Sobriety in the Time of Covid-19

I am always grateful for my sobriety, but right now I am extra grateful to be sober! Are these wild times or what? I’ve gotten over the whole “we are living in a sci-fi movie” feeling (that was SO March 2020), and have moved on to acceptance. Acceptance that life as we knew it is over. Acceptance that all the things I had planned for this year most likely won’t happen. Acceptance for the fear and uncertainty this pandemic has brought into our daily lives. Acceptance that I really am doing the best that I can right now.

The start of this year was a bit of a whirlwind, and in January my coworker let us know that she was taking a new job after 17 years with our college. I decided immediately that despite her position not being what I thought I would ever go for in my field, I needed to apply for her job. I work at a tiny academic library, and this would most likely be my only way to move up professionally for a long time. I’m happy where I am at, and would like to be able to stay in one place for a while. So I busted my butt trying to learn the basics of this position for the next month, applied for the job, and I got the promotion. Shortly after, the Covid-19 bomb went off and life hasn’t been the same.

As a regular NPR listener, I’d been hearing about the virus that was ravaging Wuhan but it naively never occurred to me that we would be in danger of an outbreak here. Two of my coworkers were panicking way ahead of the curve, and I found their fears to be over the top. My husband and I had plane tickets to fly to Cleveland at the end of March so I could celebrate my 40th birthday with family and friends, but it quickly became apparent that we wouldn’t be flying anywhere.

All of a sudden my entire weekly routine was out of whack, and that’s when I started to panic. Two major parts of my week day routine that helps me to keep my head on straight are classes at my gym and AA meetings. All of a sudden we were told to stay home and avoid contact with others. I was at a small concert on March 18th, and next day the band canceled the rest of their tour. The NBA had suspended their season. TOM HANKS HAD THE DAMN VIRUS! Things began getting more real, and more weird at the same time. My boss and I were the only ones working while our campus turned into a ghost town over spring break. Each night we were told to take home our laptops and essentials in case we were told not to return to work. Meanwhile, my husband had been working from home indefinitely since March 17th. My last day at work was March 25th as our city’s shelter in place rules would begin to take effect the next morning for the next 30 days. Our shelter in place has since been extended while yesterday our city had the highest spike yet in recorded infections.

Thankfully my AA home group began running via Zoom on the 25th, and my gym started its online classes that Monday. I immediately dove in to keep myself busy and help stifle the panic that flopped around in my chest like an awkward baby bird. I turned 40, and while I got to enjoy a beautiful spring day scoping out an amazing old cemetery (social distancing at its finest), underneath it all I was disappointed. I wasn’t able to see my family or friends, and I couldn’t even celebrate with a nice meal out at a restaurant. First world problems, but I was bummed. Obviously a birthday is just another day, but 40 seemed special and my big day was overshadowed by impending doom.

Meanwhile, my new sponsor was in an emotional free fall. She suffered a loss immediately after we started working together in December, and subsequently fell into a deep depression. It turned into a nosedive as the threat of coronavirus and quarantine creeped in. I was struggling too, but I was also really worried about her. We finally came to the mutual agreement that it would be best that I find another sponsor. Our time working together was short, but I love her and wish her the best. We are in the same home group, and still text every couple of days or so. Within a week, I had a new sponsor. She is also in my home group, and has been a friend since I moved here. She is retired, lives alone, and is grateful to be working with a new sponsee. We immediately began our step work, and it is going so well.

I discovered early on that life in the time of Covid-19 felt much like early sobriety. Since this pandemic is an entirely new experience for all of us, I had to learn how to deal with life and manage my emotions just as I did when I was newly sober. In early sobriety, I was afraid of everything, had zero armor to protect myself emotionally, and my feelings were all over the place. Scared one minute, happy the next, crying after that. As quarantine loomed and shit became REAL fast, I was riding a roller coaster of emotions. Every hour I seemed to be feeling something different: fear, then anxiety, then gratitude, back to fear, then dread. It was dizzying and I felt brand new all over again. I was incredibly grateful to be able to work from home, then I realized how hard it was to work from home. I was tired all the time, mentally exhausted, and trying to do my old job, the new job, and train the new guy. I unloaded all of these frustrations at a meeting, and was quickly snapped back to reality. A home group member and dear friend said, “Listen, you aren’t just working from home. You are stuck at home during a time of CRISIS, and you are trying to work.” It sounds so simple, but I hadn’t been able to make that connection in my brain. As usual, my expectations of myself were entirely too high! It took some time, but I have come to a level of acceptance that I am doing the best that I can right now. We all are.

