Stacey; A story of self-improvement by Abby Moskowitz

I honestly have been feeling a little lost post show. I spent so much time preparing for it and now that it’s over I feel a little sad, which really caught me off guard.

Stacey is one of 11 women I followed for one year. Here is a small portion of her story.

You are celebrating 10 years sober. How does it feel to accomplish something so huge?

“It is truly one of the most incredible feelings and a constant source of pride for me. Especially because sobriety wasn’t always something I was proud of. When I was first getting sober, I was very embarrassed and didn’t want anyone to know. Not being able to drink and going to AA I saw as an admission of failure. I was a failure because I couldn’t learn how to drink properly. But time and perspective transformed my thinking and that evolution has been a beautiful thing. To go from shame to pride is what I’m most amazed by. To be proud of being an alcoholic and to be able to speak with others so openly about it was something I never dreamed I’d be able to do. The honesty and vulnerability that I’ve learned from my alcoholism is truly what I’m most proud of and that is an incredible gift.”

You have been separated from your ex for a few years. What are your thoughts on dating now?

“Angelo and I have been separated almost four years and we signed our papers officially ending our marriage this year. I honestly have not been doing the dating thing super hard the past year for many reasons. It’s just really not a priority right now because there are so many other things I care more about in my life. Dating requires talking, and texting, and apparently actually meeting in person which I just haven’t had the time, or desire, to put in. I find getting ready for dates and what to wear annoying and kinda stressful. I don’t think I can find one thing I love about the dating process except that feeling of when you do find someone you may actually get excited about seeing again. And this just happened to be one of those rare moments.”

How proud are your kids of you? (Pictured getting ready for her induction into the Honor Society)

“You know, my going back to school has been such a positive, empowering, and life-altering experience in so many ways. I’m learning an entirely new career at 47 and have been given a second chance to do school the proper way. It’s been terrifying, frustrating, exhausting, exhilarating, challenging, and deeply rewarding. But I think one of the best things about my going back to school is to see how it has affected my kiddos. They have been so incredibly supportive, thoughtful, and very proud of me. They give me time to study, they’ve come to class with me, they arranged my books and leave the last seltzer for me on my desk so I can come home from work and study. They see me worrying about tests so they get it. I’m relatable to something they worry about as well. They see me doing something that scares me. They see me learning new things. They see me trying to be better. I think all these things have been invaluable and it has made them very, very proud of their mama. And that is worth far more than any A! But A’s are pretty awesome too!”

You are studying to be a surgical technician. What is your favorite part of this class?

“My favorite part of the program so far has been our time in open lab when we do mock surgery. It’s basically a simulated surgery where our professors act as the surgeon and the students act as the surgical technologist in an actual case. Of course, the patient is a dummy and we even have fake blood. I love this part of it because it is a true practical hands on learning experience. I’ve learned many critical things during this portion of class, like not to stick your fingers in the incision to search for a missing sponge!”

You decided to enter your first bodybuilding contest on top of work and going to school. What does a typical day while training look like? 

“Depending on the day of the week, a typical day for me usually involves school or work, gym 6-7 days a week, studying, kids, and a lot of meal prep. I try and make my meals a day or two in advance. Food prep is a critical part of a body building competition. Often I bring my meals with me wherever I go, work, school, gym. Some days I can’t put in the 2-3 hours I feel I need to at the gym because I’m working and then I have the kiddos in the evening so I’ll go during my lunch break. It’s just a constant juggling of things, missing out on certain things, and saying no to a lot of things right now. But I have my priorities and feel super focused about what I’m trying to accomplish right now so it’s all worth it.”

How hard is it to learn the posing techniques for the upcoming bodybuilding competition and why?

“As you witnessed, the posing is definitely not my strong suit. I am incredibly spastic and then multiply that by 1000xs when you put me in heels. It’s all very new to me and awkward and terrifying: Heels, bikini, every body imperfection, my still jiggly ass, posing to look natural and fluid while flattering and tight, and all the while smiling. It is so hard. I had absolutely no idea how tough the posing part would be, and it is such a huge part of how well you compete. Posing is everything. I’ve got a lot of work to do.”

