Mom, soldier, recovering alcoholic – Clarissa O’Neill is putting her hope in Christ

My name is Clarissa O’Neill. I am a 22-year-old mother who is also a recovering alcoholic. I was baptized Easter Sunday at New Life Church, and I believe my story can show proof of God’s grace, forgiveness, and redemption.

Over the past year, I have been in and out of rehabs, detox, and the hospital. I have lost my husband, 2-year-old son, my home, my military career, and for awhile, my faith that anything was worth living for. In the past, I was a member of New Life Church. I was very involved with the youth ministries and ran a Bible study at my school with close friends of mine. In high school I decided there were more important things than my relationship with God and I got into the party scene. I started doing drugs, drinking, skipping school, lying and hurting all the people who loved me. I stopped going to church and rarely had a day that I was sober. From the very first drink I took at 17, I was hooked.

I grew up in an abusive home and for a very long time, even up until this year, I blamed God for that and cursed Him for not rescuing me. This grudge fueled a lot of anger inside of me, anger that went hand-in-hand with depression. I would find anything I could to make that pain stop whether it be drugs, alcohol, or even self-injury, which I had struggled with since age 13. When I was 17, I was raped at a party by a drug dealer. He took my virginity. From that point on I was completely miserable. In the last year, I attempted suicide twice, and contemplated it more times than I can count.

By age 19 I was drinking every day. I wouldn’t necessarily drink before work, but as soon as I got home and walked in the door, I started drinking. Vodka was my drink of choice, and by age 21 I was up to drinking nearly half a gallon of vodka a day. I cannot recall most of the last few years of my life.

I joined the Army Reserves when I was 17. My drinking was brought to light with them in February. Only days after that, I was arrested for domestic violence. The charges brought against me were actually false, but being as intoxicated as I was, there wasn’t much reasoning going on in my head. I was released on bond after 24 hours and I was offered a chance to get into rehab. I took the opportunity, knowing that I had a problem, but still wasn’t quite sure if I was ready to do anything about it.

I had my first stint in rehab from March through May 2010. I was originally only going to do 30 days, but I stayed for 60. In those couple months of sobriety, I began to feel again and more importantly, I began to recognize that God was still in my life. And though the thought of never drinking for the rest of my life didn’t sit well with me, I was enjoying the returning relationship between me and my Lord. When I went to my court date for my domestic violence case, the charges were dropped. It was a miracle.

Unfortunately, the day after I got out of rehab, I relapsed on pills and started drinking again a week later. The physical effects of the alcohol on my body were severe. I had convulsions and delirium tremors, and I was blessed to make it through the night. For two weeks, I felt the physical effects of my body craving alcohol, and it was the most painful, sickening thing I have ever had to go through. After I relapsed, things became much worse. After drinking for only the second time after my relapse, I had a seizure. A friend who was with me called 911 and I was rushed to the hospital. From there, I was put into detox on a 72-hour manditory hold. My blood alcohol level was higher than .40 when I came in to the hospital.

I stayed sober for about 150 days after that incident. Once I got out of detox, I went back to rehab and completed another 30-day program. I had recieved news that I would have my first deployment to Afghanistan later that year and was thrilled . I spent most of the next few months training for the mission and staying sober. But in October, after returning from a month-long training session in California, I became addicted to some pain pills that had been prescribed to me after I was injured in training. And that led me right back to the alcohol. In no time I was back to drinking every day, and when I didn’t drink, I had seizures or I got the shakes.

After that, my husband left and took my son away from me. This sent me over the edge. I drank the rest of my bottle and began planning ways to just end it. I couldn’t stay sober, but I couldn’t live with out alcohol. I couldn’t take it anymore. By the grace of God, as my husband was leaving, a friend of mine stopped by unexpectedly to pick up something she had left. She stayed with me until a fellow soldier arrived, and they took me to the hospital. I was sent to Cedar Springs under conditions of suicidal ideation and alcohol detox.

I completed 72 hours at Cedar Springs and returned to my unit. They kept me in the barracks to keep a closer eye on me, but soon I was back to drinking again whenever I felt depressed. I would sneak in bottles, slamming shots whenever no one was around until one weekend I enough was enough, and I decided to kill myself. I wrote suicide notes to my command apologizing for the trouble I had caused and reassuring them that they did all they could. I kept the notes in my room and a few days later they were discovered by my roommate who showed them to my platoon leader. In a drunk rampage, I lunged at the officer, tore apart my wall locker and was restrained by a staff sergeant. I was fighting anyone who touched me and finally the military police were called. When they arrived I resisted them and was twice given sedation injections. I woke up the next morning in the ICU with no recollection of what happened.

I was yet again transferred to another rehab for 30 days and was unable to deploy with my unit. I was told that I would be discharged from the service due to my alcoholism. This was absolutely devestating to me, but I decided that maybe I was done with this lifestyle so I dove into my recovery head first. I completed the program in January and exited as a peer leader. My desire now is to become a drug and alcohol counselor to help others free themselves from their bondage.

I left the program homeless and jobless. I stayed with friends, hopping from home to home and now, 4 months later, I have just gotten my own apartment. I have my old security job back and I am working on getting my son back also. I have slipped since rehab in January, but I have picked right back up where I left off and have been going strong ever since. I now have 40 days of sobriety behind me. This is all possible because of my God who has given me the strength when I had none, and never gave up on me. It’s a miracle I am still alive and I know he has great things in store for me. I was lost, but now am found. I was broken, but today, I feel whole. I am happy for the first time in my life and I am free.

Thank you for taking the time to read my story.

God Bless,
Clarissa O’Neill

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4 Responses to Mom, soldier, recovering alcoholic – Clarissa O’Neill is putting her hope in Christ

  1. Lindsey says:

    Thank you so much for sharing your story, Clarissa! Your story is very similar to my sister’s story – she has now been sober for 27 years and is a drug and alcohol counselor for youth and their families. God works miracles everyday and you are one of them!!

  2. June Gordon says:

    Thank you for sharing you testimony with us, Clarissa! You are a young woman filled with courage and hope that only comes through the love of our Lord Jesus. I love that when we put things “in the light, on the table”, we EXPOSE the darkness. The Enemy hates that – “GREATER is He that is in you than he that is in the world.” God has great and wonderful things ahead for you. “Blessed is she who believes, for there shall be a performance of those things told her by the Lord.” Cling to God’s promises – walk in His forgiveness, grace and mercy – and know that you are loved by many who don’t even know you. ;) May HE do exceedingly, abundantly beyond that which you could ask, dream or think of! Oh, sweetie!! God has GREAT plans for your life!

  3. Tracey Noesner says:

    Wow! Such a sad story, but such an amazing God! You are so young and you have so much life ahead of you. Take “one day at a time” and trust and rely on God every one of those days. He is the Source of love and comfort and peace that you have been searching for! If you give EVERYTHING to Him…He will give you EVERYTHING He has! You are on the right track! He is your answer! I am praying for you Clarissa!

  4. Paul says:

    Hello Clarissa,
    I just want to encourage you by saying that the Lord holds you in His unfailing arms & that you are loved by Jesus Christ. May you be filled up with the Spirit, who will lead you, that you will grow from strength to strength, on to greater things!
    God bless,

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