It starts so young in my childhood. I moved from another country to America. It was traumatic because I left my bio-dad, my family. My dad was a severe alcoholic. My mom left him, with us and my step-father, to America for a better life.

This happened when I was seven-years-old in second grade. I learned to be a chameleon. I would sit back, try to learn the new language, and observe. I became a huge people-pleaser because I wanted to be liked. I was ashamed of being different, I didn’t want my accent. I wanted to be similar to everyone else.

In middle school and high school I became friends with people who weren’t great for me. Despite being a good student and athlete, it’s strange to look back and see these people I would never hang out with now.

This all played into my self image. I had an eating disorder in high school. My BMI was about 14, my period stopped because I was so thin. I would work out three times a day, I restricted my diet.

I have a lot of control issues.

Junior year of high school I drove drunk after leaving a party. My friend was yelling at me to not drive, but I still did. I don’t remember driving home. I remember my mom dragging me up the stairs. She told me later that I passed out on my steering wheel with the lights on outside of our house.

I haven’t talked to my bio-dad since I was twelve. We talked when we first moved to America, but he stopped contacting us. My mom says it’s a cultural thing, but I felt that we weren’t good enough, always asking “What did we do? Why did you stop?”

My brother, who I’m very close to, joined the military. He was first deployed when we went to war with Iraq. While he was there he got Leishmaniasis from a sand fly. It eats your flesh from the inside out. He needed chemo therapy and almost died. This was my freshman year of college, when I had moved from Alaska to Nevada.

From such a controlled regiment of working out and school to the dorms which was constant partying, I promptly gained a lot of weight. I was depressed, I thought my brother was going to die. I was still people-pleasing and would go with friends to party just because they asked.

I was put on academic probation. Freshman year was rough. My parents were ashamed.

My family is very smart, very educated people. It played into my low self-esteem when I wasn’t doing well. My mom was a professor, my dad a lawyer, and my brother was an officer in the military.

I drank alcohol to deal with it all. I would black out one to two times a week and constantly had to ask my friends what happened. I was a hot mess.

I’m trying to remember the turning point.. Just seeing myself being so low, I didn’t care. “Okay, whatever, I’m already here,” became my mantra.

I came home for the summer and got a job, but the drinking continued. I totaled my parents car. It was eye-opening and hit me more then. I remember not caring the first time. I would write letters to my mom apologizing, would be grounded for two weeks, then start over.

After, I came back for my sophomore year and would only drink on the weekends.

I was in a major I really struggled with, I’m not a person to give up. I still went to class, even though I was failing, but finally got to a point where I needed to change. I switched my major, then a month later switched again to psychology with a minor in addiction.

I’ve had really bad relationships. For some reason every good person I was with, I would leave them. I got into a really unhealthy relationship with a guy who got into a car accident with his friend who was driving drunk and he almost lost his arm. I was on the scene, it was very graphic. He got lucky and the surgeon saved it. He became addicted to pain killers.

We lived together, I wanted to marry him. It was my senior year of college, I had my shit together, and here he is. He was addicted to Vicodin and Oxy. He would stay home, smoke weed, and take pills.

I graduated, broke up with him, and left the country for three months to travel.

When I got back, I moved to San Diego for six months. It was a great time, I worked as a barista and a hostess, drank wine every day, and then decided to move back to Reno and study nursing.

I went back to the restaurant I had been working at and started dating a guy who worked there. I later found out he was a severe meth addict. I didn’t know originally, even when people told me I shouldn’t be dating him.

It was awful to see this, knowing he was lying constantly, stealing from him family and myself. He still owes me about $1000. I remember driving him to sketchy parts of town because he needed to “pick something up from his friend.”

I never did any of it. Wine, yes, but not drugs.

It ended really bad. We both started working at a golf course together and I met a really great guy. I knew I was done with him and the guy helped me get out of that situation, but when we broke up he still caused a scene and punched a microwave before head-butting it.

I remember my mom crying about the guys I was with, she never understood why I chose them.

I was doing really well in my nursing classes, but I applied, by mistake, to one program. I didn’t get in. I was devastated. I failed again, drinking increased. I was so lost.

At twenty-five-years-old, I couldn’t figure out what I wanted to do. I reached out to my mentor and she asked me why I wasn’t a counselor. I looked into it and entered a grad program. I met such wonderful people.

Once you find something you are passionate about, it helps you in all aspects of life.

For me, I just had terrible coping skills. I remember going to therapy for my brother when I was a child because he couldn’t handle transition into a new country either. I was quiet and my parents I assumed I was fine. Internally, I didn’t want to stir the pot, so I didn’t tell anyone how awful I felt. My brother was severely depressed and I believed he needed the help more than I did.

Seeing a sibling go through that, it’s tough. I didn’t know what to do.

My stepdad and I were never super close, until later in life. I didn’t want to ‘betray’ my dad. I never connected with him. It was hard because I needed a male, secure person in my life, but it took a while to establish a good relationship.

Now, I enjoy reflecting back because I’m doing really well. It has to do with feeling accomplished, finding a good fit for me, having a really understanding partner who is so calm and deals with things so different than me – he really centers me, and I have a better relationship with my family.

I was really angry with my mother and didn’t trust her and couldn’t go to her for help, but once I entered grad school, I became more open with her and started asking more questions.

Having such a solid, open relationship with my family helps me.

I know healthier ways to cope now. My anxiety is much more controlled. When people perceive me as an extrovert, it blows me away because I have such social anxiety. Back I used to handle it with alcohol, now I deal with it through deep breathing and exercise.

I keep a tight circle of friends and they center me, we are very open about our lives. We process and are real together. Before I was superficial with friends because I was afraid to open up, wondered if I was the only one feeling this way, thinking I had too much baggage.

I’m cool with sharing now, that’s not me anymore.

I keep it much more in check now. I remember when I first met my husband, I was so anxious around him. I would drink more.

I remember he took me to his hometown and I was so anxious. I kept ordering drinks, but felt so shamed the next day. He wasn’t mean or judgmental. I saw that I was shifting back. It was the last time I have ever been that drunk. It won’t happen again.

With me, it’s an interesting pattern. Every relationship typically lasts a year and a half. The past lingers, I’d always talk to the guy before while being in a new relationship. When I first met my husband, I was still talking to another guy.

Later, my husband called me out, said I want to be with you, but I know you are talking to him. It surprised me. I used to get away with stuff. He wasn’t shaming me, just was straight up. I don’t know if it was the being wanted by more people, and it’s not like I didn’t want to be with my husband, it was stupid. It was with every person. I came to realize I didn’t want anyone else but him. Every single relationship was such a hard ending and it would bleed into the new relationship.

With my husband though, it was done. I didn’t want anything to harm this relationship.

My favorite thing in the morning is to pet my dog and give her a belly rub, I am also thankful for bananas and peanut butter, a cup of hot tea, a walk with my dogs, always having physical contact with my husband, sounds of the ocean, rainy days, sun sets, a phone call from my mom or Skyping with my family, clean sheets and towels, lunch with friends, my brother coming over, and vacation.

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