“The first time I got drunk I was 15. I drank Smirnoff vodka (can’t remember what flavor), threw up, and passed out. I remember feeling terrible the next day, but it had been such a fun night. I got a Minor in Possession ticket that same year and spent a good couple months grounded due to those circumstances. It didn’t stop me, though. I was a typical teenager that enjoyed late nights with friends and drinking to fit in. Academically, it didn’t hurt me much. In fact, I ended up graduating from high school a year early.
After graduation, I moved in with some girlfriends and we drank quite a bit. I saw some of the affects alcohol had on jobs and friendships at this point, but chalked it up as just me being young. After a year of trying to figure out what I was going to do with my life, I decided I would join the military and try that out for 6 years. 3 months before I left for basic military training (BMT), I went to visit a friend who was in college and I was assaulted by a university football player at a party. Though I know now I should have reported it, I decided not to after confiding in a distant relative and them calling me a liar. So, I went on with my life.
I went through training and ended up meeting my now ex-husband during it. Turns out, we were both from Montana and 15 months later we were married. We would go out and have drinks together, but I never felt like drinking was a huge part of our life. Sure, we got drunk together, but it was never an issue until after we started having children. When I was pregnant with our first, I noticed I was constantly on high alert. I looked over my shoulder constantly and didn’t feel safe when I was alone. None of it really made much sense and I couldn’t figure out why I was that way.
Right around the time I was 7 months pregnant, the football player I was assaulted by was arrested for rape. I had to tell my husband what happened and also let my family know about it. I was contacted by an agent investigating it and it started a fire storm. Suddenly, I was being asked to testify and discuss something I had worked so hard to ignore and put in the back of my mind. I finally decided I would testify and he was sentenced to jail for 30 years, but 20 of it was suspended. I was left frustrated and stuck with anxiety, while he initially thought his sentence was too harsh, and then only served the bare minimum.
Though the justice system failed us after he repeatedly broke his parole violations, Jon Krakauer wrote an incredible book about rape in the college systems and got our story out there. I didn’t drink much during this time – I mainly was trying to cope with being a new parent, being postpartum, and struggling with severe anxiety. We got pregnant with my son around the time our daughter was 13 months and after he was born, I saw an increase in my drinking. Postpartum hit again, my marriage was struggling, and I wasn’t sleeping due to a combination of a newborn and anxiety.
I was prescribed Ambien and I started drinking way more than I ever had. My marriage fell apart due to my own wrong doings around the time my son was a year and we divorced when he was 18 months. I was 24 with two kids and a failed marriage. I wasn’t sure what to do at this point, but instead of taking the time to figure out me, I jumped directly into a new relationship.
The next few years were full of ups and downs. I would go in cycles where I would drink a lot, which would cause issues in my new relationship and professional life, and then I wouldn’t drink for weeks or months at a time. I was constantly trying to fill some sort of void and it felt like the only time I was truly happy was when I was drinking. My relationship was long distance, which meant I spent the majority of my time living alone. There were mornings I would wake up with an empty bottle of wine next to my bed but have no recollection of drinking it, because I took an Ambien. I would go out with friends and spend the next morning lying in bed wondering what I did, who I pissed off, or how I got home (though 99% of the time my keys and car were at home with me). I pushed people away, lost friendships, and severely disappointed the people surrounding me. But in the throws of addiction, I didn’t care.
In the summer of 2017, I was at a house get together when I was assaulted again by someone I worked with. Immediately following that incident, I was harassed and taunted by this individual to the point where I had to make some major life changes. I quit my full time job, transferred to a new base, and tried to block out any memory of what happened. I started fresh at a new job, a new base in a different state, and was ready to better my life. I did really well for a while, but then fell back into party mode. I was making terrible decisions, choosing drinking and partying over everything else, and hardly even knew who I was. I was so severely depressed, I couldn’t see the damage I was doing. I would go to bed every night, begging to not wake up the next morning. To the outside I was this happy-go-lucky, life of the party that had no worries. On the inside, I was drowning. Every day felt dark, and the only time I felt some what happy was when I was drunk.
Everything in my life fell apart in March of 2019. My anxiety and depression had hit a high and I had hit a low that I didn’t believe I could come out of. I believed my only option was to end my life and prevent destroying my children’s life anymore than I already had. With a plan in place and ready to be executed that afternoon, I said goodbye to my kids when I dropped them off at school on March 20, 2019, I went to work and decided during my lunch that I would go and say goodbye to my sister.
As I walked into her office unexpectedly, I fell apart. I started uncontrollably sobbing and telling her I needed help. I didn’t go in to much detail to her, but I told her I needed help and I couldn’t get it here. I went back to work that afternoon and googled ‘inpatient treatment center for anxiety and depression accepted by Tricare’ and the Meadows in Wickenburg, Arizona popped up. I sent a message to their online chat support staff and a beautiful soul named Taylor responded. She filled me in on the Meadows and walked me through the process.
On March 28th, I jumped on a plane to Phoenix and on March 31st I was admitted to the Meadows. It was nothing like I expected it to be. The first night I laughed harder than I had in years. I was surrounded by the most incredible human beings who all had their own stories. I connected with people in a way I had never experienced before. On my first Saturday there, we had a guest speaker come in for the mandatory AA meeting. He spoke about what alcoholism had done to him; it destroyed his life, his family, his careers, and his friendships. I listened to him with tears streaming down my face. I looked over at one of my closest friends and whispered, ‘I want to be sober.’