The big perk of working from home is the stellar commute! I quickly developed a routine where I could sleep in 20 minutes later than normal, shower, grab some coffee, then head upstairs to have some quiet time to center myself before starting my day. I would read several daily meditations (Daily Reflections and The 24 Hour Book), do some quarantine journaling based on these questions, then text my sponsor. It was a great way to center myself, and get back to the basics. Having a structured routine is really important to me, and I think the change in everything was another big reason for my panicking at the beginning of all this with the gym and AA. In the meantime, I’ve had sessions with my counselor every other week via Zoom. Our sessions are productive, but I’ve discovered that they really wipe me out. We always meet at 9 a.m., and by my lunch break I am exhausted. So much extra energy is going into our new worlds, and I am trying to be kinder to myself and except that sometimes I just need to lie down. So on those days with counseling, I lie down and sometimes I get a nap in during my break. If I don’t sleep, I still feel better after letting myself relax and be still for at least 30 minutes. Old me would have felt that I was being lazy; new me knows that I have a lot going on and that it is perfectly okay to rest!

The past two weeks I’ve felt worlds different mentally. I am also feeling better after extreme screen time/Zoom/talk exhaustion. I was spending a lot of time each week checking in and calling my Mom, Dad, brother, and two grandmothers that I felt worn out. For some reason I thought I would have so much time and energy to catch up with old friends, video chat, play games with people online….and crickets. Again, high expectations of myself. This has been a challenging learning experience in so many ways. I thought that I would have so much more time and energy to do things, when I’ve ended up being wiped out. I am in no way bored, and I’m not just sitting on my butt doing nothing. Survival mode is rough. It’s not just about goofing off all weekend, it’s about being responsible and taking care of yourself. Thankfully I am sober, or else I would probably spend most of this quarantine being blacked out, sick, paralyzed with fear, and doing horribly irresponsible things because I would need to get out and get more booze.

I hope you are all healthy, safe, and doing what you can to take good care of yourself. I know it’s hard when things are scary, but really taking it one day at a time is so, so helpful. Try to stay into today, and know that you are doing the best that you can right now. And I am proud of you!

Day 2,448

One of the tools I’ve learned in sobriety is to look at a problem or issue in my life and ask, “What will I learn from this?” When it’s painful or difficult, there is usually an opportunity for growth. This summer I started feeling a weird sort of distance from my sponsor. Things were fine when we got together to catch up and do work, but everything felt different otherwise. When I would text it would sometimes take a day or two to get a response along with a lighthearted “I thought I responded to this but I didn’t!”. Sometimes it would take time to nail her down for an actual phone call. We were still in touch, but I started feeling like I was being held at arm’s length.

Naturally my self-esteem (or lack thereof) began to whisper to me that maybe this was my fault. I started telling myself that I wasn’t a good enough sponsee, because my life was perpetually busy and I wasn’t doing enough in the program. I thought that maybe she didn’t like me anymore. While the negative self-talk grew, so did my resentment against her. I am a 39 year old woman who has grown leaps and bounds emotionally the past six years, but all of a sudden I was unable to ask a women who knew everything about me if she liked me/wanted to work with me anymore. 

In meetings, I started scoping out the women who raised their hands to show that they were willing to sponsor. I was drawn again and again to a woman in my home group that has been sober since I was the in first grade. I kept making mental notes to talk to her, but I never did other than the usual pre and post meeting pleasantries.

Fast forward to the Sunday before Christmas. My sponsor and I met at a coffee shop for a catch up. After I filled her in on my usual busyness, she tells me that she has something important to tell me. Over the summer, she was overseas for a work trip and she relapsed. It was only one drink, and she says it was an accident but she knowingly finished the drink. And didn’t tell anyone about it for almost 6 months. 

Classic alcoholic behavior. 

She thought I would be furious, but at first all I could do was blurt out that I knew something was wrong and I was relieved that it wasn’t about me (addicts and alcoholics are really, really good at thinking only of themselves). But then I approached her from a place of love and understanding, which I’ve learned to do in AA. 

