This was originally written for a speech I gave last November (2017) down in Del Ray, FL at my treatment center’s (Caron Ocean Drive & Renaissance) Gratitude Dinner. I have edited the dates to reflect present time.
My name is Brittany Horschel and I’m an alcoholic. I have been sober since May 21, 2016. Last year was my first year coming to the Gratitude Dinner and I remember still feeling so out of place. Not yet, comfortable with this “new me.” And I have to say now I am waking up with a much clearer perspective of who I am! Yes, I am alcoholic but that doesn’t define me. I am also a mother, a wife, a daughter, a friend. And I, like most of us, have had to learn how to enjoy and embrace every part of who I am. The good and the bad. I have always fought with the notion that I had to be perfect and that others expected me to be perfect as well. From an early age, I was highly competitive in golf. I had one goal, to become a professional golfer. When I committed during my junior year of high school to play on the women’s golf team at The University of Florida, you would think that I would just enjoy my last 2 years of high school with my friends, knowing that I had a one-way ticket to my dream school all tied up in a nice lil bow. But not me… the perfectionist in me thought, I MUST become a better golfer! “I’m not good enough, yes they want me, but of course they really want the hypothetical better player I will be in a year in a half.” So, I decided to leave my hometown of Jacksonville and move down to Bradenton, FL to IMG Academy to finish up high school and be in an environment where I can almost 100% focus on my golf game. I thrived there, I jumped head first in with all the other die-hards and found common ground with our tunnel visions for perfection.
I ended up starting college early in January of 2006 to help the women’s golf team that spring. Each day filled with 4-5 hour practices, weight and cardio training as well as attending classes. I had every intention of becoming a professional golfer. But then I started having my wrist problems and my reality started to slowly change. After my first wrist surgery, I rushed back to compete and created further injury and ended up having to have 2 more surgeries. The last one being just so I would be able to use my wrist in everyday functions without pain. So after 2 years of this, I knew my dream of being a professional golfer is over and in my mind, I’m useless. Since I was 12, my only dream was to become a professional golfer. 10 years of competing, working out, working with sports psychologists had just been all for nothing. Every day was tailored around preparing for golf tournaments; when I could make it to the gym, how long I could be out practicing. I only had one identity for so long, a golfer. I didn’t know how to be anything else. I didn’t really know who I was. Being a competitive golfer and focusing on my dream for so long, had hindered me from growing and learning what else I was all about, who else I was. I really didn’t give myself much credit other than being a golfer.
During all of this, I had started dating my now husband Billy. He was flourishing as a collegiate and amateur golfer and ended up turning professional immediately following college. I was so proud of him. But his career turned into a hiding place for me. I thought, I can be the quintessential tour wife! I’ll travel and support him. Their lives seem perfect! Well, I hated it after a year. I hated following someone else around and feeling just in the way. I wasn’t really part of that world, I wanted something more. I wanted to be more. But I had no idea what. My next plan was to go back to school for psychology. Well, I lost interest in that when I got close to finishing. I couldn’t figure out what I would actually do with the degree. My drinking was starting to take control of my life at that point. I had no idea who I was. I was really starting to disappear at this point. Where was Brittany? Where did that fiery competitor go? Where did my lively, bubbly personality go? I was quite literally in no man’s land. Billy was out on tour week after week and I’m just like???? Hellooo? What am I doing??? Of course, to the naked eye I was the picture of happiness. My husband was on the PGA Tour, we are just living the life of luxury, not a care in the world. When inside, I was this helpless little girl living in a very lonely world. My world was just spinning in my head.
I experienced a miscarriage that I just completely breezed over like it was no big deal- I jumped on a plane to Scotland with Billy for the Open Championship almost the next day and it was never really talked about again. I’m thinking, I’m Fiiiiine- hiding water bottles full of vodka around hotel rooms and around the house? Completely healthy. 🙄 I get things done, I participate in the world, this is how it’s supposed to be. I lied to myself every day. I was a shell of a human body living life. But I accepted it. It’s ok, It. Is. What. It. Is. –Done. –MOVE ON.
