Finding hope

The following article contains references related to domestic violence, self-harm, child and sexual abuse that some may find distressing. If you believe reading this might be upsetting for you, we suggest that you forgo reading this article.

In January 2021, I celebrated my 39th birthday sober. Giving up drinking was something I never thought I could do even for just one day let alone 14, 235 days, as I sat in a 12-step meeting room all those years ago, after planning to end my life earlier that morning.

The day before that fateful morning, I had returned from a holiday with my then boyfriend, also an alcoholic. He had punched me at the caravan park in front of horrified families. This was the end of the road for me. I had become totally hopeless after this and a culmination of other traumatic events, my continual alcohol abuse being a contributing factor. I woke up that day and felt like I couldn’t go on. I made a decision that I would end my life. Then I heard a loud voice saying, ‘don’t do it, if you hang on a bit longer you will find happiness one day’. So instead, I picked up the phone and called AA. One day at a time I have been on this long and winding, but very rewarding, journey of sobriety.

Alcohol abuse ran rampant in our family. As a result, sadly I never met my grandparents. They died from alcoholism before I was born. Both my parents were also alcoholics. My dad became sober at 22 before my birth and my mum drank until I was 12 years old. In my early years I went through a lot of trauma. I felt like I didn’t fit into the world around me at all and I suffered a lot of shame.

Being bullied at school and coming home to see my mum also struggling from depression, was too much to take. Then, at seven years old I witnessed my mum being electrocuted. She came back to life but I was left scarred with deep insecurity and fear. 

At nine years old, I was sexually assaulted while on holidays, by the adult son of the cabin owner. I lived in terror from that day on and didn’t feel safe in my own home. Children need some kind of safe haven whether that be home or school, but I didn’t feel safe at either. I just wanted to escape from the fear and constant nightmares playing over and over in my head. I felt like I was going mad.

At 10 years old the trauma of those past three years had taken its toll. I had a breakdown. My parents took me to a psychiatrist and I was put on anti-anxiety medication and antidepressants.

The medication provided short-term relief but it wasn’t long until I was taking too many, in the attempt to escape the DIS EASE going on inside of me. The day I picked up my first drink was the day I thought my life would change forever for the better. I remember the first drink like it was yesterday. Boiling hot wine from a cask which had been hidden under a caravan across the road. I drank the lot and was extremely sick. But I thought I had just found my new best friend. I didn’t care what it tasted like, I just loved the effect. I felt like alcohol coloured me in.

From that day forward I attempted to control my drinking but never could. Once I picked up the first drink, I was as good as gone. I always lost that point of control and couldn’t just stop at one. I would end up paralytic every time I drank. The situations got worse. My behaviour escalated. I had a personality change and became violent. I would end up in places I didn’t know with people I didn’t know. And the next day was unbearable as I said to myself, over and over again, I will never drink again.

I continued to blame people, places and things around me for my constant unhappiness and desperation. But the truth is, no matter what I changed or where I went, I took myself with me. I was the problem. My drinking was the problem. But I was yet to be rocked out of the state of delusion quicker than I thought.

A near-death experience, as a result of an accidental overdose, catapulted me into a downward spiral. I knew my life was spinning drastically out of control. Not long after, I was taken advantage of while out on a date. This was the most humiliating thing that has ever happened to me.

But I never told anyone. I felt helpless, vulnerable and ashamed and I thought, ‘who would believe a drunk girl over him anyway?’. There would never be any justice and I would live with this trauma and carry the shame while sober, for many years. D day was soon coming, when my life became totally hopeless. It really got down to a choice between death or sobriety. I knew that if I wanted to see my 21st birthday and beyond, I could never drink again. That was the reality for me.

Since that day many years ago when I chose sobriety, I have finally found great healing on the journey. It took me becoming really honest and taking a good hard look at myself.  Allowing other people to speak into my life and attending many 12-step meetings along the way. Being around a supportive group of like-minded people who understood me, and learning to forgive myself and others, has been a huge part of my recovery.

I was encouraged to get an interest, and being a musician I found much healing in writing songs, singing and playing the piano. I have experienced the greatest highs in sobriety, had meaningful relationships and now have a fulfilling career working in the mental health and addictions sphere helping other people recover.

I have also experienced my hardest times ever in sobriety, watching my mum die of cancer and my dad of emphysema, along with many other challenges. As a result, I have experienced so much grief and PTSD but I never needed to pick up a drink. It will only exacerbate the hard times.

