Joy.

If you ever enter my house, you’ll see about 50,000 things that say JOY on it. The word has a special place in my heart. My grandmother, GG, made it her mantra. So much so that at 75 she got it tattood on her wrist like a bad ass grandmother, if ever there was one. She actually convinced me to get my first tattoo at 18, with half of my family standing around in an itty bitty tattoo shop in Torrington, CT on my 18th birthday. She really, really had to convince me. My first reaction was, NOPE.

Nope. Nope. Nope. And then another thought filled my head. ” You gotta live a little.” That was one of her sayings. I can hear her voice right now, ” Katie, you’ve just got to live a little!” So I did. Fastforward many, many years later…I have 8…and I’m getting another one soon. It’s easy to get addicted to tattoos, right? My cousins followed in my path, and now my parents and my sister have ink.

 

Anyway, I digress.

 

That’s how she lived her life. Everyday she was thankful. Everyday she would reflect on the joys in her life. She wrote all of this down, and after she died, as we went through all of her journals and pictures, we saw JOY on every page. She inspired all of us. Even strangers.

Right after I turned 25 and six months before my wedding, She fell ill. Still, she spread her message of joy and love with every single person she knew. I’m not just writing this to write it. I’m writing it to show the absolute magnitude of acceptance of love and life she shared. If you ask ANYONE who ever came in contact with her their lives were better for having her in it.

Honestly, I could write a book about how this woman changed the world on person at a time.

I struggled with God after she died. I wasn’t religious, but I kept thinking if there is a God, why is he taking her away from us? How could he?

 

The day she died, I had a couple hours with her alone while my famiy discussed hospice in the other room. Her eyes were closed. They would never open again. Her chest went up and down, taking in some of her lasts breaths. I held her delicate hand in mind and I wept. This woman was my rock. She was all of ours rock. It was devestating. We all knew she was ready to go, but she kept holding on. My wedding was coming up, and I had spent countless hours talking to her on the phone about it and how important to me it was to me for her to be there.

My tears poured out as I told her, ” It’s ok. You can go now. I know how badly you want to be there, but it’s ok. I will be ok.” I sat with my head on her bed, placing her hand on my cheek. My heart was breaking into a million pieces.

A few hours later, she was gone. Months went by and I couldn’t control my grief. It was too much. I found myself desperate to hear her voice.  I tried to grasp the acceptance of life without her.

It sucked. Really, really sucked.

 

A few months later I got married. It was beautiful. The sun was about so set as we stood under the gazeebo and shared our vows. Everything was perfect. Except one thing. My GG wasn’t there. Nothing could change that. We all tried so hard be brave, but the tears poured and poured.

What happened next was mind blowing.

Here’s two pictures of myself with her.

 

At some point in the evening, my cousin just so happened to be snapping some pictures on the lake. Then she saw this.

 

IMG_2615

 

She found a way to be at my wedding after all.

 

One of my biggest struggles is isolation. I hate being alone. I panic. It sucks. Most of my alcoholism revolved around isolation.

 

Step Two says: We came to believe that a Power greater than ourselves could restore us to sanity.

This step was challenging at first. I wasn’t sure if there was a God. I thought this was kind of uncessary. I didn’t need God. Fuck that.

 

Then the miracles started to happen. My sponser said to just get on my knees every morning and night and ask God to help keep me sober throuought the day, and then thank him (or her) for keeping my sober another day. I did this for two weeks. I felt nothing. My sponser told me to be patient and kind to myself.

This shit ain’t easy.

Then all of a sudden, while on my knees, I felt the absolute prescence of my Higher Power, my God. The feeling came out nowhere and blew me away. I was stunned. I went from not believing in anything, to suddenly believing in something HUGE.

It still blows my mind.

 

There were many times when I was drinking that I wished I had GG in my life still. I would drink and drink while asking the universe to somehow bring her back to me. I cried when she missed the birth of my children. I cried at Thanksgiving dinner without her. Hell, I cried driving home from work, because I missed her in my life so badly.

 

Then, just today, another miracle happened.

 

Someone said sonething tonight that touched every part of my soul.

 

He said God works in us in amazing ways. We all will die someday. That’s a given. And, we all go through tough challenges, but we’re not alone. We are jealous of angels. Our loved ones and friends have not left our lives for good. Not at all. They stand side by side with our Higher Power. They live with us and in us along side our Higher Power.

It’s incredible. In that very moment I felt a wave of emotions. My grandmother didn’t leave me. She was waiting for me to find my Higher Power. Through him, she is with me. It’s crazy. Insane.

 

I cried on the way home tonight, because that isolation I had been feeling was gone. I am never alone. Ever.

 

It’s a gift. It’s a miracle.

 

Twelve steps to happy hour…

Habits are hard to change. They become imbedded in our bodies. Muscle memory. That’s just how it is. My habits were out of control.

Cooking dinner? Here! Have a glass of wine!

Putting away laundry? Here! Have two glasses of wine!

Cleaning the house? Here! Have the whole damn bottle!

