On today’s episode of The SHAIR Podcast we have my good friend Mary joining us. At the time of this interview Mary was 5 months pregnant and now 8 months pregnant at the time we are launched this interview. So I hit her up on Facebook real fast to see how the last 3 months have been.
Since the interview Mary has been working on getting LCDP certified (licensed chemical dependency professional) to further her substance Abuse treatment career and has received her Tobacco Cessation Certification as well.
My good friend Andy, Mary’s fiancé, spends months away from home as a merchant marine which has allowed her to accomplish to big mile stones during this absence. So in a nut shell Mary has basically, in her words not mine, been doing lots of training for work, is getting ready for maternity leave, getting really fat (again Mary’s words), and more importantly getting ready for our AA baby as she puts it, “We’re too Blessed to be Stressed”
Andy…Mary…I wish you all the love and happiness in the world and I look forward to see all the beautiful baby pictures, HP Baby!
Clean Date: June 23rd, 2014
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Here are Mary’s SHAIR Podcast interview highlights:
Omar: Now, listeners, just a little history, actually. Mary and I met because she is the fiancée of a good friend of mine and she had come down to Costa Rica. They were touring Costa Rica. My wife and I took them out to dinner and Mary told us that she was pregnant.
How far along were you at the time when you were in Costa Rica?
Mary: I was about seven weeks, so I was really sick and pretty miserable … It was good. It was a good trip.
Omar: Well, you were a trooper because you didn’t let my wife and I see you sweat.
Mary: Yeah. It’s all about putting on your game face, you know?
Omar: Oh, absolutely. I get it … You were just telling me right now before we started about how tough it’s been these last few months because your fiance’s been gone. Tell us a little bit about how that’s been.
Mary: Yeah. Well, Andy is a merchant marine. For people who don’t know what that is, they work on these big cargo ships that go deliver huge things across the ocean from different countries. He works in the States, so he’s in Alaska. He’s been gone since Thanksgiving and it’s February 7th now, so he comes back in two weeks. It’s hard because he hasn’t been around. I’ve been kind of doing this early pregnancy thing by myself, which is a little bit challenging, especially in recovery.
Omar: No, I can only imagine. The main reason why I reached out to you is because I was on Facebook and I was reading this post you put up. It just cracked me up. It totally cracked me up. Obviously, I am not a woman, I’ll never be pregnant, I’ll never get it, all right? It was kind of a cool thing to read. I knew Mary’s in recovery, so I was like, “I’m going to reach out to her because I want to get her on the show and discuss what it’s like to be pregnant and sober.” It can’t be that easy.
Mary: No, it’s definitely has a whole new range of challenges to it. I compare it a lot to early recovery in terms of emotional rawness. There’s all sorts of crazy stuff going on, so it’s kind of like experiencing something new all over again.
Omar: Here are the rules that you’re supposed to have for dealing with a pregnant woman, right?
Rule 1. Never tell a pregnant woman she looks tired, especially on a Friday. Okay?
Rule 2. Never comment on how much weight a pregnant woman has or has not gained. Ever.
Rule 3. If you are going to make a comment about a pregnant woman’s appearance, a simple “You look great” will do the trick.
Rule 4. No uterus, no opinion unless you are the actual creator of the baby.
Rule 5. If you tell a pregnant woman she looks tired and she gives you attitude, do not immediately respond with “Wow. Pregnancy hormones, much?”
“I can’t believe I actually have to post something about this. For all of my friends who have refrained from unsolicited belly touches and commenting about my appearance, you are the real MVPs. Sincerely, a very sassy pregnant Mary.”
Omar: Does it sound more funny being read back to you?
Mary: It kind of does, but actually, all those things were based on real actual experiences that I’ve had so far in this pregnancy. People have actually said things about each of those rules that have made me make that list.
Omar: No, of course. There’s the other thing, too. People just walk up to you and they just touch your belly, don’t they?
Mary: It’s so uncomfortable. Yeah, they do that all the time. Strangers, acquaintances … I don’t really mind when friends and family do it, but it’s other people that it’s like, “What are you doing?” I don’t understand.
