Please tell us your story
I grew up in a suburb of Atlanta,GA–i am the youngest of 4 children. My parents provided an amazing childhood full of activities, vacations, encouragement, and motivation. Our holidays together were beautiful–trick or treating, welcoming Santa, unique birthdays. My parents raised us to be respectful, to have good manners, and to finish things we start. I have always been creative–painting, drawing, crafts, knitting. My mom and dad always recognized that and fostered that with art camps, displaying my work, etc. I went to Catholic school from Kindergarten all the way through high school which had a profound effect on me.
I got a fantastic education, gleaned an appreciation of uniforms, and had a basic concept of faith. Mom and Dad never pushed religion down my throat; they wanted to lay a foundation for us to develop faith in something. I was a quiet child, and as I got older I became extremely self-conscious. I was a middle school chubbie. Sports had always been a part of our lives and i played softball, basketball, lacrosse, cross country, gave swimming a shot. Things started to change in high school–i grew up, got my braces off, and felt pretty. but still not thin enough. The first time i got drunk was at my brothers wedding. i remember that as soon as my wine glass was empty, i filled it right up. My oldest sister and i were completely inebriated—she felt terribly guilty about it, and looking back, i did not feel guilty at all. I wanted more. i liked the feeling alcohol gave me–i felt confident and fun, adventurous and brave. There were other times in high school where the main goal was getting our hands on alcohol. I went on a school trip for 2 weeks before my senior year, and while i was gone mom found a trash bag of empty beer cans under my bed. she was furious, but i don’t remember discussing it. i started smoking cigarettes, and fancied myself Julia Stiles from “10 things i hate about you”.
I was apathetic, maybe a little angry. I just wanted to be different. my artwork at the time was a release for me–i would lose myself for hours in my paintings, and if i wasnt satisfied, i would start all over. I maintained my grades, got into my dream college in Florida, and graduated high school. That summer before leaving for college, i was raped. but i didn’t understand that was what happened–it wasn’t the traditional smashing against a wall, beating, violent rape. But it was rape. College started. I was completely new. I was fun, “unique”, a bit edgy, i smoked like a fiend, ate close to nothing, partied, experimented, went to the beach, flirted,drank. and drank a lot. The trauma of that event did not start to truly effect me until just over a year later. I became unstable. I was full of rage and i could not take care of myself. i was physically violent to my boyfriend at the time. i left my dream college, moved back home, and continued college there. i worked for the Mouse for the first time and it changed my life. I met people from all over the world! we worked hard and played harder. it was amazing. Met a boy, a French boy, and i was twitterpated. our relationship was passionate–both positively and negatively. i finished college, went back to work for the Mouse, climbing the ladder, then i moved to Hong Kong. for the French boy. and that is when my alcoholism really progressed. before i always looked forward to alcohol because it was fun, and i could never get enough! but in Hong Kong, our relationship was so volatile and progressively abusive. I remember sitting on a stoop in the middle of Times Square Hong Kong (Causeway Bay) at 3 AM drinking by myself in my pajamas because the boy and i had a horrible fight. There are so many things wrong there. We moved to France and all hell broke loose.
I was uncontrollable with my drinking, my anger, my physical and emotional violence. i said au revoir to paris and boyfriend and came home. lost, depressed, confused, and still not telling my family i had a problem with alcohol, i started to see a therapist again. i never went to one more than 3 times because i was not ready to explore, to be open, honest, and willing. I worked for the Mouse again and this time for the cruise line! it was amazing–long work days, long party nights, friends from all over, travel. it was amazing. i met my husband on the Mouse’s tiny piece of sand in the Bahamas! he was calm, graceful, a bit mysterious, and he was English. That accent 🙂 i told him after a few months into our relationship that i had a problem with alcohol–at that point on the ship, i would finish a shift, buy a bottle of Shiraz and a bag of popcorn at the crew shop, and watch “Wreck It Ralph” alone in my room until i passed out. He loved me anyway–but i don’t think he really understood. we were married in 2014 and it was beautiful. but shortly after the wedding my drinking skyrocketed–lying, stealing, hiding bottles, couldnt stay at one job because of restlessness, violence (physical and emotional). My family finally found out that i was an alcoholic. i lied and lied and lied. and i didnt care. and i wasnt ready. until the day i finally did care and finally i was ready.
How long were you addicted? How did it change your life?