What did your girls think of the bikini for the competition?

“My girls are totally entertained by all of this. They think it’s kinda funny and are honestly confused by it. They said it’s totally not me, the tanning, the makeup, the heels, the suit. And they’re right. It’s not really me but September 28 it’s going down regardless.”

How was it seeing your girls in the audience at the competition?

“It was the best! I was sooooo fucken happy to see them in the audience when I looked out after my first time on stage. I was honestly surprised by the emotion I felt just from the nerves and the relief and hearing them cheering and seeing them smiling! It was such a memorable moment. It made everything, the hunger, the terror, the exhaustion, the inconvenience, everything tough and uncomfortable about this process, was totally worth it just having them there. I couldn’t do anything without my kiddos and especially without Angelo. And having Domenica, his girlfriend, there as well was just perfect. She is a special one. She’s family. We are family. They were all there for me and it meant everything. I was incredibly happy to see them all waiting for me with flowers. Even if it wasn’t a box of doughnuts! It meant everything to have them there. They are always there for me.”

Now that it is over how do you feel?

“I honestly have been feeling a little lost post show. I spent so much time preparing for it and now that it’s over I feel a little sad, which really caught me off guard. The training, the restrictive dieting and hunger, the exhaustion, feeling overwhelmed with my life and all the other things I should have been focusing on, the selfishness, the heels, the cost of it. I thought I was going to feel kinda relieved when it was all over. And I was in the sense that I got on stage did what I set out to do and didn’t break my neck. But then the whole day was such a beautiful perfect experience. The show was organized and everything ran very smoothly. I connected and bonded with so many awesome people, especially the strong, gorgeous women I met there. Seeing my family and friends cheering and supporting me just made the entire experience worth it and now I want to feel those things again. And that I wasn’t expecting. It was a beautiful, amazing experience and I am damn proud of it.”

How is school going this semester?

“Not gonna lie, it’s been my roughest semester by far. There are no days off for me at all. The curriculum this semester is constantly demanding. There are always assignments, papers, case logs, self evaluations, terminology tests, exams, and tons of reading assignments continuously due. No downtime or momentary rest from it. You get one thing completed, boom, time for another. Clinical’s have been brutal. The OR is intense and highly stressful. I have had many moments of self doubt, questioning my mental state at choosing this profession, and I’ve cried in the locker room and at home more times than I want to admit. It’s a process and I know this. I’m at the very beginning of learning and getting acclimated to the OR culture. It’s getting better because I’m learning not to be so hard on myself. I also have slowly been getting a little more confident performing as a scrub in the OR. I know the more practice I get, the more confident I’ll be. It just comes with routine and doing it over and over. This is just something I’ve got to go through to get where I want to be. But I will be a bad MF one day.”

How have you been during the pandemic?

“I mean yeah, this viral pandemic has definitely been a mother fucker for everyone in countless ways. But I have to say I’ve experienced a lot of positive throughout covid. At work, my coworkers dealt with a war zone. It was gut wrenching to see people dying alone, nurses emotionally and physically exhausted, and doctors really quite baffled by this virus, but there were so many amazing, tender moments that I Witnessed at the hospital. So many acts of compassion and love. Nurses playing music for patients and sitting with them while they passed so they wouldn’t be alone, doctors using their cellphones so families can FaceTime with their dying family member, nurse aids fixing a yarmulke properly on a sedated patient’s head. There were so many beautiful moments and I really saw the best in all the people I work with. During all this I’ve had my own struggles, as everyone has. I’ve been separated from my children since March which has been an incredibly difficult transition, my schooling and graduation has gotten delayed, and I felt very isolated and restless without my regular coping mechanisms like the gym. Even though the hospital was in such turmoil and so completely depressing at times, I was so grateful I was able to wake up every morning, go to work, be a part of a team, and feel useful and have a purpose. That daily work routine gave me some sense of self worth and normality in its own twisted way.”
[Official Website]

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Dodho Magazine accepts submissions from emerging and professional photographers from around the world.
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