Katie’s Story

I grew up in a middle-class white suburb.  My parents met in middle school and were married by the time they were 19 and 20. I have a brother who was 5 1/2 years younger then me. On the surface everything looked perfect. Truth be told given my genetics I was an alcoholic before I was even born. (Four alcoholic grandparents, four drug addict cousins, one drug addict brother and functional alcoholic father)The trauma only added fuel to the fire which is what I will now talk about.

I started playing basketball when I was 5 years old and quickly fell in love.  By age 8 I was playing AAU which meant the sport was year-round. The level of competition was intense and in hindsight nothing a young child should have been exposed to. Practices every day of the week, speed drills, weight training all when I was supposed to be just being a kid.

I had a talent but it appeared I was never strong enough, fast enough or tall enough. That beats you down as a young child.  Especially when you’re told those things when you spend hours every day working to be the best you can.

In middle school I was a good kid.  I was quiet, respectful and kind.  I was also bullied pretty significantly but that wasn’t something that was dealt with 25 years ago.
In eighth grade I was recruited to play basketball at multiple high schools… including Mercy and John Carroll. I chose John Carroll which is where everything started to go downhill.

I had a fresh start at a new school where I knew no one. I grew 5 inches the summer before high school started and came in as a star recruit. I made varsity and started my freshman year. With being part of that community also meant I was part of the “cool crowd”.  So I started drinking my freshman year of high school. I tried marijuana it just wasn’t my thing, I liked to be drunk.

I made it through my freshman year without a lot of issues but then things quickly spiraled. The coach basically benched me for no reason (in hindsight I think it had to do with my extra curricular activities outside of school). 

Basketball was my life and being benched with no explanation caused me to act out even further. At one point I got caught drinking.  I was super manipulative so I took a bunch of pills in an attempt try to get myself out of trouble. That ended me up in Shepard Pratt for a week.

I went back to school early spring but my behaviors just escalated out-of-control. By April I got in a fight and that was the last straw. I was expelled.
I transferred to Dulaney, which was my home school, and probably where I should’ve gone in the first place. The rest of my high school career went fairly well. There was another incident where I got in a fight and I was suspended causing me to miss one of our regional championship games. 

I ended up all county both my junior and senior year and was recruited to play at a number of different colleges. I also continued to party and somehow hide it from my parents. What I know now is that I wasn’t hiding anything and they were doing everything they could to try to stop me.  I wouldn’t listen. 
Despite having the opportunity to play either Division 1 or 2 I chose D3 and that choice was made because I wanted to party. I went to Wesley college on an “academic scholarship” which in reality was an athletic scholarship but they can’t give them at the D3 level.

I was supposed to be the starting shooting guard and I quit before the season even started. Drinking and partying was more important. After one semester my parents pulled me. I do think that I had lost my passion for basketball but I also believe that alcohol played a significant role in me deciding to quit. This was something I dreamed about my entire life and I gave it up before I ever put on a college uniform.
I came home and went to community college finishing my freshman year. I played for Catonsville community the following year but I was an emotional train wreck. I was engaged at 19 to an incredible kind and caring soul, but he was an alcoholic. In 2001 I got my first DUI blowing a .16.  I was leaving a friends house and ending up driving down a dead-end street hitting the curb and ended up less than a foot from a tree. I busted my oil pan so I couldn’t get the car out and my friend that was with me left. Those were the type of friends that I had.  This was a friend of 15 years too.
I spent a few hours in jail, got a slap on the wrist, had to do some alcohol classes and then went about my business.  

I finished a community college and transferred to Towson. Eventually I broke up with my fiancé because of his alcoholism which had escalated into drug abuse.  I somehow managed to graduate in four years despite attending four different colleges. 

I graduated in 2003 with a bachelors in psychology. I couldn’t find a job which I knew was going to be the case, I needed a masters degree.  I went and waited tables. That industry is so toxic and dangerous for someone who is an alcoholic. In January 2004 I got my second DUI. I was home in bed and went back out to try to get something to eat, got a flat tire and that was it. That time I blew a .24.  This time I had to do a weekend in rehab and attend a year-long outpatient program but it didn’t phase me. I kept drinking. 

In that time at the weekend rehab I met the person who I thought was the love of my life. He was actually a sociopathic drug addict, alcoholic who would verbally and emotionally abuse me off and on for 2 1/2 years.  I was his side chick.  He had his girlfriend of 6 to 7 years.  See I was nothing but a Taxi and an ATM. Towards the end it got so bad that he ended up tearing my ACL and dislocated my kneecap while “wrestling”.

I allowed him to put me in situations where I could’ve died. He was selling drugs while he had his eight-year-old (that I would watch and try to protect). We were using cocaine every weekend and by the grace of God that never developed into a problem for me.  I had actually just gotten a job starting with Baltimore City Social Services at the time too as a foster care worker. It was my job to protect children and I was not doing that because I was scared for my own safety.  I would have done anything for this man. Including lose my life.

