decided to wait a few weeks to go through with my ninth step. The longer I procrastinated, the more cozy my fear induced pain felt. As I resisted the phone calls, the messages, the pieces of paper begging to be written on, I chose to snuggle in and watch a few episodes of Netflix with the fear. I avoided my favorite meetings, and called my sponsor less often, because none of them would appreciate the rustic beauty of my newfound pit.

I love sobriety and the butterflies I experience every time I embark on a new experience that leads to growth, but man was that pity, fear, and pain comfortable.

As I mozied around my actual house tonight, hitting the garage for my last cigarette before bed, the thought popped into my head to type my first message to someone on my list of amends.

No big deal, I’m just typing it on a notepad. I’m not actually sending it tonight. I’ll wait till I can read it to my sponsor first.

Now, have you ever seen those cartoons where the main doodle in a moment of inner conflict has a devil on one shoulder and an angel on the other? I like to believe that I have that, yet on one of my shoulders is my alcoholism and on the other is my higher power. The tricky part of all this, is that they both look like me, and they both sound like me. Thankfully, I’ve learned through the rooms of Alcoholics Anonymous how to distinguish between the two. Tonight I felt those two forces waging war, a conflict my dear friend Kathy would claim was between FEAR and LOVE.

FEAR (or my alcoholism) says: Put it off till tomorrow, you should really sleep on it
LOVE (or my higher power) says: There will never be a perfect time, send it.
FEAR: But you want the perfect moment
LOVE: perfection is the ultimate procrastination
FEAR: You’ll be okay not doing a ninth step
LOVE: no you won’t
FEAR: just go to sleep, all will be okay.
LOVE: You will end up drunk if you don’t do this.

ME: (Frantically hits the send button)

For more than a few moments I sat in silence with my hand covering my pounding heart. I felt free, I felt nervous, I felt love, I felt nervous, I felt a connectedness to God, I felt nervous, I felt everything. I FELT NERVOUS!

I quietly sat in silence for a few more moments fully expecting to either get a message back sometime tomorrow or never at all.

In an attempt to soothe my neurosis, still clutching my chest waiting for the throbbing beneath my ribs to subside, I decided to scroll through my Facebook feed and the most fantastic thing caught my attention. Though I had breezed by this photo several times throughout the day, for some reason, something within me told me to stop and read it:

Screenshot (11)

In that moment, I felt my heart beneath my hand begin to slow, and paid attention to what my God has been trying to tell me. That I am sober for a reason. That my recovery has a purpose. That this was the right move. That I cannot and should not give up or stand still.

I walked to my room with my jaw practically resting on my chest. I carefully laid my phone down on the bed and started to get on my knees for a moment of prayer to thank my higher power for this moment. When I hear a ding!

The recipient of my amends was messaging me to say that she would love to get together for coffee and a talk.

Anddd there goes my heart rate again! I sat there in utter shock and decided its finally time to talk to my sponsor and tell her where I’ve been living, in this stinking pit of fear, about my moment sifting through the words from the powers on my shoulders.

After a good talk and lots of smiles and a lot of fast paced climbing out of this dreary and poorly decorated ditch, I thought to myself, “Now! Now is the time to pray and give thanks.” Fear whispered in my ear, just go have another smoke to calm down, you can thank God later….

And just like that I was on my knees.

As I parted my lips to express this bursting gratitude. I began to feel an overwhelming sense of joy. A joy I have not felt in some time. I had barely released the opening sounds of “Thank” before I started cathartically crying from joy. I could not get any words out. I just let the tears flow freely from my finally awoken eyes, I cradled my head, and I swear I could feel myself crying with my higher power. I felt their presence around, within, and on me. I tried again to say thank you, but the tears came even harder. I gave up my words and let myself feel all the love that the God of my understanding has to offer. And once finished uttered a simple “Thank You,” and sat quietly reflecting on this pivotal moment.

