Give to Me your Leather, Take from Me My Lace - Courtney Wilkerson
Hi! Katie, here. You guys get ready to be rocked to your core with a sense of purpose and overwhelming hope. Courtney's is seriously the PERFECT addition to the Goddessté feature tribe, and we are so overjoyed to have her! Her story is precisely the kind of story we set out to tell when we first launched this business. The mission was to tell our stories, to share our darkness and use it to create light for others. THAT is exactly what Courtney is doing with her life, and it's what she's done with this piece. We are honored to share her story with y'all.
Court: thank you for sharing your story in such an honest way. You don't try to sugarcoat the darkness. You don't shy away from the tough topics because you know these are the conversations we need to be having - these are the stories women so desperately need to hear. So, from the very bottom of our hearts and souls, we thank you. Your story is a beautiful, shining example of strength through persistence, hope, and grace. We love you! So glad to know you!
Now, y'all grab some tissues. Here we go...
“She had a choice...”
These are the words I often hear people say about addicts. “She could have chosen a different life,” they say. “She should have stopped before it got so bad.” I wish it were that simple. I really do.
I was 12-years-old when I took my first sip of alcohol. I thought it was innocent. I thought I was just experimenting with my friends. It was a choice for me that day, but it’s what happened next. I had no idea it was coming. From that day forward, my life revolved around it. I planned my days, my nights, and definitely my weekends around who was drinking where and how to get it. It was fun. It was an escape for me. It all happened without me even realizing it was happening. I feel like the choice was there in the beginning, which, at such a young age, felt so inconsequential. After a while, the choice vanished. It became a means to an end - a never-satisfied craving for love and acceptance. I sought it in the familiar. Alcohol was always there, even when humans let me down.
I played it off well, living a double life. By day, I was a cheerleader, an “A” student, president of key club, very involved and dedicated high school student. Well rounded, am I right? I seemed so happy. By night, I was rattled with depression and anxiety. I had trouble sleeping. I depended on others for my own happiness. I put my boyfriends and friends on pedestals. When I was 14 and my first “love” didn’t work out, I overdosed. I still think I was too young to understand forever. I was too young to realize what suicide really meant, but at 14-years-old, I had already experienced so much. I was “grown.” I was an adult in my own mind. My own mind was my problem. It was feeding me lies and I was believing them. I was never good enough and I would never be good enough.
I had to have the best clothes, the best makeup, the prettiest friends. I skipped out on a chance at an invitation-only school of fine arts because I wanted to be a cheerleader because they were “popular” and “well-liked.” Little did I know, I wasn’t very well liked, despite all of my efforts. I was oblivious to the person I was becoming and deep down inside, I knew it wasn’t me. Multiple loved ones and even professionals suggested that I seek counseling, but I wasn’t interested. I was “not crazy” and “did not need a therapist.” That would make me weak. I was fine. Everything was fine.
Throughout high school, I struggled with body dysmorphia and eating disorders. I started trying to control my appetite and my weight with medication that suppressed it - hello, Adderall. I felt if I could only stay skinny, focus in school, clean my entire room & still have energy to go out and have fun with my friends, then I would be okay. I used Adderall to do this, and it worked. That was my solution. I powered through high school this way without too many consequences. I graduated with honors and I went on to the University of Alabama.
I wanted to be a pharmacist. Convenient? Only, I realized quickly that, in order to be a pharmacist, you had to take extensive science classes, and I just really did not want to show up for class. I wanted to just take the exams and “get by,” so I switched to business school. I showed up for class every once in a while and crammed the night before my exams. College was different... definitely not as structured as high school. I couldn’t concentrate. I couldn’t stay focused, and I definitely couldn’t get organized. I needed help, so I sought it in the form of self-medication. This time I copped a prescription, which made it even more acceptable in my mind. Adderall and Xanax. This was my solution.
The party drugs. Those came, too. I justified it because I was in college and that’s where you are supposed to experiment and find yourself. It was just a phase. I’d grow out of it. I couldn’t stop.
