I was thinking yesterday, driving home from visiting friends a couple of hours away, about the ways my life has changed since I became pregnant. I think it may have saved my life. It certainly saved me from the wide and winding path I was following, which surely would have led me to alcoholism and other forms of self-destruction. I have never been one for the straight and narrow, but in retrospect I was so far off-course that I'm not sure I could have found new direction without some serious help. That serious help came in the form of an unborn child, and in my dedication to giving that child a healthy start.
For many years, I swore I would never drink. My father is an alcoholic, and his father before him. My mother's brother is an alcoholic, and his father before him. Many people on both sides of my family have struggled with drug abuse and mental illness. I come from families of artists, musicians, academics, and writers. I am not the first to comment that it seems creativity, mental illness, and addictive personality traits come as a set.
I had my first drink at the age of 16, my first cigarette shortly thereafter, and tried marijuana for the first time at the age of 18. But the first of my self-destructive patterns started with sex, at the age of 14. I lost my virginity to the sound of The Grateful Dead's Good Morning Little School Girl. My boyfriend was 18. I was babysitting, and had put my charge to bed early.
By the time I became pregnant, I had had 36 sex partners. I was smoking a pack of Camel Lights and a pack of Djarum Blacks a week. I was smoking an eighth of an ounce of marijuana every two weeks, mostly because that's how often I got paid. On Fridays I'd go out and drink myself stupid. Sometimes I'd go out on Saturday too. In between, I'd come home and have at least a couple of beers on weeknights, and usually at least once during the week I'd polish off a six-pack. Doesn't sound like much, but I was also on antidepressants, which made my body react much more strongly to the alcohol. And that was on work nights.
Everything changed when I found out I was pregnant. You don't drink alcohol when you're pregnant. You just don't. I feel very strongly about this, and I remember being furious when my sister-in-law had a beer when she was pregnant with my niece. "Oh, it's nothing. I'll only have one or two. It helps calm her down." I was livid. Making the baby be still isn't a good thing! So I haven't had a single drink, not even a sip, since I've known I'm pregnant. You don't smoke, either; another thing my sister-in-law did that made me angry. I did have one cigarette after I found out I was pregnant, and I regret even that. I gave in to peer pressure, because I wasn't ready to tell people the real reason I was quitting yet.
My body is not my own right now, and I have even had to stop taking antidepressants and anti-anxiety medications. I am proud of how well I've held it together. Despite being unmedicated for the past six months, and despite added stressors in my life besides the pregnancy itself, I have held a job. I have gotten out of bed most days. I have not completely shut down or self-destructed. To me, this is success.