Profiles in Recovery

Kate Chadwick

Juggling a full time job, part time job while running a small business would leave anyone’s head spinning. For this single mother of two, she wouldn’t have it any other way. “I’m grateful for my two children, my work, and the wonderful place I live. I’d have none of it without sobriety.”

Nearly 12 years sober, Kate Chadwick’s life is drastically different than years past. Chadwick was 42 when she got sober. She advises, “If you’ve ever wondered if you have a drinking problem, you have a drinking problem.” In her 20’s, Chadwick knew she had a drinking problem but ignored it. As a suburban wife and mother she appeared to have the quintessential life, however, her drinking consumed every moment of her day. She drank at home, work and even while driving. It was her first thought in the morning and her last thought at night.

Chadwick looks to sober social media account to get her daily fix these days. “I get little supportive boosts from them throughout the day”, she says when asked when inspires her. Chadwick is currently writing a book about her addiction and recovery. She hopes to have a draft by the end of this year.

Day Job:
Mother of two kids, one cat
Freelance writer/editor
Editor: Cape May Magazine, Cape May, NJ
Contributing Editor: The WC Press, West Chester, PA
Owner: capemaygear.com, a division of Outdoor Cat Productions, LLC

What I lost to addiction:
A couple of decades of memories, two significant romantic relationships, a marriage, several friendships, several jobs, a free college education. My self-respect, my dignity, my physical and emotional health (since regained).

What worked for me:
A near-arrest and intervention was what ultimately saved me. I was offered inpatient and rejected it. And I’ll say here with nearly 12 years of sobriety: if someone offered me inpatient today, I’d take it. I started with AA in the first year or two, and I continue with one-on-one therapy and the occasional meeting.

Best advice for newbies:
Don’t overlook the power of your imagination. It was hard for me to envision a life without alcohol, and because of that I simply could not get my arms around the idea of quitting. Eliminate the word “never” from your vocabulary. If you think in terms of “I can NEVER drink again,” you’ll sabotage yourself. Decide not to drink today. Then do that every day.
Also, never underestimate the difference waking up without a hangover will make in your life. It’s amazing what you can accomplish, the thoughts and ideas you will have when you don’t open your eyes feeling like a pile of shit every day.

Advice to my younger self:
If you’ve ever wondered if you have a drinking problem, you have a drinking problem. I knew it in my twenties but ignored it, figuring I had it under control. By the time I was 40, I could not quit on my own, despite trying several times. It’s not something you’ll outgrow, it’s something that will take over. Address it while you’re young, because while it’s possible to regain your health, your sanity, and your career, you can’t regain the time you wasted under the influence. I did not get sober until I was 42 years old; the closest thing I have to a regret about my sobriety is not doing it sooner.

Rules I live by:
Compassion and empathy over judgment, always. Everyone is fighting a battle. And despite appearances, none of us really has it all figured out.

What I value most in recovery:
The clarity. My life’s not a cakewalk; I’m a single mom with a full-time job, a part-time job, and my own small business. But the difference between “before” and “now” is unbelievable. I’m grateful for my two children, my work, and the wonderful place I live. I’d have none of it without sobriety.

Proudest moment:
It’s happened more than once, I’m humbled to say: when people tell me, I have inspired them.

Stigma I faced:
I was a married, suburban mom with two kids, a 4-bedroom, 2-bath house on a corner lot with a fenced-in yard, two cars, two dogs, two cats, and a respectable job. And I’d been steadily drinking myself into oblivion since my twenties. You can look at a person sitting in the street with a bottle in his or her hand and identify the situation for what it is. You could not have looked at me—unless you knew me very, very well—and known I was the same as that person in the street. I’ve talked with other suburban moms who have said they “can’t” go to local meetings, or they “can’t” go to rehab because of what people will think, or say, or that it will affect their job or their spouse’s job. None of that is important if your life is on the line, and it is.

The normalization of alcohol consumption in our society—particularly aimed at women—is astounding to me. I hope that in my lifetime we get to a place where alcohol is looked at the way cigarette smoking is.

On my bucket list:
I want to travel extensively. And I am working on a book about my addiction and recovery; it’s still in the planning stages, but I hope to have a draft before year’s end.

Favorite recovery quote:
“Rock bottom became the solid foundation on which I rebuilt my life.”
– J.K. Rowling

I know this quote is not specific to the process of recovery from addiction, but I feel like it nails it succinctly, because it acknowledges the worst and allows for the best. My life has done a complete 180 – in the best possible way – since recovery.

When cravings come:
I let them. Thankfully, they are not often, but when they do come, I try not to immediately shut them down. I sit down, breathe deeply, and let it wash over me. I feel it, then I actively, deliberately let it go, and I move on. I’ve recently started mindfulness practices; they help tremendously.

Thoughts on relapse:
I’m not arrogant enough to believe that relapse is not something I have to worry about; I have never relapsed but have had some close calls. I look at my sobriety as an entity of its own, something that needs to be taken care of and tended. When I see or hear about someone who has relapsed and died, I take a moment and ask myself if I am being vigilant in guarding my sobriety.

At my worst, I was:
Drinking every day from the time I woke up until I went to bed at night. My last thoughts before going to sleep were about how/when/how much I could drink the next day, and my first thoughts upon waking up were about getting started. I spent an unbelievable amount of time obsessing about it. I drank at home, I drank at work, and I drank while driving. At the end, the ability to control my alcohol consumption was beyond me.

On my schedule today:
I try to get some kind of physical exercise every day, and started today on my elliptical. Sometimes I walk after dinner and take photos of my beautiful town. And I work—at some thing or another—nearly every day. I struggle with staying in the moment. I don’t have issues with looking back, but I DO have issues with fretting about the future. I have several friends in various stages of the recovery process, and I try to check in with at least one of them every day, even if it’s just a text that says, “thinking about you.”

How I get through the holidays:
I don’t have as much trouble with holidays like Thanksgiving and Christmas as I do with New Year’s Eve and St. Patrick’s Day, which are literally built around alcohol consumption. Yes, I do plan ahead, and I do go to parties where there will be alcohol, but I usually leave early. I don’t expect other people to adapt their lives around my sobriety, but I have no problem adapting mine around it.

I get inspired by:
Sober social media accounts—what a HUGE support they have been for me! I’m 53 years old; the internet didn’t even exist until I was 30. I follow sober accounts on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram, and I get little supportive boosts from them throughout the day.

On finding purpose:
I’ve wanted to write for a living since I was a child. That never wavered. But I spent most of my life literally drowning that impulse. Once the alcohol was removed, the purpose took over. It was there the whole time.

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