Meet Recovery Rockstar, Carrie
Hi! My name is Carrie, and I am an alcoholic/addict. Today marks two and a half years of being clean and sober, and I am so grateful to be here to share my story with all of you!
My history with drugs and alcohol is a long one, as I had alcoholic tendencies beginning at about the age of sixteen (although I did start to experiment at about the age of twelve). I grew up in an alcoholic household starting at age nine after my parents divorced and my Mom married my Step-dad. My home environment was rocky a lot of the time, but I actually had a pretty nice life, and can look back on many great memories. I was well provided for, and excelled in school as well as sports, playing soccer throughout my childhood into high school. I rebelled just as any teenager would (so I thought) with all of the partying, sneaking out, etc. that I did.
At age fifteen, I started my first job working at a restaurant as a Hostess, and with that came hanging out with the “older” (able to purchase alcohol) party crowd. I worked my way up the rungs of positions, and was inevitably promoted to bartender at the age of twenty-one. That lifestyle became what I knew, and I was totally okay with it. I kept the company of people who loved to party all the time (just like me), and I didn’t hang much with friends who were outside of that circle because they didn’t “get” my way of living anymore. I guess you could say that I never really graduated from “the party and drink all the time” phase to “okay, it’s time to grow up and chill out” phase.
I experimented with various kinds of other drugs on and off for many years, and in the later days, I ended up getting into pain pills pretty badly. THANKFULLY, that didn’t last very long, and I was able to get off of them in time for the addiction to not develop into anything worse, such as doing heroin.
I am by NO means, blaming my parents or the restaurant industry for my alcoholism though, because nobody is at fault for the fact that I developed this disease or inherited the specific gene from someone in my family tree.
I also suffered from anxiety since I was a child, but was never treated for it. I remember feeling strange, and not knowing why, but I would just breathe or ignore it, and then the angst would eventually just go away. As I got older, I couldn’t take it anymore, and instead of going to a doctor to treat it, or learn about methods of handling it, I discovered that drinking alcohol REALLY helped to ease that horrible feeling. I now know that my anxiety was ONE of the MANY reasons why I drank.
I was also was diagnosed with Bipolar 2 after I got sober, which was VERY surprising to me because of my predisposition on what Bipolar is. I’d never been manic, or portrayed any symptoms of what (I thought) Bipolar demonstrated, but found out that there is more to it than the stereotype where a person is emotionally stable one moment, and then completely unstable the next. I am more so affected with my decision making, which makes total sense, and it’s definitely safe to say that I was self medicating.
It got to the point where I didn’t care if I lived or died. I was sick if I drank and sick if I didn’t. Vodka was my best friend, and nothing else mattered until I knew that I had enough to get me through the day. I would buy the huge bottles of SKYY vodka every one to two days, depending on how much money I could get away with spending on that shopping trip.
I worked at a bar that opened at six in the morning, and poured a drink right when I got there so I could avoid getting sick. It’s hard to tend bar when you have to run to the ladies room every five minutes, so I did what I had to do. Since I didn’t drink to get drunk anymore, and never got hammered behind the bar, I was always able to do my job well, and in turn, I never got fired. Having a strong work ethic was my jam, and I always took pride in every job that I had.
I have been arrested for two DUIs (eight years a part), but luckily, have not had to do any serious jail time. I was only eighteen when I got the first one, so the consequences were a little more tough being that I was underage. I stayed on the straight and narrow for quite a few years, but as time passed by, it was easy to forget what the consequences are for drinking and driving, especially with my alcoholism being at such a progressed stage. The second one was more of an annoyance, but kept me off the road for about four more years. I lived in Carlsbad Village at the time, and both of my jobs were in walking distance from my home, so my environment definitely helped me to stay put in my little alcoholic bubble.
When I met my (now) Husband, Gary, things got even worse with my addiction. I quit both of my jobs, and moved up to Los Angeles to be with him. The plan was for me find work up there after I got settled, but the job thing never happened because I was too deep into my addiction, and filling out applications got pushed to the side. I had turned into an around the clock drinker, and my health was starting to decline. My face was super bloated, my skin was turning yellow, and I was taken to the E.R. in January of 2014 and diagnosed with Alcoholic Hepatitis. You’d think that would have helped me to want to stop drinking, but sadly it didn’t even make me flinch. I refused to look at the blood work results even though Gary told me how bad off that I was. That’s when I really saw how powerful my addiction was.