Today I do life on life’s terms, as hard as it is sometimes. The upside of that is that I get to truly feel, and I get to be able to empathise with others who are struggling in life. I don’t wake up with regrets about the way I handled things. Every day I find something to be grateful for. We find what we look for in life.

One of the biggest things I learnt and that I share about today, is that ‘If we keep looking back, we can never move forward. We will be stuck.’ 

Despite what my alcoholism took from me in a few short years, I have been given an amazing life to live. By sharing my story, I have helped so many people find hope, which has been a big part of the healing process for me. Above all, my faith has played a huge part in my sobriety. Without it I wouldn’t be alive today.

Even though in my drinking days I couldn’t maintain proper relationships, I am so happy to say I have been happily married to my husband for 34 years, have two amazing children who have never seen me drink and two beautiful granddaughters. To know that I have been fully present in their lives every day, brings me a lot of joy. I love my life and am so grateful I got a second chance. Even though it’s not always smooth sailing, I choose to live with peace, joy and gratitude. Today, I have healthy coping strategies set up so I don’t reach for a drink when life gets hard.

My mantra is ‘today is the first day of the rest of your life, and the rest of your life can be much greater than the past.’

I used to hate Sundays when I was drinking, but now that I’m sober, I love Sundays.

Because others cared for me, I walk this earth today. Today I carry the message for people out there who are still struggling in the grips of this addiction, that HEALING and a wonderful life of sobriety are possible if you seek help and NEVER GIVE UP.

Hope is truly possible.

KERRIE ATHERTON

Kerrie Atherton is the Founder of Stories of HOPE Australia and EMPOWER Life Solutions. She is a Keynote Speaker, Author, Event Host, Trauma and Addictions Recovery Counsellor and School Program Presenter.

40 Comments

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  • Wonderful story, truly inspiring. Thank you, Kerrie.

    By Betty
    |
    April 1, 2021
    • thankyou Betty x

      By kerrie Atherton
      |
      April 1, 2021
  • Kerrie
    Thanks for sharing your story. You are an inspiration.
    Wishing you joy and many more blessings.

    By Clare
    |
    April 1, 2021
    • Thankyou for your kind words Clare. Wishing you many blessings also and your greatest days ever ahead. x

      By kerrie Atherton
      |
      April 1, 2021
  • Thanks for sharing kerrie
    And the positive outlook things can break through in the end

    By Teresa
    |
    April 1, 2021
    • Thankyou Teresa yes they sure can :). No matter what happens, ‘this too shall pass’. There is always light after the darkness.

      By kerrie Atherton
      |
      April 1, 2021
  • Thank you so much for sharing your amazing transformative and inspiring journey. I needed to hear this today.

    By Rose
    |
    April 1, 2021
    • So glad you got to read this on this day Rose. Today is the first day of the rest of your life, and the rest of your life can be much greater than the past. Hold on to HOPE x

      By kerrie Atherton
      |
      April 1, 2021
  • Beautiful, well done.

    By Rachel Ryburn
    |
    April 1, 2021
    • Thankyou Rachel 🙂

      By kerrie Atherton
      |
      April 1, 2021
  • I’m so very very happy for you. I hope to have a sober story one of these days….

    By Stephanie Frick
    |
    April 1, 2021
    • Hi Stephanie, I wish this for you also. Never give up HOPE. Every day you are one step closer to achieving your dreams. Just keep believing and looking forward x

      By kerrie Atherton
      |
      April 1, 2021
  • Thank you so much for sharing your story Kerrie. Truly inspiring to read, and a wonderful motivator to keep going and never give up. Bless you 🙂

    By Sarah Withey
    |
    April 1, 2021
    • Thankyou Kindly Sarah. Wishing you a wonderful life full of hope and blessings also 🙂

      By kerrie Atherton
      |
      April 1, 2021
  • This is a beautiful life story. Many of us have our own stories with not dissimilar themes of unresolved childhood grief and challenge followed by coping through introduction to alcohol. Thank you for your wonderful story of hope and joy through looking forward and not backwards. Really special and honest account of a wonderful life of growth and awakening from the darkness of past experience. Thank You

    By GLEN
    |
    April 1, 2021
    • Hi Glen,

      thankyou for your lovely words. Hopefully my journey will be able to inspire and let everyone know who reads it, that our past doesn’t define our future. 🙂

      By kerrie Atherton
      |
      April 1, 2021
  • Such an emotional story of overcoming adversity. So inspiring and I’m sure will help many others.

    By Helen Reed
    |
    April 1, 2021
    • thanks so much Helen. Appreciate your encouraging words. x

      By kerrie Atherton
      |
      April 6, 2021
  • I needed to hear this today. Thank you for sharing.