Omar: Yeah … It’s the oddest thing. People that have no idea can’t even imagine just how sensitive and how emotionally charged being pregnant is. Compound that with people’s invading your space and not respecting you as basic as … I mean, I can’t imagine me talking to someone, having a conversation, and them touching my belly. Okay? Like, “Hey, buddy. It looks like you’ve put on a little weight here.”
Mary: Oh, yeah. Yeah, it happens a lot. It does and especially at meetings where everyone is so used to hugging. When you go in for the hug with someone, their hand just gravitates towards your belly. I can almost foresee it happening.
Omar: Well we’ll get into that a little bit more later. This is a beautiful moment for Mary and it’s a beautiful moment for Andy. They’re about to embark on a very beautiful journey together and all because of recovery, but there was a time where it wasn’t so beautiful.
It was a time where it was tough. Let’s start talking about that time in your life before we got to pregnant Mary.
First, just give us the broad strokes of what your day-to-day life is like today just to give our listeners an idea of what it’s like to be you today and what your normal routine is.
Mary: Okay. I live in Providence, Rhode Island, which is on the East Coast kind of between New York and Boston, so it’s a little cold here right now. Not much to do outside, but my normal day today looks like … I wake up at 4:30 in the morning because I work at a substance abuse clinic in the city. It opens at 5:30. I do substance abuse counseling there from 5:30 to 2:00.
After that, I usually go to the gym, do some minimal things, do whatever I have to do for the day, eat food, whatever, and then I hit a meeting at night. I do try to go to meetings every day. I don’t always fulfill that goal, but I always try to do that. On the weekends, I have a really great women’s meeting I go to at Butler Hospital on Saturdays. It’s called “No Frills Sobriety”, which is awesome.
I meet up with my sponsor. She lives in Newport. I’m actually in the process of moving to Newport, Rhode Island right now, which is a really cool beach town. What else do I do? I don’t know. I just try to stay sane … I’m in the middle of a very thorough fourth step right now, so I’m doing my turnarounds, which is … It’s tough.
I try to do a little bit of writing every day whenever I can squeeze it in. Yeah, I do pray every day … In the morning, usually. Get on my knees and ask for a god to keep me away from a drink, a drug, and a cigarette … Always those three things because I quit smoking, too. I don’t know. That’s just a typical day, I guess. Yeah.
Omar: Yeah. That sounds about right. I’m curious about this “No Frills” women’s meeting. I’m assuming there you can talk openly about your pregnancy and get good feedback from the women.
Mary: That meeting saved my life. I hated women. I hated women’s meetings when I first got sober. I think a lot of women in recovery can relate to that. When I first got to that meeting, it was called “No Frills”. It was founded in the seventies or eighties. It’s over thirty years old, that meeting.
Mary: It has lots of old women, which I love. I love them. They’re all like my family now. You can go and talk about whatever you want, whether it’s sex problems, pregnancy, infertility, domestic violence, rape, all these things that we are so afraid to talk about in mixed meetings you can talk about freely and openly there. It’s a very safe space.
Omar: Beautiful … I love it. Mary, how much clean time do you have and when’s your anniversary date?
Mary: I have about … Let’s see … A year and eight months? My sobriety date is June 23rd, 2014.
Omar: Early in recovery with a brand new pregnancy … Challenging.
Mary: Yeah, definitely.
Omar: How old were you the first time you drank or used drugs and more importantly, how did they make you feel?
Mary: I can’t exactly remember the first time I ever drank because my dad bartended. We had a fully stocked bar in the house, so I remember having sips as far back as maybe thirteen. My first “drink” drink was when I was fourteen. My brother was a football player and had a party with all these football popular jock-y guys and I was this awkward fat little thirteen year old. They gave me a Budweiser. I drank this Budweiser and all of a sudden, I could talk to these hot football players. I felt like my shoulders just relaxed and I just felt like I had arrived, like it talks about in the book.
Omar: What was keeping you from getting clean or staying clean when you first got introduced to recovery?
