Progress Not Perfection
By: Jenn Donovan
My name is Jenn, I am twenty-four years old and I am an Alcoholic.
Now lets just soak that into everyone’s brain for a second. I have a disease called alcoholism which is defined as the following: a chronic and often progressive disease that includes problems controlling your drinking, being preoccupied with alcohol, continuing to use alcohol even when it causes problems, having to drink more to get the same effect or having withdrawal symptoms when you rapidly decrease of stop drinking. If you have alcoholism, you can’t consistently predict how much you’ll drink, how long you’ll drink, or what consequences will occur from your drinking.
Everyone has this preconception that an alcoholic is someone who needs to drink everyday, every hour and every second of the day. Wrong. And I was never like that. I rarely ever drank. Mostly on the weekends.. some nights during the week (especially during college, but that’s what we believe is the norm). The problem was when I drink it starts this sensation of craving. What this means is that I just cannot have one drink. I cannot just have two drinks…. there is no stopping me once I start drinking. And that’s where my problems start…. I have no filter, no off switch. I drink to complete oblivion. I black out every single time that I drink. I have given myself alcohol poisoning more than once.. and more than twice. And after those wonderful binges I would get the bright idea to switch what I was drinking, or change the order of how I drank or try to stop after a couple of drinks and I just can’t. No crazy method or philosophy worked. It never does. No matter how sick I got from the previous time and how many times I swore I wouldn’t drink anymore I still did it.. And the same things still happened. Growing up for me was interesting to say the least. My parents divorced when I was seven years old. My mother worked long hours to care for my brother and I and she raised us all on her own (thanks Mom you are a wonderful woman and I don’t tell you that enough). My father was a truck driver and he was always gone. He had us every other weekend and tried to be the best dad he could be. At the age of twelve I stopped seeing my father on a regular basis. He had married this “delightful” woman who tended to make my life hell and she in turn made my father’s life hell also… Aka my father was an alcoholic. Most of my memories growing up my dad was a very happy man, always smiling, funny. I was totally and completely a Daddy’s girl… but alcohol got in the way of our relationship. During the next few years I saw him on and off but it was only for quick visits when he had time. [Side note: I just want to make it clear that just because my Father was an alcoholic doesn’t mean that it was his fault, or the way I was raised or anything to contribute to why I am an alcoholic myself.] The first drink that I ever had was the night of my grade eight graduation. I had some coolers and some peach schnapps that my friends mom had bought me and I was ready to go to the after party with my friends. Since the moment that tasty sugary drink touched my lips I was hooked. I drank all my coolers and half of the mickey of schnapps and I don’t remember much after that. I was hooked. Progress Not Perfection
Then came high school, which consisted of beer tours, bush parties and weekends at the cottage. And I loved a good beer tour! Country living was good to me and beer was awesome! High school I always had a hard time fitting in completely with everyone. I played sports and people were nice to me and I could get along with anyone. But I was the girl who was the art kid, wore a lot of black, dark makeup, listened to heavy metal, had crazy amounts of piercings (and eventually tattoos), and I always didn’t seem that approachable. I wouldn’t always go to parties and such but when I did I don’t remember a lot of the nights and I don’t really remember getting home. This happened to me frequently throughout my drinking career. After high school came college (took a year of Art)… aka a lot more beer! I drank on weekends and sometimes during the week depending on what was going on with my friends. I was never felt super comfortable just being me. I was always worried that people wouldn’t like me or that I wasn’t doing well enough, or pleasing the right people. As soon as I got a drink or two into my system I felt so confident, and I could get a long with anyone. And everyone thought I was awesome!
My second year of college I switched to Interior Design. Right before that semester started.. August 31, 2010 to be exact I was at home and was woken up by the police at 3AM at my mother’s house. My father had died. He took his own life. After that my life went on a downward spiral… I was dealing with a lot of grief, unanswered questions, resentments etc. I drank a lot over the next year (same binge drinking as usual). I was also in a relationship at a time and I really let myself go… I was overweight and really miserable and the relationship wasn’t the best either because I felt like I wasn’t getting the emotional support that I needed. My brother also went out of control because of the loss of our father and our relationship hasn’t been the same since.
