| This is the 218th story of Our Life Logs |
I was born in a poverty-stricken area of Schenectady, New York in 1989. While many women in their 20s were enjoying college life, my mom was trying to keep up with her classes and work two jobs all while she was pregnant with me. Meanwhile, my dad was working three jobs to help keep the family afloat. Even though we were struggling growing up, my parents never made that obvious. We usually had food and our power was usually on. That was more than most of my friends could say about their home lives.
I was a gifted child, but my anxiety and depression kept me from thriving in a crowded school setting. If I received anything under a perfect score, I’d burst, sob, and shake uncontrollably—there were many times I would burst into tears for no reason. The constant stomachaches I had were so agonizing that I’d spend most of my days in the nurse’s office. I came there so often I had a special cot in the back just for me.
I began searching for things to help calm me down and escape. Based on what was available in my neighborhood, those ended up becoming smoking and drinking. I started smoking when I was 11 years old, and by 13, I was drinking on a regular basis. Suicidal ideation became my norm. By the time I got to high school, my friends and I would frequently meet up and share a bottle of cheap (and I mean, cheap) vodka. I loved the burn and feeling of release the alcohol brought me. When I drank, I could push away all my anxious thoughts. No more shaking and sobbing in the nurse’s office. I could simply live.
I basically skipped all of my ninth grade and the beginning of 10th—usually out getting drunk. When I actually went, I was hungover. It didn’t exactly help my situation when I surrounded myself with enablers that didn’t see much point in life either. Back then, I didn’t know that to succeed you have to surround yourself with the right kind of people.
Despite skipping the first half of high school, I managed to finish after I was transferred to a smaller school meant for kids with behavioral problems. I doubled up my classes, powered through, and ended up graduating at 16. By then, I was drinking alcohol like water.
My depression worsened and I had trouble seeing beyond the next day—let alone building a plan for where I wanted my life to go. I decided to keep living this simple life. Wake up, drink, go to a low-paying job, drink some more, pass out, and do it all over. What effort I could muster went into simply surviving.
I probably never would have left New York if I hadn’t met a guy online who lived in Holland. He told me that he had so much to show me and invited me to move to Holland to be with him. Well, I was looking for an escape anyway so I said, “Sure, what the hell!” We got married in 2012 so I could stay there without a temporary visa.
Holland’s architecture was breathtaking and we lived 15 minutes from the North Sea in a university town. It was terrifying. I didn’t have any friends, I couldn’t work, and I just sat around. I’d keep myself occupied by drinking, sometimes having more than 20 drinks a day. It was mostly out of habit at this point. I’d wake up shaking and the only way to stop the shaking was to have a beer. Then once I started, I just kept at it because (in an alcoholic’s mind) it would be utter nonsense to stop.
Over time, I developed such a high tolerance that no one would notice I was drunk until about 3 pm. By 7 pm, I’d be hammered. The funny thing is, no one ever said anything about it! They just let me drink myself to sleep without a word. My husband believed that shaming people was wrong, so he just kept his mouth shut. But I knew he didn’t like it. By evening, I’d get defensive and ask him to say something nice to me, to which he’d reply, “I don’t have anything good to say.” Our marriage went like this for a long time.
In December, 2013, we decided to move to Taiwan in hopes that a new country would make us both happy. There, I found a job teaching English to kids between the ages of 3 to 12, and I began to feel more fulfilled. Their faces were small and happy, and they welcomed me each day. I started waiting until I got home to begin drinking because I wanted to be sharp for the kids.
I loved my job wholeheartedly, but my depression and anxiety still loomed over me, always inches away from swallowing me whole. I still felt like I wanted to die all the time. It got so bad that sometimes I’d climb on the rooftop of our building after having a lot to drink, and sit on the edge, daring myself to push off and end my suffering. My husband found me one of those times and was appalled that I wanted to die, and hurt that he wasn’t enough for me. I couldn’t explain how I felt, so instead I told him that if we had a baby together then I would be better, happier. I was just desperate for a reason to live.
My husband told me we’d have a baby when I got sober, and I told him I’d get sober if we had a baby. We were at odds, and beyond that, he didn’t try to understand what I was going through with my mental health. All of it led to our divorce in 2016.
After the divorce I continued drinking, but I did make some changes. I did all the stereotypical stuff newly divorced women partake in: I learned how to play the ukulele, I started exercising, and I tried “finding myself.” I took the time to build myself up again as my own person, and moved to California in April, 2016.
After giving myself time to heal from the divorce, I met the love of my life through my YouTube channel in August, 2016. He was very kind and understood what I was dealing with mentally. After everything, it was nice to feel understood. As we grew more serious, I began to see a future with him. Much different from my ex-husband who chose not to confront my bad behavior, this guy wasn’t afraid to call me out and force me to get my shit together. He wanted to start a family with me, but I had to get sober. There were no other options.
So, I agreed. I moved to Florida to be with him in May, 2017, and stopped drinking and smoking the day I found out I was pregnant. I went cold turkey.
I know what you’re thinking. You? The woman who was drinking 20 drinks every night just suddenly stopped overnight? Yes, as crazy as that sounds, I did it. I’m sure you’ve heard stories about the horrors of enduring the withdrawals or getting sick, but for me, the worst part was how boring my everyday life was. All my life, I had leaned on alcohol to keep things interesting, and without it I was forced to face reality. With time, I was able to see life more clearly. Daily life became a source of comfort.
I had my son in May, 2018. From the moment that I saw his tiny hands, I was in soul-crushing love. With a supportive partner and a beautiful boy to raise, I now have a reason to stay sober and be a better person. I really do.
My son has brought me so much joy, but in the journey, I learned that he isn’t my only reason to live. I have many reasons. I’ve discovered this through meditation and journaling. These new hobbies help me manage my anxiety. I’ve learned to take care of myself in simpler ways. If I feel anxious or depressed, I ask myself, “Have you had enough water?” or “Did you get enough sleep?” I believe when we take care of our bodies physically, we can help to heal ourselves mentally.
I’ve come to see that my past coping mechanisms were not healthy for me or for those around me, and I’ve chosen to never fall down that path again. I live for my son. I live for my relationships. Our connection with others makes our lives meaningful, and I finally feel connected.
This is the story of Amelia Vreeland
Amelia lives in Florida with her boyfriend and son. From a young age, Amelia dealt with severe anxiety and depression. This eventually led her to turn to smoking and drinking. She fell deeply into alcoholism. As life continued, her depression worsened until it led to the end of her marriage. It wasn’t until she met her current partner and got pregnant that she decided to ease up on her unhealthy coping habits and used meditation to help her anxiety and depression more often. Amelia hopes to continue building her family. In her free time (which isn’t often with a 6-month-old) she is doing freelance work. She has about 30,000 words of a book she’s writing, and blogs at https://alertauthenticmindful.com/. Amelia lives a happy life where she is learning to properly cope with her anxiety and depression.
This story first touched our hearts on November 15, 2018.
| Writer: Kristen Petronio | Editor: Colleen Walker|