At 20, I totaled a car and was lucky to survive. At 23, I totaled a second car, also lucky to survive. By 23, I was more “sophisticated,” so I was trying to wind down and get rest with 2 bottles of wine a night. Eventually, I quit my job via email. I lived out of my car. All the while, I thought, this is just a phase. I’ll graduate from graduate school and be done with it all. Move on and get married and do normal things.
I didn’t finish grad school. But, let’s back up a few years... I did finish my bachelors, by the grace of God, because I’m not sure how I did it. One semester of grad school, and I dropped out to pursue my life as a drug addict. This spiraled. I met a guy. Meth and heroin became my new normal. Two things I said I would NEVER do... guess what fam, I did them. It was the ONLY way I felt like I would be okay. Plus, I just really wanted to be loved and this felt like love to me. Until it didn’t ...
I remember waking up one day - Christmas Eve 2013 - and having that “mirror moment,” where I didn’t even recognize myself. I had lost everything - the job, the guy, the car, the self-respect, the hopes, the dreams. All of it. Gone. I finally let go. I finally asked for help.
I would have NEVER called myself a drug addict before 12/27/2013. Even some time after that day, I wasn’t so sure that I was one. I remember telling my counselors in the rehab facility that I was just trying it out and it was all just for fun... I’d grow out of it... a “phase” (my go to excuse). I thought I just needed this rehab experience to separate myself from it for a while. I’ll never forget what my counselor said to me. She said, “Courtney... this is kinda the end of the road, sweetie.” It’s like something switched in my brain. I finally said it out loud. For the very first time.
“My name is Courtney. I’m an alcoholic and an addict.”
I stayed for 8 weeks at a rehab facility, and I went through trauma counseling. I had never talked about my trauma with anyone and I never expressed how these events made me feel. I struggled with men. I sought validation and never quite found what I was looking for... I was always left feeling worse than before. There were occasions that situations went too far, and I questioned my own sanity. I felt like these things were my fault and I deserved them. If you know, you know - the things we’ll tell ourselves, “I shouldn’t have worn the skirt. I shouldn’t have gotten so drunk. I shouldn’t have trusted him. I should have paid more attention to my surroundings. I guess I was asking for it.”
Well, the truth is, I didn’t deserve any of these things. NOBODY deserves these things. They lost their power over me the MOMENT I told another person the WHOLE truth. What exactly happened and how it made me feel. These are now just things that happened, and now I can see why they did.
I am now able to help other women who have experienced the same trauma. That was the purpose of it all and the WHY. Now that I understand my pain, and I know that I am not a victim, but a survivor, I am able to speak to other women who don’t understand that just yet. I am able to help women in the grips of addiction and depression to know that there is hope and a future for people like us.
We are not bad people. We don’t necessarily choose this life, and I 100% believe that people like me are born this way and it develops over time. Addiction does not discriminate. Almost everyone I know has a friend or family member affected by addiction. We don’t wake up every day in the middle of our addiction and say, “I can’t wait to live another day like this.” No. We want out. We have no choice in the matter. We want, with every fiber of our being, to do something different. I didn’t know another way.
Nobody had shown me the way out just yet, so that’s what I do today. I show people the way. I am no longer ashamed of my past. It has shaped me and molded me into the person I believe God, the universe, my higher power intended me to be all along. I believe every single thing that I have experienced in my short lifetime (I joined the 30-club last August) was necessary. I believe I am now a vessel of hope. I am not perfect. I was never perfect. I will never be perfect. But... I am FREE.
My lifelong passion for cute clothes and a sense of community with women got lost along the way. So, 5 years into sobriety, I opened my very first store front, a women’s clothing boutique in 2018. I had never been more excited. If I am being honest, I didn’t even know what I was doing. At year 6 into sobriety, and a little over our 1-year storefront anniversary, we are moving this little business into a BIGGER location. I am so blown away. I just keep trusting God, the universe, my higher power and good things keep happening.
I named my boutique after Stevie Nicks’ song, “Leather & Lace.” To me, leather symbolizes the tough times we all have in life, and the lace represents the hand-woven fibers of grace.
“Give to me your leather, take from me my lace.”
I believe we are all here for a reason. We are here to share our struggles and our truth. We are here to hold each other’s hands along the way. We are all here to walk each other home.
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