Dear 2014 Me

I wish I could go back in time and give 2014 me a hug. Let her know that everything she’s been through, everything she’s fought for, all the tears and fears and doubts will one day be worth it. Let her know that she is loved, and she is most certainly strong enough.

Four years ago today I walked out of maximum security jail after being incarcerated for six months. My mother, father, brother, and friend Lisa were waiting for me in the lobby. I will never forget the sound of my mother’s sobs as she held me.

At this point in my life, I was almost 19 months sober. I had lost everything, and had to move in with my mother. It would take another 2 ½ years for me to be able to drive again, and I had resigned from my job. Despite my master’s degree, I was terrified that no one in my profession would take their chance on a felon. I was scared and my self-esteem was in the toilet.

Five days later I wrote this on my blog:

I am slowly adjusting to life post-incarceration and am reveling in simple pleasures: sunshine and fresh air, real coffee, walks with my dog, fresh fruits and vegetables, being able to hug friends and family, sleeping in a real bed with a pillow, wearing my own undies, etc. While I am grateful to put the past six months behind me, there are still many obstacles looming on the horizon. I’m scared and hope I have the strength to get through all this. One day at a time right?

Dear 2014 me: You’ve got this! Keep fighting and never give up. Your life will be amazing. YOU are amazing.

I got through it all by taking baby steps. Baby steps don’t seem like much at first, but soon you look back and realize you survived a marathon, and then a triathlon. Only these distances are not measured by speed, but by dedication and perseverance. Four years later, every bump in the road, every time I’ve struggled to keep my head afloat in shark-infested waters, it’s all been worth it.

In the meantime, there’s no end in sight. The work remains, and I strive to keep moving, to stay sober, to keep learning more about myself. I also have a hell of a time doing it! Life today is a blast. I wish I had the strength to do all this work before I hit my bottom, but that’s how my story goes. This is a hard time of year, so please reach out if you need to. Also know that it will get better and better.

Dear 2014 me: The best is yet to come! Trust me.

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Before & After

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It is the tail end of National Recovery Month, so I thought I would publish a quick before and after. I posted this on Instagram for a Clean Challenge a few months back. Here’s what I wrote:

The first photo is from Labor Day weekend 2012, and I am completely blacked out. Even though I got in a cab with a friend, I end up coming to the next morning in the pouring rain, having passed out in a park. Despite that terrifying ordeal, I kept drinking until May 2013 when I had an even more horrific incident happen. The photo on the right is from April 2018, less than a month shy of my 5th year of sobriety. No more my dead eyes, blackouts, shame, unbearable anxiety and 2-3 day hangovers. Sobriety remains the hardest thing, and the best thing I’ve ever done. 

So much gratitude…

Stumbling Through Grief

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At five years sober, I am still encountering new terrain and challenges. The most recent is the death of my grandfather. This is the hardest loss I have had to go through in my life, and during my grandfather’s one week stay in hospice I was terrified. All I could think about was, I don’t want to feel this. I am scared to feel so much pain. How do I do this???

Compounding the situation was my distance from him and the rest of my family. After I got married last year, I moved to St. Louis. Within two weeks last fall, I got married, moved, and started a new job. Scary? Yes! But I did it. Just like when I spent six months in the pokey when I was 13 months sober. Terrifying? YES! But I did it. Every time I go through something else in sobriety that seems utterly terrifying, I have to remind myself of all that I have been through in this journey. And then I do my best to muster up some courage and barrel through.

I was not able to make the trip home to say goodbye to my Pappy, which was excruciating for me. I felt disconnected from my family, and it all caused a lot of emotional anguish. I did get to say goodbye to Pappy via my dad’s cell phone. Dad said he opened his eyes while I talked to him, and I am hoping he heard me. That was on a Friday, and he was gone three days later.

In the meantime, I was Googling grieving in sobriety. I spoke out in my home group about my fear of losing someone so dear to me. I kept in touch with my current and former sponsor. I didn’t hide from this fear, I laid it out there for everyone to see. I prayed for strength and said the serenity prayer A LOT. When he passed, I kept talking to people: on the phone, via text and email, in person and in meetings. I cried and I yelled. I got pissed that first night that I couldn’t take the edge off with a drink or a cigarette. I acknowledged that anger, then I let it go. In sobriety you don’t get a buffer for the pain, you have no choice but to keep moving through it.

My husband and I made the long drive back to Ohio for the visitation and funeral. I was scared to go into my grandparents’ church, but thankfully I was met by my mom and two of my best friends before I walked into the door. I was scared that I would see his body in the casket and cry so hard that I wouldn’t be able to breathe. I was nauseous, but I did it. And I cried a lot. I brought him one of my sobriety coins to put in his casket, and was grateful that he saw me turn my life around. His own father was an abusive alcoholic, and because of that, Pappy did not drink. Not only that, but he was an amazing father and grandfather. I am so lucky to have had him in my life.

Of course I am still dealing with residual icky feelings and sadness, but I am continuing to put them out there. The old me would have used this as another excuse to drink more, to isolate and keep everything inside to fester. It also would have been another excuse to eat tons of junk and feel like shit about myself. I let myself grief-eat sweets over the weekend (I’m not fucking perfect!), but I stopped and agreed to treat myself with kindness this week. I went to the gym, ate better, and made an effort to get more rest. I am so grateful for a program which has given me so many skills: on living, on coping, etc. Life will never be easy, but we can get through anything one day at a time.

Wish me luck!

Tomorrow is my driving test! I’m totally nervous because the BMV refused to give me temps so I could practice. I guess it doesn’t matter if you haven’t driven for over three years. Sink or swim, that’s been my entire journey thus far. This scene of Cher in Clueless taking her driving test has been in my head all week! I know I won’t reach that level of suckage, but I’m feeling nervous all over again about the manueverability part of the test. Ughhhh. Fingers crossed! 

