‘His little voice begged me to wake up. ‘Don’t die, mommy. Don’t die, mommy.’ His hug, his kiss and his tenderness, lying next to me for hours as I sobbed.’

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“I grew up in a very loving environment, with my wonderful parents in a beautiful home. I wanted for nothing, had a lot of friends and did really well in school. I am one of those people that does everything to the extreme. I go all in with pretty much anything I do, and that included school, sports, friends, food, what have you.

Baby girl sits on floor in pink overalls smiling
Courtesy of Katie O.

My addictions started with self-harm because I didn’t know how to deal with my feelings and emotions. It was especially hard to understand all of the anger and sadness since nothing externally was wrong. It was during the 7th grade. I felt some serious darkness. The kind of sadness that made no sense, because like I said, I wanted for nothing. I was good at pretty much everything I did.

I put an unnatural amount of pressure on myself for no reason. My parents put the normal pressure on me to do well, but there wasn’t anything like, ‘Get an A or get grounded,’ going on in my house. They told me to do my best, and they’d be proud. They’re amazing humans. So, I’m talking, I had no REAL pressures put on me.

Teen who puts too much pressure on herself stands smiling in home while holding her cat
Courtesy of Katie O.

But there was a drive deep down in the way I was woven together in my mother’s womb that made me very competitive, and very intense. I was also a major people pleaser by nature, again, not by any outside forces, but just by the way I was designed.

Teen who put a lot of pressure on herself sits smiling on ground as she looks over at friend
Courtesy of Katie O.

It was also in these last years of middle school that I started to pull back from my group of friends that I’d been part of for the last 7 or so years. I wrote in my journals more and more and pulled more inward. I read a lot, listened to music loudly and spent a lot of time alone in my room.

I loved the internet, and AOL, because I could disappear and be someone all at once. It was a strange time. I spoke to strangers around the country, browsed websites about my favorite bands, and even made my own fan pages.

It was in these years that I discovered the pleasures of pain. I discovered an outlet to the intense feelings I had inside. I would slice my skin with sharp blades. I’d feel that sting, and wait for my blood to emerge. Sometimes, I wouldn’t wait for the blood, and just keep slicing. The pinch and sting and fiery burn that it felt would give me that relief from the insanity inside my body. I didn’t understand why I cut at the time, but I did understand it gave me something I needed. I needed the outlet. I needed relief. I needed silence from everything. My mind felt like it was screaming, and I felt like I couldn’t breathe. But once I put the cold metal to my skin, I could take a breath, and things slowed down.

The first time I did this, I didn’t think of the consequences that would come with having a bunch of little cuts all over the inside of your arm. I didn’t think of what a beacon of self-loathing and ‘attention seeking’ it would be. Though my goal was certainly NOT to grab attention to myself, it’s what I got.

I started moving the cuts to different parts of my body, places where I didn’t have to make up bizarre and stupid and NOT AT ALL BELIEVABLE lies. ‘Oh, this? I fell into a thorn bush.’ LOL, whatever. But that became tough because I was also a swimmer so part of my day, every day, was spent in next to nothing with a bunch of people, forcing me to get creative.

I hated the whispers. I hated the talk behind my back. ‘What happened to her? She used to be really cool. Now she’s really weird. I don’t know.’ It’s not what I wanted. I just didn’t want to hurt anymore, and to not hurt, I needed to inflict pain. It’s backward. And I guess they were right. I was weird.

Teen who put too much pressure on herself swims laps in outdoor pool for school race
Courtesy of Katie O.

I used to write in my journals while in these depressive states, talking about how I felt and not understanding why I felt that way. I felt so much anger, fear, sadness, and hate inside for NO REASON. It was confusing.

I’d cut. I’d cry. I’d write. My pages of these journals would be literally filled with the redness of raw emotions. There were drawings of my body, which I thought was huge and grotesque, with big slashes going through it. There were venomous words of hate and loathing directed at me.

My sense of self was grossly twisted, even at such a young age. Going through these journals now, you’d find the worn, tattered pages covered in my blood, crisp from my tears and flimsy from deep, desperate and ravenous pen strokes.

Woman who was depressed and caused self-harm takes selfie with straight face
Courtesy of Katie O.