Mary: I’d say the number one thing was my age. I was twenty three when I walked in the doors … I feel like our society has this stigma if you’re young. You can’t be an alcoholic if you’re twenty three; It’s too young … Which I … Definitely proved that’s not true. There’s so many young people in recovery. It’s so inspiring. I love it. The other thing was fear.
Fear and ego definitely were keeping me from … I was fighting a lot of that … Fear that I would lose friends, fear that I would lose out on the experiences of my twenties, fear that life wasn’t going to be fun anymore, those things. Ego because I thought I knew better. I could do this myself. I’m smarter than everybody here. I know more. That’s not true. The ego has to be smashed. That’s what my sponsor said to me.
Omar: It does … “The ego is not my amigo.”
Mary: No. That’s good.
Omar: Just to clarify, that didn’t come from me. I heard that at a meeting and I thought it was the funniest thing I’d ever heard, but it’s so true.
Mary: I’m going to use that. That’s good.
Omar: Yeah … Please, please. Use it. One of the guys in the meeting actually made a t-shirt out of it. It was hysterical. He liked it so much, he made a t-shirt out of it.
Mary: I would wear it.
Omar: At what point did you have a spiritual awakening, that “aha” moment, in recovery when you accepted that you are powerless over drugs and alcohol but for the first time had developed the hope that you could recover?
Mary: I’d say my first spiritual awakening was on Mother’s Day of this past year. I had probably had about … I don’t know … Ten, eleven months at this point. ‘Til then, I didn’t really have a spiritual foundation. I wasn’t practicing spirituality, I didn’t care about it, I thought I could do this without spirituality.
On Mother’s Day, I was sitting between my grandmother and my mom and we were at church. I never go to church. I was walking up to do the communion to get the wine and the cracker and I refused the wine, right? I refused the wine. I was sitting there between my mom and my grandmother and the priest just looked at me. He gave me a knowing smile and nod and he blessed me.
I just started crying. I was overwhelmed with this warm feeling of love and acceptance and happiness and joy with my two dominant female figures next to me at this church. I just felt like, “I can do this. I have hope that I can do this.” I thought to myself … I started crying after. That was such a spiritual awakening. I’ve never had something like that happen to me before.
Omar: Oh, wow. I almost got teary here. That’s heavy.
Omar: I actually pictured it. I could see you in that church going through in that moment and I could actually picture the priest … Yeah, a small smile just kind of letting you know it’s okay.
Mary: Yeah, like it’s okay.
Omar: Yeah. It’s totally okay. It’s completely okay.
Mary: Right. That was like something out of the movie. I could not believe it.
Omar: We have such amazing stories, such Hollywood stories where if there was a camera following us, it would be. They’re such epic and priceless moments that … I always say this. Every single one of us has a blockbuster movie inside of us.
Mary: Oh, yeah. I agree with that.
Omar: Do you have a favorite book you would recommend to a newcomer that you read in early recovery?
Mary: I always say the number one favorite book is the Big Book of Alcoholics Anonymous. It’s my favorite book. I decorated it with stickers. You can go through, decorate it however you want. It’s a great book. It’s so awesome. I read it whenever I can. You can kind of open it up and find something that applies to you anywhere. The stories in the back are my favorite. There’s one called “He Nearly Lost It All”. That’s my favorite story in the back of the Big Book. My second favorite book is this book called “Blackout” by Sarah Hepola. It just came out, I think, this past year.
Alcoholics Anonymous: The Big Book – Anonymous
Blackout: Remembering the Things I Drank to Forget – Sarah Hepola
Mary: It’s so good. I love this book. It’s about this woman and it’s her life story. She got sober in New York in New York City and she just talks about alcoholism and feminism and all the terrible relationship stuff we go through. It’s so inspiring. I love this book.
Omar: Sarah Hepola is one of my dream guests that I would love to have on the show to interview. She’s been on After Hour … I think it’s the After Hour pod. She’s also been on Home. Those are two podcasts that are hosted by women and she’s been interviewed on there. I have actually read “Blackout” because all the women on my show that I interview recommend that book.
Mary: It’s so good. It was recommended to me by my sponsor. I read it and I was hooked, so I recommend it to everyone now.
Omar: It’s heavy.