Though that hole in the ground was familiar, it was not comfortable. It was painful, but I understood it. I fell swiftly and deeply for the seductive murmurs of my disease. I feel embarrassed that I let the charm seep in slowly and fill my the home that is my mind with fear. I not only opened the door for it, but I made it tea and cookies.

So how do I explain this sudden psychic change? This monumental and ultra sudden move from fear to faith? Was it a divine intervention? Maybe. But who knows? Whatever it was, I know with all of my heart, because of my friends in AA, that God has a plan for me. I don’t have to know it, I don’t have to understand it, and I certainly don’t have to like it. But it is GOOD, it is RIGHT, and I am capable of accepting it, so long as I have faith; the faith which was blessed to me once I put down the bottle and realized that my will, and my diseases will, are ultimately leading me down the path to death.


The Ultimate Philosophical Journey For a Person in the 21st Century: Alcoholics Anonymous

In a country that is devoted to the growth of technological advances and encourages its citizens to experience life and communicate primarily through the internet, text messages, and emails it is easy to forget how to live a life that is full of meaning. It is easy to forget what “meaning” it is that we even seek. Sometimes I wonder if my generation was ever even taught what “meaning” it is that we are supposedly, yet, desperately searching for. Before I hit the rooms of Alcoholics Anonymous and got sober, I truly believed I was leading a fulfilling life, for I was dating, (kind of) going to school, and taking selfies daily, and attempted as best I could to live a life free from worry or true contemplation about the more serious conditions of my life (i.e. where it was going, what I wanted from it, and my over-all level of depleted happiness). I was under the (now, humorously) misguided impression that Alcoholics Anonymous was a program that simply helped you quit drinking and drugging, but to my surprise putting down the bottle was only the smallest step to a journey that requires you to change just one simple thing: your entire life. In this essay I will attempt to show the almost parallel journey to happiness, perfection of the soul, and a rare sort of earthly wholeness that is not only taken by some of the greatest philosophers ever to have graced this earth, but also by that of a sober alcoholic working the spiritual program of Alcoholics Anonymous, as well as how each of the twelve steps (individually and as a whole) embody several theories from those aforementioned philosophers.

To understand the commonalities between Alcoholics Anonymous and all of philosophy’s quests for happiness, one must first fully understand that the disease of alcoholism is not simply that a person drinks too much alcohol; alcohol is but a symptom of an insidious sickness that infects every facet of a person’s psyche. For even if an alcoholic manages to stop drinking completely on their own accounts, they will quickly find that they are absolutely miserable and their lives are still filled with unmanageability. Why is this? The answer is simple, alcoholics suffer from delusions of inferiority and grandeur through means of judging themselves against others, lack any healthy coping mechanisms, create and carry around endless amounts of irrational resentments, and frankly the list of unmanageable alcoholic characteristics could go on endlessly. Alcoholics are BORN with these characteristics; they do not come simply from having drank too much. The drink was only used to ease the constant feeling of being uncomfortable. That being said, when the drink is taken away, the alcoholic is still left with all of the problems they originally had, only no conceivable way to effectively cope with them or make life better. The term we use in the rooms of Alcoholics Anonymous for such a person that doesn’t seek to improve these problems of the personality yet lives without the drink, is “dry drunk”, for the individual who lacks the insight and capability to seek happiness is far worse than the one who is actively drinking. That is why the first step, (We admitted we were powerless over alcohol-that our lives had become unmanageable) is broken down into two parts. A: that we are powerless over a drink, and B: our lives are still unmanageable regardless of the absence of alcohol. Truly, the main focus of removing alcohol is simply so that we are clear minded enough to work tirelessly towards spiritual perfection and happiness. However, alcoholics aren’t the only people who choose to remove the drink from their lives to allow this journey to happiness take place, philosophers have as well. Friedrich Nietzsche understood completely the adverse effects of alcohol towards happiness, so he chose to abstain completely, as quoted in Botton’s Consolations of Philosophy, “I cannot advise all more spiritual natures too seriously to abstain from alcohol absolutely. Water suffices.” (Botton, 2000) Nietzsche understood that alcohol is used to dull painful or uncomfortable things in life, and to live a life of true happiness one must also experience the pain; for drinking alcohol to drown your sorrows is to eliminate painful obstacles that will inevitably lead to happiness down the road. When the eleven simple steps following the removal of alcohol are taken with care and diligence, an alcoholic will experience a closeness to god, themselves, and all those in close proximity, which I would guess could almost never be reached otherwise. The sort of pure, unadulterated, happiness that is gained from this type of reflection and understanding of the self and surrounding world in today’s society can be brought from very few things, but the most poignant in my eyes being, Alcoholics Anonymous or living and studying philosophy.

