An inspiring story shared by Raleigh Raw's own Nikki Pletcher.
I’d hoped this story would read like most recovery fairytales; girl has crazy lifestyle, girl has wake up call, girl turns it all around and lives happily ever after, cruising through life with minor bumps along the way and frequently chuckling and reminiscing on her ‘wilder days.”
But that’s not my story. My story is relatable, inspirational and mostly it’s a work in progress, because it’s honest. And anyone whose telling the truth will confirm that it doesn’t quite go down like we see in the movies or through a Facebook post because there isn’t this moment when it all comes together, forever. Instead there are moments of clarity, points when we’re in our stride, moments when we fall, lessons we learn and most importantly, choices we make everyday.
Whether you are at the beginning of, or deep into your health and spiritual journey, there is one truth, our choices create who we are each day. Let me tell you about mine.
My earlier life decisions had led me to become a manager, at age 21, of a restaurant in South Carolina and quickly I slipped into a very comfortable routine; eat, work, eat, drink, eat, sleep and then wake up the next day and do it all over again. From McDonalds to the bar, I was running on autopilot and completely lost. My priority was my social life and work and because of that my relationships started to suffer, the bar was where I sought out the connection that I craved and ironically where I disconnected from myself and what mattered most to me.
Quickly, my life got away from me. One night, before I knew it, I was drunk and going through a drive thru, following my usual habitual pattern, when my life was interrupted by sirens and red lights flashing in my rear view window. The message was loud and clear, if I wasn’t going to hold myself accountable for my life, then someone else was going to step in for me, and on that night that someone was the Georgia Police Department.
It seemed I’d finally hit rock bottom. Sitting in handcuffs, stuck “behind bars,” and afraid to call my parents or fiancé for fear that neither would want to help me out of the mess I had gotten myself into, I was ready for a way out.
In a weird sense I was relieved, this was the breakthrough I needed to turn it all around and feel the motivation necessary to make choices to live my life under different terms. After my arrest, I had a new lease on life. Here was the big wake up call that would once and for all inspire me to change my ways, or end up in serious, serious trouble.
We moved from South Carolina to Raleigh and I started focusing on my diet. I ate what I thought to be a "healthy" diet and began working out at least four times a week while seeing a trainer to try to gain muscle and trim down. I lost most of the weight I'd put on in eight months, and started with spinning classes 4-5 times a week and was “hooked on it”
I made progress but the truth was that a lot of my destructive habits ran deep and I couldn’t overcome them with sheer will power alone.
For example, I was still eating out a lot, consuming portions that were unhealthy and gravitating towards foods with calories that were empty and high. Simultaneously I was undoing a lot of my training by giving my liver an intense workout with the drinking and partying I’d gotten back into after my arrest, it started with a few times a week but quickly became a nightly routine.
When I looked around me, I let myself off the hook from questioning my behavior because it was the same actions and choices my friends and co-workers were doing and that allowed me to ignore my internal compass and overlook how far I had fallen from my peak.
Then in May of 2012 my mother passed away, three months after being diagnosed with lung-cancer. I cannot even express what a wonderful, vibrant, amazing and life-changing person she was. Over the last couple years of her life, we had become closer than ever, and for that I thank my DUI. When I struggled she was there for me, and when she struggled I tried to be there for her.
This was another moment when my choices were dangled in front of me, after being confronted by the fragility of life; I was ready to start living mine from a place of truth and authenticity.
So I made changes, again. I stopped doing the actions that weren’t working for me and got a new job at a bar downtown while cutting back my hours to make space for a new lifestyle.
I made it a priority to focus on the important relationships in my life, like my husband. My marriage of seven years had also hit the rocks and I knew it wasn’t going to hold up much longer under these conditions. I was spending too much time distracted by drinking with friends, and not enough time with him and focusing on what really mattered by making him a priority in my life.
Thankfully we were able to allow each other to grow individually and together, he didn’t walk out on me through the bad times and that was an important piece that helped us to move our relationship away from my drinking habit and focus on others, be more productive together and support our individual goals. This saved our marriage and was the catalyst for us to slowly rebuild a new connection with each other.
Since then, I’ve stopped drinking completely, by choice, and have found that without that constant distraction I’ve been able to find clarity within my life.
I’ve seriously focused on my health and making choices that allow me to explore different ways to be active and healthy. I’ve found new passions that I had never taken time to pay attention to and my struggle has led to me to lose 90 pounds, and cut out other bad habits like smoking and drinking heavily, over eating or eating mindlessly.
This doesn’t mean life is all happily-ever-after, as I said before; it’s a choice I have to make each morning to continue on this path.
I struggle everyday to get out of bed, go to work, and get a workout in, trying to remember in the morning that it’s these decisions that keep my heart full and allow me to feel productive at the end of each day. I find motivation by setting future goals that I need to work to obtain and I keep my head up by treating myself with juices and healthy foods. Did you know fresh coconut water could be as sweet and satisfying as a sugar cookie? Me neither.
If you are looking for a change in your life, I want you to know it is possible but also that it will require work to make it happen. The only thing that will make it easier is help along the way and I always tell people to make it a priority to find a community of like-minded people with whom you can support and be supported.
As for me, I’m with you. I am still learning, struggling, and working harder than ever for change, but I am happier and healthier than I can ever remembering being in the first half of my life. I carry around this intention to gain strength, mentally and physically, and to wake up feeling rested and energized each morning. To work toward that I nourish and fuel my body with the right foods and love myself to the fullest, daily.
If you see yourself in my story, or share my health and fitness aspirations, and strive daily to be a stronger person overall, then come learn alongside me. This is my passion, this is my pride and I make these choices, because this is my life.
Want to share your story? Email us and be on the lookout for more inspiring words from the trailblazers and hustlers of the Research Triangle.