By Mary Melcher

Twenty Six years ago I walked out the door of Residence XII sober, searching for a program that would continue to help me in my recovery. Today, still sober, I am blessed to be able to help others who walk that same path.

In 1992, I had just turned 30 and looking at me you would have thought I was the image of success: friends, a good job, a beautiful place to live, and a loving man. But inside I had a war raging between who I was trying to be and the deep shame of who I really was. Deep secrets of sexual abuse and a ton of shame from how I was managing it made life seem like a mine field. To function, I used alcohol to numb myself and sex to feel connected.

I thought I had it all under control but I was no longer the driver of my life; hell, I wasn’t even in the vehicle anymore.

I tried counseling in my 20’s but found that I had to be high to find the courage to talk about it. Counseling without feeling got me nowhere and ended up wasting a whole lot of people’s time. It wasn’t till a few weeks after I turned 30 that an image on TV triggered painful memories and I found myself crumpled on the floor heaving in sobs. What scared the hell out of me that day wasn’t the memories, it was the detachment and emptiness within me. My body was responding, but inside there was only a deadness. It was at this moment I realized that if I didn’t take back control of my own life no one and nothing could help me.

I found a fierce counselor to help me manage the abuse and within a few months I checked myself into treatment at Residence XII to deal with the alcohol. Taking the time to work on me was something I had never done. The required self-exploration was a blessing and sharing what I learned in front of other women helped me realize that my story was no different than most of the others there. Seeing this and hearing other women sharing their stories helped me to realize I was not broken.

As my 30 days at Res XII came to a close, the real world and the future of staying sober weighed on me. The odds of success were low and it was stated that only 30% of us would make it past the first year. I followed all of the necessary steps: out-patient program, AA meetings, and working my 12 step program. This helped, but when I went home I felt that I needed more. Because the truth is, I felt more broken at home than anywhere else. I was no longer the woman I used to be, but who I was becoming was still very unclear. The only thing clear to me was I wanted more, more from life.

My lifestyle had been filled with parties and endless socializing to fill in the empty gaps in myself, but now these had me feeling out of place and uncomfortable. My new sober life was also awkward as all signs pointed to a future filled with AA meetings and AA social outings, which were ok but not enough for me to feel that I was on the path to a deeper level of change. I wanted to continue working on myself in a similar way to those first 30 days in treatment at Residence XII, with space to focus on me along with other sober women doing the same, and a place where the program and environment would push me to move into my full potential. I talked to my counselors, looked at brochures (no web then), and asked my AA friends, but at that time could find nothing like this. So instead I joined an all-women’s support group, continued my work with my counselor, and started to explore outdoor activities. All of this work brought lots of new learnings and change. In the women’s group I learned connection, vulnerability, courage, trust, and love. Through my counseling I learned to make waves, let go, ask for what I need, and listen to myself. Through the outdoors I found joy, boldness, persistence, and leadership abilities. These learnings brought change—some easy, some not, and some I’m glad I’ll never have to repeat. In the end it is what kept me sober and it is what I built my life values around and found my purpose.

Twenty Six years ago I walked out of Res XII looking for a program that could help me stay sober, continue exploring who I was, connect me to other women, and push me to shine brighter. With that knowledge, I was able to challenge myself to become a fully trained and certified professional Co-Active Coach and founder of Bold Heart Ranch. Fulfilling my dream to help other women reach their goals and potential.

I am grateful for this sober journey and the chance to teach and learn from my tribe of women warriors.

If you are interested in learning more about Bold Heart Ranch or my story, please feel free to reach out.

Mary Melcher, CPCC, ACC
Residence XII Alumnae (1992) and Founder, Bold Heart Ranch