To begin the comparison of how AA’s program relates to philosophy, let’s examine the works of Socrates. Socrates was known for his infuriating use of irony and dialectic. I say infuriating because I have been on the opposite side of this means of communication, and it is not the least bit fun. Socrates spent most of his time talking to people and when he did he would ask endless questions that would make his counter interlocutor question their original stance, set of morals, and over all reasoning. Upon first hearing about this method, I was immediately immersed in the memories of just about every AA meeting I’ve ever been to. Everyone I have spoken to will ask me thought provoking questions that make me reevaluate my motivations and come to a conclusion that I never would have accepted or believed to be true unless I came to it on my own. At the beginning of every Alcoholics Anonymous meeting in the opening literature it is read that, “we do not teach, advise, cross-talk, or lecture…” because it is a well-known fact that no matter how many times someone tells us the right thing to do, we rarely will. And thank goodness for that; even if a person could save us from suffering, it would not help us in the long run, for the best lessons anyone of us on earth has learned, has come from mistakes made upon our own account, not from hearing what happened to someone else. I do not believe this reaction of indifference to advice is limited to the alcoholic, but our society as a whole, we are a people that often do not want to take the advice of anyone because we want to feel that our own ideas will lead to the best and most positive outcome independently. I think that when being told what to do, an alcoholic (or anyone) can’t help but recoil from advice as if from a hot flame. However, when being led gently to the correct answer through thoughtful questions the pill of reality is much easier to swallow.

What most intrigued me and really made the connections between Alcoholics Anonymous and philosophy clearer to me was Plato’s Allegory of the Cave, which coincides perfectly with the removal of alcohol and step one. A few weeks ago while chairing an AA meeting, I explained that my transition from active alcoholism to the rooms of Alcoholics Anonymous was startlingly similar to the escaped prisoner in the story and found that many of my friends in the fellowship felt the same way about it. For me, alcoholism was a prison, only I didn’t realize the key to release was in my hand the entire time. I saw life around me, but it was only life’s shadows that I was experiencing. I had no idea of a higher power, was oblivious to the fact that I was not in fact the center of the entire planetary system, and saw everything from a reactive rather than active view-point. As people spoke, I did not hear it in the form of echoes, but with an ulterior and plotting tone beneath everything said to me. When I was released from the dark and dreary cave that was alcohol and took a few steps into the light of truth and God, I felt immense amounts of pain as the prisoner from the Allegory had. Though my eyes were still intact, my mind was able to see a 360 degree view of my life, rather than the 90 degree angle I had previously lived with. I could feel pains that I never had before because there was no longer any vice to mask them. As I grew stronger with sobriety, I find that I make choices with much more clarity and soundness than I ever had while living in the cave. In the beginning, the pain that the sun brought felt like too much for a person to possibly bear, I wanted to run back to the cave where I lacked obstacles and could lounge in the world that I had known so well, but with the help of people in the rooms, I was given the pushes I needed to get up the grassy hill of Alcoholics Anonymous and forced myself to face that oh so bright light and was quickly able to adjust to this new and foreign life. In this light I was able to see myself, not as the miniscule shadows that had sat close to my feet at times or the ones that had been larger than life scaling the entire wall of the cave; but for who in truth I had been before, as I was then, and who I would later become. With this showering of light, or truth and goodness, there comes a price. The people who once were beloved to you, but still reside in the cave, can never accept this new reality, unless of course they choose to see the key that’s always been in their own hands and join you to bask in the sun. However, you cannot make someone find their key, so until then it is not safe to visit the old cave. The other prisoners will notice that you can no longer see in the dark, and therefore believe you to have been ruined, and ultimately, metaphorically, kill you. I am not alone in this journey out of the cave and into sobriety, over one hundred alcoholics shared their own escape from the pits as being the same, and I find it safe to say that this story rings true for almost every sober alcoholic out there. Though the entrance into the world of light and spirit from the depths of the cave should be celebrated and viewed as no less than miraculous, it does not mean that the soul is perfected. There is work, and more work to be done, because there is only, “progress, not perfection,” (Step Ten, 1952) in a program of recovery or more simply, in life.