That following Monday, I went in to my therapist and told her the same thing, and you could see the relief in her eyes. I spent the next 3 weeks digging deep into my anxiety, depression, and alcoholism. I went through intense trauma therapy and focused on the end goal: to be the very best version of me, for me. I learned how to love myself and care for myself again. I also continued to build relationships with the people who were there. It was the first time I could be my true, authentic self and not be afraid of being judged.
Leaving the Meadows was absolutely terrifying. I remember telling my trauma therapist, ‘I know who I am at the Meadows, but who am I in Great Falls?’ Though I was scared for what to expect when I got home, I was eager for what was to come. Nothing went the way I expected it to go. I was shocked to find out life outside of the Meadows was hard. Suddenly I was thrown back into life. I had kids to raise, a job to work, and a life to manage. I had to pay bills again and prepare meals. These simple tasks I had done my entire life were all of a sudden extremely hard.
I spent most of my days crying in secluded places – my bedroom, the bathroom at work, my vehicle. I didn’t know where I fit in. My friendships changed drastically. All of a sudden my phone wasn’t blowing up every night or every weekend. People stopped calling and stopped inviting me to things. I had no patience with my kids and struggled to be mom, which was probably one of the hardest things to overcome because it had always come so naturally. I was struggling to co-parent with my ex-husband and refused to even attempt to work with his fiancée.
I spent every morning going to the gym at 4 a.m., working, and trying to function at home. Before I left for treatment, I rented out the home I owned and moved in with my parents. I felt like a prisoner in their house (at no fault of theirs). I felt like I was on a never-ending rollercoaster ride and I wanted nothing more than to get off of it. I attempted to date and quickly learned dating someone who enjoys drinking was something I couldn’t handle. Boundaries had to be placed in my life and I had to adhere to those boundaries. At my 5-month mark sober, I turned 30 and cried the week leading up to it. I couldn’t believe what my life had come to or how I could ever get to a good place.
Right as I was about to hit my 1-year sobriety birthday, COVID hit. I was stuck at home and quarantined. My on again, off again relationship ended for good and I felt more lost at the time than I ever had before. Looking back, I know everything happened for a reason. That relationship ending lit a fire under me unlike ever before. I started realizing I could accomplish things I never dreamed of accomplishing.
By May of 2020, I bought a second house in my dream location. I got promoted at work. I started seeing the benefits of being sober more and more. I had patience with my children and I was showing up for them in every aspect of their life. I could support them mentally, emotionally, and physically. I had more energy to do things with them. I had more money in my pockets and my debt was all paid off.
The daily bouts of anxiety and depression were less and less. I woke up with a smile on my face. I didn’t cry every day; in fact, my tears got fewer and far between. I was 30 years old, I had two beautiful, healthy kids, I owned 2 homes by myself, and I was thriving. I got comfortable with being alone and spent the time I didn’t have my kids with friends and enjoying the outdoors. I was reconnecting with friends I had lost throughout the years and gaining new friends along the way. I was co-parenting with my ex-husband and my children’s amazing bonus mom. I was comfortable with being the ‘sober girl’ and was able to conquer my first bachelorette party that led into my first sober wedding. I was able to go to the bars and not feel like I was missing out. I was truly so content in life and was so happy with how it was going.
Out of no where, I reconnected with a guy I had previously worked with. He was the last thing I ever expected, but one of the greatest humans to step into my life. I always joke that if someone had said 5 years ago we would be dating today, I would have laughed in their face. He’s the most supportive person I’ve ever known. He loves me on my good days, but loves me even harder on my bad days. There is no conditions to his love. He accepts all of me and does it with a smile on his face. It’s the first relationship I have been in that hasn’t been a rush. We set boundaries early on and have been able to maintain those boundaries. The way we communicate is unlike any other relationship I have been in.
He is beyond supportive of my sobriety and goes above and beyond everyday to make sure I am comfortable. Date nights are a regular occurrence, whether it’s with friends or just us. We took our time in introducing him to the kids and after 6 months of dating. When the kids met him, it seemed like they had known each other for forever. I quickly became second best when he is around. We cook at home together and end most nights playing a game of Uno Attack with the kids. He gets me out of my comfort zone with trying new things and it seems like we are always on a new adventure. It feels so balanced and easy, I have often felt like I needed to be pinched because I never knew a relationship could be as easy as ours is.
Looking back at where I was 2 years ago, I feel like it’s a dream. I could have never imagined my life would be what it is today. My best days drinking don’t even touch my worst days sober. I am truly surrounded by the greatest human beings on this planet. I have the greatest children who understand my sobriety and why I am on this path. I have a family who supports me and has stood by my side through it all. My friends have provided some of the best shoulders to cry on and words of advice to live by. As I approach my 2-year sobriety birthday on March 30, 2021, I can honestly say I would go through it all again if I knew it would lead me to where I am now. Sobriety has saved my life and I wouldn’t change a thing about it. Though it hasn’t been easy, and I put in work every day, my life today is 5 million times better then it was on March 20, 2019.”
This story was submitted to Love What Matters by Hillary Mccrumb of Great Falls, MT. You can follow their 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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