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Yes, You Can Work the 12-Steps While Pregnant

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I got sober on June 22, 1989, at the age of 27.

My first attempt at sobriety was in April of 1989. I lasted a few months and then had a relapse. During the few months I was sober, my mother had orchestrated my attendance at a 12-step recovery retreat. The retreat lasted all weekend and was held at an old convent, the bucolic grounds a balm for my battered soul. I did my first fourth step with a priest. At that time in April, I didn’t yet know that I’d end up pregnant with twins or that I’d land on bed rest.

What a blessing it was to have so much of my garbage cleared out of my head. I also didn’t know then that I wasn’t committed to the steps or the program or anything about sobriety. I had no idea that a few months down the road I’d relapse for one day, but it didn’t matter. I still gleaned the benefits of coming clean. Doing that first fourth step helped me to let go of a lot of rubbish; some, though not all, of my anger was gone. It was easier to be on bed rest without the committee holding court in my head.

I was two weeks into my newfound sobriety when I found out I was pregnant — and not just pregnant, but pregnant with twins. Talk about sheer terror. I had no clue how to live life, and now I needed to be responsible for two other lives.

What did I do? I kept going to 12-step meetings. I talked to my sponsor, and one day at a time I didn’t drink. I struggled daily with the first step. I knew without a doubt that my life had become unmanageable, but I didn’t believe that I was powerless over alcohol.

My biggest hurdle was accepting that once I ingested alcohol, my reaction to life changed. At the time, I didn’t know anything about alcohol use disorders or emotional immaturity, nor was I convinced I was an alcoholic, but I can say with certainty that my life was unmanageable. Acknowledging that my life was unmanageable was what kept me in the recovery rooms.

I knew that I felt better and liked myself better when I didn’t drink, and my emotional equilibrium returned. Yes, I still had a bit of a temper, but that is who I am. I have enough Italian and gypsy in me to be fiery, even when stone-cold sober!

I had a rough pregnancy. I was put on bed rest and bed rest became a theme. I was in and out of the hospital and in and out of bed the last four months of my pregnancy. To the best of my ability, I kept working the steps. I let go of my pride. The hospital where I had my twins had an inpatient treatment center. I told my doctor he’d have to arrange for someone to wheel me downstairs to the weekly meeting held in another part of the hospital.

Hooked up to IVs and sitting in a wheelchair, I went to meetings. I had become willing to do what I needed to do to stay sober. Not that I would’ve drunk at the hospital, but the noise in my head was still too loud.

My obstetrician was a gem, but he’d gone on vacation. During one of my hospital stays, his partner took over his rounds and paid me a visit. We had a few words. He didn’t like that at the time, I smoked a few cigarettes a day. My doctor felt it would be more stressful for me to completely quit smoking while still so early in my sobriety. He was fine with two cigarettes a day. The women in sobriety supported the theory that we can only address one issue at a time. It was far more important that I stay sober than not smoke two cigarettes a day.

This doctor lectured me and accused me of abusing my unborn babies. I threw a potted plant at him and told him to get the hell out of my room. My doctor came back from vacation and said something like, “I heard things didn’t go so well.”

First off, yes, my behavior could’ve been better. Second, I believe professionals need to remember to meet people where they’re at. That doctor had no idea that I was only six or seven months sober. He had no idea that I had few coping skills. Physically, I felt fine. I’m a high-energy person. Lying around in bed all day was hard. I was bored out of my mind. There were no iPads and Pinterest didn’t exist yet. I had few distractions and lots of raw emotion bubbling to the surface. That doctor couldn’t have known. Nevertheless, it’s important for professionals not make snap judgments.

Women brought meetings to my private hospital room. One of them taught me how to do needlepoint. I made bibs for the babies. Lots and lots of bibs.

I got sober so I could jump back into the mainstream of life. I didn’t get sober to quit living. I got sober so I could live life — on life’s terms. That meant I was free. Sobriety is about living — not hiding. I go where I want, travel where I want and do what I want without the fear of picking up a drink. At the beginning of my sobriety, my life was just beginning. I’m lucky I got to live two lives: life before sobriety and life in sobriety.

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Header image via Creatas Images.

Originally published: August 15, 2017
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