Though step two is supremely essential to moving onward with the steps and can lead to success or failure within the program, I will pass over it for the sake of time and more pressing theories, and jump right into step three, handing our will and our lives over to the care of God. The Stoics had a superb way of viewing anger and how to best avoid such frivolous bothers. Their technique of practicing the trichotomy of control is parallel to the serenity prayer that is said at least once, sometimes twice, at every single Alcoholics Anonymous meeting on Earth: “God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference.” In the trichotomy of control, it is expressed that one should only focus on the things that one has complete control over (such as goals and values), to not concern oneself with anything that one has no control over (like other drivers on the road), and to give things that we have some control over concern with care. I think we live in a very frustrated society because most people have not yet grasped this concept. We can never control the actions of other people, nature, or biology, not matter how much we wish to. Though in AA we are taught to hand over what we cannot control to God, the Stoics just forgot about it completely, which in essence, is fundamentally the same idea. But just because we don’t have control over such things doesn’t mean that we must become hapless victims to them, it simply means that we do the best that we can to prepare ourselves for such events, and hope for the best.

The fourth step is paramount to all else, it is the step that is certainly the most painful, and the most widely avoided. Nietzsche probably would have loved it. For an alcoholic to achieve serenity, and overcome the hurdle of pain and resentment, one must complete a searching and fearless moral inventory of themselves that requires examining all hurts and angers towards other people, in what way it has or had affected our lives, and are told to find our part in the matter: the way that we were selfish, dishonest, self-centered, or inconsiderate, and the exact nature of our wrongs. This is an emotionally taxing process, which forces one to realize that they are not perfect; that they played a role in many of the situations that we had previously believed to be innocent victims in. Then, to take things even farther, there as a sex inventory, “We reviewed our own conduct over the years past. Where had we been selfish, dishonest, or inconsiderate? Whom had we hurt? Did we unjustifiably arouse jealousy, suspicion, or bitterness? Where were we at fault, what should we have done instead? We got this all down on paper and looked at it.” (How it Works, 1939) As grueling as this process may seem to be, it is the key to relief and the means of becoming the person we have always wished to be. But the founders of AA were not the first to conquer this endeavor, Friedrich Nietzsche clearly stated, “It is practiced by those who survey all the strengths and weaknesses of their nature and then fit them into an artistic plan until every one of them appears as art and reason and even weaknesses delight the eye.” (Nietzsche) Nietzsche understood that anything worth having would take immense amounts of hard work and pain, and the founders of AA knew no different. They realized that without accepting the darkest parts of ourselves, we could never really love the bright parts without the sense of guilt. It is also in this step that we transition from Reactive beings to Active ones instead. Reactive behavior is characterized by internalizing the world around us and processing it as anger and resentment towards said world, but once thrust into Active, we are able to use the outer world as means of learning, and also how to take pain and use it as a stepping stone to our happiness and fulfillment.

