From the time I was a young girl growing up between Orlando, Houston, and Chicago, the second oldest of seven girls, I wanted to be beautiful and famous. I dreamed of one day becoming a famous actress in Hollywood, where, adorned by my fans, I would bask in the glory of being noted for my beauty and talent. For years I carried that dream and became involved in speech and drama in middle school and high school, where I excelled in dramatic interpretation and humorous, duet-acting events. I marveled at winning trophy after trophy and finally feeling like I was being noticed.
However, despite my flair for the arts, my teenage hormones had another idea. Around the time I was 15, my acne began to rear its ugliness on my skin, and my partial Greek heritage, while it gave me ivory skin and dark features, also blessed me with a noticeable upper-lip problem and thick, manly eyebrows. Fanatic about the now-certain demise of my dream of being beautiful, I did everything in my power to reverse my tragic fate. I took a job bagging papers for a nearby neighbor, washed cars, babysit, scammed money from strangers — all in the lure of electrolysis, waxing, and over-the-counter skin care.
This quest for perfection would continue into my 20s and until a friend of mine introduced me to prescription acne medication, which I happily swallowed up as if it were sacred liquid being consumed from Holy Grail. Yet, there was so much more underlying in my life than blackheads and unwanted hair. My parents constant fighting and accusations of my father's alcohol abuse led me down a path of self-destruction, one in which only my fantasies of running away to Miami to meet my then crush Don Johnson could keep me afloat. I began to feel like I was second born, second best and only if I were beautiful would someone love me.
This self-inflicting torture continued throughout my 20s and 30s and was coupled with a constant fight with drugs, alcohol, and countless encounters with men who cared little if nothing about me. It all made me so uncomfortable in my own skin that only thoughts of suicide would help ease the pain.
Although, my upper lip problem was gone, eyebrows shapely plucked, and my acne much improved, the internal scars of not feeling pretty enough equating to not being loved would still linger. Then, at the age of 39, I lost my father to a 10-year battle with amyloidosis and a year later was dealt another blow when my younger sister was sentenced to 20 years in prison for a drug related incident.
Again, I turned to alcohol and sex with unavailable men. My dream of being an actress in Hollywood had diminished a long time ago, and although I performed in many stage productions in my hometown, I would still feel sad about not making it to Hollywood. I hated the way I looked on camera and relished the stage instead. At 41, I began attending AA meetings and questioning whether I was an alcoholic or simply abused the substance. I was still searching for comfort within my own skin and an escape of my humdrum life that lacked caviar, couture dresses, and Academy Awards. Yet, despite my pull to the bottle, I still felt there had to be other options.
In May of 2010, I found Moderation Management, an online support group that gives support to others who, like myself, want to make alcohol a small but enjoyable part of life. The beginning of my journey wasn't easy, but I was determined and through their support I began to make small but significant changes to my lifestyle.
Last year, I reclaimed my spirituality and went back to church around the same time began dating a very attractive, kind, younger man, who I am still seeing. I have learned and continue to learn that beauty is not only on the outside but one must truly learn to love their self. Beauty is learning to no longer just think about yourself but to give back to others and learn patience and kindness — all the traits I didn't posses when I was abusing my body and spirit. At 42, I feel more beautiful than I ever could have imagined, and each day I continue to grow in my journey of a life rich in beauty, rich in peace and serenity and rich in love.