63,072,000

Have you ever closed your eyes while driving? I don’t recommend it if you’re planning on living a long life. But, if you’re a risk taking kind of gal like myself, you might have. It takes less than a second to make an irrational, reckless decision like that. I remember thinking how badly I just wanted to feel alive. I wanted to ride a rollercoaster with my arms up in the air screaming, “I CAN FINALLY FEEL MYSELF LIVING!” or “I’M GOING TO PUKE.” Either of those scenarios would pump adrenaline in my veins forcing my brain and body to snap into the present.

I wasn’t suicidal. I just wanted to feel something, anything, no matter what the risk. The big hole inside of me had spread. I was numb to everything- love, life, sadness, reality, happiness… all of it. It felt like I was being pulled down into the ground by branches and weeds. It felt like I was being covered with dirt and sand, unable to breathe or experience anything, but still hopelessly alive.

92CB02D3-1918-454B-BA2C-6CB396F05092I felt this way right after I got sober. I had already admitted to myself and every person in my life that I was an alcoholic. I cannot drink normally. I’m allergic to alcohol, it makes me break out in stupidity. Saying that kind of thing out loud didn’t really seem all that difficult for me. Yeah- hi, I’m Kate and I’m an alcoholic. Whoopdeedoo. It wasn’t rocket science. Everyone in my family had been walking on egg shells for years wondering when I was finally going to stop.

I stopped. Aren’t you happy with me now?

Aren’t I happy now?

No. Sobriety doesn’t come with a Groupon for instant satisfaction and joy in life. What it does deliver is a swift dose of reality and most of us are very startled by that. What do you mean I have to work on myself? I just gave up my best friend. Isn’t that enough? Are you seriously telling me that I have to show up at these meetings with you random, weird people and tell strangers about my life? What the hell is wrong with you people? I like to air my dirty laundry out on facebook, not face to face. That just sounds savage.

I’m was willing to kiss Pinot Grigio and PBR tall boys goodbye. Peace out alcohol, this relationship is over. I’m moving on to bigger and better things. I figured that first night that I would go to sleep an alcoholic and wake up to a happier version of myself.

That’s pretty typical of us alcoholics, right? We want what we want and we want it right now. If we can’t get what we want when we want it, we can become slightly…insane. I can’t even count how many tantrums I had when I ran out of wine.

It’s pretty clear that alcoholism is a symptom of something much harder to break. Our mind can be a weapon against ourselves. Our lives are full of self-destructive chaos. We slowly kill ourselves with substances to avoid situations and emotions that cause us stress.

Shortly after I decided to get sober I started to see the real world and it was FUCKING TERRIFYING. I had to tell myself, “Don’t worry, you stopped drinking, you don’t have to feel those things. Alcohol was the problem!”

HA. HA. HA.

Every table I sat at in the beginning was filled with people who had coping skills and they seemed pretty damn happy. I wanted what they had and this time I could get it. Ask and ye shall receive. They told me what to do. They told me I would have to work hard to achieve sobriety and start a better life. They told me to surrender. They told me to pray. They told me to breathe.

F238EE5C-D1F7-4900-8F56-A2BAD60F91E2Breathe. I have always been trying to catch my breath. Trying to run around and search for anything or anyone to fill the void. When that didn’t work I kept running in every other directions until I finally couldn’t.

Sobriety is simple. I have regularly found that I don’t exactly do *simple*. Breathing is also simple. But, I find myself holding my breath. I breathe in fear and let it settle into my core. Instead of living in the moment, I get stuck in the moment. I can’t control anyone or anything but myself. I hold my breath when I’m hurting, when I’m demoralized and beaten with words. I hold my breath as I watch my children grow and worry if they’ll make the same mistakes I have. I hold my breath when I think about the love I have lost and the love I’ll never have.

Sounds pretty sad right? I’ll invite you to my pity party. All of my fears dancing around me taunting me, pushing me, trying to break me into the shadow of my past.

 

Woe is me.

 

Here’s why I haven’t suffocated yet- I drop to my knees and quietly ask God to take over, be my ventilator until I can inhale my serenity and exhale the rest. I reach out to others who have learned to breathe and ask them how. How do they do it? They just do it. They put the time, the effort, and the service to help others and themselves.2A62B932-A96B-4B41-B785-64080836D04B

I’ve been breathing my whole life. When did I complicate it? The answer doesn’t matter, the solution is sobriety. It’s trying to comprehend that this life has not been handed to me, I have to work for it. It’s taking those risks, opening my heart, opening my mind, and asking God to take over. It’s accepting that shitty people, places and things happen. It’s accepting that I have been shitty to people, places and things (… I’ve thrown a good amount of cell phones in my time.) but that doesn’t define me. I define me, and I identify myself as a sober mom just taking it all in day by day. Am I perfect? No (unless you ask my dog, of course). Am I trying? I am.