I am responsible. When anyone, anywhere, reaches out for help, I want the hand of A.A. always to be there. And for that: I am responsible.  

Despite my growing resentment, she is my sober sister and I love her. I also know that she is full of shame and beating the shit out of herself in her own head. Why would I add to that?

We had a great talk for several hours, and she cried a few times. I came close to tears as well. It’s emotional stuff, cunning, baffling, and powerful stuff. As her story unraveled in front of me I could see her distance, and how this relapse took shape in her life. The relapse begins to happen in our heads long before we pick up that drink. And she’s lucky she only had one; she could have stayed on a bender overseas and lost her job. And yes, it was only one drink but she obsessed over alcohol for the rest of the trip.

After our meeting, I was hurt. Pissed off. Seriously, I was lied to for six months? WHAT THE FUCK?! As soon as my hissy fit left my system, I started to turn this scenario into a learning experience. What can I do to prevent a relapse? How do I stay strong, and keep my sober toolbox at the ready? 

My next soberversary is year 7. I know SO many people that have gone out again at 7 years, and I’ll be damned if that happens to me. Yes, my life is busy but I stay committed to my sobriety. I have a home group that I attend weekly, I’m in a committee in that home group, I volunteer and take AA meetings into our county jail, I work the steps, I try to remain spiritually fit, and now I am working with a new sponsor. 

To some it may seem like a lot of work, but thanks to this program I rebuilt my life. Scratch that! I BUILT AN AMAZING NEW LIFE! My life is still incredible to me today, even on the shitty grey January days when my brain protests winter and the lack of light. Even on days when my anxiety is out of control, my life is such a blessing. I refuse to accept anything less now. 

Onward and upwards, friends!

Day 2,196

Sunday I celebrated my 6th year of sobriety. SIX YEARS. I’m still baffled and humbled by this process. How has it possibly been this long? I wish I could tell me at 6 months that it gets better, easier, that it’s an incredible journey. But that would be cheating, right? Every day, month, and year that I am sober equals growth, and I am so grateful for the all the lessons and victories along the way.

Like every year, this past year has had its challenges. The hardest was dealing with the death of my grandfather, which is thus far the hardest loss I’ve experienced in my life. Just yesterday I was eating breakfast with my husband and a friend, and the tears and grief washed over me after seeing an older man that reminded me of him. He didn’t look like him at all, but I think it was the New Balance tennis shoes that did it. I had to wipe my eyes and carry on, before the ugly crying came out in full force. I try not to stifle my emotions these days, but for me there is a time and a place for ugly crying (ha).

Speaking of emotions, I’m now trying to come to grips with anger. After speaking to my sponsor on my soberversary, it became clear that I am struggling with my temper these days. This doesn’t mean that I am in a bad place or am pissed off all the time, but when something does happen my anger has been going from 0-100 in seconds. AAers like to say that “more will be revealed”. This is currently my “more”!

The anger has been an issue since my grandfather’s death, and I think it ties in to me being away from my Ohio family and friends since getting married. I love my life here in St. Louis, but I miss a lot of people terribly. When I am back in Ohio and visiting, it is impossible to see everyone. Family is number one, and I am lucky to also have so many friends and members of my Akron AA family that want to see me. But it’s incredibly frustrating that every visit feels like speed-dating and exhausts me. I wore myself (and my amazingly patient husband) into the ground over Christmas. I realize that is on me trying to be a people-pleaser, but I really miss all these people and want to see them. When I don’t have the time to see EVERYONE, it makes me feel like shit. So I guess it is all a part of me still adjusting to my new life, and living away from home for the first time ever outside of college.

I am also working on upping my service work in AA! I am my home group liaison to the Women in Corrections Committee, and I hope to be able to take meetings into jails. I have all the paperwork to volunteer for the jail, but am worried that my past criminal conviction will keep me from doing so. Ironic, right? Time will tell, but all I can do is try at this point.

My life and heart in general remain very full. My husband and I bought a house last fall, and adopted a greyhound. I am active in AA, and I belong to a great women’s gym. I love my job, and I work for a great college. None of this would be possible without my sobriety. While I now have 6 years, it still comes down to the day to day. We stay sober, one day at a time.

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.

