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Cosette’s Story

“Ask for hugs from people who help you. It changes the world you live in.”

Share your stigma experience.

Just one stigma experience? I’ll choose the most hurtful.

In October 2007, I was hospitalized for alcoholism and sent away for three weeks to get clean. My early sober years were full of sedating medications and intense talk-therapy to keep me alive while I faced the debilitating depression I had been numbing since graduating college. When the medications didn’t work, I cut. When the cutting didn’t work, I laid motionless in bed, unable to get up.

I couldn’t understand why I was depressed. I had a husband, 2 young boys, a part-time job downtown and family close by. I could afford Starbucks lattes, Coach purses and new perfumes. I lived in a house and looked forward to holidays to host family that lived nearby.

Did you notice anything? I haven’t mentioned anyone special. I haven’t written about the loving, supportive and helpful family. It confuses me, too. My parents, brother and extended family laughed when I said I was an alcoholic. My extended family refused to talk about it.

Without the alcohol, I saw my husband’s anger. His physical and emotional abuse toward us. I saw my youngest’ s life-threatening allergies, my oldest’s need for an Autistic diagnosis, my father’s inappropriate flirting and groping on me, my older brother’s narcissism, and my mother’s shut-down demeanor because of her own traumatic childhood.

In therapy, memories of sexual abuse and emotional neglect surfaced. Facing these issues sober helped me find a strength I didn’t know. My own words. I told my husband he needed help with his anger. I told him I would divorce him if things didn’t change within a year.

He threatened to kill himself. I apologized. I was scared. He controlled all of the income while I stayed home with the kids. I had never paid a bill in my life. I gave birth to a baby girl in 2011. Three years later, she was also diagnosed with Autism. Right around the same time I started suspecting my husband was cheating on me.

In December 2016, I found proof of his infidelity, confronted him for the third time and listened to him deny it again. After a few months of being gaslighted into considering an open marriage and questioning my sexuality, my closest friends slapped me into reality and I filed for divorce with a lawyer. My lawyer explained my safety through child support and maintenance. He responded by retaining his own lawyer.

In August 2017, the most hurtful stigma happened.

In a meeting with our lawyers, my husband of almost 20 years said, “She’s an Alcoholic, you know. Hospitalized for depression, too.” We were officially divorced September 2017.

In December 2017, I celebrated 10 years of sobriety.

How did you overcome this experience?

I continued my AA work, talk therapy, SSRIs, meditation and distancing contact with toxic people.

Help others by sharing a brief, positive message.

Ask for hugs from people who help you. It changes the world you live in.

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