‘I almost died on an airplane because I took too many shots with this old creep. I woke up on the floor with an oxygen mask on me and a frantic flight attendant trying to wake me.’: 27-year-old overcomes alcoholism, ‘I knew I had to change’

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“My name’s Kathryn Hartvigsen, but I mainly go by Kat. I’m a 27-year-old Flight Attendant who married an Australian babe. We are currently traveling the world sober, living the absolute dream. I haven’t always been in this position – mentally, physically, financially and emotionally.

Courtesy of Kathryn Hartvigsen

I’m a recovering addict/alcoholic. I say ‘addict’ because even though my drug of choice was mainly alcohol, I easily can become addicted to anything that makes me feel good. I say ‘Recovering’ cause’ even though I’ve been sober 3 1/2 years, I try my best to work a daily program that helps to maintain my sobriety and restore my sanity.

Courtesy of Kathryn Hartvigsen

I personally believe that this all started long before I came into view, with my family. Both sides of my lineage have alcoholism on their side, and my dad has been a sober since I was one. I grew up with great parents, a brother and a really nice childhood. I mean great. Never wanted for anything, went on family vacations, and lived in a small quaint town on the Oregon Coast. I don’t blame anything on my family because they loved and warned me of my predisposition to alcoholism and I blatantly rebelled against them when I became obsessed with the curiosity of getting drunk and high.

When I was 14 I took my first sip of booze in my friend’s bathroom. Three shots of vodka and THAT was when I fell in love. I fell in love with the warm, smooth coat of booze lining my insides. I fell in love with the instant comfort it gave me. I fell in love with the fake idealisation that everything would be okay. I fell in love with who it made me when I was in that state. I was courageous, flirty, fearless and instantly addicted to the excitement. From that point on I was romanced by the thrill. The thrill of sneaking out, stealing, lying, doing whatever I could to keep the chase going. That same year I started smoking weed that my older brother had given my friends and me at a sleepover at my house one weekend.

Courtesy of Kathryn Hartvigsen

Me and my closest girlfriends became the freshman wild ones. I mean there’s always that group of girls I guess… so cliché. But hey, I loved it. The only problem with all this was my parents were right in the way of my partying. They weren’t really ‘strict’ in hindsight, since I grew up with a very close group of guy friends, but they just didn’t want me to drink or drug since knowing my family history. In my eyes, they were the root of all evil. I was obsessed and was willing to do whatever I could to get my hands on the bottle at least every weekend. I can’t begin to explain how many times I was grounded or had my keys taken away for periods of time because I couldn’t stop sneaking around to party with my friends.

Courtesy of Kathryn Hartvigsen

Some people ask me, ‘when did you first have an inclination that you could’ve had a problem?’ Well, my first memory of honesty and truth to myself about my drinking was when I was 16 years old. I snuck ‘Natural ice’ beer in my backpack and was chugging it in my bathroom when I was mad at my parents. I thought, ‘Sh*t, this might not be normal.’

When I turned 18, I moved to the Big Island of Hawaii to ‘attend’ the University of Hawaii at Hilo. My time there was more of boozy and stoned nights than anything even resembling college. This is where another downward spiral of blacking out, not remembering anything, having my friends mad at me for who knows what came into play. I kept it together the best I could but after a year and a half of that I made my first ‘geographical’ change. I couldn’t stand who I was becoming and I decided I needed to make a change, and maybe somewhere new would help. I quit school and joined a non-profit Christian organization on Oahu where I found God. Yes, I found God for real. It was some of the best years in my life. Living for a purpose, traveling the world, and NOT, I said NOT drinking or drugging. I could go stints where I could just ‘not drink’ with a couple of hiccups of course, so I thought maybe there really is nothing wrong with me. Maybe, just maybe, I could drink like a normal person.

Courtesy of Kathryn Hartvigsen

When I was 22, I left the non-profit organization and set out with the goal to drink normally. That was when pain pills came into play after I tore my MCL in my knee. I loved the way they made me feel. Now, as much as I didn’t learn from my past mistakes, I did learn from my brother’s heroin addiction (he’s now been in recovery sober for almost 10 years) and I put those down quick before it became much of anything. But of course, I learned very quickly that I could not drink like a normal person. I started doing all these things that I told myself I would never do. I drank and drove, I lied constantly, and I was hurting the ones who loved me most. I had this problem that when I would drink, I would drink WAY too much and black out or pass out. The amount of times I put myself in scary/dangerous situations is uncountable. I almost died once on an airplane because I took too many shots at the bar with this old creep, got on the plane and passed out due to the pressure and my blood alcohol level. I woke up on the floor with an oxygen mask on me and a flight attendant in a frantic state trying to wake me up, and luckily, I did.

