Trigger Warning: This story contains mention of substance abuse, eating disorders, suicidal thoughts, and sexual assault that may be triggering to some.
“I am an alcoholic, a prescription drug addict, and in recovery from an eating disorder. I used to be embarrassed and ashamed to say that, but I’m not today. I’m also a ton of other things. I’m a mother, a sister, a partner, a friend, a teacher, a runner, among lots of other things.
Growing up, I never had any addiction in my family, in fact, neither of my parents drank. I thought an addict or alcoholic was a homeless person on the street downtown, drinking out of a paper bag. I always felt different. I would say, I felt ‘flawed’ is really the only way I would describe it. I felt like there was something wrong with me, so I always tried to be the best, the funniest, the skinniest, prettiest, but it never really worked.
I started drinking at 14, and I liked what it did, but I was really into school sports, so it was only on weekends. But when I did drink, I really let loose and would go overboard. I never really felt ‘as good as’ my friends, so I sought out people or guys who were into other stuff.
I had surgery in grade 12 for an ovarian cyst and had lost a lot of weight, and that’s when the attention from the weight loss came and I started to diet, being very conscious of my weight. I always felt a lot of pressure to be smaller, so this just added to that and started to really restrict what I was eating.
I found out I was pregnant at 19 and stopped restricting and was so excited. That continued until I had a baby at 20 years old and I was still going to university. I only took 6 weeks off, and I was stressed with schoolwork and having a baby.
I started to binge and purge at 20. I still remember studying for exams. I was so stressed, I binged and purged. I felt such a release and it was a coping mechanism I clung to for years, off and on. I had gained a lot of weight being pregnant, so my mom, my sister, and I went and lost the weight. I would restrict all week and do a weigh-in Saturday and then binge all weekend. And repeat that until I got down to about 140 pounds, which was way too low for me, but I listened to the ‘professionals’ there.
That continued, I was hardly drinking then because I was in university with a baby. I had lots of help, but I didn’t go out much or go to the bars, when I did, I overdid it, but it was pretty rare.
Fast forward to 2007, I was in a relationship, bought a house, was really struggling and people were starting to notice and express concern about me. This is when I would say the addictive behaviors started. I would hide alcohol, drink in secret, drink before people would come over or I would go out, people would comment that I shouldn’t drink, etc. I was either drinking or feeding the eating disorder.
I was also taking sleeping pills at that time, so I would binge and purge, drink, take pills, pass out. Lots of mornings, I would wake up and have no memory. To think I was bottomed out then and still kept it up is so crazy to me now.
That relationship ended. I ended up getting caught for impaired driving in 2008, and I was so ashamed and embarrassed. I couldn’t believe I had done that. I went to my first AA meeting and heard someone tell my story. I was so devastated because I was sure I wasn’t an alcoholic. It’s such a stigma I really thought people who were educated and weren’t homeless weren’t real ‘addicts.’
I had been in the treatment center a few times, so I was approved for off-island treatment in the spring of 2009. I went to Homewood in Guelph Ontario for 2 months. I started to go to meetings before that, so I knew some people in the program, but I didn’t really buy into it. Really, I wasn’t interested in delving into the hard work that was needed to heal. I stayed sober for almost a year, still with the eating disorder, many relationships, many scary things that would stop a ‘normal’ person from drinking. I was sexually assaulted. I was found in a snowbank by police more than once and just carried on with all that pain. Never batted an eye.
I was so scared. At this point, it was way beyond controlling it. I would convince myself, ‘I’m not an alcoholic.’ I thought it was just covering and masking the eating disorder but every time I had a drink, it led to a blackout. I had a psychology degree and in 2009, got accepted to the French Bachelors of Education program at UPEI. At the time, in 2010, I had been sober from alcohol, but my eating disorder was horrible.
I made it through the first year and about half of the second, but the stress of that sent me back to my addiction and in 2011, I was arrested for driving impaired for the second time. I was asked to leave UPEI and it gutted me because it was finally something I loved, but I was really mentally ill. I was admitted to Unit 9. It was as awful as the guilt and shame were debilitating.
I was sentenced to 70 days in jail. I blew 3.5, the legal limit, and so that was awful and shameful I just couldn’t handle myself. I went and did the time in there. During those 50 days, I cried most days and I vowed, ‘I will never be in this situation again.’ I really meant it, but as they say, alcohol/drugs are cunning, baffling, and powerful. All we get is a daily reprieve. I had to have a procedure done and had to be handcuffed and have shackles walking the halls passing through the lobby. A woman and her son gasped with disgust when they saw me. It was awful. I thought, ‘How did I let all this stuff happen? How was this my life?’