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…

Freedom

freedom

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)

dobbs

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…

 

 

Alcoholic Eating

I’ve battled food my whole life, but with the absence of alcohol my food struggles have intensified. I am now working with my counselor again (who helped me a great deal before my sentencing) to try to deal with my ingrained shitty feelings about myself. I seem to have several issues going on here: I use substances (food, alcohol) to deal with unpleasant feelings, I punish myself more for being “bad”, I have the self-esteem of a snail, and I secretly hate myself. I’m kidding about the last two. Sorta.

Sobriety and AA have helped so much with my self esteem, but I still have that nagging voice inside of me that tells me that whatever it is that I am doing, it’s not enough. My lifelong battle with myself is exhausting! And my inner voice would never in a million years be as critical to one of my friends as it is to myself. What is it that alcoholics call themselves? Oh yeah. Egomaniacs with an inferiority complex. I’m not much, but I am all that I think about! Ha.

For as long as I can remember, I’ve had one heck of a sweet tooth. I’m pretty sure I blogged here about those sugar cravings going haywire in my early sobriety. I’ve also turned to food for comfort since I was a kid. At age 8, I chubbed out after my parents split up. True to form, I found solace in bowls of ice cream and spoonfuls of Trader Joe’s Cookie Butter after my car accident. In the 13 months following my accident, I gave myself the green light to smoke and eat heartily. I’m not drinking anymore, so I DESERVE THIS. What’s wrong with me smoking? I need to have one vice, right? I must add that I wasn’t a daily smoker, and if you are, then by all means DO NOT QUIT during your first year of sobriety.

In February I read Blackout: Remembering the Things I Drank to Forget by Sarah Hepola. So much of what Sarah wrote rang true for me. In fact, I was photographing passages and sending them to people as I read the book. Here’s one that struck home:

comfort

I didn’t feel an ounce of guilt because people quitting the thing they love get to eat whatever the fuck they want. And that my friends, was my mindset. I continued to eat whatever the fuck I wanted after I was incarcerated for six months. Six months without fresh vegetables, most fruit, cheese, peanut butter, pizza, sushi, a good curry? I left jail 25 pounds lighter because I worked my ass off as a janitor, and because the food was wretched. I got out during December which meant I got to binge on rich holiday foods. But instead of eventually reining it all back in, my sense of entitlement kept kicking up. And as I gained my weight back, I started hating myself all over again.

I’m the type of person who when watching what I eat, will go on a “bad” food binge for a week after eating dessert when I shouldn’t have. Makes sense, right? Why can’t I just eat the cookie? Instead, I eat the cookie, hate myself, eat 200 more cookies, then hate myself a bunch more. I also know that I am addicted to sugar in the same way that I am addicted to alcohol. It takes time to wean myself off it, but once I do, I don’t crave it as much. However if I have a scoop of ice cream, my body cries more more more until I eat a pint. Until I am disgusted with myself. Here’s another quote I loved from Blackout:

selfdestruction

I’m a walking shame spiral! It should go without saying that I don’t really hate and despise myself, but I think my fellow alcoholics and addicts understand where I am coming from. I also have that same sense of guilt and shame following me around after I eat too much that I carried around with me for days after a bad night of drinking.

I was briefly doing well with my eating and the sugar intake, then I said screw it, and let the holidays steamroll over me. Now I am struggling with sad eating, as I call it. My fiancee is 9 hours away by car, and we don’t get to see each other as often as we’d like. He’s trying to relocate here, but it’s proved difficult for him to make a lateral move within a company that he’s worked for for 17 years. Lately I have found it easier to not see him for longer periods of time, because it becomes too painful for me after he leaves following a visit. I’ll have a good day, will work out, eat healthfully, then waves of sadness will hit me after a busy day which leads to me sad eating the contents of my fridge at 10pm. And then I feel guilty and shitty for days after. And the eating continues.

So friends…this is where I’m at. I am working to create my inspiration spiral, to change my palate and crave something good for me. (thanks for the line, Sarah) OH! I did quit smoking at the end of January. So that’s one good thing. I’m hoping I don’t sound too insane with this post. With sobriety comes a lifetime of learning to better oneself. I’ve already changed so much in my life within a short time, so I need to be patient in my growing process. Thoughts? Anyone else get where I am coming from?

