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Becoming Jennie

By: Jennie Ketcham

Jennie Ketcham is the author of I am Jennie, a blogger and a former porn star who began her recovery from sex addiction on VH1’s "Sex Rehab with Dr. Drew" and "Sober House with Dr. Drew" in 2009. She writes a popular blog, BecomingJennie.com, about her new life as a writer, student and recovering alcoholic. She lives in Los Angeles.

The Fifth Step—There’s a magic in sharing

Jan 13, 2013

To start, let me say I am not an expert or an authority on 12-Step work. This is just my personal experience.

The 5th step of any anonymous program is inherently scary. For many years I had been separated from others and the idea of reading someone a list of my resentments was horrifying. I had spent so long pretending everything was fine that once I quit using, it became glaringly apparent that everything was not fine. In fact, when I couldn’t stop crying or fuming over things like typical Los Angeles traffic or unusually tender episodes of Kitchen Nightmares, I realized the emotional roller coaster was a sign that something was definitely wrong.

Once I finished my 4th, I did as suggested and spent some time reading it over with my sponsor. Of course, I was the very last thing I resented, and arguably, the very first. I hated my flaws, my past, my future, my freckles, my drive to achieve perfection. I hated everything there was to hate about myself and I could talk about each of the things because I loved talking about myself. The more things I hated about me, the more I talked about myself, the more self-assured I felt.

The validation in self-hatred is surprisingly fulfilling. Needless to say, self-hatred is the inverse of self-love or ego.

http://www.reneweveryday.com/assets/1/7/conversation.jpgAlcoholism is twisted like that, though. It has ugly little twists like self-hatred that keep me separate. I hear many addicts and alcoholics question the necessity of this step— along with the 9th, and 11th—yet, it is one of three steps that has provided me with the most relief. The first time I read my 4th step to my sponsor, I hesitated because I didn’t want to reveal how much I disliked myself. I cried, “Can’t I just read it to God?” But God already knew my sh*t. The “magic” happened when I shared it with someone else and that someone had the chance to say, “I feel that way, too.”

Suddenly, I wasn’t alone, and I couldn’t hate myself for feeling normal, human feelings. Suddenly, I felt a little peace.

The second time I read a 4th step to my sponsor, I hesitated. I no longer wished to be filled with resentment. I didn’t want to talk about how I resented people riding bicycles while I was driving my car or people driving their cars while I was riding my bicycle, and I didn’t want to admit to still feeling disgusted by my imperfect human nature. I wanted to be filled with peace and serenity and joy and love because these are the qualities that I know I can experience if I do the work. So, I read it to her, and magic happened again.

The things I want to do least are usually the things that benefit me most. I take contrary action. I do my best even when I feel my worst. I don’t drink or do drugs and that physical sobriety makes it so that I can keep in constant contact with myself, my sponsor, and God. The first five steps created a platform on which I got to know God, my sponsor and myself, and this platform is the foundation for my emotional sobriety.

The power of making a list

Dec 11, 2012

Let me start by saying, I am not an expert or an authority on Twelve Step work. This is all just my experience.

The first, second and third step are like the ABC’s of Twelve Step work, the foundation on which all of my subsequent step-work is built. They are the three steps I do daily: I can’t do it. He can. I must give it all over to him. These three seemingly small steps add up and help me face the biggest problems in my life, most of which are revealed in the fourth step — the step where I make a fearless and searching moral inventory about myself.

This is the step that I wanted to do least.

Here's the power of making a listThe problem with making a fearless and searching moral inventory about myself is that I am not fearless, and when I first came into a Twelve Step program, I didn’t know which morals I sought. Turns out neither of those things matter because the fourth step is not something to be done alone.

After the first three steps, I knew there were at least two people in my corner: My sponsor and my God.

So, I started as my sponsor suggested, and prayed for God’s guidance. I wrote down a long list of resentments. I got caught up on the bigger, more obvious ones, and often felt like dedicating pages to “telling the truth,” which, in time, was revealed to be lame justifications I used to continue drinking and using.

When I’d get caught up on the big stuff, I’d switch to the fun ones, like women in expensive yoga attire (i.e. Lululemon, the secret yoga store of my dreams), people on bikes when I’m driving or people in cars when I’m on a bike and soon the flow would happen again and the list would continue. I would call my sponsor and say, “OK, I’m done. Let’s read this thing.” She’d laugh and say, “Why don’t you pray on it for a week, and then we can come back to it if nothing else comes up.”

Sure as sea monkeys, something else would come up and the list continued. By the time I finished, I had a seven-page list of people, places, things and institutions that I resented; Bullet points detailing those resentments just like is recommended in our literature. Turns out that’s all there was to this step.

It’s just a list. A simple list.

