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My name is Colleen and I’m a person living in long term recovery.

It wasn’t so much that I wanted to die as it was the idea that by ending my life, I would not have to endure any more of the thoughts and feelings I continued to experience at 20, 21, and 22. Events kept happening in my family and personal life; mom had cancer; I got pregnant and had to make a choice I never thought I would. I could hardly breathe long enough to find any emotional freedom like I can now in chaotic times. I had convinced myself, “Bad things will keep happening – I’m not going to make anyone proud, so why bother? I can’t do anything right.”

Not knowing anything about myself, I benignly followed a direction the rest of society did with no clue as to how to make my emotional self-heal during hellish times other than the culture that loves to drink and party.

But let me back up for a minute.

I didn’t come into this world knowing or loving drinking, partying, pre-partying, after partying, partying every day because I want to and I have no one else telling me otherwise. No, I was born into an incredibly strong family, and similar to the majority of families, we had a lot of behind the door problems, like parental arguments and yelling matches as a kid you can’t comprehend. 

You see, I’m an adult child of an alcoholic and when my eldest brother left for university and my second brother went to boarding school, I was left at home with my mom and dad.

Transition, change, it was quiet and I was really sad my brothers weren’t around. Even though I hardly got along with them at the young age of 14, they were there and that security felt nice, especially when my parents weren’t in their best head spaces. I was mad that my mom drank but once again I couldn’t comprehend the pain she was feeling without her sons around and having a husband who traveled often- then the daughter who loved to hang out with all the wrong people at late hours.

For the record, I don’t blame them. They are humans too and had to deal with whatever they dealt with.

I hung out with older kids and that was a product of my environment being my brothers and their friends. I loved feeling older and cooler when I was with them though I didn’t start drinking till I was 14. Eventually, I walked into mom’s closet one day and found a pile of bottles hidden away. I knew she was sad and at night I could feel how hard it hit her because she was more emotional and reactive, even if I did nothing. Mom would storm down the hall and just yell; well the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree. I figured why can’t I drink? And the first time I did, it felt bad but I didn’t remember anything! I had fun and could loosen up. By 20 I was using cocaine to “keep me up at night, most weekends” because I felt so drained.

When I was in high school I figured out dad’s traveling schedule and mom’s drinking schedule. I was sneaking out, taking their car, tricking mom into thinking I could drive with my G1. It was the DREAM. Or so I thought. Slowly I realized it felt horrible and I was sad all the time, worried when my dad left and scared of my mom at night.

My parents were strict and they loved making up rules as the years rolled by, I was told I HAD to go to university and while that may seem luxurious (it is) I had a different dream. One that I’m fortunate enough to fulfill now. But not before. So a lot of emotional mental and physical energy was spent on something I felt forced to learn and it broke my heart, especially specializing in World War II.

To make a long story short, I took a year off before university segregating me from my academic friends, and then I added this huge societal pressure to try and become something or someone I wasn’t and the only way I could get through was by drinking. I figured the bad and the hurt was fixed when I partied. Little did I know, I was drinking my own poison. Literally, as I tried taking my life twice under the influence. I didn’t hesitate at the thought of anyone’s feelings but mine. Yet, here I am. Ironically the second time, the only thing that kept me alive was the fact that I drank, it offset the negative reaction to my medication.

Once I heard that and met with a counselor in my final year of university I got sober and did a psychology case study and the findings were out of this world in regards to being female, drinking, and suicidal ideation. But I wanted to try pushing the limits a couple more times. At least for my Queen Bee and Jay Z. But I listened to the sick voice instead.

July 9th, 2014, I went to a Jay Z and Beyoncé concert and I blacked out hard. I woke up on my brother’s couch and I just started sobbing. Not because I had to stop drinking but because I knew I had to make a change and that it was going to be an uphill battle. I called my ex-boyfriend and yelled at him, I wasn’t kind. I wasn’t smart. And I hid all my authenticity.

Three years later, I found my passion and understand that post-secondary doesn’t have to be painful if you have a genuine interest in what you’re learning and who you’re becoming. You will always have curve balls thrown your way, and the best way to manage them is to be prepared for them rather than sweeping them under the rug. Also, who knew I was so smart? I am a total dweeb when it comes to subjects like astronomy, numerology and human behaviour. I have the chance to use my story and support others through service, as it was the game changer in my recovery.

I’ve never felt such freedom and grace in my life and there are days where I can’t even describe the feelings I feel because they’re real. Real joy. Real reverence. And the best part is, I chose this for myself at 22. Now, 25, I feel as though I still have the rest of my life to conquer whatever dreams I am crazy enough to believe I can. That’s what I’ve been doing, as rock bottom lead me right to the path of which I genuinely belonged. My trajectory has changed and my fire is brighter, my words are actually of use, and my mother and I are #SoberSisters.

Be brave. It is possible. Sober is the new sexy.