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Courtney Whalen: Getting Sober! From Bartender to Hairstylist, Fitness Enthusiast and more!


Courtney Whalen - @courtney_startsover


My name is Courtney and I was born in Long Beach, California. I belong to the most incredible, yet very opposite parents. My mother is a hard working elementary school teacher who taught me to be independent and self sufficient and my father is a surfer, bartender, singer, landscape artist who taught me to always be myself and that life is about love and happiness. They have been divorced since before I can even remember but both have always told me how deeply loved I am. I have 4 siblings from a few different marriages, 2 brothers and 2 sisters. I love them all more then life itself. And I’ve always felt like their protector in a sense. It’s a big role to take on, I know.


Because my dad is a surfer and I was born and raised in California, I enjoy anything that has to do with the beach. I believe that the ocean heals all ailments and it’s where I go when I feel like I’m lost. There are a few things that I believe saved my life and I believe the beach is one of them along with music and fitness. I am indeed a gym girl, I replaced my “happy hour” with spin classes and barbells. I retreat to the gym when I’m angry, sad, bored or when I feel the urge to drink.


When I graduated from high school I moved away from my mom and step dad in San Diego to attend college back in Long Beach. I was 18 and ready to get wild. I got a job as a sever at a restaurant and it was an instant love affair. I grew up visiting my dad at his bar and I felt like I was home, the the bar was “my place”. I worked at a series of different bars and restaurants and eventually ended up being one of the top bartenders at one point. I was a mixologist and that meant I tried every drink I made. When you work in the bar industry you get sucked in. In the beginning it was pretty normal as far as how much I was partying. At 19 I would get a bottle and share it with my girlfriends driving around in the back of a car to Mexico. I new that I loved the effects of alcohol as soon as it hit my lips. In my early 20s I was still managing to make it through college and bartend at the same time.


At 22 I got my first DUI and that sparked a little attention inside me but not enough to quit. From 22 to 30 I started to gradually drink more and more but it wasn’t until a boyfriend found my empty vodka bottles under my bathroom sink that I realized I wasn’t a normal drinker. I was starting to burn bridges with friends and family, I was lying through my teeth about how much I drank and why I was drinking, I was stealing money and alcohol from my employer and my body was starting to shut down. I remember that I could no longer serve drinks on a serving tray anymore because I had the shakes so bad. I could literally feel my liver turning and my back ached. I was completely poisoned. I was in a relationship that wasn’t healthy, I hated my job, I hated my life, I had no idea how I got where I was. I was an alcoholic 30 year old standing in a dark bar at 10 am on a Monday morning. I was a shell of myself.


I couldn’t do it any longer so I called my mom and step dad and told them I needed to come home, I needed a fresh start. Within a week I packed up the things I had accumulated over the past 12 years, quit my job, ended my relationship and said goodbye to my Long Beach friends. I was going to move home, go back to school and “cut back” on my drinking.

The very next day after I moved home I found myself in the liquor isle of the grocery store. I couldn’t believe it. I couldn’t stop. How did I get here? Why can’t I just stop?

So I bought the bottle of vodka and went back to my parents house and stashed it in the laundry room. The whole time telling myself “this is crazy, just stop!” After I finished the bottle I started in on some old liquor my parents had in the pantry and I sat on the curb in front of my house feeling absolutely defeated. I was hopeless, sick, scared. That night I asked my mom for help. My secret was out.


Starting September 28. 2016 I spent 5 months at a treatment center where I was able to get honest with myself and really decide to do the work. I really wanted it. I think that matters. You have to want it more than you’ve ever wanted anything in your whole life. I had many obstacles, I was fearful of feeling literally anything. I was too full of pride to admit that I needed help with a lot of emotional baggage that I’d been carrying around for 20 years. I had to re learn who I was and what I wanted out of this life. I had to admit that I was afraid to be alone, that I was a people pleaser and that I was angry and certain people who had let me down. I had to cry, scream, get mad, laugh, forgive. I had to find a higher power, which I was angry at too. But I did all of that. I put in the work and continue to put in the work 3 years and 5 months later.


I read “The Four Agreements”, “Just for Today” and the big book of alcoholics anonymous front to back and I keep my connections with the people I’ve met in recovery. If I feel like something is off I get myself to a meeting ASAP. That’s so important to acknowledge when you feel triggered and get yourself to a meeting. Tell on yourself essentially. Get it out in the open.

Now I have a love connection with my higher power, I am comfortable in my skin, I embrace my alone time and my life is not even believable to myself sometimes. By staying connected to the program of Alcoholics Anonymous, I am able to maintain this beautiful life I live. I keep relationships with people that support my lifestyle and I hold myself accountable. The love and support from my friends and family is indescribable. I went back to school to pursue a career in creativity and now am a full time hairstylist and part time dance teacher. I’m close to my family and I don’t have to lie to them. My friends who have stayed and supported me are now family. My life is unlike anything I could have ever imagined. It’s constant work, I will always be an alcoholic but with the tools, resources and recovery community that we are so blessed to have I’m living this beautiful life one day at a time. Thankful. Grateful. Sober baby.


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