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Stephanie’s Big Heart

Sepetember Share 2020

Stephanie makes an impact the second you meet her. But sometimes it takes a closer look to realize, under all these layers is an extraordinary woman with a heart as big as the ocean (in her case, Texas). Her story involves twists and turns that have robbed her of who she really is on the inside. It’s riveting, unique individuals like Stephanie that make you realize everything is possible if you really fight for it.

Introduction

My sober date is December 31, 2011 the second time around. The first time I came to AA was in July 3, 1988. Unfortunately, I went back out in 2000. Bottom line, I just quite going to meetings and I wanted to do it my way. It was detrimental to say the least, but I am glad it happened because today I put AA first. I go to meetings regularly, work the steps, I have a sponsor, and I do service whenever I can.

What was it like?

I grew up in Dallas, Texas as a male with my family and a younger brother. I always felt different ever since I can remember. When I was around 10 years of age, I told my mom I wanted to be a girl and she responded, “you’re not old enough yet.” I resented her for it for a very long time, but I realize today she was protecting me because things where very different back then in 1975. Growing up, I went to Baptist Church and I was a swimmer in High School. I did not drink until the end of my Junior year. I remember going down to South Padre Island and getting drunk the first time on Tequila. I actually didn’t like the taste, but I sure liked the way it made me feel. So, when I went to College in East Texas, I joined a fraternity and started drinking a lot more. Most of the time, I didn’t make it to class because of my excessive partying.

In the fall of 1985, I started going to this popular night club in Dallas called Starck. It was the place to be seen back in the days. I fell in love with it almost immediately because of its upbeat and eclectic atmosphere. I was taken by the men and drag queens which opened up my eyes. That’s when I started cross-dressing. I was also introduced to ecstasy and got intimately involved with one of my fraternity brothers, my first time with a guy. He was mentally abusive and it made things even more confusing because I thought all men were naturally like that.

One day back in 1997, I ran into the same friend who initially introduced me to ecstasy. Ironically, he also introduced me to my first AA meeting. I didn’t want to go when he first told me about it but a year later, I did attend to hear him speak. I wasn’t there for myself but as a favor for a friend. Regardless, it planted a seed in my head. Eventually, I gave AA a try to help control my drinking. I figured if my body is there, my mind will follow. So, in July of 1988 I stopped drinking. During that time, I did not know who I was for the 9 years that I was sober. I quite cross-dressing and I even tried dating women, but my life was dreadfully empty. One of my friends in the program introduced me to a therapist. He did help me figure out my sexuality, to the extend where I felt comfortable enough dressing up as a woman again. One weekend, I went to San Francisco for an AA conference and that’s when I came out to my friends for the first time. 

A few months later, I got into a relationship with an old flame from the clubbing days and I slowly slipped out of AA. The more I saw of him the less I went to meetings. The relationship went on for two years and it was actually quite stable. Only thing, he didn’t like my cross-dressing and again that part of me was missing. So, I kept doing it behind his back. Eventually the truth would come out when we went on vacation to Miami and one of our friends would rat me out. As a result, we ended our relationship. He couldn’t understand why I wanted to be a woman and he preferred being in a relationship with a gay man. So, that was that and we separated. I moved into my own place in the winter of 2000. Shortly after that, I took a job as a Travel Agent. Everyone there was partying so naturally I gravitated towards it again. My mind was telling me drink and do drugs. My therapist on the other hand was against it. Especially, as I started the transition from man to woman. He said, “you’re going to lose everything.” But off course it went from one ear and out of the other. In retrospect, he was right, but I just wanted to escape my mental obsession.

What happened?

This is when things took a really bad turn. First 8 months I was having fun, then I got into all sorts of havoc, like prostituting for money. I basically lived a double life. During the day I was a travel agent and at night an Escort. It was right out of a movie! I essentially became an escort full time. But I ended up getting arrested and put on probation for 3 years. After that, I got arrested again and again. To make a long story short, I was ordered to go to AA and an outpatient program, but when I was done with that I went right back out. My alcohol and drug use were making my life unmanageable. I was suffering from habitual black outs, getting banned from night clubs, and going to jail for public intoxication. Alcohol, drugs and sex was my master! Escorting became my only means of supporting myself. I entered the darkest stage of my life, and I was screaming for a way out. I just got sick and tired of being sick and tired. All I wanted was to start anew, find a real job “as a woman,” and this time I was willing to fight for it. My goal was to make January 1st of 2012 hangover free. And so, my sober life began on the day of New Year’s Eve.

What it's like today?

I immediately got a sponsor when I went back to Dallas, and we started working the steps right away. This time, I came into the program leaving the ego behind. I was forced to move back with my parents and once again I had to quite cross-dressing for the time being. I wasn’t thrilled about it but if it was going to help me stay sober, I thought so be it. My parents didn’t understand me being a transgender, but nevertheless they did love me. About 6 years later my Dad passed away from stage 4 lung cancer and I was there to see him through it “sober.” I was also there to tell him how much I loved him and that was a true blessing. 

I went back to work as a Travel Agent, and I started putting groups together for Transgender Cruises. Someone from Miami was interested in joining my business venture, and so in 2015 I moved to Miami to give the partnership a try. Six months later the deal fell through. I was fearful financially, but I would go to AA meetings and talk about it. And so eventually I found a job with Norwegian Cruise line and today I am content working for Oceania Cruises.   

 

When I moved to Miami, I began living as a woman full-time. I was grateful to finally be accepted and employed as a woman. I also got my name and gender changed. I’ll never forget the day I got my new driver license and the letter “F” for female appeared under my name. I was beyond elated to have truly arrived and become who I was deep down inside. I did not have to hide my identity any longer.

I looked up meetings in Miami and started attending regularly. I loved the diversity and multitude of meetings they offered in Miami. Back in Dallas it was more spread out so this time I had no excuses. Being able to go to so many meetings helped me overcome my own issues by hearing other people share. Once again, I found a sponsor and worked the step. Doing service, like making the coffee or being a chairperson has helped me get out of myself. I have not sponsored anyone so far, but I do believe telling my story is pivotal.   

Today, I love going to meetings. I have wonderful friends that care about me. I don’t take this life for granted and that prevents me from taking another drink. For those who are coming into the program for the first time, my advice is focus on one day at time; Even if you have to do it a second or third time around. We have a choice and it’s simple; Door number 1, be happy joyous and free; Door number 2, be miserable and die a slow death. For me, I chose and continue to choose door number 1 because I tried the alternative and that is no longer an option.

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Kathy PraterI
Kathy PraterI
3 years ago

Thank you for sharing your story. I am sure it will help many. Congratulations on being your authentic self. It takes a lot of courage.

Stephanie Land
Stephanie Land
3 years ago
Reply to  Kathy PraterI

You are welcome!