Hi. My Name is Katy and I’m a Grateful Alcoholic

I’m re-sharing  a piece I wrote a while ago, back when I started my blog, with a few updates given our changed situation since I first wrote this a few years ago.  It’s basically like a lead in AA (sharing your experience, strength and hope), but with a few things left out that are only for the rooms of AA.

Hi my name is Katy and I am a grateful alcoholic. Here’s where you all say, “Hi Katy”. I am many other things, but if I don’t acknowledge and get grateful to be an alcoholic, I won’t be any of those other things. I was a hardened, some say, cold, black-hearted woman and I am not ashamed of it today. I know better. I had to be that way to protect myself for a long time.  But I’ve had a psychic change.  I accept that I am really a tender, soft spoken, afraid little girl, in a beat up, world-weary, yet still hopeful and healthy woman’s body. I am proud as hell of myself and so very grateful. I still want a drink sometimes, not often, but sometimes. Not to drink, but just to not be so VERY SOBER all the time.

Today I have a wonderful husband, two miracle twin two-year-olds, a great job, a great warm apartment and a lovely kitty cat. My family and in-laws are amazing. I have good friends, not many, but a few who get me and love me. I have a lot of acquaintances and then this weird circle of AA friends who really know the most intimate screwed up things about me and love me anyway. It’s a pretty kick ass club, but only the really fucked up get to join, and it comes at a devastating price. My life is good; great actually. But it wasn’t always.

I am the only thing that got in the way. I grew up with an amazing, supportive family in the suburbs and had every advantage and even graduated college, all courtesy of my non-alcoholic parents. So, if you think you become alcoholic because your parents were, let this be a lesson to you. It is indiscriminate. It can happen to anyone.

I was and am highly insecure, but getting more confident every day. I started drinking at 18 in college and that alleviated the insecurity. Then I drank – and drank and drank and drank. I don’t have an off switch like most people. My natural inclination is to drink. To NOT drink is a miracle. I will spare the sordid details, but I wound up drinking 24 hours a day – cheap vodka from a water bottle.

I got fired, I got evicted and I became homeless (see link at the top of this post). I stole, lied, cheated and manipulated people like a sociopath. I was a terrible person who did terrible things when drinking. But I’ve learned that I wasn’t terrible, I was sick, which doesn’t excuse anything, but helps to accept it all.

My parents paid for four rehabs and let me stay at their house until they couldn’t stand it any longer. My mom, bless her heart, was very involved in Al-Anon and had the good sense to kick me out. Which I know was the hardest thing she’s ever had to do. But it wound up being the best thing in the world for me. My parents lost a couple years of their lives due to my selfish addiction. They would spend evenings driving around the city of Chicago looking for their daughter – absolutely heartbreaking.

I had no money, nowhere to live and no one who trusted or believed in me any more. And rightly so. I was a typical Jekyll and Hyde alcoholic. I was a sweet and generous person who became belligerent, mean and compulsive liar while drinking.

I got sober a month after 9/11 and I will never forget that at that time I was so out of it, that I believed it was all a hallucination. I didn’t have enough of a grasp on reality to know we were being attacked and it was real.

There were a few hospital stays, psych ward holidays and that last jail stint at 26th and California……

That last morning in jail, I felt grace and hope.  I have no idea why I was given this gift, but I was.  The tiniest smidgen of hope was all it took to get me off that cold slab and into the world of recovery.  I walked out of that jail with my number in black marker on my hand and headed to the bus to get me to a safe place where my parents could pick me up when I called my mom and said, “I’m ready.  Please come get me.”  I decided it was time and I surrendered. I WANTED TO LIVE.

I was so sick when I stopped drinking for even a few hours that my delirium tremens scared the life out of me. It’s been almost 12 years and I still so vividly remember them. The visions of horrid bugs on the walls and in my bed, the sweats, the shaking, the cold; I never want to forget where I came from.  I wouldn’t wish that withdrawal on my worst enemy.

My sponsor told me for the first year I was sober, “Shut up and listen.  You have nothing to say that these people need to hear.”  And as much as I hated it, I completely understand what she meant now.  And she was right.  *kicks dirt*

I get a kick out of people who come into the rooms of AA for the first time and they ALWAYS think they are somehow unique and can do it differently. I did too, and when you get tired of the insanity – trying the same thing over and over again and expecting different results – you try something else. I don’t know why it works, but I‘ve had the pleasure and horror of working with all kinds of drunks. Some still sober, some drunk and some dead. I know a lot of dead people. I have become accustomed to “walking over the bodies”, which means, the reality is this disease kills people all the time. Those of us who are sober have to keep going or we too get dragged down. Everyone has their own story and their own path, but underneath all of it is addiction and it is essentially the same with everyone.

