Recovery Hero of the Week:
Natalie Calkins Rountree

Natalie Calkins Rountree headshot

"Soon into the relationship I had stopped seeing my family, my friends and even myself—for he had become my new identity."

Age: 42
Blogger CEO of SoberLivingSoulfulLiving
Sober since May 2008
Currently living in Berkley, MI

I always had a feeling growing up that one day I was going to be somebody—someone who would make it big and in the limelight; someone loved, adored and admired everywhere that I went. I guess growing up in a small town with a large family and a lot of friends will do that to a person.

It’s funny even saying it though because while I believed it to be true, I never really quite believed that I was worthy of it all. Sure, I wore the crowns for a few homecomings, waved to town members in a few parades but I never had any idea why I was there. I guess I just never believed in myself—I didn’t love myself.

I left home almost immediately after I graduated high school in order to get out of my hometown and live with the man that I had fallen in love with. He was 6 years my senior and quickly became my whole life. I admired him, respected him and loved him with complete abandon. Soon into the relationship I had stopped seeing my family, my friends and even myself—for he had become my new identity. We spent every day together. We lived together, worked together, did everything together and it wasn’t difficult—at first.

He treated me like a princess—he would shower me with gifts, treat me to fancy dinners, do all of the housework, wash my hair, give me massages and buy me expensive liquor (although at the time drinking was just social for me). It was as if it were his job 24/7 to take care of me and shower me with love and affection. I never had anything like this before. I felt like I didn’t need anything else and no one else in the world as long as I had him—that is, until the emotional and physical pain came.

Read our hero Natalie Calkins Rountree's story and be inspired today!

It started slowly but progressed quickly. In the beginning he just worked at devaluing my self-worth by always pointing out other attractive women—something he didn’t do at all the first year we were together. His intent on making me feel bad about myself started to work. I started to gain weight and get depressed, insecure and paranoid about his whereabouts when he would start going places without me. The depression and low self-esteem had sunk in so low that sometimes I wouldn’t get out of bed for days, only to get up if I had to go to the bathroom or grab something to eat.

The verbal then turned physical. There were a few times he had roughed me up pretty bad before I found out I was pregnant at 20 years old with his child. Initially we were both elated but I had an echo of fear that would put me on edge every so often. Eventually I would find out he shared that same fear when he physically came at me during a verbal argument with the main focal point of his fist being my stomach. Within a week I had lost the baby 4 months into pregnancy. I told no one for decades. I hid all of it from my family, my friends and authorities and instead carried the shadows of the past into each new relationship, which was very few, and drowned the pain and memories with alcohol. Two months after leaving him, I got my first DUI.

For the next 15 years, alcohol became my new identity and I was unable to move on emotionally. I thought I was moving on just fine for alcohol treated me very well in the beginning. I was free, sociable again, feeling pretty, fun and always having something to do or somebody to be with. Drinking was always involved, even at work. Why wouldn’t I choose to be a bartender? My place of employment felt like home and it eventually became just that because if I wasn’t drinking while working, I was there drinking with friends.

During this time, I met my daughter’s father. The relationship didn’t stand a chance from the start. I had too many walls built up and too much pain I still never worked through. Plus, there was too much resemblance between him and my ex—both physical and emotional. Our relationship ended when I was 3 months pregnant with her. We had tried living together as a family after she was born, but it just didn’t work out—I couldn’t stop drinking. As a matter of fact the 9 months of pregnancy was the longest I had ever gone without a drink. Only a few short months after this relationship came my second DUI.

Throughout the next several years, I remained single. My focus was on getting my life together and raising my daughter to the best of my ability. I was doing a great job at providing for her and myself financially. I was able to buy the condo, cars and clothes I wanted—but I still couldn’t put down the drink. I would promise myself time and time again that I would quit when she turned 3, when she started kindergarten, started 1st grade and so on. The more I tried this the more miserable I became because I just couldn’t quit no matter how many tricks I tried and drinking just wasn’t working for me anymore.

My life turned upside down and inside out when she was 8 years old. I was arrested for my third DUI with my daughter in the car. I registered a .22% blood alcohol content. In addition, I was charged with Child Endangerment, my second felony, sentenced to jail and endured a lengthy, devastating custody battle. Only those who have travelled a similar road can understand when I say that this was the worst and best day of my life. The part that made it the best was all the blessings that came through that tragic day. On May 8, 2008, I was given a chance to turn my life around and my daughter was given a chance to have the mother she always deserved.

I am not by any means saying that I have perfected the role now, but I am now able to give her all of me. I put every bit of time into working on building myself back up in recovery and staying sober. In 2012, I married for the first time at the age of 38 to a man that is nothing short of my perfect soul mate. In 2014, I was awarded full legal and physical custody of my daughter back—something she and I both wanted and I never gave up fighting for. Today I embrace life with gratitude, appreciation, abundance positivity, love and patience. In other words, I embrace the sober life.

It wasn’t easy getting to where I am now, but it was well worth the will and fight to get here.

Would you like to be featured in our Recovery Hero of the Week series? Send in your story (500–1000 words) to [email protected] and you might just be selected as our next featured hero. Thank you for spreading the message!

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