I’m taking life one day at a time. One minute at a time. One second at a time.

63,072,000 seconds to be precise and a lifetime more to go.

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Things that go bump in the night…

I remember when I was a kid I was scared that there was a monster under my bed. I was terrified that this monster was going to grab me and pull me under the bed into the land of terrors. I had no idea what a real monster could do. I had no way of understanding that there were monsters in my everyday life. I hadn’t been introduced to alcohol, I hadn’t been told to take this pill or that pill to feel better.

Not yet at least.

 

Fast forward to July 2016. I had just brought home my second beautiful daughter, and life was pretty good. I remember my husband asking me if I wanted a drink or anything. I was so focused on the baby and making sure our eldest felt loved in the midst of all the changes in her life. I told him I was fine. I didn’t need a drink. I was oozing out happiness and bliss from every pore. I made sure I gave myself a big ‘ol pat on the back for turning down alcohol. At the time, I said to myself, ” See! You don’t have a problem. You can say no.”

That lasted for approximately two hours. The sun was setting, the house started to quiet down, and bedtime was approaching. I told my husband to sleep on the couch so I wouldn’t wake him when I was up with the baby. Around two am I started to feel like there were bugs crawling up my legs. I couldn’t sit still. I became terrified to close my eyes. My heart started to race, I felt like I couldn’t breathe. I thought I was dying. I woke my husband up and told him he needed to bring me to the ER immediately. The feeling just got worse and worse. I realized I couldn’t go to the ER, because I would have to take the baby too and she was too little to be surrounded with all of the germs that lurk in an ER.

Instead, I ran out into the backyard hysterically crying. My husband had to hold me super tight, I was scared shitless. Eventually, the feeling left.

Twenty minutes later, round two started. Same crazy feelings, same terror. This time I decided I had to do something about it. If it kept happening I would be exhausted from being up all night panicking or feeding the baby. I had to sleep. I had to turn off my mind to make the panic go away.

Drinking seemed like the obvious solution.

I pounded two glasses of wine. That’s all I needed. My brain started to slow down. Well, if two glasses managed to help, two more wouldn’t be a big deal. I was trying to develop a healthy breastfeeding relationship with my newborn, but I had some formula stashed away. It didn’t matter. I fed her formula as I felt my boobs just straight up fill up with milk that I couldn’t even feed her.

 

As time went on, this nighttime panic bullshit got worse. I started these weird rituals when I could feel the anxiety creeping in. If everyone else in the house was asleep, I wasn’t allowed to sleep. Someone had to be up. I would look at my windows and try to see if any of my neighbors were still up. If they were, then I could go to sleep. If that failed, I would watch infomercials until 3 am when the news came on. If the news came on, I could sleep.

Constant racing thoughts, scared of dying in my sleep, feeling inadequate as a mom, hating my curvy body, worrying that I might trip on the stairs and drop the baby, and so many other intrusive thoughts just ran a marathon in my brain.

 

All of this crap became an excuse. I’m depressed! I have anxiety! I have OCD! Drinking will help. Look- see, I had some wine and now I’m totally functioning! I’m smiling! Alcohol was the solution to all my postpartum issues.

 

Cracking open a bottle of wine at 2 am started to seem more and more like normal behavior. I thought it was helping me sleep. It wasn’t helping me sleep. I was BLACKING out every night. Over and over and over and over. Reality started to become blurry.

“Are there other moms that do this? There has to be. I can’t be the only one. But, just to be safe, I’m not going to mention this to anyone.”

 

Hundreds and hundreds of dollars spent on my ” medicine”.

 

Happy moms drink! It makes us better moms! What a relief! I don’t have to feel anything at all, EVER. AMAZING!

 

It never occurred to me that those rituals that I made up in order to fall asleep weren’t exactly rituals at all. They were excuses that I created in order to feed my monster. The list got longer and longer. It got to the point that if someone even looked at me the wrong way, I would tell myself to go drink.

 

Sure, drinking would knock me out, but over time it made everything worse. My depression was all-consuming. My anxiety started to debilitate me. My OCD was getting worse and worse.

