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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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.

THANK GOD FOR THIS PROGRAM, THANK GOD FOR THESE AA PEOPLE, THANK GOD I DIDN’T DRINK, AMD THANK GOD FOR HIS LOVE.

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.