I lost friends because they were scared of him.  He was a convicted felon who was dangerous, not only to me, but to my family and friends…but I kept going back.
I didn’t leave him he left me time and time again.  Finally in December 2006 his girlfriend called and told me never to call him again.

I thought I loved this man but I believe in retrospect I was addicted.  The scars from that relationship still remain but I’m healing slowly. 

Shortly after I met my daughter’s father. He was kind and caring. Or so I thought.  Our relationship was volatile from the start. He was much older and carried a lot baggage that he had never dealt with. But he wasn’t a sociopath and for me it got me away from my ex.  Being alone terrified me.  So I settled time and time again.

There were major red flags immediately. He was jealous and tried to isolate me from my friends.  He would tell me to get out of his house when we had an argument even though I just ended the lease on my townhouse in and had nowhere to go. We did this dance of moving in and out, breaking up and getting back together, for three years. Then we decided to buy a house together.  That would fix it right? Let me tell you therapists are the worst at following their own advice.

Our relationship consisted mainly of us drinking and having a really good time or drinking and having catastrophic fights.

We bought a house in 2010. I got the loan because I had the credit (that’s the way it’s always been in all of my relationships). Shortly before we bought the house I became pregnant and lost the baby at nine weeks. I’m certain it had to do with the fact that I was so unhealthy and drinking every day. He left me to have a miscarriage by myself because he “couldn’t handle it “and went fishing. 

Four months later I got pregnant again and things seemed to be going OK until my water broke at 16 weeks. He also abandoned me to go through that process by myself. I can’t even put into words the pain that losing that second baby left me with. I was broken. I was hopeless. I was suicidal. The person that was supposed to be there and love me through this was nowhere to be found.

Three years later we got drunk and I got pregnant with my daughter. The ironic thing is I have lost 25 pounds and I was planning on leaving.  Nothing had changed things only had gotten worse.

My beautiful baby girl was born on December 13, 2013 and I wouldn’t change it for the world. 

The next four years was nothing short of terrible. I was left essentially alone to raise this child that I “wanted”. I lived in a county I did not want to live in but, I agreed to buy the house there, so I have to take responsibility.  I had lost pretty much all of my friends. I had gained a ton of weight because I was miserable. And I drank and drank and drank and ate and drank.

September 2017 I went to a concert with my coworkers who I thought were my friends. We went to see Lady Gaga in Philadelphia and it was supposed to be one of the most fun nights of my life. I got so black out drunk that I don’t remember what happened but I do know that I damaged those friendships beyond repair.  I had to take a taxi from Philly back to Cecil County. My entire office knew what had happened before I even stepped foot into work on Monday. I had been with Harford County DSS for over 10 years with nothing but excellent reviews. But because of that situation I couldn’t work there any longer. I made it so I had to leave my job.
I have a Masters degree in social work so finding another job was not difficult. I was actually offered a job as a school-based therapist prior to this incident and my father has his own practice in Harford county. So while there were consequences at the same time there weren’t.  My drinking had once again caused great angst in my life but I came out of it pretty much unscathed.

I started doing individual counseling which is actually what I wanted to do my entire life. I was scared to leave a secure government job but I was happy to be where I was. My relationship continued to falter and things got worse and worse. My depression and anxiety consumed me. My child was starting to feel the affects and I know not only as a therapist, but as a mother, that type of damage can stick with a child forever.  I told my ex for years that I was going to leave if something didn’t change and it never did.

In January 2018 I fell on black ice on our driveway. Dislocated my left ankle with compound fractures. I was so intoxicated that I went in and went to bed. My ex was so intoxicated that he couldn’t take me to the hospital. So we waited until the next morning to go. I knew if I went there with a child that CPS was going to called.  
I sat in triage for hours by myself just like I did when I miscarried. My ex isn’t a bad man but he is simply emotionally unavailable. I had major surgery the next day. Spent the night in the hospital by myself and went into surgery by myself. This was nothing new because that’s what I’ve been doing for the last 12 years. I was in a relationship but I was completely alone.

After 10 years of having no contact with my abusive ex he found me a message me on Facebook. That only sent me spiraling.

Things just went completely out of control after my surgery. He did nothing to help. I took my daughter to daycare on crutches. Worked on crutches. Cleaned on crutches. Cooked on crutches. As soon as I could get into a boot I made the decision to leave. And it was not a hard decision to make it was one that I had been made years ago. Throughout all of this I continued to drink. But I got up everyday and went to work.

I left in March 2018. It was the hardest decision but the right decision. I found my people. I found people that loved me unconditionally. I found people that excepted me and encouraged me. I found friends of importance not friends of convenience. Most of these friends I found through running and triathlon.

I completed my first triathlon in May 2018 despite being told I may never run again with my ankle break. I placed third in my age group and fell in love. In September 2018 I did my first half IRONMAN and that’s when I realized that this hobby was going to quickly turn into my lifestyle.

