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“Hi. My name is Xena.” As soon as the words leave my lips, I feel like an idiot.
“I’m addicted to alcohol.”
“Sit, Xena.” Great, now I feel like a dog. Why do they keep staring at me? I get up to leave, but before I know it, a wave of nausea passes over me, forcing me to send the contents of my stomach raining over the group. This is great. “Charlene, take Xena downstairs to the clinic. The rest of you, come with me to the showers.” Before Charlene can, the nurse reaches me, I projectile vomit, again.
As we reach the clinic, I see the sign for the ladies room and start to sprint, but again I don’t make it. This time, hurling on myself. At least I’m wearing a hospital gown. How much did I eat this morning? Charlene hands me a basin, as two other nurses help me into a wheelchair. The room I’m brought into is white, which I guess is normal for a rehab center. As we wait for the doctor, I noisily fill my basin. I’m starting to get lightheaded. The nurse, seeing me swaying, steadies me, and inserts a needle into my arm which I soon realize is hooked up to an IV. In walks Dr. Caronn. “Well Xena, what seems to be the problem?”
“Nothing, except for the fact that I just puked out the entire contents of my stomach.”
“What have you eaten in the last twenty four hours?”
“What have you drunk?” he says, finally realizing why I’m here.
“Nothing”, I say which for once is the truth.
“Are you sure you didn’t spend all of last night self medicating or cutting, or doing whatever it is the cool kids do these days?” without waiting for an answer, he spits out, “Let’s see what the tox screen says.”
Three hours later, in walks Dr. Caronn. “You weren’t lying. Can I ask you a question?” Again, he doesn’t wait for an answer. He just continues. “If you knew you were coming to a place with no drugs, no alcohol, no cigarettes, no knives or pointy objects, why last night, did you stay clean?”
The phrase, “I don’t know”, slides out my mouth.
“Charlene, do a full body ultrasound so we can be sure that Miss Xena has not self-embedded anything.”
“I’m not a cutter!” I protest as Charlene coats my skin with a wet, gel-like substance. She runs what looks like an electric razor with no blade, over my skin. As she starts on my stomach, she stops and then zooms in with a few taps on a keyboard. Her eyes grow wide as she stares at the screen.
“Xena, you’re pregnant.” The words echo through my head. I’m having tunnel vision. I sway, and despite the medicine coursing through my veins, I pass out.
I wake up in a new room. I sit up, only to be pushed back down by a nurse standing over me. I look to my right, seeing another patient, presumably my roommate, staring at me. “So you’re finally awake”, she says.
“Where am I now?” I say, looking towards the nurse. “Obstetrics and Gynecology.”
“Why?” I ask, not having a clue what’s going on.
“You’re pregnant. You’re also on bed rest for the next six months.” I look at her incredulously.
“Are you serious?”
“Usually when someone has a baby in their uterus they’re pregnant and usually when someone goes into early labor, they’re on bed rest.”
“So you’re saying I’m three months pregnant?”
“Isn’t that what I just said?” My head is spinning. I have no recollection of ever…except for that one time… three months ago.
“Does this mean that I can’t check out?”
“Not if you intend to have that baby and with your financial state, you don’t really have an option.” She leaves the room, leaving me with a thousand unanswered questions.
The months slide by as each day my body craves nicotine and alcohol. My stomach has begun to resemble a stretch-marked watermelon. My roommate, Jolie, is very nice and excited about the baby, more so than I am as my fear of what will happen is greater than the happiness I feel inside. Jolie was addicted to cutting herself, but now has not for over five months. She stays because she doesn’t trust herself enough to not cut again. Each day between group therapy sessions and meal times, we think of baby names, at least Jolie does.
Only one more month and my baby will be born. After that, I don’t know. I just gave up two important things in my life. I can’t bear to lose the most important thing. The more I think about it, this baby is the best thing that ever happened to me. Without my baby, I would have had plenty of excuses to not quit. Jolie thinks that I should be a motivational speaker, although my college major was public relations. I doubt that’s going to happen.
I’m due any day now. I sit on my ‘extra firm’ hospital mattress gazing out our window, thinking about how far I’ve come in six months. Jolie interrupts my thoughts with, “You do realize that we’re going to have to pick a name soon, right?”
