Grace (Part 1)
by Kathleen C
All day today I’ve been walking around my house, loading the dishwasher and making my bed and doing whatever I do as part of my life, saying this little chant that my sponsor Bonnie and I came up with. I don’t know where it came from, I think it was from a meditation book. It was, “The power of God is within me, the grace of God surrounds me.” All day long I have been saying that to myself. I realized while I was sitting at the table just now that when I was drinking and using I was alone. I was not a social drinker, I was a “hide out in my house with the blinds closed” kind of drinker and user.
There are drugs in my story, but you know, Bill and Bob had drugs in their story too. We use drugs as a cure for alcoholism. I was really fond of the cocaine cure for alcoholism, that’s a really good one. I would be in my house by myself, feeling terror and fear and shame. I’d be looking out the blinds of my kitchen at the street in front of my house, watching the cars go by, not sure if they were the FBI or the Black Panthers. I just knew they were after me.
We did go to the movie theater, which had a parking lot in the back
I don’t have that anymore. I am not alone anymore. I have never felt so not alone than I have in this room. I am surrounded, I am loved. Anything that life hands me, good or bad, I can share it with you. That is a huge gift of sobriety for me. That was a big step for me to trust other people, to identify with other people, to share myself with other people without fear … Well, yeah, I’d had some fear and some shame. You share with your home group and they laugh with you, they know you, they care about you. That is what happened with me.
That’s huge and that makes an incredible difference in my life. To the people who are new, who are concerned that without alcohol the party’s over, I think you can look around and realize the party is just beginning. Life is good, sober life is good. It’s not perfect, we’re not perfect, but it’s full and it’s rich. I was trying to think back to some of my experiences from early sobriety. One of the most striking for me was that I could actually look people in the eye. I could look another human being in the eye. I didn’t have to worry about how red my eyes were, or how stinky my breath was. I could look another human being in the eye and talk with them and share with them.
In How It Works, it reads, “Our stories disclosed in a general way what we were like, what happened and what we’re like now.” I got started early. I had my first drink of alcohol when I was still a baby, I think I was about a year old. My parents were young and poor and they had three kids in four years. Nobody paid a whole lot of attention to their kids. They couldn’t afford babysitters, they’d either take the kids with them to a party or if the party was at their house the kids would be around.
I remember my mother telling a story about them throwing pillows in the bathtub for the kids to sleep in. I was discovered sitting on the floor of the kitchen, surrounded by the almost empty beer bottles that were left from the party. I was with a little boy, and this is one of my many experiences of alcohol and little boys. The two of us were tipping up the beer bottles and enjoying them I assume. I know this because somebody told me, I don’t remember.
Then my next experience with substance abuse was when I was about two years old. I got into my mother’s purse and I had a baby sister, and she was a crying baby. My mother, she had been taking diet pills because that’s what doctors prescribed for pregnant women, to keep them from gaining too much weight. She just kept on with it. It was a very good way for her to cope with having three kids in four years and working full time.
She also had sleeping pills. The sleeping pills were in her purse. They were red, I assume I thought they were candy and being an alcoholic and addict I took them all. They realized it quickly and I went to the emergency room and I had my stomach pumped out. That’s how I got my start. Nature, nurture, I’m an alcoholic and an addict. I think it was pretty obvious at that point.
There were lots of things that I had to be drunk to do. One of them was anything to do with the opposite sex. I remember going on a date when I was 14 and we told my parents that we were going to the movies. We did go to the movie theater, which had a parking lot in the back. We parked in the back and my boyfriend had a six pack (I don’t know if he was my boyfriend—he was a boy). We sat in the car and drank and made out, and then it was time for the movie to be over. When the people were streaming out we asked them what it was about so we would have our credible story for my parents.
To relax, to have fun, to party, I had to be drunk. You know how we are, we want to fit in. Everybody else was doing it and that was that.
I met somebody and we partied like there was no tomorrow
I’m going to talk about three times when I hit bottom in different ways, to convince you if what I’ve said already hasn’t convinced you that I’m a real alcoholic and addict. Also, I see us speakers’ function a lot of the time is to give hope to newcomers, “Oh my God, if she can get sober I can do it for sure.”
I graduated from high school in 1966, into sex, drugs, rock and roll and the revolution. In 1968 I made my first move to San Francisco, which was a failure but in a lot of ways it was successful. I had dropped out of college and I wanted to go to San Francisco State. They have a really good creative writing department and I wanted to write a great American novel, or something, anyway.
I met somebody and we partied like there was no tomorrow. He didn’t have a real job, I had a job but he didn’t. He didn’t really care how long we stayed out. I had about three, four, five months of literally getting one hour of sleep a night. We’d come in at 5 o’clock in the morning. I’d sleep until 6:00 and then go to work. After months of this I just crashed.
My body couldn’t take it. I got a horrendous case of hepatitis and I had to go home. I flew back to the east coast. I had grown up right outside Washington DC and my parents were still there. I flew home and stayed with them. I was in the hospital for a week. I was really, really sick. Then my sister let me move in with her in Baltimore, where she was going to art school. It was really pathetic because I absolutely could not drink, because my liver was so shot at that point. If anybody’s ever had hepatitis or any kind of liver thing, you take a teaspoon of alcohol and it’s like getting kicked in the side. It really hurt … (To be continued in the July 2021 issue of The Point.)