Making a small decision

Nov 12, 2012

* Let me start by saying, I am not an expert or an authority on Twelve Step work. This is all just my experience.

I have admitted to my innermost self that I am powerless over alcohol and that my life is unmanageable. The reason I can decide to abstain from that first drink is because I have come to believe that I can be restored to sanity by virtue of a Power greater than myself. Yet, I am still a control-freak and a grand manager of ducks. I like to pretend I can control other people, making me feel like I’m in control of myself.

http://www.reneweveryday.com/assets/1/7/220429f566ed4a24b647c8ce18bf888b1.jpgI like to manage little ducks as if they didn’t have the ability to self-willingly walk out of “perfect” rows once I found my arrangement satisfying. It turns out— similar to alcohol—

I have little to no control over anything in my life, except of course, my decision to remain abstinent. Making the decision to remain abstinent creates a ripple effect throughout the rest of my life, and I find it is in this recognition comes the readiness to take Step 3.

For me, the slippery thing about Step 3 is the seemingly abstract concept of “turning my will and my life over to the care of God.” When I drank alcohol, I made the decision to turn my will and my life over to a bottle of whiskey, and once I’d taken my first drink there was no telling what would happen next. However, when I turn it over to my Higher Power, even though there is no telling what will happen next, I can trust that the results are with good reason because I have taken those first two steps. I find the trickiest thing about letting go—of results, illusory control, ideas, expectations—is feeling like it lacks action. I am a woman of action! I forget that even the smallest action can have the most profound effects. But in deciding to let go, in making a conscious and daily decision to turn my will and my life over to the care of the Power of my understanding, I am doing the same thing as when I was using but with improved chances of life turning out well.

The truth is, I drank because I felt like I had no control. Abusing alcohol was a symptom of my alcoholism, and before each binge leading inevitably to blackout, I thought alcohol made me like myself more. I thought it made you like me. I thought it made me funnier and happier and sexier and all the things over which I felt I had no control. By the time I’d had enough alcohol to put me in an emotional state of grace, I’d had too much and that state of grace quickly melted into drunken darkness. Though it ebbs and flows, I can finally understand what people are saying when they claim, “alcohol was the solution.” I can also understand why that solution will no longer suffice, and why it will take something entirely different to help this particular alcoholic.

I don’t know that I ever believed I was in control of my will or my life. I believed I could take things that would make me feel as if I were in control. I believed that if I could arrange the ducks into perfect rows, everything would be fine. At some point, I began making a decision that alcohol was the easiest and softest vehicle to bring me to control my life. The human experience is filled with millions of decisions. Each moment of each day is faced with this dichotomy, the either-ors of life, and last week’s election was just another example of one of our millions of decisions. I decide whether to turn right or left and whether to take that first drink, or smoke, or snort. The seductive thing about making a decision is that we somehow feel empowered after having made it, as if the results are not only of our making, but also within our control. Once I am able to recognize that it is the decision that is inherently empowering and not the outcome, I can let go of what happens after making a small decision, and let God handle the rest.

Came to believe

Oct 08, 2012

http://www.reneweveryday.com/assets/1/7/7c16521ef82e42a6978d4d821ca834581.jpgThe word “believe” in conjunction with “a power greater than ourselves” has a tendency of stirring up difficult emotions within a newly-sober woman or man, myself included. Personally, it isn’t until I begin looking in my rearview that I can read Step Two in its entirety and seethat we “came to believe that a power greater than ourselves could restore us to sanity.” What’s neat about looking back into and subsequently reworking Step Two is that I now understand the word “believe” has less to do with the social standard of believe — which entails truth and some basic religious backing — and more to do with “believe” as a clause.

believe |bi'lev|

verb [trans.]

1. accept (something) as true; feel sure of the truth of

•       accept the statement of (someone) as true

•       [ intrans. ] have faith, esp. religious faith

•       (believe something of someone) feel sure that (someone) is capable of a particular action

•       [with clause] hold (something) as an opinion; think or suppose

I came from the world of pornography where religious zealots occasionally tried to “save my soul” from my own destitute and disgusting lifestyle. Once I left the adult business and got familiar with Twelve Step programs, Step Two induced thoughts of religious folk and the religious folk that came to mind were not the kind and compassionate ones that generally populate this earth. It was the pushy kind. The Westboro Baptist Church kind. The kind that were easy to distinguish from other people because they stood on street corners in Hollywood preaching through megaphones and condemning men that held hands and kissed one another. I couldn’t separate believing from religion.