‘Oh thank God, we almost had to turn the plane around for you,’ I vaguely remember her saying.

I don’t tell that story to scare people, but as a story of how the promises of staying sober come true. That if redemption can happen for me, it can happen for you.

Courtesy of Kathryn Hartvigsen

So, you might be wondering how I actually got sober? Well, my drinking was so progressive that in less than a year I was drinking on the job and downing bottles of wine and vodka from morning to night. I also lived for the thrill of being a sneak. I thought I was doing a good job hiding my secret addiction, but come to find out, I wasn’t. My only goal and job was to do whatever I could to keep the buzz going. I was constantly living in this half-intoxicated state and I became so depressed because once the denial wore off, I couldn’t stand who I’d become. I lost all hope, was in a toxic relationship with a drug dealer who I didn’t even like really, and I honestly didn’t want to live anymore. My relationships, finances, living situation, were all at risk at this point and I knew I had to change but I couldn’t muster up the courage yet.

Throughout this dark period in my life I was attending church (and had incredible friends who stuck by me) but I kept putting the God that I knew and loved to the side because I was so ashamed. I kept comparing myself to other people and thinking, ‘I’m not homeless living under a bridge,’ or ‘I’m a normal, 23 year old girl with a lot of friends, there’s no WAY that I could be an alcoholic.’ I was honestly utterly pissed at God for the way my life and my addiction was turning out. One night I went to church with a couple of shots in me, and I left midway through worship because I couldn’t fake it. I couldn’t praise this God I was so mad at for giving me this disease. I went and drank some more vodka on my friend’s couch and with my hands and feet up towards the ceiling flailing like a cockroach I pleaded to God that I was finally surrendering, and willing to do whatever it took to get sober. That was when the miracle finally had happened for me.

Courtesy of Kathryn Hartvigsen

The next day I woke up with the jitters and called and asked my brother for help. He’d been in recovery for years at this point and I was putting down the fight. He’s been a substance abuse counsellor for years at different rehabs and all of them included the program of AA. I thought AA is for old crazy people, but was willing to give it a shot because I had nothing to lose. He told me where to go, what to do and I did it. I walked into my first meeting half-drunk from the warm bottle of wine under my drivers’ seat in my car, and I asked for help. I knew that if I wasn’t held accountable immediately, I was going to stop by the store on my way home for a couple of minis at least.

By the grace of God that was my last drop of booze. The next day I woke up with strength and hope that I could get through the next days sober. Days turned into weeks, weeks into months, months into years. I immediately felt like I belonged in the amazing program of recovery. I finally wasn’t alone. I had hope, peace, and joy for the first time in a good long while. I made amazing friends that I will never forget. I received amazing sponsorship, mentorship, and love during my time on the north shore newly sober.

Courtesy of Kathryn Hartvigsen
Courtesy of Kathryn Hartvigsen

I passed an extremely hard NMLS test to become a mortgage loan originator with no prior knowledge. I maintained healthy male and female relationships. I didn’t date for the first year and I did whatever I could to not hinder my sobriety. I gave my now husband a chance after talking for a year as friends when he’d only met me on vacation while I was still a drunk. Fast forward I was accepted to Flight attendant training and passed a 6 weeks rigorous training course (surrounded by party animals) with flying colors. Now, I’m a sober flight attendant living the dream, all because of my God, the health of my sobriety, and love. The love of my family, my husband, and all my amazing friends in the program of recovery who have been by my side.

Courtesy of Kathryn Hartvigsen
Courtesy of Kathryn Hartvigsen

If you’re newly sober, or trying to get sober, then this is for you. You are NOT alone. There are millions of us all over waiting to love you into sobriety. Reach out your hand, put aside your shame and let us help you through the process of recovery.”

Courtesy of Kathryn Hartvigsen
Courtesy of Kathryn Hartvigsen

This story was submitted to Love What Matters by Kat Hartvigsen. You can follow her journey on Instagram. Do you have a similar experience? We’d like to hear your important journey. Submit your own story here. Be sure to subscribe to our free email newsletter for our best stories, and YouTube for our best videos.

Read more inspiring stories of people facing their addictions:

‘I awoke to no vision in my right eye. The last I remember was sitting on a lobby floor, half dressed, my friend begging me to stand up.’: Woman overcomes decades of alcohol abuse, now nearly 2 years sober

‘I found his gun while blacked out. I held it to my head, trying to pull the trigger. His roommate ripped it away.’: Woman’s life has changed ‘drastically’ since becoming sober, turned her ‘nightmare’ into a ‘blessing’

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