But I have had a remarkable ability to consume incredible amounts of alcohol without it affecting me, or at least I thought it wasn’t affecting me. I trained and worked and drank. I didn’t drink every day but when I drank I drank to get drunk. 
I drank to manage my anxiety. I drank to manage my depression. I drank trying to manage my insecurities. I drank to manage my fear. I drank to manage my boredom. But ultimately I drank to not feel.

I also for the first time in 12 years felt free. I felt like I could go out with my friends without being questioned. I could have male friends and it wasn’t an issue. But so much of our society revolves around alcohol even sporting events.

I pretty much did the same thing over and over again. I trained, I worked, I drank. I trained, I worked, I drank. I teetered on the cliff wanting to jump off because I was crawling out of my skin with anxiety.  Somehow I would pull my shit together barely just enough to make it through the day.  I have engaged in more toxic relationships. That’s all my alcoholic brain has known since I was 14.  So while I left my ex all of the problems that go on within me moved right along to my new address. The geographical cure never works.

Fast forward to July 2019. I had registered for a Full IRONMAN in Lake Placid.  This is a incredibly brutal one day athletic challenge. Amazingly I continue to drink through the entire training process which in hindsight I have no idea how I managed. 
You start with a 2.4 mile swim, then 112 mile bike ride and then a 26.2 mile run. All of this was for all of the coaches that told me I was never good enough. I was going to not only complete this but complete it well.  My biggest mistake right there. That race should’ve been for me.

I finished in 13:39:46.  This was top 25% of my age group and gender. My parents came up and surprised me. I had two of my best friends there supporting me on the course and my tri brother racing with me. I ran down the red carpet in the Olympic Village and will never ever ever forget that moment.

I celebrated. I drank until 8am the next morning.  I drank close to five bottles of wine. I missed the awards the next morning. I don’t remember getting my finisher jacket. I lost an entire day after the greatest athletic accomplishment of my life because of alcohol.

Then came the IRONMAN blues which is apparently a really big thing and it hit me hard. I really had nothing athletically to focus on, except a marathon in October. So my drinking only escalated. I was drinking every night of the week. Not 1 or 2, but 6 to 7 double IPAs. Boxes of wine in 1 to 2 days.  (I stopped drinking bottles of wine because it’s way easier to pretend you aren’t drinking as much when it’s in a box).  

Drinking with my daughter at the bar and then driving with her in the car when I had no business driving at all.  Things I’m frankly ashamed to even say out loud.
So it happened.  On September 9, 2019 I was arrested for drinking and driving.  That night I had drank three truly’s at the pool, a yeti of vodka and 6 to 7 double IPAs at the bar. This was not uncommon for me. It’s what I did. I rolled through a stop sign.  By the grace of God the sheriff saw me stopped and did not hit me. I knew as soon as I was pulled over I was getting arrested.  

This was my third DUI.  I can’t tell you how many times I had police officers pulled me over and call me cabs. Or times I have driven drunk waking up not knowing where my car was. This was only the third time that I was caught.

In this county DUI’s do not go over well as they should not. I could’ve killed somebody. I blew a .24 and remember everything about that night.  That blood alcohol level indicates tissue tolerance which I have since learned means I  have a developed a dependence on alcohol.

Or November 17 my family and friends held a  surprise for my birthday at the bar I always do I go to and where I got my DUI.  I had shown no intention of stopping drinking. I couldn’t drink and drive now because I have the interlock in my car. I would just Uber or have someone drive me.

I went to court the day after my birthday. November 19.  Initially the states attorney wanted 120 days in jail. She dropped it to 90 then 70 by the time we went to court. The judge took into consideration all of the work that I had done in this county helping families ironically with substance abuse and drug addiction. I worked to reunite families. I advocated for these women and children.  While I was in such denial myself because I was “functioning”.

I was given 45 days in jail.  There are no words to describe what a massive failure I felt like to my parents but most importantly my daughter.  I was able to do weekends.  I spent 16 weekends in jail. That is not something I would wish on my worst enemy, at the same time I wouldn’t change it for the world. 

The past five months have not always been easy. When you don’t use substances you have to actually feel the feelings and sometimes they feel really shitty. But I also know that part of healing is feeling. And I have a lot of healing I need to do.  I know I’m going to be able to do it as long as I stay sober. 

I made the decision to say to myself, my friends, my family and basically the world that I’m an alcoholic.  This is not something I’m ashamed of.  I cannot drink. It is poison to me and it changes the person that I am. 

I am not all the sudden miraculously fixed. I have a lot of work to do and I haven’t really even been able to start working the steps. The past five months were just trying to keep my head above water with working, being a single parent, alcohol class, probation, jail and finding some time to continue doing what I love which is train.

I am 162 days sober today.  I know this is a race that I will never finish.  It is the hardest one I have ever signed up for but I also know I’m up for the challenge. As I say “nothing worth having comes easy”.

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