“Disaster is inevitable, Happiness in the midst of it is choice.” I think that one sentence pretty much sums up my life, but for the purpose of making sense of that, I will tell my story.

I can remember as early as 8 years old feeling like there was something wrong with me. Outwardly, it was very easy for me to be outgoing, personable and look seemingly well rounded and happy. But the voice within me spoke sad, scared and anxiety ridden thoughts. I found that I could hide the feelings in real life, but could express them through music and acting. I started piano and singing lessons at 8 and loved to pick heart wrenching sad songs because they spoke from my heart. I started acting at the age of 10 in local theater and the arts became my passion. I could so easily mask my real feelings yet still express them for the sake of art. I began writing poetry at 13 and entered a contest with a poem about suicide. My poem made the finals and was published in a poetry anthology that year. I was invited to the awards ceremony on a cruise liner but had to ask if I could bring my mom because it was for adults only. My mom was appalled by the content of my poem. She cried and I defended myself, “They are just words, its art mom!” But it was from my heart. I was so ashamed of my real feelings and never asked for help.

I began self medicating with alcohol at 11 and drugs by 13. I remember the first time I got completely wasted at 13. I was completely numb, with no fear. That was a feeling I had never experienced before, and never wanted to lose at that point. So I drank and used whatever I could get my hands on. By 19 I had a DUI and a stint in rehab for cocaine. I wasn’t done yet…

I couldn’t stand myself without substances in my body.

On the outside most would have thought I was ungrateful.  I was pretty, talented, smart, and had lots of friends, but the thing about clinical depression is for no apparent reason you can self loathe and want to completely self destruct. And that is was what I did over and over again. I would straighten up for a while – maybe a few weeks or months, get a great gig or job and be fired up about life for a few, get a new boyfriend, get a new artistic hobby and as soon as everything felt “good” I would “hit the self destruct” button as my mom liked to call it.

At 21 I met a man twice my age and he seemed to sweep me off my feet. He was very wealthy. My family wasn’t very well off growing up so all of the extravagance was enticing and I thought I was in love. Actually, I was in the kind of love I was capable of at that time. 4 months into the relationship I found out I was pregnant. He had no kids and decided he wanted to marry and raise a family with me. I respected him for saving me and for seeing something inside of me I didn’t see in myself. A wife and a mother. Four months after my son was born I sunk into a terrible post partum depression. I over-dosed on pain pills and liquor because I thought I would fail as a mother and just couldn’t see an end to my sorrow. Luckily he found me and I was rushed to the ER to have my stomach pumped.

I immediately started therapy where I was treated for bi-polar disorder, depression, anxiety and OCD as well as AA meetings weekly. I new at that point that I had serious problems and I was right all along – that there was something wrong with me and so did my husband, but I was so good at hiding my feelings up to that point as well as the amount of alcohol I consumed, my own husband had no idea how lost I was.

A few months later I was pregnant again and vowed to stay sober from there on out. By the time my daughter was one and a half I had convinced myself and my husband that I had my drinking under control and could drink again in moderation. I think he missed the party girl I used to be that wasn’t anxiety ridden and OCD. See, when I drank, I was relaxed, but too relaxed. I literally become a different person. Not a care in the world. Laid back. But I began taking those feelings too far. I didn’t care about anything or anyone anymore. My husband became married to his work and I turned entirely to drinking to fill the emptiness in my heart. Liquor was my best friend.

My husband and I continued to grow apart and instead of telling him my feelings, I up and left. Moved into my grandmothers house and told him it was over. He was shocked and flipped out. He told me “if you leave me, then you leave the kids too and I will fight you for them for the next 18 years if I have too” I figured he was just saying things out of anger, but he meant it and he did. He told the courts about my past and my drinking and added in a few lies about my parenting skills and him and his millions won the battle. I lost custody for a year and a half. I eventually gained back about 48 percent custody, but was so depressed about not having them and being financially ruined because I had singed a prenup, never finished college and didn’t have a career path, that I spent all the days I didn’t have the kids drinking my sorrows away.

I got into another relationship a few years later that started out as what I thought was true love, and for a few years filled the emptiness in my heart. What I couldn’t see at the time was that we were both sick. I was blinded by love. I was madly in love with this person and felt like he was the everything I was missing in life. He was exactly like me. We were enablers to each other. Two crazy people who were crazy about each other. It was a recipe for disaster and not the beautiful kind. It was totally reckless in that relationship 2 years in as I “hit the self destruct button” again. I hurt him more than I have ever hurt anyone because I was so wrapped into my alcohol and drug addictions again that I couldn’t understand why he would want to be with me. The relationship became physically abusive and I knew I had to try to get out.