Another college binge-drinking casualty…

All is well with my probation officer. We met up Wednesday morning, and talked about my probation-related anxiety. She was surprised at how rattled I was, especially since I am and have been doing all that I need to. She’s also tried to get me out of my probation early, but my judge said it’s a no-go. I just did an online calculation and I have 104 more days until this all goes away (at least from a legal standpoint). It’s been quite the ordeal, but I am grateful for all the lessons I’ve learned as a result of my actions.

I saw an article on Facebook earlier this week that crumpled my heart into a sad little ball. Have you heard about Erica Buschick? She was an 18 year old freshman at Miami University (in Ohio, my state), who died after a night of binge drinking. Her BAC was 0.347. A person in Ohio is considered legally intoxicated at 0.08. The night of my car accident, blood was taken at the first hospital I was at before I was life flighted. It was a 0.275. At a 0.25 BAC, “All mental, physical and sensory functions are severely impaired. Increased risk of asphyxiation from choking on vomit and of seriously injuring yourself by falls or other accidents.” At a 0.35 BAC “Coma is possible. This is the level of surgical anesthesia.” Info on BAC found here.

Wrap your brain around those numbers, and the fact that she was only 18. Because I just seem to love to feel my blood pressure rise, I read the comments on some of the articles about her death. Thankfully there were some level-headed ones too, which pointed out that many people forget how dangerous alcohol can be. This story struck a nerve with me, because I had a terrible night my freshman year in college that could have turned out the same way. In my case, I am lucky that my friends thought to turn me on my side, or I know that I would have asphyxiated on my vomit.

bottle

That’s me a couple months shy of 19 with my dorm neighbor Morgan, freshman year at college, holding the bottle that could have killed me like it was a prize. I was proud of that damn bottle! Or something like pride. I’m not really sure how to describe it.

Our incident with this bottle occurred the first weekend back to school in January after winter break. I remember thinking that I needed to stay in that weekend, to not get off to a crazy start partying like I did fall semester. I’m not sure how our impromptu party started, but Morgan came back from winter break with the booze. I ended up in her room that night, hanging out in a pair of boxers and a t-shirt, Hi-C juice boxes in tow to act as a chaser. A picture of me survives from that night, and I almost posted it. I’m sitting on the floor, my fist in the air, eye squinted shut with a huge smile, triumphantly wasted. A bunch of my dorm friends are standing around me, laughing at the drunk girl.  My roomie Julie also chose to stay in that night, but Morgan and I kept drunk calling her and singing Janis Joplin.

Morgan and I did shots of that bottle in rapid-fire succession until it was gone. I’d heard that we finished it in 45 minutes or so. We spilled a little bit of it at one point, and apparently I licked that vodka off the floor. Morgan eventually got thrown into one of the showers. I was out cold in her room, so a bunch of the girls picked me up and carried me next door to my dorm. Days later when I was finally able to to be up and shower, I discovered a giant bruise on my hip and thigh. That was from when the girls dropped me (carrying dead weight is hard and at 5’10 I’ve never been a slight, little person).

I lost that entire weekend, and I’m incredibly lucky that I didn’t lose my life as well. My roommate and dorm buddies were too scared to get our RA and ask for help for fear that they would get in trouble. I could have died from alcohol poisoning! Since they could not rouse me at all, they left me. Julie popped her head in from time to time, and at some point I started vomiting. She was forced to sleep in a different dorm on our floor all weekend because of the smell. I pretty much laid in my own puke for two whole days. At one point I was able to stumble and crawl down the hall to the bathroom. I ended up passing out in a stall, on the toilet.

After all that, here I am a few weeks later smiling in that photo. I could probably blog for weeks about college alcohol tales, but that’s boring. I’m not trying to glorify the past, but hearing the news about Erica brought all this back. Her fate so easily could have been mine. Of course I didn’t slow down my drinking after that. I was in college! In another Ohio university (like Erica was at) in the middle of nowhere with nothing else to do but drink (or so we thought). I tended to shy away from shots after that point, preferring to get to my needed-level of drunkenness to dance, converse and flirt with the opposite sex via beer, which didn’t make me quite as catatonic. I do feel however, that I could blog quite extensively about alcohol and sexual behavior…

My fellow blogging friends, did you have a horror night like this in college or in your 20s? Did it make you stop or did you continue on? I’m curious to hear what you have to say. And I will continue to extend my sympathies via prayer to Erica’s family and friends. Parents should not have to bury their children. Just a sad, sad situation.