A member’s journey to Recovery in 3 stages, what it was like-what happened-and what it’s like now.
What it was like (Part 1)
I can remember comparing my insides to other people’s outsides for as long as I can remember feeling. As I grew into an age where my memories lasted into adulthood my life began to look as different outside as I felt inside. By age 6 or 7 my single mother began to experience a Paranoid Schizophrenic break and I knew I was right. I was different. I kept the fear of my mother’s symptoms I experienced to myself. Symptoms like living a life as if someone was always out to get us, becoming aware of voices and conversations that were in her head that she knew were not real but was Powerless to stop-voices that began to disrupt her ability to function and work to provide a home for us. I learned to keep all my fears to myself for so long-to this day friends and family characterize and define my life as lived fearlessly, in spite of my continued and constant verbal reminder of the terrified state I acted in spite of. Hiding the pain and shame, operating under the “what goes on in this house stays in this house” began a deadly survival skill I used often.
I grew up in Panorama City, C.A, a low-income neighborhood in Los Angeles County. Predominately Mexican, scattered about there were black people, white people, Asians, Indians, and more that fit the economics of the neighborhood.
Long before puberty as I began to experience the pain of being Powerless over my circumstances at home, it felt like my peers were beginning to find and fit right in where they belonged. The Mexican cholitas of our barrio were uniting, the white girls I knew were together sharing their interests, the black girls were bonding and riding together, the loners were content in their worlds, and I began to dabble with them all.
I learned Spanish at a young age but that along with my love of Mexican food and the culture did not help my many Mexican friends make my spirit feel like I fit in. I had black friends in the neighborhood whose hair looked like mine, whose mothers looked like mine, whose skin looked like mine-and there it felt all commonalities ended but that did not stop me from unsuccessfully trying to be a part of. Since I learned I was skin and bones like a white girl and apparently talked like a white girl, I became drawn to my white friends where I tried to carve out a place where my sprit was at ease. The list goes on and on from seeking religion to common interests with me ultimately finding a group of friends as diverse as I was, many of the friends I still have today. Finding this social acceptance was not the answer, something still did not feel “right.”
I felt all alone, one day my mother gave me a book called “Are you there God, It’s me Margaret?” by Judy Blume along with a diary and I, like Margaret, began experiencing a very personal relationship with a God of my understanding. A God that did not come from organized religion, or my mother’s experience with God, but the simple prayer “Are you there God? It’s me Anneca.” and the results that followed.
As the years passed I found my way, found my way to fitting in socially, found my way to relying on Gods direction while my mother at home went through all it took to find the right medication, graduate from USC while working full time and being a single mother, and she went through it all sharing with me her knowledge of a personal relationship she had with a God that got her through it all.
After graduating from a jr. high school specializing in performing arts, I attended a High School with a journalism magnet program. See by this time I learned that thriving and harnessing all of my performing arts passions still did not fix this thing inside of me, this pain and void I was always looking to have filled that felt like anxirty, panic attacks, armpit sweat stains going down to my waistline, and wanting to crawl out of my skin. So, I decided I needed to come to that solace I was looking for in another way- through my spirits passion of writing.
Within a week of High School, l I found out not everyone entering 9th grade was looking to fulfill their spirits passion and I went to many high schools for many reasons all during my freshman year with each new school worse than the last as far as fulfilling my expectations went. All I could seem to accomplish was getting taller and skinnier which sounds great to some but when you are 5’10 and a tad over 100 pounds by the 9th grade and have not an athletic bone in your body…it was not fun where I come from.
As many of us do, I developed a list of things that I needed to accomplish and if I could only get these “things” done, accomplished or acquired I would feel better.
- Becoming rich & famous, which in my world meant financially secure and socially recognized.
- Being loved enough for someone to want to spend the rest of their life with me so I would never be alone.
- Having a baby…and a dog.
- Owning a nice car and home by societies current standards, as they were hard to keep up with.
- All of the beauty and physical admiration that came with the financial security.
You know…those types of things.
A few months and 4 or 5 schools into my freshman year of high school, I was signed to Ford Models and shortly after moved to New York City. So began a 14-year career so successful it feels like a dream. Fun anecdote: the day I got signed I was given my first casting-a runway show for a designer named Jennifer Nicholson. My mother who was reluctant about the entire experience took me to this casting and the designer ended up being Jack Nicholson’s daughter who was my mother’s favorite actor. I ended up booking the show and for my first job my mother got to meet one of her favorite actors, along with Cher, and a few other people I was not quite as familiar with at the time, it was a magical experience for us both.
My life and career that ensued allowed me to cross everything off on “the list.”
One of the most unimaginable fears-and one I have been carried through-is realizing everything needed to finally be happy, accomplishing those things, and realizing it was just not the solution. Hopeless.
