Please tell us your story.
Big Kate (BK): When I was growing up, my classmates frequently told me “you’re so weird”. Like any high school student I just wanted to be liked. Obviously the best way to be cool would be go to the parties. Booze would alleviate my social awkwardness and get me in the cool crowd. The first time I ever drank, I should’ve known this would not end well. My friends and I giddily took shots of 99 Bananas 🤢. It was Halloween and we made the reasonable decision to go to a party where no one else was drinking. The night ended with a tumble down the stairs (first of many to come), passing out, and waking up to puking all over myself. Booze for me was always about being enough, having enough. If I had just enough, maybe my awkwardness would go away enough for people to like me. Maybe I could even find a man to be good enough for. Maybe I could finally be enough for him to see me before 12AM. If I drank enough, my anxiety would go radio silent. That is, until I woke up from my black out. The addiction to enough changed my mind to well maybe if was pretty enough or skinny enough, then people wouldn’t mind my drunken shenanigans. If I could run enough half-marathons and do enough service work my truth would outshine my weekends. Enough started taking a dark turn when I would wake up after a solitary binge questioning how I even woke up. I was drinking enough, hoping maybe it would be enough to not wake up. I was going to literally drink myself to death. But I realized that was not a good story for me and I decided it was to rewrite my path.
Little Kate (LK): At a younger age it was hard for me to accept who I was. Physically I always stood out amongst people. I was self conscious all through middle school and high school. Now I realize that I had a lot going for me, straight A student, athletic, unique. That wasn’t enough for my younger self though. I developed social anxiety very early on and found it hard to be in groups of people. I was fine with my close friends but around others I just assumed I wasn’t pretty enough or popular enough to fit in. Alcohol took that away from me. Drinking became the way for me to release that anxiety. Everyone else was drinking too so I didn’t feel like I had to keep my guard up. And through drinking I found that I may not be the hot cheerleader type, but people liked me because I was funny and wild and they could always count on me to stir up some fun or make an ass out of myself. I became the metaphorical monkey of the group, used for entertainment. I made a lot of surface level friends through college (albeit a lot of great friends too), and went to all the parties. I lived a life with FOMO (fear of missing out). No matter how much education and learning I poured into myself, I never felt like I was doing enough in life. It got to the point that at age 29, after one bachelor’s degree, one master’s degree, multiple certifications and a respectable job at a hospital, I felt like I was still cheating myself of a life I knew I was meant for. I decided that I cannot care anymore what people see of me, I need to start seeing in myself what I know was always there. The drinking needed to stop.
How long were you addicted & what? How did it change your life?
BK:I started drinking around my junior year of high school. It wasn’t until college that my addiction would flourish. When we are college students we do not realize that there is a life outside of binge drinking. I don’t remember anyone in college who notably limited their drinking. Or maybe I was too drunk to notice. For four years, at least four days a week, my nights were booze, weed and cocaine fueled. This set the path for how the rest of the years would follow. By the time I turned 22, my parents forced me to go to AA after watching me drink an entire bottle of champagne and make out with a much older man on New Years Eve. After a couple weeks my dad told me it was ok if I wanted to start drinking again. Out of stubborness, I stuck with it for 13 months! At that time it wasn’t about living a sober healthy life it was about proving to my father that I was NOT an alcoholic. I still went out a lot and lived a pretty normal life. 5 Months into the 13 I fell in love. Things were great for awhile but my boyfriend loved to drink. A LOT. He spent his weekends pretty drunk and I watched from the sidelines, blind in adoration. On my own accord ( he never pushed me), I decided I wanted to drink again. Our relationship completely changed. There’s no place for TWO crazy drunks in a room. Things took a turn. An already toxic relationship plus booze. Yikes. Let’s just say things ended badly. I was broken from losing him. He brought my self worth down to nothing and it would be 5 years before it started to come back. For the next 5 years, the story remained the same. My life was all about blacking out, trying to get men to love me, and hating myself.
LK: I began drinking when I was 12. The feeling alcohol gave me was immediately embedded in my mind, but fortunately alcohol wasn’t easily accessible to me. All throughout high school I wasn’t a frequent drinker, but when I did get the chance to drink, I went to the extreme. The totality of my addiction was roughly around 16 years. The start of college was when it escalated, but I didn’t start up with drugs until the start of my sophomore year when my older brother passed away of an alcohol related death. I discovered that using cocaine actually sobered me up and extended what I thought were the best days of my life. I used it to numb any grieving or feelings I had. After a few years of the same never ending party, I was kicked out of my college. It was around this time that I started dating my first serious boyfriend. He wasn’t much of a drinker and actually helped me stay away from alcohol for extended periods of time. He didn’t drink much because he preferred opioids. I naturally started abusing them with him as well and it was a paycheck to paycheck lifestyle for us (even though it was only my paycheck we were using). When there wasn’t enough money, we would use the next best thing, cameras, gps, anything that would act as collateral. The whole time I knew it wasn’t who I truly was, but honestly think I couldn’t face the grieving for my brother that was required. I broke off that relationship and quickly rekindled my fling with my one true love, alcohol. The next 6 years would just be the same vicious cycle of binge drink, hate myself, tell myself I was never drinking again, and then drinking that next weekend. I wasn’t truly living.
What was the breaking point for you to get clean?