I thought getting sober again was a good choice because I could get away from him for a while. As soon as I got out of the hospital, my ex husband took custody of my kids again. So what did I do, I called up the boyfriend to come over and bring alcohol and I was back into my addictions within days. I went back into rehab a second time that year with my moms help. At that point I wanted to get my kids back and to get out of the relationship with the person I loved so much, but knew he was only going to bring me down if he didn’t get help too. An he didn’t want help. That didn’t work out well at all. I had no idea just how far gone he was and how much all the chaos had effected him emotionally and mentally. It ended in a crime of passion that is too horrific to recite the details. He was arrested and I was arrested as my roommate at the time called the police and they took one look at me and took me into victims custody.

Part of me didn’t want to tell the police everything because I knew he was sick and not really the person he had become with drugs and alcohol, but the words just poured out of me and its probably the only time I have ever told all the details. I was completely emotionally vacant from that point forward. I had no desire to live. The DA ended up dropping the 4 felony charges they had initially charged him with because of my blood alcohol level. I feared for my life at that point. I had no idea what kind of retaliation may be coming my way. I stayed inside on disability for the next coming year. I was heart broken to lose him regardless of what had happened and started drinking more heavily than ever.

I had no custody of my children, and my mom told me I wasn’t allowed over for visitation with her because I reeked of alcohol and scared my kids because I was always slurring my words and make-up smeared all over my face because my hands were so shaky all the time that I couldn’t put it on straight if I tried (I use to be a make-up artist, so this was especially alarming for anyone that knew me) My tolerance was so high that I kept a bottle of vodka by my bed so that at 4-5am when I woke up with severe shakes I could chug a few ounces to calm my self enough to go back to sleep. I did this daily for at least a year. I had been drinking hard alcohol straight constantly through out the day (for at least 4 years at that point ) till I passed out every night.

Eventually I had nothing. My car got repossessed, I hadn’t worked in over a year, I didn’t see my kids more that once every couple weeks for a few hours. I wasn’t allowed at my own mothers house. I only had a few friends left – who were either terrified for me, never saw me and didn’t realize how bad things had gotten, or were in as bad of shape as I was. My world became very small, bleak, and dark (literally, I kept it completely dark in my apartment because the light was too painful.) I eventually started losing my hair and had bruises all over my body from being mal-nutritioned. I very rarely ate because I was so ill, I couldn’t walk. I eventually went to the ER and they immediately checked me in with acute renal failure. I was in shock. I knew I was sick, but I had no idea I was actually dying. I was in the hospital for 3 days when the Dr told me that if I didn’t change my life style I would die very shortly. At first I was livid. “who does she think she is telling me how to live my life” But within hours I realized, if I didn’t take her advise, I was choosing to die and not slowly anymore.

Shit got real, real fast. I had always felt like there was something bigger than me that created all, but never till that moment had I truly gave my maker a chance to show me a miracle. I pleaded for help to change me. From that moment on, the antibiotics started working, my kidneys regained function and 3 days later I was released. I went home and there was an eviction notice on my door. Things could not get any worse. I was done drinking. I had been changed. My thinking changed. I wanted to be happy. I believed there was hope for me to live again.

I took one day at a time mapping out small goals that would get me to bigger goals. The first one was to stay sober. I knew the immediate goal was don’t drink every day. And a month in I decided I was going to start going to 4 aa meetings a week and getting signatures to show to the courts when I had some time of sobriety to get to see my kids again. At eight months sober I gained some custody of my kids. This made my heart sing again and I continued setting goals to get my life back going on a positive path. The more goals I achieved the more confident I became and the easier it was to keep making progress. Life was completely new to me, in that, I saw it differently. I was excited and happy. If I had ever had this feeling before, I was too young to remember.

I truly felt like my creator had hit the restart button and I had second chance. I don’t drink anymore because drinking is dying for me. I choose living today. Four years into my sobriety I have gained and incredible amount: shared custody of my kids, a few cars, successful career (and was recently promoted to an executive title), I met my soul mate almost 2 years ago (whom I met while at my weekend job working at the Beautiful Disaster booth at the Surf Rodeo in Ventura), we have a beautiful condo together, a wedding in June and a baby on the way. I never knew I could be happy in sobriety, because I never gave it a long enough chance. I know now that I cannot drink like others do because I do it only to cover my pain.

When I don’t drink, I can choose to be happy. I didn’t know happiness was a choice until I stopped poisoning my body and started thinking positive. Thinking positive takes practice. Every day waking up and making a decision to not listen to my own negative thoughts. It took a hell of a lot of disasters to show me the beauty that was lying within me all these years. I use those disasters to help others these days. Those experiences made me who I am. I love who I am today.

The saying is true, “What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger”

Note from the owners:

We are incredibly excited and grateful to be a part of Leisha’s growing family. Leisha you are brave and kind and we thank you for sharing your story with us. You are a founding member of this tribe. Xoxo


Original Submission: 4/7/2015


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April 27, 2015