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.

 

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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.

“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.

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.