    By Madelyn
    |
    April 1, 2021
    • Hi Madelyn,

      thankyou I’m so glad my story was here for you today when you needed it. Wishing you wonderful days ahead x

      By kerrie Atherton
      |
      April 1, 2021
  • Thanks for sharing Kerri. Your story made me cry, in a good way. It is so true! there is life on the other side and it does take work to actually look at your trauma. I am 40 and have been sober for 18 months now. I was addicted to alcohol for 27 years. I am on the other side now and things are so much brighter and I am a much happier and balanced person x

    By Jemima
    |
    April 1, 2021
    • Thankyou Jemima. Big congratulations to you. Wishing you much joy in the days ahead. I’m glad my story brought you some inspiration. x

      By kerrie Atherton
      |
      April 1, 2021
      • Thank you for sharing this story. I have fought this demon my whole life, and I am 71. I may be a “functioning alcoholic but that doesn’t take away the shame.
        Nancy

        By Nancy
        |
        April 1, 2021
  • You are a true inspiration! Thank you so much for ring vulnerable and sharing those moments. It brings out lot of hope. There is a light at the end of the tunnel. Lots of love and happiness to you for doing the wonderful job that you are doing.
    A proud pal,
    Premda xx

    By Premda
    |
    April 1, 2021
    • thankyou for your lovely words Premda xxx

      By kerrie Atherton
      |
      April 6, 2021
  • I hope you realise what an amazing person you are. So inspiring. Be gentle to yourself.

    By Mary
    |
    April 2, 2021
    • thankyou so kindly Mary x

      By kerrie Atherton
      |
      April 6, 2021
  • ‘I felt like alcohol coloured me in’. This childlike description of spawning addiction made me choke back tears. Thankyou for sharing such a personal journey; no doubt this has and will help many in need, myself included. I keep falling off the sober train, but I do keep getting back on again, hope springs eternal.

    By Rachael G
    |
    April 2, 2021
    • Thankyou for your heartfelt message Rachael. It’s a description only someone on this journey understands. Be kind to yourself and give yourself grace. The days ahead will eventually get easier. Wishing you much joy for the future. There is always HOPE X

      By kerrie Atherton
      |
      April 6, 2021
  • Hi Kerry,

    Thank you for your story of strength and hope. Much the same as my own story, however, I’m very much still a work in progress. I was sober for 18 months and for a reason unknown to me
    (Alcohol! Cunning, baffling and powerful)
    I had a short slip. But I went straight back to AA and continue on my journey of sobriety…. with my like minded tribe.
    Simmy
    💞💫💞

    By Simone
    |
    April 2, 2021
    • Hi Simmy, thankyou for sharing. So glad you have a group of likeminded people to help you on the journey. Wishing you much healing and HOPE ‘one day at a time’ xxx

      By kerrie Atherton
      |
      April 6, 2021
  • I really admire your courage & honesty 💜

    By Annie
    |
    April 2, 2021
    • Thankyou so much Annie x

      By kerrie Atherton
      |
      April 6, 2021
  • You’re looking bing proof of how strong the human spirit is. Some wonderful advice. Thanks for sharing

    By Sam
    |
    April 2, 2021
    • Thanks so much for reading and for your kind words Sam. 🙂

      By kerrie Atherton
      |
      April 6, 2021
  • Thank you for sharing.
    Im 55
    I have a similar life
    My grandparents assaulted my mum, who passed at 54.Both my parents were alcoholics as I am.
    I believe I was assaulted by my father at around 12
    Apparently im wrong
    I know nothing but alcohol.I work daily.I really dont know where to go from here.

    By Sara
    |
    April 8, 2021
    • Hi Sara,

      Thank you for sharing.

      It sounds like it’s a tough time for you right now and we want you to know that there is support available.

      Check out the Daybreak app to connect with others who may be going through a similar experience or reach out to a health professional such as GP. Lifeline is also available for support 24/7 on 13 11 14.

      Take care, The HSM Team.

      By Hello Sunday Morning
      |
      April 9, 2021
    • Hi Sarah sorry to hear what you have been through. I see Hello Sunday morning has sent a response. Have you ever consulted counselling? That may be helpful for you 🌸

      By Kerrie Atherton
      |
      June 27, 2021
  • What a wonderful story. I hope to have your courage one day and give up. Bless your soul and thank you.for your truth!!

    By Michelle
    |
    May 29, 2021
    • Thank you for your kind words Michelle. Wishing you wonderful days of strength and joy ahead 💖

      By Kerrie atherton
      |
      June 27, 2021
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