Trigger Warning: This story contains mention of suicide, suicidal thoughts, and self-harm.
“At 13, I was sent to boarding school. That’s when I discovered alcohol. From the moment I tried it, I was in love. I felt free. Free of not feeling good enough, of not feeling pretty enough. I discovered what it was like to not care about anything and I liked it. I had a hard time making friends. I was 2 years younger than everyone in my grade, socially awkward, extremely shy, and just didn’t quite fit in. I was that girl who spent her weekends competing in chess tournaments and was always last to be picked in team sports.
I met a 17-year-old girl who became my best friend. We did everything together. She taught me how to shave and do my makeup but also how to smoke and how to drink. She told me about boys and push-up bras. She showed me pictures of anorexic models, and in the eyes of 14-year-old me, they were beautiful. So we would go days without eating, only to binge eat chips and drink until we would throw it all up again.
I started off with straight A’s, and by the end of the school year, I was skipping half my classes and drinking every time I could. On the last day of school, I swallowed prescription pills I stole from a girl in my dormitory and drank a bottle of vodka. It wasn’t something I really thought through. It was almost instinctive. I just wanted it all to end. My parents checked me out of the hospital days later. I never got to see a therapist and no one ever followed up on me that I know of.
At 14, I started the last two years of high school in another school. I decided to reinvent myself. I started wearing nicer clothes and a lot of makeup. I tried so hard to be cool. I wanted to be liked. I wanted to be popular. I was voted class president and was top of my class again. But then alcohol crept back in. At first on Friday nights, then Saturdays, and then weekdays after school.
At 15, when my classmates were busy studying for their final exams and picking universities, I was out getting drunk. I applied to one university based on the grades of the year before and they accepted me based on the condition I passed my final exams. While my friends were dreaming about their future careers, I was dreaming about booze or killing myself. I was drunk the day I took my SATs. I didn’t study for a single exam. I never properly graduated high school. I didn’t really know what I wanted out of life anyway. I couldn’t imagine myself older. I was sure I would die in my early twenties. Looking back, I was depressed but I was labeled careless and ungrateful.
I went to university for several months. I knew it wouldn’t last. The administration kept on requesting the results of the final exams, which I didn’t pass, so I knew it was just a matter of time until I had to leave. I lived in a shared house and had the freedom to do whatever I wanted. At first, I went to every single party but I was 16 and no one wanted anything to do with me. I stayed in my room and I drank every single day while watching TV shows. I would eat pasta with ketchup, as all my allowance was spent on alcohol and cigarettes.
At 17, I was on auto-pilot and mostly drunk or very hungover. I don’t remember much of this time. I lived with my parents and would sneak in bottles of wine every chance I could and drink them quietly in my room. I would date older guys and spend as much time over at their place. Sometimes I would be gone for weeks. I would go days without eating because I wasn’t skinny enough and I would carve words into my legs just to feel anything except sadness. I cried myself to sleep almost every night. I had periods where I didn’t drink for weeks at a time in my teens, but they were always short-lived and I would go right back to my old self-destructive habits.
At 18, I tried to kill myself, twice. Once, I swallowed all the pills I could find at a house party and drank as much as I could. I have no recollection of what happened during the next days. Another time, I tried to jump off a balcony.
And then I got pregnant. At 18, I got properly sober for the first time. I cut out everyone from my life. I started going regularly to work. I started saving up. I binge-read a dozen parenting books about children psychology and how to raise emotionally healthy children. I spend all my evenings watching YouTube videos on how to change diapers and breastfeed. I did prenatal yoga.
I don’t think anyone really believed I would make a good mother, but I was hell-bent on becoming the best mother I could be. The only thing I wanted for this child is to not feel how I felt. For the first time in years, I felt hope for me.
At 19, I became a mother. I loved being a mother. I remember the first time I felt real happiness. It was one of the most powerful experiences of my life. It was so sudden, so unexpected. I was out for a walk when all of a sudden, I realized I was smiling to myself. I just started crying for a solid hour. Tears and tears of joy, I had never felt that kind of happiness. That day was no different than the day before. Or the day before that one. There was nothing exciting or new going on in my life. I just felt good in my skin. It didn’t matter my life was still not the way I wanted it. For the first time ever, I could look at myself and truly say I was proud. Proud of what I had accomplished and proud of who I was becoming.
I flourished in motherhood. I loved everything about it, and I breastfed her for over two years. She never left my side except when I was at work. I started so many things. I learned to sew and made matching bibs and mommy necklaces. Then I started a blog. I learned how to make jewelry and started a jewelry line.
At 21, I tried alcohol a few times again. At first accidentally. But I couldn’t get it off my mind. I could somewhat moderate. Once I realized it could lead me right back to where I was, I stopped.
I decided to give dating a proper try again. Eventually, I met someone with who I really clicked. I felt so loved. I loved how kind and carrying he was with my daughter. I had so much hope. I had a glimpse of what family life could be like. He encouraged me to start an Etsy store, and it did so well, but I couldn’t keep up with it. I was so stressed. I had just signed a lease for a new place, a place I loved, that I could finally truly call home. In between a full-time job, a new business, a move, and being a single mom, I just walked passed the wine aisle one day and grabbed myself two bottles of wine. I convinced myself I didn’t have a problem. I was just stressed. Don’t all moms drink wine? I started drinking on some nights when he wasn’t around. And then the temptation to drink every night became unbearable. I worked up the courage and called him crying that I wasn’t well. I never saw him again. I stopped drinking after that. I realized I was on my own again and I needed to do whatever it took.
For my 23rd birthday, my daughter and I moved into our new place. We had practically no furniture, yet my heart was so full. It felt like home.
As the months went on, I couldn’t quite shake off that little voice inside of me telling me I should have a drink. I spent that year drinking two to three bottles at night, I tried to quit every other day. I would manage up to three weeks and cave in again. I rationalized in my head I was fine, I was just depressed and lonely, alcohol was helping me deal with it. I never drank in front of my daughter. She was always happy, well-fed, and never late to school. But I was a shell of a person I once was. I started feeling suicidal again. I called a doctor. He told me that I didn’t have a drinking problem, I was just young and reckless. That’s when my survival mode kicked in. I knew I was once sober and happy, so I can get there again, no matter what, and how long it took. I wanted to see my daughter grow up.
I got sober shortly before my 24th birthday again. The first months were rough. I felt so numb and so anxious. I read almost every single book there was on sobriety. I invested all my free time into becoming the person I wanted to be and working on myself. I started opening up old wounds. I never dealt with all the trauma I had experienced until then. It’s only really now, as an adult, and as a mother, I can really see how broken I was a child. How terrifying and abusive some of the things I had experienced were. The scariest thing to me is no one really knew, I was so good at hiding it.
And so I started to heal. I flourished. I took a leap of faith, sold or packed up all my things, and moved to a different continent for a job. I wrote a book.
I turned 25 this year and that night in bed, I cried my eyes out from joy and happiness. It felt surreal. I still cry whenever I think of it. I never thought I would make it this far. I never thought I would actually feel happy. I never thought I would feel whole. I had the cards stacked against me. I had so much trauma, a substance abuse problem, mental health issues. I was a single teen mom and I had no formal education.
But I found hope. Hope for a future, and hope for happiness. Hope was the fuel for me to recover from everything. Find what gives you hope, and cling onto it.”
This story was submitted to Love What Matters by Kat Hawk. You can follow their journey on Instagram, Facebook, and their website. 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.
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