My self-harm at a young age and morphed into binge-drinking. The first time I took a real drink was alone in my room after everyone had gone to bed. I wasn’t one that really went to high school parties or anything due to my swimming schedule, but it was a blue moon and I was able to go to a party. I was so excited, but I was also so nervous. I’d never drank before. I had to practice beforehand, naturally.

I decided to wait until everyone was in bed before my drinking practice. Being careful not to make too much noise, I went downstairs into the kitchen, crept to the liquor cabinet, and pulled out the Makers Mark that had obviously been long forgotten back there and cracked open the wax seal. I figured it was ‘the good stuff’ because, damn, that was fancy.

I poured the amber liquid into a glass, unsure of how much to actually pour, so I kept pouring, splashing a little on the counter. I wiped it up with the bottom of my shirt, and I remember smelling the rubbery, smokey, kind of sweet smell that would linger from my dad’s goodnight hugs and kisses as a little girl. The anticipation of my drinking practice had me both giddy and terrified. As I replaced the bottle to the back of the cupboard, I smiled in the dark, ready to get this party started.

I decided to add a few ice cubes to my glass since I didn’t know what the hell I was doing and rushed up the steps, and quietly shut the door to my room as soundlessly as I could. I sat at my bubblegum pink desk, the desk where I sat to do my homework, to cry into my journals, to laugh with my friends over AOL Instant Messenger chats. I sat there that night, alone in my room, in the dark with a glass of whiskey.

Looking back, I find it interesting how this wouldn’t be the last time I’d be sitting in the dark, completely alone with a glass.

I grabbed my earphones and plugged them into my computer, turned on some music, and took the sweating glass in my sweating hands. I swirled the golden spirit a few times before finally taking a sip. It burned. I coughed. I stuck my tongue out and felt goosebumps ripple up my spine and down my arms and legs. Licking my lips, I took a slightly larger sip, maybe more of a gulp. I shuddered.

I padded back down the stairs, grabbed a Diet Coke from the fridge because, damn, and came back up to my lair. I took my computer, my glass and my can over to my bed and settled in. I poured a little bit of the soda into the glass and took another sip. This time, it went down a lot easier.

My body tingled. I felt warm and cozy; Cozier than I’d ever been in my entire life. Everything felt GOOD. My brain – usually a fury of activity – was quiet. I felt relief. I felt joy. I felt like I didn’t care about anything extra. I had my music, my bed, and my drink, and for the first time in forever, I felt like I could actually relax. I remember laughing quietly to myself, finally feeling freedom like I’d never felt, and it was amazing.

I kept drinking my glass, and to be honest, I don’t remember when things went from perfectly cozy and warm to completely empty blackness, but there wasn’t a middle ground from what I can remember. It just happened.

The next couple of days were awful. I thought I was dying, for real. I puked so much, so often, and I even had a fever. My parents kept me home from school due to the flu, and I tried to stomach the chicken soup that was prepared for me and left to reheat in the microwave. My mom came home during her break for lunch to check up on her sick baby.

God, that was a gnarly hangover. But I will say, I actually did completely convince myself that I was SICK and NOT hungover. It was just a crazy coincidence I was in such a sad state the next days after drinking nearly a pint of whiskey, alone… in the dark.

I was cured of my crazy flu in time for the party and was granted permission to go. I didn’t drink nearly the amount I did during my practice, and even won a game or two of quarters, tried my hand at beer pong, kissed a boy and danced the night away.

I looked good, felt good, laughed, and for the first time, I felt like I had arrived. I found what I needed to melt the noise away, take the awkwardness away and I found what I needed to relax, to unwind and to let loose. It was amazing, and I needed to feel this way as often as I could, which as it turned out, wasn’t going to be that often because swimming picked back up soon after. But it’s also not to say that I didn’t get my hands on the magical elixir whenever I could.

Woman who was a binge drinker stands with arm in air and mouth open as someone pours alcohol into her mouth
Courtesy of Katie O.

I was very involved in swimming and even went to an NCAA DI school for the sport. Everything was going exactly to plan. I threw everything I had into it, but when I was forced to leave the sport I had dedicated my life to due to an accident that happened one drunk night in college where I sprained my ankle, everything changed.

Depressed young woman blows smoke out of her mouth
Courtesy of Katie O.