I began abusing alcohol at 19 so i struggled with addiction for 10 years. addiction turned me into an unfeeling individual. i became isolated. i had no friends, and the ones i did have, i was not a friend to at all. In the beginning, i just always liked alcohol. I always would look forward to alcohol the most. “Is there gonna be alcohol there?” was always the question. over time, i became physically violent towards my romantic partners. i loathed physical and emotional intimacy from anyone, including my family. i bounced from job to job, country to country because i was running from responsibility. i was running from having to think or feel anything at all. i lied, i stole money, i manipulated everyone to get what i wanted. which was alcohol, or money for alcohol. i was a snake. and a liar. i was recently married, but right off the bat, my addiction spun out of control and i lost the trust of my husband. i lost the trust of my parents, my sisters. i was nasty, out of it, i didnt take care of myself. i would go days and days without showering. i didnt want to look myself in the mirror. i couldnt. my health was deteriorating–hair falling out in clumps, pain in my kidneys, poor palor, detox symptoms if i did not have alcohol for more than 9 hours (i.e. length of sleep). i missed important events in my family’s life, i became a hermit.
What was the breaking point for you to get clean?
I was drinking at work. something i never said i would do. i was drinking and driving. also something i said i would never do. i would drink in the morning as soon as i woke up, i would get more on my way in to work. i would finish the bottle a work, go on lunch break for more. drink and drive on the way home. and STILL try to hide it. i did this pattern of drinking on a Thursday, one day before i was driving to orlando to reunite with an old friend. i came home early from work thinking my husband wouldnt be home yet. he was. and he knew. i tried to play it off and said screw it. i went to my car, grabbed the box of wine i picked up on the way home, and proceeded to binge in our bedroom all night. the next morning my husband did not speak a word, did not acknowledge my presence. he was over it. over the lies. over the false promises. i continued to drink friday, drove and drank on the way down to orlando. my friend was so understanding–she listed without judgement and offered her insight. my husband would not return my calls. hewould not return my texts. i messaged him and said “i am still your wife, i deserve to know if you and our dog are okay”. he quickly replied “you lost your rights when you left work early to come home and drink. now you know what it’s like not to know what you’re coming home to.” my stomach dropped. but i kept drinking that weekend while with my friend, who hardly drank at all. i dropped her off at the airport, we wished each other well, and once i got onto the highway, something took over and had me pick up the phone. i called my mother and said “hey mom, i have something i need to tell you”. i came home, grabbed more alcohol on the way as it was going to be my last hoorah, and proceeded to make the arrangements with the rehab facility and my work. i was done.
How did you get clean and how long have you been sober for? What was the hardest part for you about recovery and how did you overcome it?
I went to a treatment center in west palm beach. it was an all womens facility and i stayed for 45 days. i have been sober for 101 days as of July 21,2017. the hardest part of recovery so far has been putting myself out there in AA, allowing myself to be vulnerable. i still have thoughts every now and then, but thats all they are–thoughts. they pass by like a leaf on a stream. i also have to remember that alcohol was not the problem–I was. alcohol was my solution. if it enters my body, i am done. I know that if i drink today, i will lose my husband, my family will cease communication, i will not have a job, and i will be homeless. All that awaits me in active addiction are jails, institutions, or death. and god i really do NOT want any of those circumstances. i hear people glorify their substance of choice and that is difficult for me. my active addiction was not glamorous at all. i abstain from looking back at those times with feelings of excessive nostalgia–i am afraid that way of thinking will pull me back into drinking.
What is your motivation to stay clean? And how did you do it?
I am finally fulfilling my potential! i dont want to become that lying, manipulative, shortcut-taking, alcoholic again. I want to continue to be an honest, open, willing alcoholic. I want to continue to make my husband and family proud. I go to 1 AA meeting everyday, especially on the days i do NOT want to go because i always feel better afterwards. i have never been more creative than i have been in sobriety. i want to continue to foster that skill.
For someone in the same situation as you who wants to get clean, what would you want to tell them?
The tough times in sobriety are leaps and bounds greater than my best times in active addiction. stick with it and be open, honest, and willing
What is your life’s moto?
“The grass isnt greener on the other side, and if it is, its astro turf.” “you dont know youve had enough until youve had enough” “worrying is like a rockin chair, it gives you something to do but doesnt get you anywhere”
Colleen is a yoga instructor and artist in St. Augustine, Florida. You can follow her journey on instagram @recoveringcolor
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