My name is Emma Stevens, and I live in the central United States. I’m a physical fitness trainer who is dedicated to staying healthy not only in body - but in mind and spirit, too. Most days, I delight in moving my body either through yoga, cardio kickboxing, or some other heart pumping, awareness enhancing, endorphin elevating exercise. I also have two amazing adult children who are my heart and soul – hands down. I’m dedicated to finding as much connection with my world as I can and am determined to continue moving towards clarity, beauty, and integrating to become whole.
I’ve concluded by my many trials, and many errors, that listening to my inner voice is crucial. Not doing so will and has led me to much heartache. Having grown up in an alcoholic home, there was much turmoil and chaos. Things including unregulated volatile emotions which often led to physical, emotional, and verbal abuse to me as a child. Adding to my tumultuous upbringing, I was relinquished at birth and then adopted at 12 weeks of age by my parents. Since my parents had never done or seen any need to do any self-reflective work regarding their behaviors, my brother (adopted from another family) and I were subject to many adverse childhood experiences.
I very much consider being adopted an adverse childhood experience. Babies separated from their mothers at birth experience loss and pain. This trauma lives in them throughout their entire life and interferes with their normal development. For me, being an adopted child and growing up in an abusive alcoholic home set the stage for my own addiction. My brother also developed lifelong addictions to a variety of drugs. Sadly, he died at 60 years of age. I believe it was death by adoption (the result of never dealing with his adoption/relinquishment trauma), an alcoholic home, and drugs and alcohol.
Like other adoptees, I’ve struggled with adoption coloring my life with things like loss of identity, genetic mirroring, self-worth, medical history, lost feelings, otherness feelings, ambiguous loss, and many, many more emotions. Since my beginning, I’ve felt responsible for others’ feelings. Almost as if I should apologize for my first mother not keeping me, apologize for my parent’s infertility, apologize for not being the biological child they wanted me to be, and for taking up too much space. I was always being led to believe that I should hold what was not mine to hold. Although many of these things were unconscious to me, they were colliding within me, causing an angry tornado-like effect within my psyche.
Substance abuse was just too easy a fix for my pain and feelings of “otherness.” I erroneously thought that alcohol made me more social, more interesting, less inhibited, maybe even sexier. The effects of alcohol on me were cumulative. I drank for decades. And then, one day, alcohol’s insidious nature had me so tightly wrapped around its evil spirit that I thought I’d die without it. Soon, my nightly drinks became drinking in the late afternoon. And then it was for most of the day. Even though the evidence was clear to me that I’d become physically addicted to alcohol, my denial was ironclad. My doctor told me my liver enzymes were elevated – but still, I ignored the red flags. My hands would shake to the point that putting on my mascara was frustratingly treacherous. And still, I did not want to break up with my abusive lying lover – which alcohol had become.
What Alcohol Did To Me
I came to a proverbial fork in the road. I was either going to keep drinking myself to death, or I was going to start living again. I’d like to say that I made this decision from an enlightened position, but that would not be truthful. My rock bottom was wrecking my car and not remembering why, where, or how it’d happened. It was then that I checked in to a hospital to withdraw safely from alcohol. After released, I checked in to an 18-day outpatient alcohol dependency program where I started to scratch the surface of why I drank in the first place. It was helpful. But the really hard work came after that program ended, and I was on my own. Ceasing alcohol was difficult, but the program taught me new ideas, concepts, and tools to help me STAY sober. I was no longer physically addicted, but I had not changed my thoughts or behaviors yet. I learned how our brain, mainly our pre-frontal cortex (the watchtower of our reactions), can take up to a year to heal after ceasing alcohol! This was distressful news to me. I wanted a quick fix. And, yes, patience was just one of my issues to work on.
However, while traditional Alcoholics Anonymous meetings did not resonate with me, it was a start. When I really started to flourish and thrive was when a friend invited me to a 12-Step program called Adult Children of Alcoholics & Dysfunctional Families (ACOA). This program started working on my whole soul. I worked all the steps. Many times. I even worked the steps in relation to my adoption trauma. There’s a chapter in the ACOA “big red” book that speaks of not just surviving - but learning how to thrive. And having a spiritual awakening is how to thrive. For me, when I had the pleasure of experiencing my own awakening, it was because I had unraveled, disrupted, and dismantled every thing I ever thought about myself and of life in general. It just changed everything! There’s an old song I’ve always loved and still think of often called “I Can See Clearly Now” by Johnny Nash. I try in earnest to live this song every day now.
I’ve been clean and sober for almost six years now. Pure joy! This is not to say I don’t have challenging, difficult shit days – but I now have tools to deal and cope better. Strategies helping me pause instead of being reactive. I’ve done deep work that’s changed the interior of my being and helps me “live in the solution,” which is freedom from bondage. Bondage from drugs, alcohol, toxic relationships, my false self, and even my adoption angst. I willingly and happily accept that some (most!) of this work will be my lifelong journey.
Emma Connecting with The Beautiful Ocean
I’m so grateful for having found so many answers to my lifelong questions. I wouldn’t trade that gift for anything. There is absolutely no way I would have found my truth had I continued to let alcohol remain in my life. There’s an excellent book by author Annie Grace called “This Naked Mind: Control Alcohol. Find Freedom, Discover Happiness & Change Your Life.” This book had a profound effect on me. I can’t recommend it enough. I remember thinking it was as if Annie was talking directly to me. Messages of hope and saying things in a way that made sense. There’s a reason it’s a best seller! Other self-care things that helped and continue to help my recovery are journaling, singing (even went to a studio and recorded a song by Celine Dion titled “Recovering”), created a vision board, remain in therapy, read and research, exercise, eat healthy, good sleep, and practice self-reflection so I will always try to see my part in things. And, for me as an adopted individual, it was imperative for me to write my coherent and cohesive adoption story. It was one of the most healing things I’ve done.
I often ask myself, “what’s next?” And my answer sounds a lot like step 12 in AA recovery, which is trying to carry a message of hope and joy to all that seek and ask. I can think of nothing that would make me more fulfilled than to “share with others that which was so freely given to me.” The gift of reciprocity and that feeling of authentic connectedness is my “high” of choice now. And I’m so very happy to be here!
Thanks for reading,