“Yeah, Jolie, I know. What do you think?”
“Well, um I’ve been doing a lot of research and I think I have the winners.” She looks nervous and jams her fists into the pseudo hospital gown pockets that have no ‘pocket’, just an opening in the fabric.
“What are they? Jolie they can’t be that bad. Tell me.”
“Jolie!” As if she can’t take it anymore, she throws up her hands and bursts out, “Verona and Klaus! They mean victory. Xena, you’ve come so far. I’ve never seen anyone’s addiction melt away like yours did as if it was never there. Your priority became your baby. Not your wants.”
“What? Do you hate them?”
“I love them. You know what?”
“How do Verona Jolie and Klaus Joel sound?”
“Are you serious? After me?”
“Of course I’m serious. I can’t wait to-”
“Um, Jolie, could you maybe press the call button, like now?”
“Why what’s-” She stares as she sees the gargantuan puddle of fluid that has accumulated between my legs.
“Jolie press the button!”
“Oh, right. Xena! You’re having a baby!”
“I know!” I scream/grunt as a contraction washes over me, making my breathing slightly irregular.
“In and out. In and out”, soothes Jolie as she holds my hand, letting me squeeze out all circulation, as my body is rigid with pain. It seems that an eternity passes before Charlene walks in. I have not seen Charlene in months, but instead of the friendly greeting I had been planning on, a strangled noise, beyond recognition escapes me.
“I need an anesthesiologist stat!”
“In and out”, says Jolie
“Don’t talk to me!”
“Sorry, sorry, I’m really sorry”, Jolie stumbles over each word, looking woozy. In walks the anesthesiologist, who by request gives me an epidural. He quickly numbs my spine and back. Before I can even ask if he’s put the catheter in, he’s taping it down. Hours pass. I’m moved into delivery. I see the OBGYN and suddenly think of Dr. Caronn. If it weren’t for him… The specialist’s name is Dr. Carmichael. She’s an angel.
“Alright Xena, push.” Another inhuman sound gushes from my mouth. “A little bit more… You can do it.” I’m silently pleading with god for this to be over. “Xena” Dr. Carmichael’s voice pierces my thoughts like a rapier. “Xena, I’d like you to meet your daughter.” She beams at me. Quickly, the nurses whisk her off to wash off all the blood and fluids. They bring her back in no time.
“Hello Verona Jolie”, I say, staring in wonderment at my little ray of sunshine. I’m wheeled back to my room, only to find Jolie pacing outside the door.
“Finally!” she says incredulously.
“Meet your goddaughter”, I whisper, as my baby has fallen asleep, Jolie holds her for the longest time, during which I fall into a deep slumber. I wake up to find Jolie staring at me.
“So when are you checking out?” she asks quietly.
“As soon as I call my mother. I haven’t talked to her since check in. What about you?”
“I don’t know. It’s not like I have anywhere to go.” She stares down at her bare feet.
“What do you mean? Jolie, you’re my best friend. You can stay with me as long as you want.”
“It’s been six years.” I say to the crowd of college students seated in front of me. “My daughter Verona Jolie, is five-and-a-half. Jolie, works as a counselor at the rehab center and I’m talking to you.” After this last comment, I smile, as people in the audience chuckle. “Are there any questions?” I ask. As usual, a dozen hands shoot up. “Yes, you in the green, what’s your question?”
“Do you ever wish that the events in your past life had never happened?”
“I don’t have regrets if that’s what you’re asking. Every choice I’ve ever made, good or bad, has helped me get to where and who I am, today. Yes, you in the back row.”
“What would you say to someone with an addiction that wants to quit, but doesn’t know how?”
“Find a reason. Even if your reason is simply because it’s illegal. When you find your reason, you’ll know. When you find your reason, you won’t even have to think about quitting. Next question. Young lady in the orange.”
“You talk about finding a reason. What was your reason?”
“My reason is and was, my daughter Verona Jolie. Okay, last question. Young man in the stripes.”
“Is it ever to late to go back, to the life you once led, to apologize to the people you may have hurt?”
“What’s your name?”
“Klaus. Klaus Joel.”
“Klaus, It’s never too late. Never too late.”