Caroline would tell you her childhood growing up on the Outer Banks of North Carolina was anything but typical. Her parents were both drinkers, and Caroline always felt a little different, like she just didn’t belong. 


In middle school, her parents got divorced, and tragically, her mom attempted suicide in front of her. Her mom survived, but after that, life was never the same for Caroline.


“I watched my older sister and my mom drink all the time, and I just followed them, thinking that’s what I needed to do to feel like I fit in.” She didn’t have much supervision from her parents and once she realized she could skip her high school classes, she just stopped going.


“Luckily, my dad found a homeschooling course for me to do, and I got my high school degree,” she said. “But I was still partying as much as I could.”


Tragically, her dad passed away when Caroline was 20, and overnight, she was left with unforeseen responsibilities.


Without much guidance, Caroline continued to drink excessively and started overusing her anti-anxiety medications. She became pregnant at age 25 and gave birth to a healthy baby boy, but she continued to struggle. Her boyfriend gained full custody of her young son, and Caroline ended up in the hospital with multiple bouts of pancreatitis, a disease commonly associated with heavy drinking.


“I was more or less homeless, sleeping on people’s couches if I needed to,” she shared. “I had no real friendships. No good relationships in my life. I’d gotten multiple DUIs, lost my license, and couldn’t hold down a real job. It was miserable, and I’m sure it was just as miserable for people in my life who loved me and watched me doing this to myself year after year.”


While Caroline was in jail after her second DUI, something started to stir inside of her.


“At the time, my son was five years old and was about to start kindergarten,” she recalled. “I looked around and saw women who’d been in and out of jail, and I knew that if I didn’t change, that would become my life too.”


Over the next few months, two ladies from a local church befriended Caroline, helping her find the bravery to face what was to come with a deeper spirituality.


“They were really sweet to me,” she shared, smiling. “I started talking to God, and it brought me so much comfort. The God I found in jail was the God that I needed to help give me truth and perspective in my life.”


Soon after that, Caroline’s mother found Healing Transitions, and Caroline agreed to enter the Long-Term Recovery Program.


“After I decided to go to Healing Transitions after jail, I found this happiness that I’d never known before,” she said. “I didn’t know what it would be like, but I knew things would be different.”


Caroline quickly settled into the program, and about a month after her arrival, she had what she calls a “spiritual experience” – something that had never happened to her before.


“One morning, I woke up and went into the bathroom, and I saw my reflection in the mirror. I can’t explain it really, but for the first time ever, I actually saw my reflection, but it wasn’t about what I looked like. It was like I really saw who I was,” she said. “It’s hard to put into words, feeling that self-love for the first time in my life.”


Caroline went on to complete Healing Transitions’ Long-Term Recovery Program and the 36-year-old is now studying biology. She’s reunited with her son and hopes to pursue a graduate science degree in a few years. 


“My life today is beyond what I ever could have imagined for myself,” she acknowledged. “I have this peaceful certainty that I’m doing right by my son, and this is the first time I’ve ever said this out loud to someone, but I’m living my dreams with this life I have right now.”