In and after the process of step four (surveying oneself for great strengths and great weaknesses) and sharing with another human being the exact nature of all our wrongs, one is able to see that their personal defects are glaring. But with that new insight, the person working the steps will find that they have been transcended out of the bad-faith (as Sartre would call it) that they had previously been living in and into a balance of being-in-itself and for-itself. Both ontological structures within us become beautifully intertwined: we can see the past and present with clarity without dwelling and use the pain from it to catapult us into a brighter future, we do not see only one or few of the roles that we play, but we can admire how all of those parts play into a glorious whole that is the orchestra of our lives, we can see things through the lenses of our own experiences AND from an unbiased standpoint.

Back to the Stoics ideas, through steps six and seven we must also actively practice step three, which is to turn over what we cannot control, our defects, to God, and hope that this power greater than ourselves will move these defects and place them far from our grasp. Knowing that by working our program we can control how close to god we are, but it is ultimately up to that higher power on whether they wish to remove what is there.

And finally: steps ten, eleven, and twelve… To practice what we have learned on a daily basis and share it with those in need or still learning. But the journey is still far from over once we have completed step twelve, at this point we must start again at the beginning of step one. This may seem futile, seeing as one may think that the job is done, but with spiritual cleaning and progress, it requires work for the rest of life. For our soul is like our home, we don’t only clean it once and then we are done. As my sponsor has shared with me, we clean every day practicing the principles and working the steps, and every year we do a big spring cleaning (the fourth step) to get all the junk out of the basement and closets. Yesterdays dusting will not keep my spiritual house clean and orderly, and yesterdays shower will not keep me clean, so it would be foolish to believe that yesterdays program of recovery will keep me sober and spiritually fit today.

Sometimes I wonder where else it is possible to find such wholeness in one’s self? Where else are we put to the test to become the best person within our power? Where can we learn to live a life of meaning that is filled with reflection, transcendence, and happiness? I don’t believe that the society we live in today cultivates these desires within our youth (or adults for that matter). Personally, I think it has been lost within the hustle and bustle of capitalism and commercialism. But thankfully, there are in fact places where you can be brought back to the center. In my eyes there are two wonderfully viable routes to take, and they are nearly identical; only one has its steps written in its most simple form so that anyone that is willing can master it and the other requires a lengthy college education. Philosophy’s journey toward happiness and the Alcoholics Anonymous program of recovery hold countless amounts of similarities in theories. AA takes one on a journey that may seem scrupulous and unnecessary to the average Joe, but with my being personally immersed in this wonderful program, I can see clearly that the steps of Alcoholics Anonymous were artfully crafted so that it is nearly impossible to fail, so long as one is honest, open-minded, and willing. With those three basic requirements and the abstinence from alcohol, the sober alcoholic is upon the philosophical journey of a lifetime.

“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.

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.


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.

Loving Life In Recovery (4/24)

Somehow my posts are being removed and put into my drafts all chopped up. Has this happened to anyone else on here?

Anyways, here lies a piece of how I was feeling two weeks ago:

Today, like most of my days over the past 7 months, was very quiet.

I woke up at 6:30, went to a meeting, talked to my sponsor, took care of a few personal responsibilities, watched documentaries, and baked cupcakes for my co-workers. As I was finishing up in silence and began to climb the stairs for bed at a startlingly early 8:30 pm, I had an overwhelmingly warm feeling in my chest. A feeling of gratitude, happiness, peace, and love for my new life.

A typical Wednesday off for me 8 months ago would have consisted of either me laying in bed all day feeling like shit from the night before trying to muster the energy to get up, ready, and out to a bar OR passing out in my basement because I was drunk all day long and didn’t want anyone to see me.
TODAY was peaceful. It was productive. It was simple. Three things I never experienced during my active addiction.