Mary: It is.
Omar: I had no idea how heavy the book was and how real it is.
Mary: Oh, yeah.
Omar: A lot of what you described being in high school and a lot of what she describes … The weight issue and being uncomfortable in her own skin and needing validation from men. Then of course, the heavy copious amounts of alcohol to kind of drown out all the guilt, shame, and remorse as she trudges through her journey. Yes … Especially for women in recovery, it’s a spectacular book. It’s very detailed. It’s very honest.
Mary: I would even recommend it to people who are struggling with if they think they’re an alcoholic or if they’re struggling with that … If they’re unsure. Definitely read that book because it’s helped people kind of understand more about the disease … It’s a very good book.
Omar: Wonderful … Okay, guys. All right. Just another plug for Sarah. All right, so number four. What is the best suggestion you have ever received?
Mary: As a newcomer, the best suggestion I have ever received was “Do not start a new relationship in your first year of sobriety.” That saved my ass because …
SUGGESTIONS FOR THE NEWCOMER!
“Do not start a new relationship in your first year of sobriety.”
Omar: Please continue.
Mary: I made terrible decisions when it came to relationships. I got into toxic, terrible relationships. My picker was broken, I had no idea who I was … I think that’s the most important part. When you’re so new in a recovery … For me, I had no idea who I was, what I liked, how I wanted to be treated, nothing.
My suggestion was “Don’t get into a new relationship in early recovery and don’t even have sexual relationships in early recovery”, which is just a suggestion. I was not perfect with that, but I did it to the best of my ability and I did not get into a relationship for the first year. It really made a difference.
Omar: How much time did you have when you met Andy?
Mary: Thirteen months.
Omar: You knew that was coming.
Mary: Oh, yeah. I wasn’t expecting it, though. It was one of those things. You weren’t looking. I wasn’t looking. We met at a fellowship thing after a meeting. We all went out for Chinese food and we started talking then. I had thirteen months at the time. It was funny the way it happened.
Omar: It’s always … That’s how it happens. That’s how it happens and those are the ones that are meant to be anyway. The ones that you weren’t looking for that found you …
Omar: That’s exactly how I met my wife. I met her at Tin Jo in San Jose, Costa Rica. It’s kind of like a Thai-type restaurant, almost Chinese.
Mary: Yeah. Right? It’s a very romantic spot.
Omar: Yeah. I wasn’t looking, but there she was. You kind of know … It was like, “Well, I guess it was meant to be.” Yes, it’s a great suggestion. Most people completely ignore that suggestion-
Omar: Yeah. What you just mentioned is the most important part of that whole aspect. It’s not so much “Don’t get in a relationship because we want to tell you what to do and ruin your life.”
Omar: No, okay? You don’t know who you are. You have no idea who you are and more importantly, if you don’t know who you are, you don’t know what you want.
Omar: You’re just going to attract the same people you’ve always attracted to in your life. There is this whole … The term, I’m sure you’ve heard of this … “Dysfunction seeks dysfunction.”
Mary: Yeah. My sponsor says, “Water seeks its own level.”
Omar: There you go. I like that one … I’m going to start using that one, too.
Mary: It’s good. Yeah.
Omar: Unless you make that conscious change and your life starts to change, your mindset starts to change. Your philosophies, your principles, your values … They start to change. The people that I know that have actually taken that suggestion … It’s paid off.
Mary: Yeah. It’s hard, but it does pay off and definitely going to meetings every day. In the beginning, I was going to nine meetings a week and I had three service jobs at all times. I went a little crazy. Another good suggestion is get a service position. Whatever it is, stick with it. Go to meetings, be accountable, that kind of thing. Getting a sponsor, reading the Big Book, going to at least one conference in your first year … Whether it’s a young people’s convention or an AA state convention, whatever it is, go because they’re so much fun.
Thanks again for your SHAIR, Mary!
See you then!
Disclaimer – The opinions shared on this show reflect those of the individual speaker and not of any 12 step fellowship as a whole and though we discuss 12 step recovery and the impact it has had in our lives we do not promote or endorse any 12 step anonymous program.