Amber Chisholm: A Veteran’s Story

The views and opinions expressed in following story are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the opinions of Mental Health Colorado.

By: Amber Chisholm

I never liked being out of control, but in the end I lost all control.

To start at the beginning, I was an Army medic with a tour in Iraq and Afghanistan. 4 months into my Afghanistan tour my husband was killed by and IED. I went home, found out I was almost 5 months pregnant with our daughter. I stayed strong for her, I moved closer to his family for the support.

Amber and present husband, Ray.

I tried to navigate my new reality, mostly I floundered with jobs and relationships. I drank, but it wasn’t a problem habit. I drank to feel better, I drank to be social, I drank to have fun. I was lonely even around people, a few drinks would help that feeling go away. I kept this up for a few years, drinking at night and during the day on the weekends.

Eventually, I moved to Maine and went through several relationships, having another baby in the process. I ended up in a bad relationship, the drinking became more heavy. I would start right after work and go until I passed out. Then I started getting sick in the morning, so I had a beer in the morning and I would feel a bit better.

This is where I started to lose control.

I have never been good at stopping drinking when I probably should. The one beer in the morning to feel better turned into all day drinking. The relationship got worse, and with it my drinking habit.

One day I decided it was time to leave. I loaded up a U-Haul with a friend and moved down to Missouri with my family. My parents drank a lot too, so it seemed like I was fine to continue my habits. The mornings were always painful until I got enough alcohol into my system to feel better. My parents started mentioning AA, but I was not going to admit any problems.

I met a guy who also drank the way I did, and we fueled each other’s habit. I knew he had heart trouble and we had talked about trying to quit, but we never did.

Then I got really sick. Pain that was so bad I couldn’t stand up, so my mom took me to the hospital. My pancreatic enzymes were higher than the doctor had ever seen, and I was in danger of my pancreas starting to shut down. I was admitted to the hospital, they monitored my levels and as I got farther away from the last drink I had my body began to revolt. About 3 days in the hospital, I was due to be released. But as I was waiting for my discharge papers I started seeing things.

I told my mom what I was seeing and she called the hospital. They decided to keep me longer so I could fully detox under medical care. I don’t know how long the hallucinations went on for, but they were terrifying. Eventually, it all stopped and I was released with the order not to drink anymore, my body wouldn’t handle it. It wasn’t long before I started again, and I was sick a lot but I didn’t want to stop. I was scared of dealing with the world sober.

The boyfriend and I kept drinking together. One day, his heart failed. I was sick on the couch from drinking too much that day and couldn’t get to the hospital and he died.

This event fueled me to self-medicate more. I didn’t care what the doctor said, I didn’t care that I was risking my life. I ended up back in the hospital. My parents set out to force me to stop. They took my keys, stopped me from getting friends to bring me alcohol. And for a few months I was sober. I hated it though. I craved to feel that release of everyday life.

I met my now husband and decided to move to Texas with him. He knew about my past but thought I was probably ok now. Things happened that caused a huge uproar in my life and I quickly turned to the only thing I knew would fix it. I went through another year of binges, getting sick, medical visits, and fights with my husband. He could always smell when I’d been drinking. I stopped for a while, I went to AA meetings and was supposed to be getting the help I needed.

Over the year I had a few binges, but I had finally let the VA know what was going on and I was blessed with a doctor who was all about helping me through it. And I finally made the decision it was time to stop. I wasn’t going to risk my marriage or my children anymore. I would face this life head on, sober. My husband showed me a lot of tough love while I was still sneaking alcohol. As did my family here in Texas.

I went to counseling, and still do, to manage my anxiety and depression. I do miss it sometimes, but never enough to go back to that life. There was so much pain that I didn’t see then, but I see it clearly now. I caused so much pain to my family, my friends, and my children. There is no way to go back and change that now, there is only what I do from this point forward. The life I have now is so much better than I could have ever planned. The only way I got here was to finally put down the drink, put my life as a priority, and take care of myself. I wouldn’t have made it without the support of my family, my church, and the VA.



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