My Journey in AA, and my Journey After AA
by Laura Loveland
Background: Grew up with an alcoholic mom. To be honest I do not remember her as being anything else...she ALWAYS drank and was either angry or sad. In fact, she scared and hurt me...deeply. There were a lot of bad things that happened to me because she drank...and drank....and drank. I learned from my mom how to drink...and found what she found....the darkness of blackouts and not being able to remember what I had done. I usually would do something that involved the expression of anger and sadness in those blackouts, however driving while unconscious was something that I did well too.
I began to suffer the effects of alcoholic abuse: job loss, financial failure, non-custodial parent to three children, picking men who loved to beat on me, jail time, etc. Wasn't physically addicted yet, however that was my future. Funny thing though; I had the greatest teacher in my mom and she taught me well about the effects of alcoholism...not only upon the alcoholic but upon those that love them as well. THANKS MOM! I KNEW THAT WHAT I WAS DOING WAS NOT WHO I WANTED TO BE!
I got sober in 1993 at the age of 28. I had started drinking (drugs too) when I was 12. Did a 30-day spin-dry rehab. Did AA kinda sorta for 19 years...well, not as they would have me do it. Who the hell picks their therapist as their sponsor? Meeeeeee! Not AA approved at all, however, I needed my therapist to help me work through the bad stuff that led to my fears, because of what happened to me when I was a kid in the midst of my mom's alcoholism. It was some really bad stuff let me tell you! MOST IMPORTANTLY: I needed a therapist who would teach me about love and forgiveness...about human nature....about joy and happiness....about living life as it comes at you...without drinking. My mom could not do that. I believe she wanted to, however, she could not. I was lucky...I found three wonderful therapists who helped me so much!
Fast-forward to 6 years ago 2011: Life is going well right? Yes....and.....no. I was diagnosed with breast cancer and because of the economic downfall of 2008 my husband's business had started failing. Yikes! However, I am still sober 18 years....have a good paying job....and I can do this breast cancer right? My husband is wonderful and will help me right? My sister died of breast cancer at age 42 and she fought a good battle, but lost. However, that is not going to happen to me, right? I can lean over and puke in the garbage can at work if I have to do chemo right? My husband will still love me without boobs, right? Again, YIKES! Talk about fears right? Lucky for me I did not go back to drinking, however I did not follow what I know works for me and that was to get a therapist. I should have done that, however I, too, am still learning. I was still active in AA, although not to the fanatical point that I saw in some of my friends. Did my meetings, 12-stepped some people, brought some seriously needy people into my home and gave them what I could in terms of shelter, food, and clothing, etc. I was told many times in those 18 years that I could not sponsor people, share my ESH (experience, strength, and hope), or hold a position in a meeting because I had not worked the steps correctly. I thought it was a bunch of bull and let it go. When I was diagnosed I thought that I would try a sponsor. Figure I would try it out and see exactly what it was all about right? Again.....yes......and no.
I did the breast cancer journey well, or as well as I could. I had three different sets of boobs in about 7 months. Lost my real ones to a double mastectomy, had a set that came with expansion (reconstruction) and then had another set as the final surgery in reconstruction. It was a lot like going through puberty actually if you are wondering. I managed my pain meds/muscle relaxers with my doctors to make sure that I did not become addicted to them. Elected to not get my nipples done because it would have been 3 more surgeries and I was numb on my chest from the mastectomies, and we all know nipples are about sensation right? :) No chemo/radiation because I elected to cut my boobs off as a form of treatment. My husband loved me through it all and held my hand tightly. He made every appointment with me except when I was tested for uterus cancer. Cannot say that I blame him for sitting that one out! Yes, I did breast cancer well I do believe.
Where I did not do so well was when I got fired from my job 14 weeks into treatment. I was placed upon a performance improvement plan (PIP) the day I returned from my 7 week FMLA for my mastectomies. I cried. I could read the writing upon the wall. Over the next 7 weeks, I worked as much as I felt I could, given that I was going through breast cancer treatment. I got a sponsor and started working the 12 steps of AA. Again, I knew what was coming and I thought why not try the sponsor thingy? It might help. Started working the steps and got to step 4, when I got fired by the president of my division....at a restaurant. I was told that I was being fired for crying when I was placed upon the PIP. I cried as I was being fired too. My sponsor suggested I should work step 4 around being fired. Okay I said. What came out of my searching and moral inventory was that I handed my final paycheck back to my in-house boss and told him that it was not correct. Upon doing so my payroll clerk got mad at me and said a few choice words to me. I then turned to my in-house boss and said: "And I got fired for crying?" Those words demanded an amends from me to my in-house boss or so my sponsor said because by that time we were on step 8. My shortcoming was standing up for myself when it came to my pay? My character defect was pointing out that it was okay to treat another human being badly but it was not okay to cry? WTH? (That would be what the heck since I do not like cussing). Can you imagine the damage that I would have caused myself if I had made that amends? Shucks, all I did was get breast cancer, get fired, cry, demand the correct pay, and point out a discrepancy in policy to my former boss. Those are bad things I suppose...well in the world of AA they are I believe.
Present day: I have not been to a meeting in over 5 years. It took me a while to make some changes in my life. After all, I was going through breast cancer treatment. I will be 7 years cancer free in March 2018. I will have 24 years of sobriety in Oct 2017. I am still holding my husband's hand. I call him my Batman, and I am his Batwoman. I am working the night shift in a Mental Health & Recovery Unit that is not 12-step based. I do not 12-step anyone anymore. I simply hold out my hand and let them know that I am there when the dark nights of the soul come upon them and they are afraid. I do not care if they are mentally ill or addicted. I only care that they are human and in need of comfort. MOST IMPORTANTLY: I was able to be present when my mom died in September 2015. After many, many, way too many years of suffering, she was finally diagnosed with bipolar and narcissistic borderline personality...and of course alcoholism. I was able to hold her as she took her last breath. She did not die alone and she died knowing I loved her....as I know she loved me. Yes, I cried as she died, however, I also sang "You are my sunshine" as I expressed my sorrow about her passing. She was a beautiful woman, so very intelligent, who suffered from mental illness and alcoholism. She was my mom.
I went to a therapist during the last 7 months of her life. I wanted to let it all hang out....everything that I was feeling....and I can do that with a therapist. I did not drink. I do not want to drink...never again. I love my life...who I am....how I am...what I am. I love to laugh, smile, hug, cry, be mad...sometimes frustrated...and reach out to other human beings to help me on this wonderful journey called life. I do not limit myself to just alcoholics...I pick from all of humanity. Therapy taught me that, AA did not.
Footnote: AA did give me my "GOD". I decided that I wanted a "GOD" that was a true reflection of people and I got that. Just look around and you see many different types of people in the world. All it takes is a smile and hello to start the conversation going right? :) Of course, when I am alone I just switch the letters around to "DOG" and go play with my 3 dogs! :)
Make it a wonderful day....I am!