Sorrow and Gratitude

My Name is Steph, I am an alcoholic, and I am so fucking grateful to the program of Alcoholics Anonymous.

This past Friday I received news from an emergency room doctor that I have a medical condition which has affected both of my ovaries and typically leads to infertility. [Shit.]

My immediate thought was, “But I’m only twenty-three years old, this is something I shouldn’t be facing until I’m at least in my thirties!” Which surprisingly was not that far from my thoughts immediately before coming into the rooms, “I’m only twenty-one! I should be drinking until I’m at least in my thirties!”

As my sudden shock began to dissipate, that fearful thought morphed into something much more divine, a thought that may have been placed in my mind so directly and gracefully by the God of my understanding.

I thought to myself, “My goals, ambitions, and aspirations before getting sober and even leading up until today have all been great, but if those had come to fruition, I would have sold myself oh so short from what my God had planned for me instead. You do not know that you are infertile, but if you are, it is God’s will. God has so much more in store for you than you can ever comprehend. You do not need to know his will, or even have remote understanding, you just need to trust and have faith that it is right. You will be okay.”

So grasping onto this acceptance, and holding tight as not to let myself sway from the feelings and thoughts of love back to those of fear, I carried this through my weekend and into this morning.

Since getting sober, I have learned that when problems arise I must face them, that what I ignore grows. This concept became much more understandable to me today as I made the phone call to schedule a follow-up appointment with my OBGYN to learn about what is happening within me, the severity of it, and what my options for treatment are. Every fiber of me wanted to ignore this, to stow it away until a more appropriate time, like when I actually want to have a baby. But this head full of AA quickly reminded me that my health is not something to push to a back burner, that my treatment options will limit themselves the longer I wait.

So I made the call, I sat on hold for what felt like an eternity. I told myself that at fifteen minutes I could hang up and call later. A perfectly quick and easy, totally justifiable out from this dreaded phone call. At fourteen minutes and fifty-four seconds, the operator answered. [Shit.]

After I told her the condition which had been discovered and that I had been instructed to make an appointment, she briskly and cheerfully stated, “Oh, let me transfer you to our fertility clinic which specializes in your disorder! Please hold!”

That was it. Fertility Clinic??? Suddenly all of the feelings of sorrow swooped in. Suddenly it was real. Suddenly I was mourning the dream of a child whose eyes matched mine, whose laugh was as silly and loud as mine, who I loved fully and unconditionally. Suddenly I was seeing my significant others face as I crushed his own dreams of biological fatherhood. Suddenly I watched my value as a woman decrease on a scale of 1-10 (infertile and an alcoholic? She has to only be a four pointer!). Suddenly I watched my ambitions of a family crumble beneath my feet, dropping me to the floor of my pity party pit and landing on my back with the wind completely swept from my lungs. Suddenly the tears had come.

“Hello, Penn State Hershey Reproductive Endocrinology and Infertility, how may I assist your call?”

[Get it together, get it together!!]

I got it together.

I finished the call, I made the appointment, I went to a meeting, I shared at that meeting, and I cried at that meeting. I let my guard down to my support network, I let myself feel the feelings. I let myself cry more, I let myself have an extra slice of pizza for lunch, I let myself have some time in bed pretending to be a burrito, and I let myself write to better comprehend these complex emotions, and more importantly, I let myself pray to God multiple times to give thanks for this life and let him know that I trust him completely.

Today, I can feel sadness and loss and confusion all for the medical journey I am about to embark on while simultaneously feeling gratitude and understand that what’s happening and what is in store is all apart of God’s divine plan.

That is this program; that is the spiritual life; that is not the pink cloud, but pure gratitude; that is a perfect example of how alcoholics anonymous has given me a life beyond my wildest dreams.

This could have been a perfect excuse to throw a killer pity party with booze galore. But today, it wasn’t. Today it was just an obstacle upon my journey trudging the road of happy destiny.

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Rebirth in AA

September 9th 2013, exactly nine months ago, I stepped into my first AA meeting after deciding drinking was no longer an option for me. I was thoroughly convinced that my life was over. I had a very vivid picture of myself with a perpetual frown on my face, listening to old drunks talk about their lives, and spending my free time playing checkers until the day that God would finally let me die. I thought I would never feel happiness again. 

I must have been thinking of Hospice rather than AA.

Thankfully, I was in so much pain, that I was willing to live the life of a senior citizen on the verge of death rather than take another drink.

To my surprise, it was nothing that I had pictured. Which is somewhat silly, because I had attended meetings in the past, maybe 10-15 over the past 5 years, and because I was so wrapped up in my own world, all I could hear was tragedy, and sit there watching the clock, itching in my skin, to burst through the doors and run to the nearest bar.

When I crossed the doors to my new life on September 9th, I was an effing mess. I couldn’t stop the flood gates for more than a few minutes, but amazingly enough I LISTENED.

