“She had a choice. She chose drugs & alcohol over her family and friends.”
These are the phrases I too often hear people say about addicts. “They could have chosen a different life,” they say. “They should have stopped before it got so bad.” I hear this all the time and I wish it were that simple. I really do.
I was 12 years old when I took my first sip of alcohol. I thought it was innocent. I thought I was just experimenting with my older friends. From that day forward, my life revolved around it. I planned my days and my nights and definitely my weekends around who was drinking where and how to get it.
I played it off well. I lived a double life. By day, I was a cheerleader and an A honor roll student, president of key club, very involved and dedicated high school student. Well rounded, huh? By night, I was rattled with depression and anxiety. I had trouble sleeping, I depended on others for my own happiness. I put my boyfriends and friends on a pedestal. When I was 14 and my first “love” didn’t work out, I overdosed. I still think I was too young to understand forever. I was too young to realize what suicide really meant, but at 14 years old, I had already experienced so much. I was grown. I was an adult in my own mind. My own mind was my problem. It was feeding me lies and I was believing them. I was never good enough and I would never be good enough.
I had to have the best clothes, the best makeup, the prettiest friends. I skipped out on a chance at an invitation only school of fine arts because I wanted to be a cheerleader because they were “popular” and “well-liked.” Little did I know, I wasn’t very well liked despite all of my efforts. I was oblivious to the person I was becoming because deep down inside, I knew it wasn’t me. Several professionals suggested that I seek counseling, but no way. I was not crazy and did not need a therapist. I was fine. Everything was fine.
Throughout high school, I struggled with body image and eating disorders. I started trying to control my appetite and my weight. I felt if I could only stay skinny, focus in school, clean my entire room & still have energy to go out and have fun with my friends, then I would be ok. I powered through high school this way without too many consequences. I graduated with honors and I went on to the University of Alabama.
I wanted to be a pharmacist. (Convenient?)... only I realized quickly that in order to be a pharmacist, you had to take extensive science classes and I didn’t want to show up for class. I wanted to just take the exams and go on my way... so I switched to business school. I showed up for class every once in a while and crammed the night before my exams. College was different. Not as much structure as high school. I couldn’t concentrate. I couldn’t stay focused and I definitely couldn’t get organized. I needed help so I sought it in the form of self medication.
I justified it because I was in college and that’s where you are supposed to experiment and find yourself. It was just a phase, I’d grow out of it. Despite my consequences. I couldn’t stop.
At 20, I totaled a car and was lucky to survive. At 23, I totaled a second car. Also lucky to survive. By 23, I was more sophisticated (lol) so I was trying to wind down and get rest with 2 bottles of wine a night. Eventually, I quit my job via email. I lived out of my car. All the while, I thought, this is just a phase. I’ll graduate from graduate school and be done with it all. Move on and get married and do normal things.
I didn’t finish grad school... back up a few years... I did finish my bachelors. By the grace of God... because I’m not sure how I did it. One semester of grad school and I dropped out to pursue my life as a drug addict.
I would have never called myself a drug addict before 12/27/2013. Even some time after that day, I wasn’t so sure that I was one. I remember telling my counselors in the rehab facility that I was just trying it out and it was all just for fun... I’d grow out of it. I just needed to separate myself from it for a while and I’ll never forget what my counselor said to me. She said, “Courtney... this is kinda the end of the road sweetie.” It’s like something switched in my brain. I finally said it out loud. For the very first time.
“I am a drug addict. I have a problem.” I stayed for 8 weeks at a rehab facility and I went through trauma counseling. I never talked about my trauma with anyone and I never expressed how they made me feel. I felt like these events were my fault and I deserved them. I didn’t. I didn’t deserve any of them. They are just things that happened and now I can see why they did... I am now able to help other women who have experienced the same trauma. That was their purpose. Now that I understand my pain and I know that I am not a victim, I am able to speak to other women who don’t understand that just yet. I am able to help women in the grips of addiction to know that there is hope and a future for people like us.
We are not bad people. We don’t necessarily choose this life and I 100% believe that people like me are born this way. Addiction does not discriminate. Almost everyone I know has a friend or family member affected by addiction. We don’t wake up every day in the middle of our addiction and say “I can’t wait to live another day like this.” No. We want out. We have no choice in the matter. We want, with every fiber of our being, to do something different. We know no other way.
Nobody had shown me the way out just yet, so that’s what I do today. I show people the way. I am no longer ashamed of my past. It has shaped me and molded me into the person I believe God intended me to be. I believe every single thing that I have experienced in my short lifetime (I am 29 now) was necessary. I believe I am now a vessel of hope. I am not perfect. I was never perfect. I will never be perfect. But... I am free.
My life long passion for cute clothes and a sense of community with women got lost along the way. So 5 years into sobriety, I have opened my very first store front, a women’s clothing boutique. I’ve never been more excited. I don’t even know what I’m doing. I just keep trusting God and good things keep happening. I named my boutique after Stevie Nicks’ song, Leather & Lace. To me, leather symbolizes the tough times we all have in life. The lace represents the hand woven fibers of grace.
“Give to me your leather, take from me my lace.”
I believe we are all here for a reason. We are here to share our struggles and our truth. We are here to hold each other’s hands along the way. We are all here to walk each other home.