My name is Kelly Strategier and like many, my relationship with alcohol began when I was far too young.
I don’t have any concrete memories of my parents drinking when I was a child. They were low-key, mostly busy with work and three kids. We went to church on Sundays, lots of bike rides and life was peaceful, until it wasn’t.
One thing led to another, and I had my first drink at 13.
First drink being the-majority-of-the-bottle of Malibu liquor and so naturally I spent most of the night with my head in the toilet while the neighbor kid held back my hair. I knew immediately the alcohol didn’t love me like I loved it and yet I still wanted more. Sure, my 13-year-old mind couldn’t comprehend the complexity of a toxic relationship but even at that age, our gut and intuition are strong enough to tell us when something isn’t quite right.
However, that didn’t matter enough. The voices of uncertainty regarding how well I was liked and how much I fit in were so loud that once I discovered the degree of effectiveness the alcohol had on those worries it was game over for me. It seemed innocent enough because I wasn’t the only one doing it. My friends and I when we had the chance to drink, we did, but all the while I knew I was harboring a secret obsession.
My first drink had been the beginning of the greatest battle of my life.
The normalcy of drinking in high school coupled with my varsity soccer boyfriend kept me in with the in crowd enough to skate by with my growing addiction unnoticed by most. However, by the time I got to my senior year the voices of uncertainty were growing loud again. I somehow managed to graduate by the skin of my teeth but along the way ditched all the things I loved except of course the bottle.
Here I was approaching adulthood and I had not the slightest clue of what I wanted from life.
I had no concept of what I wanted to do, or what I wanted to be. I didn’t have the faintest idea about what job I would be good at or where I would fit in. I remember vividly calling someone I loved and admired, choking through sobs, I begged for them to tell me what I was supposed to do with my life. I begged for them to tell me my purpose and tell me why not knowing hurt so much and why it was all the time.
The next thing I know I was 21, and I was completely lost.
For most of my life up until that point I had stuck myself in a box as just a girl who was different from everyone else. I was completely misunderstood and the best I could do was just try to fit in. The only thing I REALLY remember wanting from life was to “be happy” and knowing that it was always going to be simply out of reach for someone like me. I was a victim of my life’s circumstances and most of all my mind.
I was trapped by the weight of all that life had thrown at me and I was unable to take responsibility for changing its trajectory. And so, I drank.
I drank when I felt sad. I drank when tragedy struck. I drank to celebrate. I drank out of boredom. I drank when I was angry. I drank when I was in pain. I drank on the weekends, on moving day, with brunch, while cooking, while reading, while eating, while cleaning, while working. Eventually I couldn’t do anything without drinking and the things I could do I couldn’t do well because of my drinking.
By 29 I was a late-stage alcoholic and knew an entirely new meaning to being “lost”. I was on the verge of having life as I knew it stripped from me entirely. My body had enough and was giving up along with me. All the questions I had would go unanswered. None of it mattered anymore. And so, I kept drinking.
When I think of addiction I think of total darkness. The kind of dark where it’s so dark you don’t even know how far your own arms stretch out in front of you. An all-encompassing darkness that no matter how familiar your surroundings, you are left blinded to everything you once knew and loved.
Addiction makes us believe that there is nothing left of all that is good in our very own heart and soul.
It tells us we are not worth living, life is not worth living, and it whispers lie after lie to keep us down and out. It is a wolf in sheep’s clothing, and it is always waiting around the corner hoping for us to give in. I personally not only nearly lost my own life to this disease but have lost loved ones. I know friends who have lost countless loved ones. I know families who have been torn apart. Addiction likely affects everyone you and I both know…and I mean it from the bottom of my heart when I say I am so sorry for those lives that couldn’t be saved.
If there is one message I hope to spread this year of my journey it is that no matter how dark the night, the sun always rises.
There is always a light at the end of the tunnel. Your life is absolutely worth living. There is only one you.
I am in awe of my life today. By the grace of God, it has been four years since my last drink and the radical shifts I’ve made mentally, physically, emotionally, and spiritually…some days I can’t even believe.
Today I value my heath.
I value my relationships.
I cherish the example I set for others.
I move through my feelings when they come, I no longer find ways to go around them or not feel them.
With each year I find myself peeling back new layers of all that I am and how I ended up in the clutches of alcoholism in the first place. When it comes to addiction the journey is never over, it is the journey itself where in which we find ourselves again.
I have spent the past four years learning to love and appreciate all that makes me special and unique. I have learned to form bonds and boundaries, and each day I am able to look for the good in my life and what is to come. There will never stop being hard days but today I celebrate my wins as well as my failures.
Today I feel free. I feel free to be happy. I feel free to live and to love my life. While addiction is a lifelong battle, I feel myself grow stronger every day. Every day I have more will to fight this battle and I hope to help others fight as well.
To anyone who can relate to my story even the slightest bit, do not ever give up. Keep going. Know that anything can happen. There is an army of people out there waiting to help you through to the other side, and I am honored to be a part of it.
Recovering alcoholic and new mom celebrating my 4 year “soberversary”
Gulf Breeze, Florida
*Note from Local Pulse Editor: Kelly Strategier is a part of our Community Voices series. Community Voices is a group of Pensacola dwellers that are making a difference in our city by sharing best practices, experiences, their perspective on impactful subjects, and contributing expertise that leads to movement forward for a stronger community.
**Claiming the lives of more than 90,000 people every year, April is National Alcohol Awareness Month and focuses on raising awareness about alcohol abuse and dependency before it is fatal.