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I got pregnant on New Years Eve, 1998. I was drunk. I still remember cheering NINETEEN NINETY-NINE like a madwoman outside the bar as fireworks went off at midnight. My full bladder didn’t like all the jumping and screaming, so I made the drunken decision to keep celebrating and empty my bladder at the same time. I brought in the new year with soggy pants and piss-filled shoes, and continued the party later on by getting accidentally pregnant in the first hours of the new year.

1999, indeed.

I hated my life. I was 22 and worked at a pharmacy. I lived at home, having nowhere to go after a failed suicide mission of running away to California.

And now I suspected I was pregnant. I’d have to wait 2 weeks to confirm it.

A few days later at work, I saw a way out of the mess of my life and took it. During a busy shift at the pharmacy, I saw a brand new bottle of 500 pills that had not yet been checked in by the pharmacist. I swiped it. I planned to sell them, leave town, and start over yet again somewhere else.

I stashed the bottle in a boot in my closet at home. A few days later when I went into the closet, the boot was empty. My mom had found the pills, and not said a word. I didn’t say anything either.

I had been an alcoholic and a drug addict since I took my first drink at age 14. As I got older, I drank every night and smoked pot every waking hour. I was a trash can for whatever substance was available that would change the way I felt. I couldn’t exist in my body without a cushion of chemicals to shield me from the pain of living.

Now I had to worry about being pregnant, and the missing bottle of pills.

I drank more and more. And it took less and less to affect me. One night, I drank one 32 oz beer and was sick for 3 days. My mom, a nurse, said I had alcoholic gastritis. Smoking pot kept me barely functioning, but I couldn’t even drag myself into work.

January 8 was a Friday. I called in sick yet again. “Don’t you want your paycheck?” my manager asked. “It’s payday.” I’d forgotten about that. I dragged myself in, stashing an assortment of pills in my hip pocket to help me make it through the shift.

But when I walked in the door, the manager escorted me to a back office and told me to sit down. On the table between us was a VCR tape and a piece of paper. He told me they had me on tape stealing pills and asked me to sign a blanket confession, giving away all my rights. I refused. He stormed out of the room and minutes later a woman entered.

She told me she was a federal police officer and there to arrest me on federal drug charges. “Natalie, you have a drug problem and you need help. I am here to help you.” I burst into tears.

I went to jail. My bond was $30,000 USD. I didn’t have $3,000, so would have to wait until my bond was reduced in order to get out. When I got there, they made me change into what the inmates called Green Clothes – the jail’s standard uniform. Before they took me to my cell, someone performed a cavity search. I wished I would have had the idea to stash something up my bum to get high on later.

They made me see the jail psychiatrist. I told him I thought I was pregnant. The test came back positive like I knew it would.

John, the guy I had been dating, accepted my collect call from the jail payphone. I told him I was pregnant and that he would need to pay for the abortion since I had no money. Gentleman that he was, he agreed.

I sat in jail 11 days. Before I left, I met the public defender assigned to my case. “You have federal drug charges and are facing 30 years in federal prison if fully convicted. You won’t go to court for a year, so you need to stay out of trouble until you go to trial. You need to stay clean and go to meetings.”

I didn’t want to go. I had already been in rehab twice, totalling over a year, when I was 17. I had already been in recovery meetings and then relapsed at 19 years old. But these consequences scared me.

I was 22, pregnant, in jail, facing 30 years of prison. I was a constant source of searing disappointment and pain to my family and friends.

I got out of jail and went to a few meetings, but didn’t like them. No one acknowledged my presence so I had an attitude.

I drank one beer after I got out, but was too scared to do any drugs, even though I wanted to.

The following Friday, John took me to get an abortion. No one else knew about it. I recovered alone in a hotel room over the weekend. I had told my mother I was camping with a friend.

The Super Bowl was happening when I got home. My mom and her boyfriend were drinking. I wanted a beer so badly, but she refused to let me have one.

When I got out of jail, my mom agreed to let me live at home again, but I had rules. No drinking. No drugs. I had to get a new job. I had to go to meetings.

So no beer, even on Super Bowl Sunday.

The next day was February 1, 1999. I went to another meeting because I had to. An old man told a boring story about his drinking. We had nothing in common.

But at the end of the meeting, when they asked who was ready to quit drinking, I found myself standing up, and walking to the front of the room. A white chip was pushed into my palm, and I received a hug. Dazed, I sat down as the room exploded in applause. I had no plan to do that. It was like it was someone else, not me, walking to the front of the room.

That day was the first day of the rest of my life. My entire life has been built upon that act of surrender, and every other act of surrender has built upon it ever since.

At this time of year, I like to reflect on the stark reality of these events leading up to me quitting drinking and drugs for (hopefully) good.

Because I was f*n crazy!! But really, just in active addiction.

And now it’s been 23 years. It would be so easy to forget. But I know if I ever were to pick up again, a life beyond my wildest nightmares awaits – just like a life beyond my wildest dreams was waiting for me on the other side of the surrender.

Where do you see yourself in this story? I share it for you – for the one who feels ashamed and holds secrets about what really happened, what no one knows about. What the true story actually is.

For the one who thinks no one else has done bad things. Who thinks there’s no way out.

There is! It takes a mystical mix of Willingness, Surrender, and Action.

What actions are you willing to take to change? Would love to hear it! You are not alone. I love you.


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