Life continued on…and in September of 2014, We had our first daughter, Skylar. I had no issues not drinking while pregnant, I had a purpose. I had a meaning to life. My life was now to keep this child safe and raise her. Well, she became my next hiding place. I was able to throw myself head first in as a full-time mommy. But the evening glass of wine turned into the evening bottle of wine, to the happy hour drink, to the day filled with a constant stream of vodka. The bottles once again found their homes in the nooks and crannies of my house and various hotel rooms. I was out of control. But I had all the excuses, “It’s the stress of being a new mom,” “my husband is out of town”, “my husband is in town,” “blah blah blah blah. You all know how it goes. I was able to care for my daughter, but in no way how she deserved. I checked off all the boxes of what I was supposed to do. But I was just in a constant fog. Numb to the world around me. Numb to anything real. In my mind. I was nothing. I had nothing to contribute to anyone. Why would anyone care about anything I have to say? Why would anyone want to hang out with me? My husband doesn’t love me, how could he? I wasn’t just lying to myself anymore, it was WHO I WAS. I had become all the lies and doubts I told myself over the years. I no longer could beat myself up because I was a low as I could go. I was living in my rock bottom every single day, in a deep depression with no idea how to get myself out.
Then one afternoon in May of 2016, I walked into my friend’s house and saw my closest friends and family and I knew this was it. Before the first person to speak could finish I said, “yes, I need help me, im ready”. But I was still so ashamed. I never wanted to get help because that would be to embarrass my husband, his brand, his career. All those people judging me, him…. let alone my friends and family would be so embarrassed. My grandparents??!! What are they going to think? And what about Skylar, my daughter? How can I leave her? Well I obviously did. I got over worrying about what other people thought, frankly because I realized they either didn’t give two craps or were extremely proud of me. And the best gift I will ever give my daughter, Skylar was getting my butt down here. I do have to mention the second-best gift has got to be her little sister. We had our second little girl in April of 2017. She was a surprise, but met with very open and very grateful hearts. Whether I would have been so successful thus far in sobriety without carrying her for 9 months and her marking a new beginning, God only knows. But I believe everything happens for a reason, and she was not by chance. We ended up naming her Colbie Rae…Colbie (after my favorite musician, Colbie Callait) and Rae, after this place, Del Ray. Now one of my favorite places on this planet.
Anyways! So, my one year mark was May 21 of 2017. Same day that my husband, Billy, won a Tour even. This also sparked my coming out as an alcoholic on very public note. I decided to share that I was an alcoholic, had gone into treatment and was now fighting every day to live soberly. I shared my story via social media and was also able to do some interviews for some magazines and even on Good Morning America. I wanted to share my story to help others who might be struggling with something I shared but also because I felt like I was hiding something from people. I felt like I couldn’t be me. I was being fake and I was lying. Now I was proud of who I was finally and I wanted to just be me!! For so many years I worked tirelessly to be what I thought people expected me to be, and now I finally can just be ME. I didn’t want to feel exhausted or anxious anymore about who I was. I had worked so hard every day to be where I was. My strive for perfection almost killed me. I saw the demand to be perfection all everywhere. On TV, social media, the gym, my mom’s club, the PGA Tour. I became almost debilitated by it. Since I could never reach “perfection” I always felt like a failure. I never felt good enough. I never felt special. Alcohol became my best friend and the only thing that made me feel okay with who I was. Nothing else could make me feel special. Alcohol numbed me; made me not care that I felt I wasn’t good enough…that I was wasn’t fit enough, pretty enough, funny enough, blah blah blah. My brain became so warped. I felt like I had to do it AAALLL. I could never take a step back and be able to objectively look at a situation and ask myself. ‘who can help me, do I have to get this done now? what actually needs to be done right now.” I still feel like I am reprograming sometimes and installing updates! It is so exhausting to live in the world we do. The concept of saying just saying no to whatever it might be, to friends and family and not feeling guilty was foreign to me. Now it’s written on my bathroom mirror. I have to remind myself ALL THE TIME that Perfection is boring, let alone impossible. Show your colors Brittany, be loud, be quiet, just be you and be proud of whoever that is. I know that is easier said than done but we have to take the pressure off ourselves. Laugh at ourselves. I have learned that living in sobriety is a club I love being a member of. We wear our flaws as daily reminders of who we are, who we want to become, a reminder of what not to do. We are some of the coolest people to get to know because our story, our life, our souls are open to get to know. Yes, we have issues. But we know it and we work on them every day. Most people cannot say they wake up every day and make a conscious effort to better the person they are, that they sharpen the tools they have and look for new and better ones. And I can’t say I wouldn’t choose to live any other way. Being an alcoholic has put me on the path I needed to be on to recognize my true worth and potential.
All of us who have taken the journey to sobriety have each taken a different path. But ultimately, we all have one thing in common, we have all had to look at ourselves, accept the worse and build ourselves back up. We have done it in some the same rooms, most different and years and decades apart but we can look around this one room and recognize each person’s fight and see our own within it. We are a tribe, a club, a family. One I love being a part of.