I became a daily drinker, cocaine user and was active in an eating disorder. A few years later, I found crack cocaine and fell in love and never looked back. I was a daily crack and alcohol binge user – yes binged every single day – and after overdoses, and other life-threatening instances, including guns to my head, a long, enmeshed, co-dependent and extremely abusive relationship, assaults, homelessness, and more. I stole, lied and cheated my way through every single interaction for years.

After 8 inpatient treatments, several detoxes, arrests, jail, psych-wards, probation, hundreds of hours of community service, and still nothing working, I felt I was a lost cause, and everyone, including myself, thought I would die an eating-disordered alcoholic and drug addict. I hated who I was, felt completely broken and lost. The reasons I used were confused, but I just could not stop.

Woman with eating disorder stands in locker room taking mirror selfie with shirt pulled up
Courtesy of Katie O.
Young woman who is a drug addict and has eating disorder lays in hospital tube up her nose
Courtesy of Katie O.

Somehow I did really well in school, finally graduating several years after I was supposed to, since I kept leaving for treatment or for using, with Cum Laude honors.

The craziest thing was that I found an honest and wonderful man to marry me. He and his son were the reason I left drugs behind for good. But I couldn’t stop drinking.

Finally, after my 3rd child – my second biological child – was born, my alcoholism hit a new low. I was suicidal and hated myself so much. I just wanted to die.

Pregnant woman who gave up drugs but is still an alcoholic stands smiling
Courtesy of Katie O.

One night, my husband was gone on business, and all the kids were in bed, asleep. I had thrown all of my booze away. I just couldn’t live the way I was anymore. But that night, I ransacked my own trash. I sat in the kitchen, alone, in the dark, covered in garbage, drinking every last drop of each of the bottles I threw away.

After finishing and replacing the bottles into the trash where they belonged, I went to take a shower. I fell out of the shower in my intoxication, and from where I lay, I saw my husband’s straight razor. I grabbed it and pressed it against my arm. I was done. I couldn’t do this anymore. I wasn’t even crying. I just had nothing left in me. But then I heard the cry of my baby through the monitor. Her need for me was bigger than my need for death, and I dropped the blade and collapsed into sobs. But I wasn’t done.

My loudest rock bottom came like a whisper a few months later.

It came after another night of driving home drunk. It came after another fight, leaving me to sleep in the guest room. It came in the form of my middle child, my baby boy. He crawled into bed with me, as my head throbbed and I couldn’t’ stop the room from spinning. Again. It came in the form of his touch, his little voice begging me to wake up. ‘Don’t die, mommy. Don’t die, mommy.’ It came in the form of his hug, his kiss and his tenderness lying next to me for the next couple of hours as I sobbed.

I surrendered right there and then, and that night, I went to my last first meeting of Alcoholics Anonymous, and I never want to drink again.

Mother who has joined alcoholics anonymous stands smiling outside with her three children
Courtesy of Katie O.

God has given me the life and the fulfillment I was searching for all of those years at the bottom of a bottle or a bag. I’m grateful today to be alive. I’m grateful for the quiet bottom, the one that saved my life.

My life today is one I never dreamed possible. I am free for the first time. I have happiness and peace that I can’t understand. People trust me, I’m loyal and I say what I mean, and do what I say. I’m dedicating my life to being the best wife and mom I can be, and to helping other alcoholics in need. My relationship with my family is strong, and I love who I am becoming. My husband tells me every day he’s proud of me, and he loves the woman I’m becoming. I feel comfortable in my own skin for the first time, and I have a relationship with God. It’s all surreal and wonderful. I work the steps, go to meetings and try to be useful every single day.”

Husband stands smiling outside taking selfie with wife who overcame drug and alcohol addictions
Courtesy of Katie O.
Woman who overcame drug and alcohol addictions smiles in selfie
Courtesy of Katie O.

This story was submitted to Love What Matters by Katie O., 33, of Baltimore, Maryland. You can follow her inspiring journey on Instagram and her blogDo you have a similar experience? We’d like to hear your important journey. Submit your own story here, and subscribe to our best stories in our free newsletter here.

Read more inspiring stories of people facing their addictions:

‘I woke up handcuffed to a hospital bed covered in my own vomit, dirt and mud caked in my ears and under my perfectly manicured acrylic nails.’

‘The day of my wedding, I thought I deserved a treat. I picked up a needle and got loaded before I got married. I thought I could do it once, and not again. I was wrong.’

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