It is in these seemingly meaningless moments, like washing my face and putting on moisturizer before bed, or cleaning the kitchen and shutting off the light before I walk upstairs, or when I’m quietly tidying up my room before I go to sleep, that I can stop for a moment and truly appreciate this new life that I have my higher power has created for me.
Those moments are the ones that bring me to joyous tears. That remind me of all the amazing gifts I have received from the program of alcoholics anonymous.

It is in these moments that I am thankful to be alive.

On being 21 and in recovery

“Was I really that bad, or am I just a normal partying young adult?”

This simple question has been coursing through my brain for the last few years. Sometimes several times a night, sometimes with months or years between to separate them. In the midst of my drunken blur of early teen years this question would pop up now and again and I figured this was the life everyone lived (or at least wished they did).

When I was 18 and received my first DUI charge I was asked this question by many mental health professionals, judges, lawyers, my family, and probation offers. At this point I’m drinking more than a half gallon of spiced rum to myself a day and the logical answer in my mind is was still, “no.” I was just having fun in the wrong place at the wrong time and figured the cops in Lebanon, PA had nothing better to do with their time.

At 19, I was spending every single night in a bar until 2am drinking a minimum 6 straight vodka on the rocks per night, and received my second DUI with a lovely .275 BAC. I was under the impression that I was just mature for my age. I didn’t see a problem with my bar fly lifestyle because “that’s what most 21 year olds do, and I might as well be 21.”

At age 20, I was spending every night and many afternoons (even the ones before work) in dirty hole in the wall bars that were characterized by old men, the smell of urine, and a distinct since of loneliness and despair floating through the air.

God, did I love those bars.

There wasn’t a chance in hell that anyone would recognize me in there, and being the only woman meant it was even easier to get free drinks. When the bar finally closed I would drive myself home with one eye shut, stagger into the basement of my home and proceed to pour myself full glasses of straight vodka and get upset that I could no longer even sense that pungent liquor taste that I had loved so much. I would continue to drink until I thought I would fall over, then crawl to the bathroom and force myself to vomit so that I could drink until I was able to pass out without the spins. Needless to say im experiencing signs of withdraw most mornings at this point.

It was around this time that I finally accepted the fact that I am an alcoholic. But accepting it didnt mean that I was ready or able to stop. I promised myself every night, that I would give myself until September 7th, 2013, exactly one week after my 21st birthday, and then I would be done for good.

Spring and summer eventually passed and I knew this dreaded date was approaching.

Finally its September 1st and I’m transitioning into being 21, stretching my arms out and feeling good about this newfound freedom. No longer could the many many bars that had banned my presence for being underage, refuse my service. The world was mine. A fact that exhilarated and terrified me.

But I couldn’t shake this sinking feeling that something bad was about to happen. I felt in the deepest parts of my always on point intuition that I was going to get pulled over. And since I was always drunk, and had my license suspended, you can imagine what a horrifying speculation that was for me.

On September 6th I was pulled over for my 3rd DUI. The moment I saw those lights turn on to a blinding flash, I felt an eerie sense of calm. It was the first spiritual awakening of many that I would receive over that week. It was the moment I realized that God was giving me what I had been wanting for almost a year. In many ways, he was doing for me, what I could not do for myself.

The following day I drank.

The day after that I told a friend I was going to quit drinking, like the good alcoholic I was, I decided to go out with a bang. I went to 7 different bars and had at minimum two drinks and two shots at each. By the time I got home, I was so disgusted with my past, present, and quickly approaching future, that I decided it was time to end things.

I grabbed a clever from my kitchen and headed to the bathroom where I had plans to finally be done with life.

As silly as this next part sounds, it is actually a moment that I find to be so profoundly godsent that it still gives me chills to think about. I had a nagging whisper in my mind that kept saying you need bubble bath, you can’t do this without bubble bath, it won’t be poetic without bubbles.

Crazy, I know.

I tore my apartment to shreds looking for some damn bubble bath. I tried all sorts of silly bath and body works products, bar soap, whatever I could get my hands on and I just couldn’t recreate the sudsy effect that standard bubble bath creates.