Freedom

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We are going to know a new freedom and a new happiness.”

I made it! I’ve finally earned my freedom from felony probation after three years. This includes: a six month stay in a county jail, losing my home during that time (i.e. getting officially booted from my ex’s house where I had lived for eight years prior) along with my mind for a short period, resigning from my job, having to move back home with my mother after my jail sentence, being completely broke and having to sign up for government benefits and medical insurance, getting a new AA sponsor and going to new meetings in a new town, being sentenced to 4 meetings per week once out of jail, my license being suspended for three years, paying several thousand dollars of court costs, restitution, and BMV fines (after spending 12.5K on a lawyer), getting a job back with my university library in February 2015, moving back to Akron into a tiny studio apartment, living ON MY OWN (with no roommate or boyfriend) for the first time ever, learning how to live independently without a car (public transit here isn’t the greatest), having to get forms signed and get permission every time I left the state, getting sued, waking in up terror some nights wondering if I forgot to check in or do something correctly with probation, living in fear of being hauled off to prison (not jail – my judge was trying to get me 2-5 YEARS in prison) if I so much as sneezed wrong, and what else?

 

OH YEAH. During this time I’ve stayed sober! I found another new sponsor and new home group when I moved back to Akron, I reworked the steps, I started sponsoring, I started giving leads (other people call them speaker meetings) despite being terrified of public speaking, I became active in my home group, and in general I gave back to AA as much as I could because I owe this program my life. If it weren’t for the program and the fellowship, I would have crumbled. Instead, my life became better than I ever could have imagined.

After my accident, I wondered why I escaped death. I had all these obstacles in my path that I could not see an end to.  How could I do it? I felt like my life was over. There was seemingly no way out.

Kids, if you are new to the program please stick around. Be willing. Ignore the icky God stuff at first or merely think of it as “Good Orderly Direction”. Ask for help. Go to meetings. Get a sponsor. Work the steps. Grit your teeth and ride out all the new uncomfortable feelings. I promise it will pass and that it will get better. One day at a time it gets better, and we recover. I am living proof that this thing works.

Don’t ever give up on yourself. I’m so glad I didn’t.

 

Four Years (5.12.17)

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It’s still amazing to me that I’ve gotten to this point. God willing I will continue on this journey, and will find the accumulation of each new year just as magical as the first. I remain a work in progress, and hope to be a student of sobriety for the rest of my days. AA has saved my life, and I must continue to give thanks for all that I’ve received by carrying the message of hope to others. It can be done. Life gets exponentially better! Please stay while you are here.

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I finally got my coin yesterday, as I left town on Friday and got back Tuesday. In a way, I’ve turned a corner on my recovery this year. Or maybe it’s just in my personal growth? I’m sure I’ve written here how I’ve struggled with my sobriety date. It’s a day of both pain and joy for me. The past three years I’ve absolutely dreaded the week of my sobriety date, because on the day before, I relive my car crash. Of course I don’t remember the crash, but I am wracked with guilt and pain because of it. Thanks to the intensive work I’ve done with my amazing counselor, this year I was at peace with May 11th. I see her again next week, and I cannot wait to tell her how I did last Thursday. Nothing I can do will change the events of that day, but it’s such a relief that I made it through May 11th this year without stirring up a horrible maelstrom of emotion. I acknowledged the past, I prayed for my victim and her family, and marveled over how I am alive today. What an incredible blessing!

Cheers, Friends!

 

Marty Dobbs

Do any of you watch the Netflix show Love? Despite it being created by Judd Apatow and having a main story line involving addiction, I struggled to get through season one last year. I remember warming up to it slowly, and finally getting into and enjoying it by the last few episodes. I finished season two a week ago, and was much more into it. I also  sometimes found myself identifying with the main character Mickey, the alcoholic-addict. I remember watching season one and being infuriated with her! Funny, right? God knows I was a right pain in the ass for a lot of years.

The episode that struck me the most was “Marty Dobbs”. In it, Mickey’s father is visiting from out of town. He’s an alcoholic, and they butt heads because they are so similar to each other. Mickey’s love interest, Gus, is invited to act as a buffer, but instead he blows her AA anonymity to Marty. The visit is a complete shit show, and ends badly. Mickey and Gus are fighting on the way home, and eventually Mickey pulls the car over and gets out because she can’t even handle being in the same car with him anymore.

Mickey: I’ll just give you a ride home so you can have a break from me.

Gus: I don’t want a break from you. (awkwardly hugs Mickey)

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I can’t tell you how many times that has been me. Navigating through early sobriety is pretty terrifying, as is the realization that you are relearning how to do life all over again. Even worse is learning relationships, especially because I never learned the first time around. I desperately wanted to connect with people, but didn’t have a clue how. I remember feeling that I was incapable of being a good girlfriend, because KC in active addiction was a terrible girlfriend.

But back to Mickey…that was me. Sadly, my fiance has often been on the receiving end of that sort of exchange. How many times did I try to push him away because I felt that I was too fucked up to deserve love? Or that I was an unlovable mess? When that rough day snowballs into a terrible week and those character defects start to come out again. Thinking how the hell could someone love this?  Why would they want to?

There was never a button that clicked, where I suddenly realized that I am capable and deserving of love. It just sort of happened. Life got easier and I stopped fighting it and other people. I know that my journey of sobriety will continue to unfold as will my journey of learning to love myself. In the meantime I will remain grateful for all the people who stood by me and hugged me and loved me when I hated myself. I hope in season three Mickey will get to experience the growth and love that I have been on the receiving end of in my own sobriety. Until next season…