BK: Blacking out. My black outs were so bad I was losing hours of my life at a time. THe anxiety of what I may have done while drunk forced me to start staying at home and getting wasted so I would not do anything stupid. I was a completely different person when drunk. Drunk me did not align with who I am at my core. They actually could not be farther from each other, a true Jekyll and Hyde.
LK: The breaking point was not the rock bottom that many would expect to have. Trust me, I have had plenty of those rock bottoms in my life. The breaking point was my overall health. I went from drinking daily, with minimal hangovers, to drinking three or four beers and blacking out the night, having a three day hangover and throwing up constantly. I had abused my body for so many years that it was finally starting to fall apart. The black outs were a very scary thing to live with, not knowing what was going on in my brain. This only added to the anxiety and depression that always seemed to be looming just beneath the surface, waiting for its chance to poke it’s head up.
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?
BK: After a wild and crazy St. Patricks Day weekend. I was ready to get sober. I was completely out of control. The only problem was 2 days later I was leaving for Key West, aka a smaller version of New Orleans. I told myself that I would drink on this trip but when I came home, it was done for. So that was that, last drink I was alone, physically and emotionally done for, sipping on a bloody mary in the airport. On 12/27/2017 I will be sober for 9 months. It is 9 Months but it feels like a lifetime because I am so free. The hardest part initially was accepting that I was now willing to finally give up my life as I knew it to put myself first. I did not care if I lost every single one of my friends. I just needed to do this. The hardest part once stopping was dealing with all the things I drank to forget. You think initially that everything is going to be SO EASY because you are sober now. Life is still there but I am better equipped at dealing with it.
LK: I didn’t follow a traditional way of getting sober. I had one last drunken night out filled with Rumpleminz and decided it is not what I want anymore. There had to be more that this life has to offer than going out every weekend to the local bar to have meaningless, surface conversations. I purchased Allen Carr’s “The Easy Way to Stop Drinking,” a suggestion made by big Kate. I think it took me a week to read and it validated everything I already believed inside. I didn’t like the taste of alcohol, I didn’t like the aftermath and how it made me feel long term, I just liked the way it allowed me to avoid my life for just a moment. The book helped me think logically about drinking and the strength to stop. I have been sober for a little over 11 month and on January 15 I will have one year sobriety. The hardest part was going against the grain of what is “normal”. A lot of people give a look as if to say “what’s wrong with you?!” at the mention of being sober. I thought for awhile that I was not the normal one since everyone was drinking but me. I had to stop thinking that way and stop acting in a way that is expected of young adults. I needed to start living this life for myself because I truly know how short this life is.
What is your motivation to stay clean? And how did you do it?
BK: My current motivation is remembering how every day is truly a gift. Why would I want to mess that up by drinking? Our Instagram, The Sober Kates, helps me on the regular to stay sober. Our little sober Insta community is so helpful, genuine, and thoughtful.
LK: Thinking back to how drugs and alcohol made me feel and what it made me do is my motivation. The depths of shame and self loathing I felt is motivation to keep me away from it. Actually valuing myself and knowing that I am worth something is my motivation. Being able to share myself and being present with people I care about is my motivation. My funny, kind, loving 7-year-old brother is my motivation. Being a part of the sober online community via our Instagram, TheSoberKates, has really been a helpful tool. Everyone there is so inspirational and supportive. It is reassurance that we aren’t alone in this. I am also so lucky to have my best friend going on this adventure with me, she has always been motivational to me.
For someone in the same situation as you who wants to get clean, what would you want to tell them?
BK: You can do it! If you have ever thought that you may have a drinking problem, please just try giving it up for one month. If you can’t go a month without drinking, it may be time to reevaluate your relationship with alcohol. I feel you, being sober is stigmatized in today’s world, but it does not even have to be about being in recovery it can just be a conscious decision to be present in your life
LK: I would tell them first and foremost that it is their decision to take the journey and it has to be done for themselves. I know it can seem hard and there may be fear of failure, but how will you know unless you try? Don’t look at it as a forever a decision if that seems to daunting for you. Just take it day by day and make the decision to give it a try for a small set of time. And then keep track of how your body and mind transform. If you can’t do it alone, reach out to someone you know is sober. It is easier to have that support. Reach out to an organization or go to a meeting if you think you have a drinking problem. It is worth it.
What is your life’s motto?
BK: Lokah Samastah Sukhino Bhavantu is a Sanskrit mantra which means:
“May all beings everywhere be happy and free, and may the thoughts, words, and actions of my own life contribute in some way to that happiness and to the freedom of all”
LK: I find myself switching my life motto depending on the stage of life I am in. Right now I would have to say “Live a great story”. They are a brand we found on instagram and I loved their meaning. They really focus on inspiring other people in life and to live a life that creates a meaningful impact. That resonates with me because I am finally ready to start making a positive impact on the world and to inspire not only others, but myself. I have some of their products around me all day as a constant reminder to live this way.
Kate Crandley and Kate Donnelly are best friends and advocates for breaking the sobriety stigma based out of the Philadelphia, PA area. Besides their day jobs, little Kate is a certified Reiki I healer and currently receiving her health coaching certification and Big Kate is working on a creative writing certification. Both have intentions on enrolling into a recovery coaching program in the Fall of 2018. You can follow their journey on instagram @thesoberkates.