It’s taken time, but in redoing the Twelve Steps, I am coming to believe in a different kind of experience with the phrase, “came to believe.” It isn’t about faith in the “Here is God, praise be his name” way. It’s about allowing the thought to exist in my mind that there is hope I can live a different way. It’s about a supposition that can grow into certitude that I can get better. It’s about admitting, “When I use anything to numb the way I feel, I become insane.” Finally, it’s about trusting that someone who has experience with a woman like me, whether it’s another alcoholic, a Twelve Step Program as a whole or a more ambiguous Power greater than myself, can help eliminate my need to use the mind-and-heart numbing substances that make me insane. “Came to believe” isn’t just about learning to have faith in a Power greater than myself that can restore me to sanity; it’s about learning to have faith in me, too.

Step Two juxtaposes beautifully next to Step One. Yes, I am powerless. My life is super unmanageable, whether or not I pick up a drink. I am not the world’s mega-manager. To a certain extent, this Step is a relief. The fight is over and the need to overpower that which has been assuaging my sickness has been relinquished.  While there is no hope in a fighter who has admitted her powerlessness, there is if I can believe in my ability to be restored. There is hope in the notion that something, which simply might be a swirling mass of electrons following the inarguable laws of physics, a mass that happens to take the shape of a doorknob or a cloud or a wave and yet represents something so much greater, can restore me to sanity. The most mind-blowing revelation that came in round-two of Step Two is that I have come to believe I can heal.

I don’t have to heal myself, and I am not alone. 

Image courtesy of stock.xchng.com.

That first step’s a doozy

Sep 10, 2012

http://www.reneweveryday.com/assets/1/7/c29f8150a64d434cabbfe9a7f2a9cd611.jpgI am a recovering alcoholic, addict and obsessive-compulsive woman of 29. I came to the rooms of recovery three years ago to work out my problems with sex addiction and figured if I was the perfect student, I could someday return to the bottle with grace and integrity. The program taught me to be a woman of grace and integrity without the bottle but as any good alcoholic will say, to drink normally is the great obsession. I did more than obsess. In fact, I methodically (and neurotically) planned it all out.

I didn’t plan my return to drinking in the fantastical, champagne-in-Paris-under-the-Eiffel-Tower kind of way that I’ve heard many a woman bemoan will never be her future. I didn’t plan where the first drink would be, at what time, under what conditions etc., though I did discuss the importance of being with people I trusted when drinking. I talked it over with my therapist, boyfriend, psychiatrist, friends, parents, and most of all, I discussed it with my sponsor.

I talked about drinking for a good two months before I had a drink. I felt that the more responsible I could be in returning to the drink, the more responsible I would be when drinking. As a skilled rationalizer and justifier, I made my way out of the beverage program and continued in the intimacy program, always reminding myself to “practice the principles” in all my affairs. Needless to say, the principles went out the window and the only thing I was practicing was shame after yet-another-blackout.

I worked a solid program regarding sex addiction, cocaine and marijuana but I held back when it came to alcohol, saying, “I am powerless over my sexually compulsive behavior, cocaine and pot and my life has become unmanageable. But one day, when I learn to like myself again, I will drink Manhattans like a lady.” I convinced myself that abusing alcohol was a result of selling my body and not a symptom of alcoholism. The truth is that the treasure chest of addiction is all embracing, and anything that will give me a head change will be something I come to abuse. For me, I found that First Step was the doozy it’s claimed to be, and even though I worked the other 11, the program didn’t mean a thing if I continued to dance around what powerlessness and manageability were really about.

Wikipedia says the word “doozy” means something “excellent or powerful.” I had no idea what it meant to be “powerful” unless it was in regard to false and unsustainable feelings of power. I hated the idea of being powerless because it was equivalent to being weak.

Unmanageability was for losers who couldn’t keep their shit together and neither of these abstractions were relatable until I started drinking again. It turns out that regardless of whether I sell my body, I am powerless over my actions after I take that first drink, and that includes my ability to say, “No” to another drink. Regardless of whether I can pay my rent, put gas in my car or make it to work on time, I am not the great life manager I once assumed myself to be. The First Step of the program wasn’t designed to make me feel like a weak loser. It was designed to remind me I am a human among other humans, a perfectly imperfect creature trying to connect with other perfectly imperfect creatures.

So, the quote didn’t originate in anonymous rooms. So, it wasn’t in reference to self-help programs combating alcoholism, drug addiction, sex addiction, eating addictions, body dysmorphia, OCD, etc., etc. When I hear, “The First Step is a doozy,” it means something different than when I first came into recovery. Now, it means the first step I take in regaining my power and my life is to admit that when it comes to (everything) I have no power at all. All I can do is ask for help, and be open to the suggestions that will come my way. Managing to ask for help required more power than anything I’ve ever done. Sometimes, it’s good to start from the beginning.

Image courtesy of Sira Anamwong/freedigitalphotos.net

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