After a decades-long battle with addiction, Vickie McLeod is given the gift of life.
When she was just 14, Vickie McLeod found an escape at the bottom of a bottle. At first, drinking was harmless fun with friends, but she was naturally introverted, and Vickie liked how liberated she felt when she drank. Alcohol consequently became a social crutch. As her teen years progressed, a harmless drink turned into a means to forget. She had been sexually abused for most of her childhood, and because she didn’t have any other way to cope, she drank.
As she got older, Vickie continued to drink heavily, but she graduated from college and got married. Two years into her marriage, she got pregnant. For the duration of her pregnancy, Vickie stayed away from alcohol—it was the longest she had ever gone without drinking, and it would remain her longest stretch of sobriety for decades.
After her daughter grew up and went away to college, Vickie’s behavior spiraled out of control. She was fired from her dream job for drinking at work. She was diagnosed with breast cancer, but she drank her way through treatment. After her mother was killed in a tragic accident, she was supposed to be caring for her father, but she could barely take care of herself. Vickie could no longer function without alcohol in her system. All she could do was scrape together some cash and find her next drink just to avoid having a seizure.
Vickie knew she was sick and sought help several times. She tried Intensive Outpatient Programs and attended AA meetings. It would work for a little bit—she would get sober for a few weeks or months— but she always relapsed. Nothing was sticking and she didn’t know why. She just couldn’t stop.
Illness ravaged Vickie’s life for more than 40 years before the help she needed finally came.
A friend of a friend called one day and told her about a program in Ireland that was unlike anything she had ever tried. It was far away from everything she was worried about, and she couldn’t easily check out of treatment in another country. Vickie said yes and got on the plane, she says, “Because what I’m trying to do here isn’t working and I still want to live.”
In an old estate run by two “tiny little Irish nuns” who were sisters, Vickie found her path to recovery. She was taught that she deserved so much more than the life she had been living. She was worth sobriety, and she could choose to fight her disease and live differently. Over the course of her illness, Vickie had completely lost the ability to love herself, but she finally knew how to rebuild.
“It was a spiritual awakening in the best place possible,” she says. “It was a gift of life.”
After coming back to the states, Vickie focused on creating a life that would support her sobriety. She regularly attended meetings, started working again, and got her own apartment while she and her husband mended their relationship. While she was attending meetings, Vickie would frequently hear about miracles happening in people’s recovery journeys. Without realizing it, her miracles were coming.
Vickie had always had a special connection to horses. When she went to Ireland she had to give up her beloved horse, Prince, because nobody could care for him in her absence. Two years into her recovery, Vickie was contacted by Prince’s owners. They asked if she wanted her horse back. She immediately said yes and started crying tears of joy, knowing this was one of her miracles. Today she works as a Therapeutic Riding Instructor at Hearts & Horses in Buxton.
Another miracle wasn’t far behind. Before her illness caused her to lose the job, Vickie worked as the Life Enrichment Assistant specializing in Alzheimer’s Care at the Barron Center in Portland.
One day, a friend contacted her and said a spot was opening up—she should apply. Vickie was certain that door was closed forever, and it broke her heart because she loved that job more than anything. But with no expectations, she applied. Much to her surprise, Vickie was hired back.
Seven years into her recovery, Vickie’s journey has been filled with little (and not so little) miracles. She has a beautiful relationship with her daughter, she and her husband are back together and just bought a house with a barn for her horses, and she’s been cancer free for eight years.
Vickie knows her recovery is still one day at a time, but she finally has the groundwork and support system that allows her to put her sobriety first, always.