My name is Chelsea Levo Feary. I am a recovering alcoholic. On September 21, 2019, I am celebrating ten years of sobriety and this is my testimony.
Everyone’s story has a beginning and that is where I will start. I was born on September 29, 1975, to Michele (Mickie) and Chuck Levo in Miami, OK. I was their first and only child. Before me or as I refer to it as “BC” – Before Chelsea – the two Southern California beach kids met during their college years while working at Disneyland. My mother was born into a traditional Catholic family of two parents and four kids, while my dad was born into a broken home of a working father, an older brother, and sister, and a mother who left them and returned from time to time. Both of my parents had their family baggage.
Some may say people aren’t born alcoholics, but I disagree. My testimony supports this. Alcoholism is largely a social and environmental disease but can be genetically passed along through families. Mine is no different. My parents loved to drink, then they had to drink, and then they were dying to drink. When I look at my family tree, alcohol is the substance poisoning the roots. On both sides of my family, most of my loved ones are either in the disease or recovering from it.
Through a couple of career moves, my parents landed in Miami, OK in 1973. For reasons that are still unclear to me, they decided to stay in this small northeastern Oklahoma town and have a family. I grew up with a father who owned a small business and a mother who taught in elementary schools. My mother was a classic narcissist and my father was a classic victim. Actually, they were both victims and it was exacerbated when they drank. My parents went out a lot when I was young and I was often left with babysitters. I vividly remember my parents coming home late from the country club while I was in bed and they would fight. My parents fought fairly regularly as a result of their drinking. They often used me as ammunition against each other by threatening to leave the other and take me or leave me. I became the mediator who would stand between them to separate them before violence ensued.
My parents drank every day. They would sit over a pitcher of martinis every evening followed by wine or other cocktails. I usually got to eat the olive out of a martini or suck the sweet vermouth off of the ice. When my parents played tennis, I would get the first sip from their beers. Drinking wasn’t cosmopolitan in our house, it was systematic and non-optional. Since I was immersed in this behavior, it was the only culture I knew to exist.
When I became a teenager with the desire to grow up too fast, drinking became a regular past-time for me and my friends. Pool parties, days at the lake, nights spent partying on dirt roads, and even house parties with my parents “social hosting” were all part of the social pressure and scene. As a result of those pressures and my upbringing, I caved into an eating disorder. My weight plummeted from a healthy 115 pounds at the age of 15 to 69 pounds when I checked myself into an 8-week inpatient recovery program at the age of 18. This is when I first learned about the 12-Steps.
Next, I graduated high school and headed off to Oklahoma State University for four and a half years of partying, starving, and making terrible decisions. My neurotic rituals supporting my eating disorder shifted to mirror the college social life and manifest as alcoholism. I graduated…barely. Then, I moved to Oklahoma City for a job I had no business nor stability doing. This is when my drinking turned from a binge-drinking social thing into a daily thing.
Then, I made the next installment of poor decisions by marrying someone for all the wrong reasons. Just because you both like to drink (a lot!), doesn’t mean you should get married, or even date for that matter. The best thing about my first marriage was my step-daughter, who was initially not so happy to welcome me into her life. We moved states away and I instantly became an Army wife. The next four years would be tumultuous as we realized our incompatibility among a nation under attack. My husband headed off to war. It was then that I realized I was all alone, but more so when he was home. There was abuse in our marriage and I was terrified. My parents were no more than my “drinking buddies” and offered no solace. I wanted a knight in shining armor to rescue me and thought I could find that in bottles of wine.
After my husband returned from combat, he got out of the Army and we moved back to Oklahoma. Over the next five years, things would grow increasingly worse in our marriage. The abuse escalated, trust disappeared, and love was nowhere to be found. I was afraid of my husband, but I was scared to leave. I had no self-esteem or self-worth but somehow, I started talking to God.
In August of 2009, following a terrible fight at home, I was drunk and went for a walk. Through tears of helplessness, I asked God, “Please, Lord. Take my life. Take me up to be with you. I don’t want to be here, anymore. I know I will be much happier up there with you, than here in this hell on earth.” That night changed my life. God responded to me by letting me know it was time to get help. I was finally ready to get sober.
On September 21, 2009, I admitted I was powerless over alcohol and my life had become unmanageable. On that day, I surrendered my will to God. I met with my priest, employed a therapist, and with their guidance, I started working the steps. It was evident the hardest part of this journey would be facing my family living in alcoholism. My husband, my parents, and a couple of other family members were vocally unsupportive of my decision to get sober. I was ridiculed and shamed. This is when I learned that sick people don’t like it when other people get well. The only real and safe support came from my step-daughter, my Godmother, and an Uncle. Oh, and God…He’s actually the most important one.
At this point, it is necessary to point out that my relationship with God and the Catholic Church changed completely at this point. For the first time in my life, I started paying attention – to all of it. I started to hear God’s direction in my daily life and I couldn’t get through weekly Mass without crying. This relationship with Him and learning/re-learning so much of my faith was an awakening. For the first time – EVER – I knew I wasn’t alone! God let me know that this journey would be tough and that it would get worse before it got better. That was no joke.
As my marriage continued to crumble, I was able to face it sober. It did get worse. I think back to those days and wonder, in my infancy with sobriety and trusting God, how did I make it through that very dark time? With clarity and faith, I did what I could to repair whatever I could before declaring it irreparable. Two years after getting sober, I filed for divorce. A year later, I was single and about to embark on a brand-new life. I was sober, faithful, and finally figuring out who I wanted to be.
Over the next few years, I would live independently; repair and improve the relationship with my step-daughter; find John, my true love; sit with and comfort my mother as she left this earth; care for my sick, lonely, and addicted father; enter into Holy Matrimony with John; become a parent of two incredible bonus kiddos; deepen my faith and understanding of Catholicism and evangelization; study harder than I ever have to gain a professional certification; travel to places I have always wanted to see; grow in my profession; reconnect with family; deepen personal relationships; go back to school; and learn what love really means.
Living sober has brought me to face the harsh realities of the past. I have done an inventory of all the hurt and destruction I have caused myself and others over the years. I have attempted to make amends. I have had to realize that just because I seek someone out to apologize for past wrongs, doesn’t mean that they will forgive me – and I have to be okay with that. It sucks. I wasn’t a good person for a long time. I wasn’t kind, loving, humble, faithful, or charitable. In fact, I was quite the opposite. Swallowing my pride, admitting my wrongs, and accepting my faults and their consequences has been painful, humbling, and reconciling. I still have amends to make and probably will for the rest of my life, but – I continue to pray God grants me the ability to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference.
If you have read this far, thank you. Ten years. Wow. To say I am “blessed” is trite. I am very fortunate to have been afforded a second chance in life. So many never get to the recovery side of alcoholism. My mother never did and my father can’t hold on to it. Alcoholism destroys all good things in life. If you or someone you know is imprisoned by addiction, please know that there is hope, faith, and love available. Please pray for people suffering from addiction and for those in recovery. We all need it.
Thank you to everyone who has supported, forgiven, and loved me through this. The Father, Son, and Holy Spirit get the first shout out.
“Jesus looked at them and said, ‘For human beings this is impossible, but for God, all things are possible.’”Matthew 19:26
John, Meredith, Ian, Emma, “Ant” Susan, Uncle Steve, Kristin, The Julie’s and Michele, Ms. Jim, Father Bradley, Father Matt, and Kay – I love you bigger than words can say. You have no idea the impact you have had on my life. You made a difference. You helped me realize that I matter. Thank you.