God became my teacher and when I was 15 I moved to a models apartment in the lower East side of Manhattan. I traveled the country and world shooting magazine editorials, print ads and campaigns, walking runways all over, and shooting commercials. I lived and spent significant amounts of time in places like South Africa, Japan, and Miami. I traveled to and worked in countless states, countries, and beautiful islands. I worked with friends and lived a life of celeberties, disposable income, accolades, and beauty that celebrities complimented and none of it worked. I found myself still suffering.
After more than a decade of accomplishing goal after goal, my pain and hopelessness began to take serious proportions and I found myself more and more restless and irritable. The occasional drinking binger I enjoyed which occurred when out socially, happened more and more frequently as my need to crawl out of my skin and quiet the voices grew.
By my mid to late 20’s I stopped traveling, deciding it was living in a suitcase that was the problem. I was going to take advantage of the local cataloge jobs in L.A and commercials while setting out to stay at home to write books, marry, and have a baby.
My Spirit’s suffering continued to grow, and my drinking took more serious proportions. I began missing flights, isolating to engage in a toxic relationship, gave up my career, car, and home, and within a year found myself no longer a single model living and loving the life I remembered, but instead a stay at home step mother to 3 small children while feeling stuck in a physically, mentally, and emotionally abusive household, and my best thinking at the time in this situation had me pregnant. My life’s dream of being a mother became my biggest fear as the circumstances surrounding my dream come true were my worst nightmare. I no longer recognized myself or my soul and there was no solution in sight. Not only was I trapped but unbeknownst to me I was suffering from a disease, a Spiritual Disease so painful and so misunderstood I lived hopeless and alone. This disease was exacerbated by an alcohol induced insanity I suffered from until my deadly allergy to alcohol was diagnosed and still long after I accepted the truth.
My life fell to a bottom surrounded by custody court hearings, jail, addiction, homelessness, DUI’s, a myriad of court classes and fees, and more. I had no car no money or job and no access to any of the meager possessions yet to succumb to my disease, and last I heard from my mom she was on another round of negative side effects she was powerless over, due to what I believe to be medical malpractice by her psyche doctors. I was all alone again. God had left me somewhere over the years but that was okay because during this time when I got out of jail for the first and what I pray to be the last time in my life, to my surprise my aunt was there to pick me up and she was God enough for me.
I landed reluctantly in Alcoholics Anonymous and gave it my all so that I could get letters for court, avoid jail time, and get custody of my son back from the abusive monster my disease left the courts no choice but to the find the more fit parent-despite my desperate pleas and late confessions of the home-life I endured in silence.
In these A.A meetings I heard of promises that were appealing to my needs. I did know that I was powerless over alcohol and could fully concede to my innermost self that I was an alcoholic as they asked of me, but I knew something was wrong long before I ever took a drink so alcohol just could not have been my problem.
At some point, I conceded that alcohol was my problem and ended up accepting that getting sober was going to be the solution. I knew I had the physical allergy to alcohol they talk about where if I take a drink the drink takes me and all bets are off. That knowledge, one would think would just mean the need for permanent abstinence from alcohol to be restored to sanity, but not for me. I would be stone cold sober and would still pick up a drink knowing the alcohol induced insanity I had been delivered from and this acceptance led me back to the truth that alcohol was a solution to a greater problem, not my problem. Drinking with the allergy I suffered from is so deadly it overshadowed the original problem that I suffered from for years.
I did get physically sober in AA and some of the promises I sought. Debt started to get paid off, I got custody legally of the son I never stopped physically caring for, tax delinquency rectified, bank accounts earned, homes, cars, I was back on the up and very busy. All the pain I had previously suffered from was supplanted with staying right sized, A.A meetings, other meetings, following sponsor direction, sponsees, commitments at meetings, speaking at hospitals and institutions, working the 12-steps, and more.
This kept me distracted for years while I awaited the day that I anticipated feeling ultimate freedom I so desperately needed. My son was to come home with me in Los Angeles County during the school week to begin kindergarten in the school district I sought out when he was 2 years old. I planned it down to the preschool he attended and once this happened I would be free, my dreams and by then my son’s dreams were going to come true. I was ready…court came and went and the opposite happened.
My son was ordered to go to kindergarten in the county I gave birth where his father still resided, with additional discussion of the quality time spent 50% of the time with his half siblings that lived in Ventura county. I went from having my son 80% of the time to having him home 3 weekends out of the month with additional time during summer break and school holidays. I was devastated and frankly disgusted with the decision making by the court. It was all for nothing. I went and lead a meeting that evening after my court date, got a sponsee and right into the “solution” I was intellectually trained to accept with my then several years of sobriety.
I continued to run from the pain of my Powerlessness and continued to manage and control my sobriety while teaching others to do the same-and was being praised for it within my sober circle as a woman with dignity and grace. I wanted to feel good, but I was just as miserable as I was when I was modeling and everything on the outside was perfect. Once again I found myself screaming inside, the suffering had never been removed. It was then I began to Recover.