 

The harder it got, the more excuses I made. “It’s noon on a Tuesday and you have to fold laundry? Laundry is stressful! How about I Just start drinking…”

 

I would go in and out of different doctors, begging them to help me. I felt like my mental health was in bad shape. They’d prescribe this and that, never once asking me how much alcohol I drank. And if they did ask? I’d lie, obviously. Only a couple glasses a week!

(um try…four boxes a week…)

Then after a couple years of that shit, something happened. I woke up for a brief moment and looked at my family. I was turning this home into hell for everyone here. The guilt and shame over my selfish behavior pushed me into start thinking about getting sober.

It didn’t happen overnight. It happened after several months after more blackouts. I finally realized I had to kill the monster. This monster disguised it’s self as a friend.  I wasn’t sure how I could live without it.

 

Then this really crazy thing happened. Sobriety. 

The most sobriety I have, the more that extra crap fades away. Who would have thought that alcohol made all of my mental stuff worse? I thought it was helping. It wasn’t helping. It was killing me.

I’m not perfect. I can’t tell you what tomorrow will bring, but I know that I have faced my monster and I kicked its ass to the curb. It will try to creep back in over and over again, but I’m not weak anymore. I’m a fucking warrior and I will beat that asshole senseless before I let myself believe the lies it tries to tell me.

Nighttime isn’t scary anymore. If I can’t sleep I don’t freak out. The exhaustion that came with being a raging alcoholic is no longer there. If I don’t get those recommended 8 hours a night, I get a red bull and I deal. It’s ok to be tired sometimes. It won’t kill me, but drinking will.

I’m happy. I’m healthy. I’m spiritual. I’m all the things that I wanted to be for so long, but could only achieve through sobriety.

The monster doesn’t fool me anymore.

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.

 

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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.

 

Firsts.

We all have *firsts*. First kiss. First concert. First apartment. First airplane ride. First fight. First sip of coffee. First time lying. First time laughing. First birthday party. First day at college. I could go on and on about all the firsts we have in our lives, but it would take all day.

Every single first becomes part of your life. They serve a purpose in molding who  we are.

 

Well, what if you basically slept through five years of firsts?

I did that.

 

Alcohol consumed me and made me forget. There was no room to try new things or experience any firsts, because alcohol selfish. Alcohol takes away all those happy memories. Alcohol wants you to hide your emotions. Alcohol wants you to reach that bottom of the bottle. Alcohol is a real fucking jerk.

 

I didn’t want to feel anything. Happy or sad. I just wanted to be happy and thought that the only route to that emotion was alcohol. I just stuffed it way, way down.

Then I exploded. You can’t go on like that forever.

 

The first day of sobriety. On that first day, I knew I had to deal with some shit and it wasn’t going to be easy. But, I was sober. I went to my first AA meeting and immediately I was surrounded with other women like me. Women who had realized how I felt. I felt relief. I felt shame. I felt anger. I felt accepted. I felt love.

 

I felt emotions that made me realize that I was, indeed, an alcoholic.

 

I felt. I felt for the first time in along time. I opened up my heart and let myself feel everything.

 

I felt comfort when I ran into my husbands arms after sobbing and shaking with fear. I felt scared saying goodbye to my best friend, alcohol. I cried so hard, I popped blood vessels around my eye.

I felt confident when I didn’t relapse on vacation. I felt joy when I watched my daughters in the sand and ocean. I said to myself, ” I am sober. I can feel these things. I can make memories again.”

I felt shock and disbelief when my youngest daughter took off her diaper and chucked it at my head. I felt silly, because it was kind of hilarious that she chose to do that.

 

I felt calm when we hosted Easter at our house this year. It was my first sober holiday. I expected to be anxious, but I felt peace. I knew I could get through it. I felt like God was holding my hand, keeping me safe from that first drink.

 

I felt excited to watch my beautiful five year old graduate preschool. I’ll remember her being that little forever. I felt proud as I watched her on stage during her dance recital.I felt so much happiness at her birthday party. Birthday parties are tricky. I always thought birthday parties were actually for the moms who gave birth and deserved a drink. I would fill my cup up with wine as much as possible. I would then start a fight with my husband and black out.

 

I felt thankful that I was able to see her blow out her candles on her cake.

 

I felt safe knowing that my Higher Power was with me at all times, and lost all feelings of wanting a drink that day.

 

I can’t go back. I can’t rewind and experience my firsts from the past. All I can do is, try to feel and express every emotion that pops up. My sobriety helps me see things with clear eyes. I take it day by day. I know that there will be hundreds of new experiences to see and feel for the rest of my life. I welcome it. I’m open.

 

Bring it on.