 

I was cooking dinner the other night and I had the strongest urge to have a glass of wine. I felt like I didn’t know how to cook without it. I was folding laundry and my body just ached to get buzzed so it wouldn’t suck so much.

 

Bad habits are incredibly hard to change. I decided to quit drinking and go sober for one month. My relationship with alcohol had become incredibly desperate and dangerous. I could make up a reason, any reason at all, why I deserved to have a drink. It was easy. I could have a glass and block out my postpartum anxiety like magic.

 

It was very easy to slip and slide into self medicating mentality. It starts with one glass.

 

But it’s never just one glass, is it?

 

I don’t like committing to things at all. I like to have excuses. I like to have a way out if I need one. I need to be in control. But, by my second day of sobriety, I realized I couldn’t do this on my own. I couldn’t commit to making this change all by myself. I needed help. I didn’t even realize how much help I needed, but holy shit did I need it.

My husband half jokingly asked me if I was going to start going to AA meetings. Normally, I would have laughed. I did not laugh this time. Only two days into this whole sober living thing, I realized that my relationship with alcohol was toxic. Slowly turning me into a shell of a human being, hiding behind drunken smiles and laughter.

I couldn’t do this on my own.

So, seven days ago I walked into a room in a local church, scared shitless. I was scared to know that I was going to have to face my demons right then and there, without the cozy warmth of a buzz. As I walked in, a woman rushed over to me and asked me if this was my first meeting. Still skeptical, I said yes. She immediately hugged me and told me how proud she was of me. A woman that I had never met before opened her arms and heart up to me. The tears started pouring out of me. It didn’t stop with her. Every single woman in that room introduced themselves and hugged me. I felt wrapped up in the love that was being poured all over me. I felt something else too.

Support. I felt supported.

Within that first hour, I cried, laughed, listened and embraced the women who had just opened up their lives for me. I walked into that meeting thinking that I was just going to see if I could gain some insight so that I could have a healthier relationship with alcohol. Because, apparently I believed I could have a nice, clean relationship with booze. I figured I would learn a few tips on how to stop drinking after two drinks, and gain some control back in the relationship. I had no idea that I was going to fall to my knees in humility and admit that this wasn’t just a bad relationship.

This is an addiction.

 

For the past five years, I’ve jokingly portrayed myself as the wino mom. Almost every single night I would open up a new bottle of wine and drink the whole damn thing. No problem. I told myself that I could stop whenever I wanted to. I told myself I had a high tolerance. I told myself that it was normal to buy extra wine and hide it in random places throughout the house. I had hundreds of excuses as to why this was normal and that I deserved it.

When I was pregnant with my first kid, I told my birth doula that I couldn’t wait to have champagne after the baby was born. She said, ” You could probably have one glass if you really wanted one.” I replied, ” No. You don’t get it. I don’t want a glass, I want the entire bottle.”

That was the beginning down the path I’ve been drunkenly crawling through for years.

 

As I listened to these women share their stories of sobriety, accomplishments and failures, I could feel my guarded wall slowly breaking down. Slowly but surely. I related to these stories. I have felt the same things.

I found more than just a meeting of women discussing their sobriety, I found a community. A huge, unwavering, welcoming, understanding community. I didn’t even realize how long I had been searching for the peace I felt while sitting in that meeting. The weight of the world was finally off my shoulders.

I could finally admit that this is a huge problem in my life. I could finally admit that I had been lying to myself for years. I could finally admit that I couldn’t do this on my own.

Complete strangers were willing to tell me their deepest, darkest secrets to help me realize that I wasn’t alone. My heart was in shock. I couldn’t believe it. After everyone else had spoken, they asked me if I wanted to share anything. My heart was racing, because I knew exactly what I needed to say.

 

” Hi. My name is Kate and I’m an alcoholic.”

I let out a deep, long breath and felt lighter than I have felt in years. The first step.

I left that meeting with a new sense of purpose, a new reason to be honest with myself and others. The next day I decided to go again. And again. And again. Pretty soon the women started joking that I really got around the block, with all the meetings I was attending. In truth, admitting that I’m an addict was the absolute hardest thing I have ever done. But, attending those meetings made me feel so happy and so alive. I started to look forward to it. Every day around five pm, I start counting down the minutes until my next meeting. My happy hour. 

 

I don’t know what’s going to happen tomorrow. I can only handle one day at a time, but instead of handling it with a box of wine, I’m handling it with faith, strength, and sharing with others. I know that I could very easily fuck this up. I’m very aware of that. It isn’t easy being sober, it’s a constant battle. I am ready for the fight and I know that I won’t have to fight it alone.

I left that first meeting as an entirely different person. There was the wine drinking, shit talking Kate from before, and now there’s the sober, but still shit talking, Kate.

It feels amazing. This is my new normal. I’m fighting for myself so my children have a mother, so my husband has a wife, so my parents have their daughter back, and a million other reasons. This is probably the best thing I have ever done for myself. I’m going to fight this shit day in and day out, but I’m gaining the skills to kick the hell out of it.

 

One day at a time.  Serenity.