It’s Never Too Late to Face the Mirror
Seija Nelson’s life needed to change. The Chicago native had recently moved to Denver with her husband and three children, leaving behind an extensive network of family and friends, and her world had been falling apart ever since. No longer forced to keep up appearances under the watchful gaze of loved ones, Seija found herself slipping deeper and deeper into the alcohol addiction that she would learn only as an adult had once plagued her father as well.
Each day followed the same destructive pattern. She would see her older children off to school and then she and her youngest would head straight to the liquor store, resupplying the vodka that had become an increasingly necessary part of each day. Seija tried to tell herself she was holding things together fairly well – the kids’ basic needs were still getting met, afterall – but on some deeper level, she knew her reliance on alcohol had gotten out of control. She felt emotionally and spiritually bankrupt, and the more she turned to alcohol, the more of herself she lost, evidenced by the fact that each time she walked past a mirror, she had to turn her face away, not wanting to confront the image of a person she no longer valued or respected.
One day, after finding two big, black garbage bags full of empty bottles, Seija’s husband confronted her. Either she went to rehab and got sober, or he was taking the kids and moving back to Chicago without her. That was eight years ago. Seija hasn’t had a drink since.
She found a program full of supportive women who had lived through all she had experienced and worse, and relied on them through the perilous days of early sobriety. For Seija, that time was made even more challenging since her husband didn’t bother waiting around to see if she could get sober. He filed for divorce anyway, forcing Seija into a battle for her kids when she was only three weeks sober. The part of her life she valued most, raising her children, was on the line; there was simply no other option, she says, but to stay sober and fight.
Seija understood that maintaining sobriety wasn’t like flipping a switch. If it was going to be sustainable, she knew she had to put in the work. In addition to meetings, she began meditating and journaling. She reconnected with her spirituality, especially the part that she found in nature. But perhaps the biggest change she made was in shifting her focus from inward to outward.
Helping others – be it one of her home care clients or someone else desperately hanging on to a fragile recovery or a person on the street visibly struggling in life – became Seija’s new purpose for living. It was no longer about hiding and shame; it was about finding a way to participate in life that truly mattered. She turned that purpose into action, bringing her children with her to distribute food and clothing to the unhoused and, most recently, completing a training to work alongside the police force as a volunteer Victim Advocate.
Seija also shares her story on social media, at meetings, and in podcasts, seeking to offer others, especially other women, the same life changing support and message of hope she received when she needed it most. Those women might think that they don’t deserve better, but she knows that isn’t true. She did. They do. We all do.
Seija’s own life has certainly gotten better. Her children are healthy and happy, she is making plans to marry a wonderful man who shares her commitment to recovery, she is fully engaged in all sorts of meaningful work, and she will soon return to school to complete her education in Criminology. Today, unlike the dark place she was in during active addiction, she has no problem looking back at the person she sees in the mirror and smiling. She likes the person she sees there.
It’s never too late to face the mirror.