I had bought a new car, I was working two jobs and things were going okay. But then I didn’t have my priorities straight, I wouldn’t ask for help and I definitely wouldn’t listen to anyone who thought that they could give me advice. Within a few years I was in a lot of debt, falling behind on my payments and just struggling to be happy. My relationship with my boyfriend at the time ended and by the fall I had given up my car and moved back to they city to live with my Uncle (who I am so grateful for them taking me in when I really needed it.. otherwise I would have nowhere to go). In October of 2013 something happened. I was waiting at a bus stop to go to work and a man got off the bus on the other side of the street. He crossed the street and walked into this gym behind me. He then approached me with a business card and offered me some personal training. A free session to start and then see if I was into it and go from there. I was supposed to meet him at the gym the next morning. So I did. We ended up talking about my goals and what I wanted from life etc (I have and still want to get into the military but I was not in any shape to do it well). Then we ended up talking about life and why I seemed so angry all the time and I ended up spilling my guts to this complete stranger. He then hands me this little booklet from AA and gets me to go through this checklist basically in order to see if you can prove yourself to be alcoholic. I was eight things on this list… more than three you are considered to be an alcoholic. This man Progress Not Perfection
brought me to my first meeting that following Friday. I walked into the room not knowing what to expect. It was a birthday meeting, which means that they were celebrating someone’s sobriety for an increment of years that they were sober. The man who spoke at this meeting was only a few years older than I but he had been sober for five years. I don’t remember much about the meeting but I just remembered bawling my eyes out, relating so much to what he said and how he felt, and just feeling like he understood… that everyone understood what happens to me when I drink.
Since then I was going to two meetings a week.. I met a lot of younger people in the program too. I got a sponsor and I started doing the steps and praying every morning and every night (this is not a religious program.. a lot of people believe in a God of their understanding.. just to clarify). Once I started working the steps, and starting working on myself I started to feel better about myself… I became more humble, more understanding, patient and kind. I do not get angry or frustrated as easily and I really try just to be nice to people and make sure that I am not harming others. Around the time that I got into AA I also started hitting the gym hard. I always made excuses before about not working out or being too tired, it’s too hard to eat well etc. And you know what.. that was all BULLSHIT. There are 24 hours in a day and you can find time to go to the gym. I currently work two jobs, I go to the gym 5-6 times a week, I attend meetings, get together with my sponsor, I am upgrading courses so I can apply to University in the fall and I eat really well 98% of the time. This is ultimately why I chose to write this excerpt for Justin. But first you needed to know my journey and how I got to be where I am now.
When I first started out I started posting a status whenever I was at the gym, whenever I made a really healthy meal, or I was just posting a gym meme about something gym related. And then stuff starting happening. People started to notice. I am not saying this to be naive or vein… but my friends noticed that I was living this positive, healthy lifestyle. I had people saying to me that I inspired them to go back to the gym, to get healthy, and I motivated them to push harder. How fucking cool is that?!?!?! And even cooler than me motivating someone else they have motivated others too! It’s like this crazy chain reaction that I thought I was just doing all these posts for myself and it’s just Facebook nobody really cares about that shit anyways but, I was totally wrong! So many people guys and gals have thanked me for being such a positive and great inspiration and role model. And you know what… That now keeps ME going! How could I just stop now when I have motivated so many people to live a better life!? To not practice what I have consistently preached for the last 6 months?! And yes… I have only been doing this for six months.. that’s as long as I have been sober and hitting the gym. And honestly I have never been happier! I surround myself with positive people, I look for the good in others and I just try to give out more than I receive. And you know what it works! Me being so positive and happy reflects on other people (unless they are just downright miserable but that’s their business). People react to me Progress Not Perfection
differently now and they engage me in conversation and they want to talk to me and they like talking to me. Whatever it is, positivity is totally my key to happiness. Working out and being sober, eating well and just being happy with who I am is the key to my positive outlook on life. Everyday isn’t perfect and I certainly am not one to say that I am perfect either. Just waking up every morning and being proud of who I see in the mirror is enough for me to love my life. One year in a birthday card my father actually wrote me a handwritten note in regards to not being around all the time and wishing he had more time with me. At the end of that note he wrote these very words: “Wake up every morning and be proud of who you see in the mirror”. And for a long time I wasn’t proud and I wasn’t happy. But I can happily say that since I have changed my life for the better, I am 100% happy with living my life one day at a time, seizing the moment and remembering that in life there is progress, not perfection.
In life there is progress, not perfection