My name is Kristina, and I’m an alcoholic. I am also a wife, daughter, sister, friend, librarian, and pet-mom. None of these words define me, but they help make up who I am today. Many folks eschew words like alcoholic and addict due to their negative connotations. I chose to wear my label proudly, and to talk about my experiences often to help remove the stigma.
No one grows up thinking they will be an addict or alcoholic; it just happens. Growing up in a small Cleveland suburb, I learned to take solace in food at a young age. My parents divorced when I was seven, and I soon turned into a chubby kid. I was shy, awkward, always had a book in my hands, and was teased. The teasing is a vicious cycle, because the more I was teased about my weight, the more I took comfort in food. While I always had a lot of friends, I never felt like I fit in with any one group in school.
I fell in love with alcohol at 15 or 16, and thought I had found the answer to my problems. It gave me confidence, let me relax and have fun, and made me feel good. In my 20s and early 30s, the relationship became more complex. I desperately tried to control my drinking, not realizing that all bets were off after that first drink. My anxiety and depression skyrocketed, and I lied about how much I drank. I often joked, if you had my life you’d drink too! In my mind, I would always be happier if only I got a better job or lost 20 pounds. I also assumed that once I was “happy”, I wouldn’t drink as much. The reality was that I couldn’t stop, and I lived in a perpetual spiral of guilt, shame and fear.
My sobriety date is May 12, 2013. I was 33 years old, and came to that morning in the ICU of Metro Hospital in Cleveland. I was life-flighted there the night before after I wrecked my car. Life was hard after my accident, and the obstacles swelled higher and higher. At one point, I was pissed that I had survived. A state trooper on scene that night later called me a walking miracle, “one of the luckiest people on earth”, and I was angry. I thought my life was over, and I ended up losing almost everything. But in losing everything I gained my life back. I stayed sober, started working the steps, and slowly my life and my way of thinking began to change.
My life is amazing today. Sobriety has delivered everything that alcohol promised me. That being said, I am and will remain a work in progress. I am slowly repairing the damage from a lifetime of low self-esteem by learning to love myself. And while I will always have depression, general anxiety, and social anxiety, today it is manageable. In addition to my sober support group, exercise plays a huge part in my recovery. It helps with stress relief, improves my mood, and gives me confidence!
My fitness journey hasn’t been an easy one either, as I’ve had to deal with injuries and learn to live with arthritis. As a result of my accident, I had multiple fractures in my left radius and ulna which required extensive surgery and hardware to repair. My “bionic arm” took well over a year to heal, and will never have the same mobility. (My dog Penny & I have matching scars.) Six years later parts of my forearm are still numb, and sometimes there’s occasional shooting pain. If I overdo it at the gym, my entire forearm will be one dull ache for days. I also fractured vertebrae in my lower back in the wreck, which has resulted in arthritis and a lot of pain. Core exercises are slowly helping, but sometimes my back gets fatigued easily which can be really frustrating. In the end consistency remains the key, both in my recovery and in exercise.
My life is so full today, and I stay really busy. Gone are the days of crippling hangovers and depression, of being unable to get out of bed. There have been dizzying changes as well: in the span of two weeks at the end of October 2017, I got married, moved to St. Louis, and started a new job. It was hard leaving friends, family, and my sober support group behind, but I have wonderful friends here along with another amazing sober network of kickass women. I love my new job, and last fall my husband and I bought a house. Sometimes I still can’t believe that this life I’ve built is real, and that nagging voice in my head tells me that I don’t deserve it. I now know that voice lies, just like alcohol did. Sobriety will continue to be number one in my life, because without it I have nothing. Every day I am grateful and humbled by what I went through, and for being alive. I am now in awe and full of gratitude that I survived my accident. Not only that, but I have been given the gift of helping others in recovery. If my story helps just one person to recover, if it helps others to feel hope, then all my past struggles have been worth it.