by Kathleen C.

Audio by Navarre

When I first got sober, twenty years ago, I thought sobriety meant the end of all my problems. Now I know that it is only the end of my drinking and the beginning of a new life. With tools for dealing with all the stuff that happens to ordinary people.

When I was two years sober my father died of cancer after a year and a half of illness. Within a year I was diagnosed with cancer myself. I had surgery and radiation and spent the next year dealing with issues of disfigurement and pain. I called my sponsor and the Oncology nurse when I wondered if I would overdose on pain meds. I prayed and people prayed for me. People helped me and I let them, with gratitude.

Tools for dealing with stuff that happens to ordinary people

When I was seven years sober one of my twin daughters came to me one morning and said, “Mom, my mouth feels funny and I can’t taste anything.” By noon the whole side of her face was paralyzed. Bell’s Palsy. The pediatrician told us there was no treatment – just watching to be sure that she didn’t develop an infection – she might have to wear an eye patch if her eye wouldn’t close at night.

She was supposed to go to summer camp the next day. Could she go? The doctor said yes, the camp nurse watched over her and her best friend made sure nobody made fun of her because she couldn’t smile. I shared with my sponsor and at A.A. meetings how angry I was at God for doing this to my child. 

When I was nine years sober I came home one evening to find my husband curled up in bed with injuries from a motorcycle accident. Only the next day, when he finally agreed to go to the hospital, did we discover that he had a broken collar bone, six broken ribs and a collapsed hemorrhaging lung. He was in the hospital for four days. He could have died. I had to turn him over to my Higher Power. I couldn’t keep him safe.

When I was eleven years sober, my other daughter severely injured her knee skiing and had to have surgery. I sat by her bed in the Recovery Room watching her pale face and closed eyes and praying she would be all right. Then a month later I fainted and had heart palpitations which led to a diagnosis of severe anemia. The ultimate result was a hysterectomy. Then a spot on my upper lip turned out to be an invasive skin cancer and I had extensive surgery on one side of my face. All in one year. I had to admit I couldn’t handle this alone. I got help, from family and friends in A.A. and outside it.

A happy occasion – cause for celebration

photo credits available upon request to [email protected]

I am not going to drink over a big crisis. I am going to drink because somebody hurts my feelings or makes me angry and I have no mental defense against the first drink. I am just as likely to drink over something good in my life. 

Last year, when I was nineteen years sober, both daughters graduated from college. A happy occasion – cause for celebration. The closest I came to drinking was at a lunch for them and our family and friends.

My husband and I wanted to thank everyone for all they had done for the girls. Everybody raised their glasses of champagne, except me and my sober sister, the same one who Twelve-Stepped me, all those years before. As she and I raised our glasses of sparkling water I felt different from everybody else and a little sad that I couldn’t raise a “real” toast to my daughters, when I was so proud of them. But I had said my prayers that morning and been to a meeting the day before, and talked to my sponsor and several of my sober alcoholic friends in between. Alone, I couldn’t stay sober. Together with my fellow A.A.s and working a program, I can stay sober no matter what life throws at me, good or bad. 

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