For quite a few years, I knew that I was going to have to seek help in order to quit drinking. I saw my life spiraling out of control, and there was no way that I could go at sobriety alone. I’m grateful that there was never any denial about that, even though it took me a long time to have the desire to change. The main problem was that when I did, I had zero clue on how to go about it. My fears held me back from seeking help, and I couldn’t even think straight enough to make any kind of life changing decisions. Alcoholism is a sneaky disease, and when it got to the point of where I needed to drink every day, it happened fast. My appearance was horrible and I felt even worse on the inside.
MY rock bottom didn’t put me out on the streets or make me steal to support my habit, but it was the lowest point in my life. Doing simple things such as taking a shower or even eating food were impossible to do without feeling like I was going to keel over and die. I actually thought about jumping off of my balcony a few times to just end it all, but THANK GOODNESS I never had the guts to carry it out.
Gary finally had enough of my self-destructive behavior, and after we got into a terrible fight one day, I left to move in with my Mom. I was sick physically, had no money, and was left with zero hope. I drank what alcohol was in her house and then proceeded to have her loan me money to buy more. I lasted there for about a week and then went back home to Gary promising to go to treatment.
That very day, I had a phone conversation with a dear friend of mine who had a few years of sobriety under his belt, and I’ll never forget how much I needed to hear what he had to say. We hadn’t talked in a very long time, and I truly believe that God led me to connect with this specific friend at that very moment. He gave me words of encouragement and then provided me with the resources to contact rehab facilities near me.
That’s when I had my “AHA!” moment! I COULD do this, and I NEEDED it so desperately! I had the information right there on a piece of paper and it was time to take action. So, I kept my promise and made those phone calls as soon as I got home so I could get the ball rolling. I ended up choosing a nice place in San Clemente, CA, and then left the very next day to start my thirty-one day journey there.
I was re-introduced to A.A. and went in with an open mind for the first time ever (I was always forced to go to meetings by the court system, and therefore, thought it was a cult). I was ready to give it my all, and told myself every day that this was my one and only shot to make this happen. I wanted sobriety SO badly! I was sick and tired of being sick and tired. Drinking had stopped being fun many years before, and it was my time to succeed in something for the first time in many, many years.
It wasn’t easy, but I DID IT by taking each day as a learning experience and trusting the process. I felt pain again both emotionally and physically, which ended up being a humbling experience. My bones ached, my heart hurt, I felt shame, guilt, all of the uncomfortable feels. But over time, I learned to get comfortable with being uncomfortable.
The ways that I stay sober today are pretty simple. The combination of God, my Husband, my AMAZING family and friends, and career as a Health and Fitness Coach is what keeps me on the straight and narrow each day. I get to help others on the daily who are struggling in both the health and fitness world and the sobriety world. I let it be known openly that I am a recovering alcoholic/addict and that I am ALWAYS here to chat with anyone who is in need of extra support.
I feel lucky (and super grateful) that I have only come close to taking a drink twice since sobriety. The first time was when I had about ninety days, and my one-year-old puppy, Molly passed away suddenly, and the second time was this past New Year’s Eve when Gary and I got into a huge fight. The one thing that got me through those times was remembering my WHY. Why I needed to BE sober so badly, and what my life was like pre-sobriety. My sponsor always told me to “play the tape”, which means to set the scenario of if I actually did have that ONE drink. Then what? Well, I’d have another, and another, and another, and NOTHING good would come from that. I would be right back to where I started, and there’s no way in hell that I’m EVER going back there.
What works for me, may not work for others, but recovery is about self discovery. You have to find what works for you. We all have the same purpose which is to NEVER pick up again, but you have to find the formula to sobriety that works for you. Maybe it’s going to lots of meetings, starting an exercise regimen, learning to mediate, painting, or a combination of many of different things.
Staying busy is KEY! Figure out what your interests are. Do what makes you happy, and run with it. It’s kind of like finding a new hobby. Drinking and doing drugs WAS our hobby for a long period of time, and it’s important that we find something to replace that void. I found that getting healthy and fit was my thing, and I was finally sober enough to start that journey. Then, becoming a Health and Fitness Coach followed soon after that, and now my time is spent focusing on both myself and my business.
It’s also important to NOT surround yourself with others who aren’t supportive of your journey in sobriety. No matter how close you are with them (they could even be family members or lifelong friends), you MUST be around positivity and encouragement at all times in order to succeed on this journey.
Go to therapy and get any mental health issues that you may have under control. This was a biggie for me. Finally treating my anxiety and figuring out what was going on in my brain was an amazing thing, and it really helped me to understand a ton about myself.
Most importantly, LEARN from your past, but stay in the present. Soak everything in. LEARN to utilize the tools that you are provided with so you can use them to give you strength. It doesn’t matter what you’ve done in the past because it’s the actions you take today that will dictate your future. If I can do this, then so can YOU!