There is one story I heard, that kept me coming back. A woman shared about her wedding which had taken place a day or two earlier, and explained that it was a dry occasion, and everyone from the gen-pop was awkward and didn’t know how to talk without the buffer of drugs or alcohol. She went on to say how grateful she was to just be herself, and be okay in her own skin without the aid of a chemical.

This blew my mind. I wanted that.

 

I wanted it bad.

 

So I kept coming back, every single day. I was amazed to find people of ALL ages, including a few that were as young as 15. I saw people smiling, and laughing, and enjoying life. I wanted all of it.

I had a sponsor within the week and was hitting up to 3 meetings a day, making friends with the women who were succeeding in the program, getting numbers from everyone, giving my number out to everyone. I didn’t count the days, but I just couldn’t wait for my first big girl chip, that beautiful 30 day chip, and soon enough, my 60, 90, 4 month, 5, 6 and so on. And tomorrow, when I chair at my home group, I will pick up my 9 month chip.

 

When I think back to how convinced I was that my life would end, I’m thrown by the fact that it did. The old me died, and in the wake of my active alcoholic death, I found that a new me was born.

I really like this new me.

Over the last nine months I have learned more than I ever thought possible, or even have the time to share in one sitting. My favorite thing being, love. The people in the rooms of alcoholics anonymous taught me how to love myself and others, and unconditionally at that. I learned how to have friendships, to share, to express my feelings without a buffer, how to communicate, respect every being around me…

this list could go endlessly.

In the beginning, I was facing huge implications from my drinking, the main one being I was facing a1 -2 year sentence in the upstate women’s prison. Sometimes I would think things to myself, well I might as well keep drinking until I go away, there will be time for sobriety when I’m gone.

But I didn’t pick up. I kept working the program: making meetings, calling my sponsor, not picking up one day at a time no matter how futile it seemed. Because of these healthy choices, I never had to experience that trip upstate. Because of AA I did not go to prison. If that isn’t a gift, I could tell you about 50 other unexpected, glorious things that have happened because I chose to stay sober, one day at a time.

And I just have to say that because of this wonderful program, I was able to live my life with the prospect of prison in the near future without fear. I was able to accept that God would do for me what was best. That if I went, it would be because it was best for me. There is no way in hell that I could have been equipped with enough acceptance to face that type of thing. It is only because of AA

So today, I am immensely grateful to be where I am. To be able to go to bed knowing that I’ve made good choices.  To have found this program of Alcoholics Anonymous. To have stayed in this program, working it to the best of my ability for the past nine months.

To have been Reborn.

It is the greatest gift I could have ever received.

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.

Cunning, Baffling, Powerful

When I first started attending AA meetings and heard people saying that alcohol is a subtle foe that is cunning, baffling, and powerful I assumed that those people were weak. I thought they just weren’t very good at being sober. What I didn’t realize was that my disease would sit and wait in a corner for the absolute best moment to creep back into my mind.

I have seven months clean and I am not feeling so sober. This disease amazes me more and more each day. I feel it building my ego back up, isolating me from my support system, making me more self-centered, and focusing my mind on tasks other than my step-work. This has been happening for days, if not weeks, and I have just now realized what’s happening.

I once heard a man share that alcoholism and drug addiction (which if I might add have no differences at all) are like a dragon that sits in our stomachs. It gets there the moment we first take a drink or a drug and it grows with every one that follows. When we finally put the drink or the drug down the dragon gets pissed.. but with more and more recovery the dragon finally goes to sleep. Emphasis on sleep, this dragon never leaves our body. We can put this creature to rest, but never ever expel it from us. The harder we work our program, the deeper sleep it goes into, slowly becoming encased in stone. But this mummification can easily be reversed, the first step backwards can me a multitude of things.. may it be not going to meetings regularly, not praying often, visiting old people places and things, etc. Whatever first step we take, it chizzles off bit by bit the sleeping mask we have put on our disease, allows it to open it’s eyes and stretch out a bit, get nice and cozy in that tummy of ours. I like to think that the feeling I used to get when I desperately needed a fix was that dragon getting comfy again because it knew it wasn’t far off from its miracle grow solution. Because what kills me, makes him strong. What breaks me, mends him. What takes me to a place of desperation, gives him hope.

My dragon is stretching. My dragon knows just the words to whisper through my mind. And I’m scared. I’m scared not necessarily of the dragons words, but the sound of its voice, Because its indistinguishable from my own.

Because of alcoholics anonymous I should not be afraid of this voice, because I have hundreds of people who know which voice is mine and which is his.. all I need to do is pick up the phone and ask. But my dragon tells me they are busy, and that my thoughts are too “silly” to share. My dragon tells me that I’m doing great, so its Okay to miss the meeting across the river today. That its okay for me to sleep in instead of listening to other alcoholics tell me about the sweet nothings the dragons in their guts have whispered to them.

 

My disease is cunning, baffling, and powerful. But I make the choice to stop it in its tracks or let it creep until its too late.

Today I will stop it. Today I will pick up the phone. Today I will pray to have sanity restored. Today I will choose recovery.