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.
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.
DONATE TO MENTAL HEALTH COLORADO
More than 500,000 Coloradans lack the mental health care they need. You can change that. For more than 60 years, Mental Health Colorado has led the charge in promoting mental health, ending stigma, and ensuring equitable access to mental health and substance use services. It’s life-changing work. Your contribution makes it possible.