I got back to university and finished my Bachelor of Education, settled into substituting, and then met a man I ended up marrying 2 years later. I won’t get into too many details because I had a part to play in that, but as they say, ‘Hurt people, hurt people,’ and we were two hurt people. There was a lot of abuse and toxicity. I felt trapped, I had no money of my own, the vehicle was in his name, and I didn’t know what to do.
I ended up getting caught for impaired driving again in 2017 and I was so suicidal, ashamed. I never really became suicidal after I drank, and I just couldn’t believe this had happened again. Looking back on it now, I think I did that in order to leave my marriage. I didn’t feel I could speak my truth to my husband.
I left with the clothes on my back and started to heal. I still struggled, was in and out of hospitals, arrested, went to a recovery home, psychiatrist, psychologist, etc. I had and still have a psychiatrist who was amazing and would just let me cry in his office, but he was always there and extremely supportive. The work seemed too much to take on and I would get some time in, and relapse again. I knew I had to stop for my family and for myself.
In 2019, I was teaching, had met a guy but I hadn’t healed so I continued to spiral. No matter what I thought about addiction— nothing matters. You turn into a person who is selfish, self-absorbed, a liar. But with substance abuse, all bets are off. You can’t love someone better, you can’t scare someone better. As the text says we ‘need to be beaten into a sense of reasonableness,’ sometimes by others, usually by ourselves. I cringe about some of my actions when I was in active addiction, but I was a sick person. Just like a diabetic, I would not punish the person for their actions. We need to treat them the same.
During the summer of 2019, I asked my sister to come to one of the psychiatrist’s appointments with me and she agreed. I knew she would tell him things I wouldn’t. Looking back on it, it had been a cry for help. I knew she would really tell him a lot of things I hadn’t. After that appointment, he put in a referral for a women’s recovery center, and I went there in September 2019. It was amazing, and I was ready to face all of the things that had held me back and I hadn’t dealt with from years of addiction and pain. I worked on my eating disorder behaviors, learned how they are so interwoven with addiction for women and I really started to heal. It really helped that it was all women patients and staff. It was an amazing experience and I’m so grateful I was able to go.
It was intense. I only had two phone calls a week for 10 minutes and it was hard. The first two calls to my daughter who was in university, we both wept the whole time. I knew this was it. My chances to beat addiction were getting smaller and smaller. I took full advantage of my time there and I use the tools every day.
I spent 8 weeks there, and I put my tools to use and I still work very diligently on my health because without my sobriety, I have nothing. I still work with a counselor, psychiatrist, and doctor to keep connected should any difficulties arise. My boyfriend and I don’t drink, but we still have issues like everyone. We have different experiences with addiction but we’re able to work through those today without any major episodes. I was diagnosed with Major Depression Disorder and Anxiety disorder and I take medication for that every day. I may not have to forever, but I leave that up to the professionals.
I do attend 12-step meetings off and on, and I became a SMART Recovery Facilitator, and hopefully will become an intuitive eating coach in the future. I find I can take some of all of the programs and leave what I like. I’m trusting my intuition more and more. Something I never did.
I love my life today. Addiction does not have to be a life sentence, but it will drag you and your family through hell and that’s the worst part of it. My family, my partner, and my daughter didn’t deserve anything addiction brought them, but they have all forgiven me. It’s me forgiving myself that can be difficult, but it’s so worth it. I work at a wonderful school with awesome people and I feel so blessed. I have to eat properly, sleep properly, and workout every day, or I start to slip and some of the old ‘isms’ come back.
I have buried friends I’ve met in the recovery rooms, people who I have shared many life experiences with, but for one reason or another, they have taken their life. I have one of my best friends in our provincial jail for actions from her addiction. They say that jails, institutions, and death is where addiction will lead us, and I have knocked on death’s door more than once. I have one day, today. That took me a long time to grasp, but I have to remember just to handle what is given me today. I don’t have to worry about what’s behind us, because it’s done. I don’t worry too much about the future, because it may never come, and if it does, I have no control over it.
I’ve held forums on addictions, rallies for mental health and am always willing to share my story because I was one of those people who thought, ‘That will never happen to me.’ I thought addicts were bad. Until I realized I am one.
Addiction has humbled me in many ways, and I am grateful to be the voice for people who are afraid of judgment and still fighting that stigma. One day at a time, I can’t wait for what the future has in store.”
This story was submitted to Love What Matters by Ellen Taylor. You can follow her journey on Instagram. Submit your own story here, and be sure to subscribe to our free email newsletter for our best stories, and YouTube for our best videos.
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