Many people say AA is a cult, and I say, who cares? It’s way better than the alternative. And I am Agnostic. I can believe in whatever the hell I want to believe in as a Higher Power and still get sober. People who get held up by thinking AA is a religious program are just using that as an excuse.  Also, AA isn’t for everyone, but it does warrant being investigated if you are at the end of your rope.  This is only my story.  I can’t tell you what will absolutely work for you, only you can do that.

I will always be a drunk. I’ve gotten many qualities from being a drunk that normal people don’t ever get. I am funny. I am tolerant of addicts, to a limit. I can turn anything into an “it can always be worse” scenario that annoys the hell out of people. The compassion for people who struggle with addiction is the overwhelming element of my make up that I am grateful for. I root for the loser. I was that loser and I found people who rooted for me when everyone else quit on me.

I am in a fortunate position of not caring one bit for people who judge that this is who I am. I would be dead had I not accepted my powerlessness over alcohol. They say there are three outcomes for people like me, hospitals, institutions or death. I’ve done two of the three and today I choose to live. I wanted to kill myself and just gave up, hoping that I wouldn’t wake up from a blackout. But I continued to wake up, and I have to believe there’s a reason that I received this gift when so many don’t. It’s a big weight to carry. It’s my responsibility to help other people who are trying to get this – whenever and wherever – to help people who want to get sober.

I freely admit that every day is a gift. If life were fair, I would be dead.  I believe you get back what you put out. And for a long time I put out crap and got crap in return. These days I am most kind to animals, secondly to humans, although that is more difficult for me. Humans will let you down.  Eventually everyone does.   I’ve had the privilege of making amends to my family and employers and several others. I think my family would say my sober living is the best amend they could have.

I lived in a women’s halfway house with 8 other women for the first 6 months of my sobriety. It was incredibly helpful for my developing relationships with women. Out of those women, only one other than me is still sober. The rest are using or dead. That is the reality. The truth of this recovery is that I cannot do it alone, my higher power and other sober people help me every day.

One of my favorite things, and one that my husband of almost 6 years tends to deal with very patiently being with me, is that I frequently have random people contact me to talk about a friend or family member or themselves having a drinking problem. I love that. It is a subject I know an awful lot about and can speak to with much enthusiasm and wisdom, I hope. I also joke about all this, a lot. And man, I laugh harder now than I ever did when I was drinking. We laugh and laugh.

It’s my favorite thing in the world to make him laugh. My husband is a “normie” and he drinks. But like most people, he can handle it. I will never be like that and that’s OK. It’s good to have both sober people and people who drink in my life. He eats meat and I don’t. He drinks and I don’t. I am a smoker who no longer smokes and he was patient with me while I smoked for our first several years together and then through the quitting process, WHICH STILL SUCKS.  See, we really can all just get along.  I’ve learned to look for the similarities and not the differences in people.

I have told my husband that if I drink again, he needs to leave me. Not stick around for the destruction. I hope if that ever happens that he will heed that call.

It’s MY RESPONSIBILITY to stay sober.  Nobody else can do it for me.  I have help, but ultimately it comes down to me and the choices I make every day.

On October 4th of 2014, I turned sober for 13 years.  I don’t like to celebrate my earth birthday any more as I am so much more grateful for my sobriety date. I take responsibility and it all goes into who I am today. It is only through karmic grace and the 12 steps that I am sober and happy today. All we have is today, and I choose not to drink. EVERYTHING depends on that choice that I make just for today. I wouldn’t be who I am today if not for all the hell I went though. I can say, “Hi. My name is Katy and I’m a grateful alcoholic” and mean it.

My sponsor told me in the beginning, “You can drink tomorrow if you want, but don’t drink today”. I have told many sponsees the same thing over the years.  As tomorrow appears I, hopefully, will say the same thing.

So you think you might be an alcoholic, now what?

I wrote about my time being a transient in mind and body in Chicago here on Scary Mommy – Walk of the Not Quite Dead.

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