So I drove to my neighborhood Walmart on a mission to find the perfect sudsy soap. Under that beaming fluorescent light I realized the insanity of my thoughts, of my life, of my addiction. In one swoop it all became soberingly clear.

I started crying hysterically in the body soap aisle. Not one of my finer moments, but the most important of my spiritual awakenings occurring over that week.

I bought the bubble bath (cuz hey, it is a nice thing to have), and headed home.

When I awoke I felt that normal sinking feeling that I had become so accustomed to, and wallowed and cried for about half an hour.

This is where my 3rd spiritual awakening took place. I abruptly stopped crying, got up and out of my bed, and for the second time in 24 hours tore my apartment to shreds, searching and finding every single drop of alcohol and every bit of drugs and poured it down the drain or flushed it down the toilet.

I am fully aware now (and most certainly was at the time) that those actions were not made by me. That was surely the god of my understanding. When I was opening and pouring out fresh bottles of wine, beer, and vodka all I wanted to do was dump it into my mouth and not the drain, but for some crazy reason, I just kept pouring it out. I thought that I really should save this and give it to one of my friends, but I just kept pouring it out.

That night I had one beer, and the next morning went to my first meeting. I got s sponsor within the week, moved out of my apartment and into my grandparents house, quit my job at the bar, started my first 90/90, dropped my classes, and threw every single fiber of my being into recovery.

So now that you know my sorry, I can get in to telling you what its like to be 21 and sober.

The first few weeks I really spent a lot of time defending my decision to abstain from drugs and alcohol, which was the last thing I was expecting to have to do.

One girl that I worked with at the bar asked me what I was having to drink that night and when I told her I was quitting, she replied quickly and sharply, “you just turned 21, that’s f***ing stupid!”

Or the young man who thought he should explain the benefits of why I should quit smoking cigarettes instead of alcohol, because its quite silly that I’ve chosen to kick the latter.

Or the guy who was quite confused about why I’m not drinking so I went on to tell him “I just picked up my 60 day chip and I’m happy to not drink.” he followed by buying me a beer and said, “60 days is too long, how bout you start up again tonight.”

While at the time, I thought these people were the problem, that they were ignorant, uneducated, and frankly just rude. I realize today, that I was the problem. I was trying to live the life I always had but sober. I thought I still belonged in a bar. Rather so, I wanted to prove that I was still fun. Those people who made those comments to me were baffled that I had stopped drinking, because they saw a normal girl who happened to party. They didn’t see the girl who I just described to all of you. They saw the façade I had carefully engineered. And even if they did see that girl who I tried desperately to keep hidden, it wasn’t their responsibility to keep her sober. What they said to me, I cannot be offended by. I shouldn’t have even been there to hear those things. I should have been home, working on my steps, or frankly, anywhere else but those bars. Thankfully, I didn’t drink when I was out those nights, but I am grateful to have learned from those experiences.

When I got sober I realized that I needed to begin doing things that I had never done before, and quit doing all the things that I once thought were okay. While this idea seemed daunting at first, I listened. And I made those changes the old timers told me to make.

Finally deciding to get into recovery was the greatest thing I’ve ever done. I love my life today and every day that’s passed since September 9th, 2013.

Sometimes, even through sobriety, even last week, the question will pop into my mind, “Am I really an alcoholic, or am I just a normal 21 year old that likes to party.”

The answer is clearly no, but sometimes my disease doesn’t let me see it that easily. It reminds me of all the great times I’ve had with alcohol. But when I really sit down, and take the time to remember how I felt during the days that followed September 6th, 2013 I am fully aware that I am not just someone who drinks, I am an alcoholic. My disease progressed extremely quickly, as it does with many alcoholics, so to even think about going back is to think about death. I know that I will die if I drink again. And when I think about it in those terms, in the real life terms, not the romanticized drunken movie that plays in my mind from time to time. I know that I’m in the right place, and that there is no better 21 year old me, than the sober one.