In episode seventeen of The Courage To Change: A Recovery Podcast, Nicole Ory shared her story with podcast host Ashley Loeb Blassingame. We’ve edited and condensed it here for a fast read. You can listen to the entire interview here.

Nicole’s story is gut wrenching, but it’s one that shows, if you do the work, you can stay sober through anything. Nicole dealt with Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD)  and codependency as a child. “Way before I got a drink, validation was my first high. It was my first drug.” Nicole said her home life was chaotic, “I felt uncomfortable a lot as a kid. I had ADHD, was on Ritalin. It was the early 80s. Not a lot of people knew about ADHD.” She always felt separated and started doing things to feel validated. 

A trip to Mexico when she was 14 jump-started her obsession with alcohol. “Once I drank it on that booze cruise in Mexico, there was no turning it off. Once I have one, nine times out of ten, I continue to drink. After that experience I had a mental obsession [with alcohol].”

Pregnancy and Alcoholism

Things quickly escalated for Nicole. She had three DUIs and found herself in jail. When she got out of jail, she met her prince charming. “I’m not going to say he’s an alcoholic, but he loved to drink the way I did.” Two months later, Nicole found out she was pregnant: “I’m pregnant and this is the first time, since I was 14, that I’m not drinking.” 

Nicole never thought that being pregnant was her chance to start new, to stop drinking once and for all. “I didn’t think I needed a redo on life. I thought it was a given I would be a good mom. I’m going to turn 21 four months after she’s born, and my mom can watch her when I go out.” Nicole assumed she would naturally transition into this next phase of life, but her daughter Adisyn was born very sick, and most of Nicole’s time was spent in the hospital with her daughter.

Adisyn’s Story

Adisyn was born with a double outlet right ventricle, which happens to one in every 100,000 babies. She had four heart defects, two holes in her heart, and her aorta wasn’t connected. Nicole wasn’t able to hold her until she was two weeks old.

At this point, Nicole has been harboring her mental obsession to drink for 10 months, since she didn’t drink or do drugs during pregnancy. She felt she deserved a break. Since she was only 20, she and her boyfriend drove to the “one bar that’ll server [her].” Nicole had taken one sip when her mother called and said, “get down to the hospital, you can hold your daughter now.” This was going to be the first time Nicole would be able to hold her baby since she was born. 

“This is what my alcoholism looks like. If I’m presented with an option to show up for life and drink, I don’t get to choose after I take a drink. The choice gets removed from me. By the grace of God, I made the decision ‘this is important.’” Nicole downed her drink and they left the bar to race back to the hospital. She was buzzed holding her daughter for the first time.

Nicole loved her daughter. But Adisyn was not improving, and after four more weeks in the hospital, Nicole made the decision to take her off life support. Addison’s organs were failing, and she just wasn’t getting better. “We took her off life support. I held her. She passed that night,” shares Nicole, talking about the grief and pain of making that decision.

The Aftermath

Nicole turned 21 and her drinking took on a regular pattern. “I would drink really hard Thursday through Sunday, recover Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday. I was so angry and so hurt.”

The last five months of drinking Nicole began to notice rashes on her abdomen that were pretty severe. “At night my hands and feet were swelling, and my arms and my leg were tensing up, I was just so dehydrated.”

Now 23 years old, living with her mom and partying until 10 in the morning, alcohol was more desirable than ever.  Nicole recalls looking in the mirror and having a moment of clarity after a long night of partying. “This woman that I used to be in a home group with, Stacy, would say, A moment of clarity is when God stops the lies long enough for us to see the truth.” Nicole realized her life was never going to get better if she didn’t stop drinking and using.

“A moment of clarity is when God stops the lies long enough for us to see the truth.”

A Journey Through Sobriety

Nicole got sober, but she was still going to bars. “I didn’t know what to do with myself. I would drink six Red Bulls in one night and feel like I was coming down off of cocaine.” She continued going to meetings every single day but fired her sponsors as soon as they disagreed with her behaviors. At around a year and a half sober Nicole started dating someone who relapsed repeatedly and couldn’t stay sober. She was three years sober and she thought if she did heroin with him, he would want to be with her. “You move your line, just like in alcoholism. Move your line of what’s acceptable.” She didn’t try heroin: her saving grace was being in Alcoholics Anonymous, having a sponsor she checked in with and serving on committees.

She stayed sober but her codependency progressed. After a friend encouraged her to go to Codependents Anonymous, Nicole started seeing a counselor every week for a year on belief systems. “It was really eye-opening, but it was also really painful seeing the unavailability of my dad when I was younger. I was trying to create this role and these partners who I was dating who were totally unavailable.”

Nicole continued her journey through counseling. She started doing Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR) to help with the grief of her daughter. “I had accepted that she passed. There wasn’t any trauma surrounding that. The issue was I felt guilty for being happy and successful in life, because if I was happy, then she doesn’t matter.” 

Nicole said she never talked about her daughter even when she got sober. A couple years ago one of her best friend’s daughters passed away. “I showed up for her. I talked about Adisyn more since that happened than I ever had in my entire life, since she was born. There was a lot of healing that came from that.”

“I’m All In”

A couple years ago Nicole made the decision that she was going all in when it comes to her sobriety. “My weekends are spent sponsoring, then I go to a Friday night meeting with my husband. Saturday night, sometimes we’ll go to a meeting together and then I have my Sunday morning woman’s meeting. I get filled up every weekend, I talk to my sponsors, I’m all in.”

Nicole has been able to honor her daughter’s memory while also being an amazing stepmother and having long-term recovery. “I love that I get to tell people, I love my job, I love what I do, everything is really good.”

Quotes have been edited for clarity.