Natalie Eva Marie is many things: pro wrestler, Total Divas star, fitness model, and actress (she made her film debut in last summer’s Inconceivable). She is also an alcoholic. Here, the multi-hyphenate pens a moving essay about learning to manage her disease after her life-saving admission that she needed help.

I’m an alcoholic. I have relapsed, destroyed relationships, hurt my family, and disappointed myself numerous times. I will be an alcoholic for the rest of my life. The fact that I have been sober for almost five years doesn’t mean that I am "cured," it doesn’t mean that I had a drinking phase in my 20s, and it doesn’t mean that I can have a few drinks now and again or just drink in moderation. There are no shades of gray when it comes to alcoholism—it’s black and white. Either I am an alcoholic or I am not. Working a program doesn’t mean my past magically disappears and everything is fine. Unfortunately, nothing of note in life is that simple or easy. Yet the road to my recovery did start with a very simple admission: I am an alcoholic. And admitting that truth saved my life.

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Alcoholism is a disease. People will debate whether it is a disease of the mind, of genetics, or of circumstances. I don’t have the answer to that debate, and frankly I don’t care because when you try to pinpoint "why,” it can often lead to blaming another person, an incident in your past, or circumstances. I am goal-oriented, and my goal is to live a healthy, fulfilling, productive life with long-lasting and meaningful relationships. In order to do that, I focus on the treatment. Because regardless of the cause, I have the disease, and I am ultimately the only one responsible for seeking help.

Before I started working my 12-step program, my mind was a mess, my life was a mess, and I'd hit rock bottom. I served three months in jail for repeated DUIs. I didn't have a license, I didn't have a stable job, and I was living in an apartment that I could only afford due to a heavy discount my landlord offered me because a murder had taken place there between the previous tenants. That's what my life looked like right before I started down my road to sobriety.

Now, I am married, have multiple thriving businesses, a career in entertainment that I could only have dreamed of, and live in a beautiful home with my husband. But here's the thing: I am still an alcoholic. This fairytale life is always one drink away from shattering. That's why I attend 6 a.m. AA meetings multiple times a week and do weekly step work with my sponsor. It's also why, at meetings, I'm always on the lookout for women to sponsor myself. It is work, and it is time consuming, but it is the best change I’ve ever made in my life. Like I said earlier, it’s very black and white.

Here's what I wish someone told me back then: Your life won't magically transform overnight. There will be extreme highs and extreme lows. The chances are that you will relapse at least once—but do not quit. To those starting a program, stick with it. Keep pushing forward no matter how hard it gets. I promise you it's worth it.

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