Crystal Miller talks about hitting rock bottom and climbing her way back up

Anybody who has ever been in a leadership role will attest to this: you have to be prepared to fail a few times along the way because you absolutely will. But even more so, you have to be strong enough to brush yourself off after you fall and get back on the right track. This week’s interview for effective leadership focuses on Crystal Miller’s story of addictions, family and the long journey towards healing.

Crystal Miller is 51-years-old and she has successfully been a business owner of the popular salon Crystal’s Hair Care on Erie Ave in Brantford for the past five years. Her business success was recently recognized by both Enterprise Brant and Six Nations Council.

But her story has not always been one of success. In fact, for most of her life, Miller has struggled with overwhelming anxiety and depression, while presenting herself as a happy comedian on the outside.

She recalls a girl’s night out with co-workers and a discussion of what everyone’s happiest time was. Miller was embarrassed because she could not think of one happy story to tell of her life, so she just made a story up.

In her 30s, she abused alcohol and over-the-counter prescription drugs. Soon after her marriage ended, her drug misuse turned to a serious addiction to crack cocaine. She had used alcohol to mask any uncomfortable emotions, but when she was introduced to crack cocaine, the drug completely numbed her to her emotions and she spent her time just “chasing that high.”

She hustled, borrowed and stole in order to support her addiction, until landing in jail for a 30 day sentence for stealing from a family member. Although drugs were prevalent in the jail, she chose not to use. Being clean for those few days removed the fog of addiction sufficiently for Miller to question what she had done to her family. She felt extreme remorse and guilt. She had to get away from the reserve for a few years to do some healing.

Miller does not pretend that the healing process was easy or pretty. She experienced relapses and still struggles with the occasional urge to drink. She has been clean since 2000, but even so, up until recently, she had trouble handling her emotions. She would often “fly off the handle” or she could hold a grudge for several months at a time.

The difference today is that she knows she wants to change that. With the help of the right counsellor, she now she sees her progress in trying to change that. She is learning coping skills, and she says, “I can’t believe how hard it is.”

She uses a lot of positive self-talk and she has learned to identify her emotions. She has family that she knows she can call to help her process her emotions when she gets overwhelmed. Her entire family has changed with her. They can talk more openly now. They have learned about addictions and their role in the dysfunction.

Miller very bluntly states her advice to families currently struggling with addiction. She said, “Go learn about addictions so you know exactly what you’re coming up against. Learn about enabling, because if you’re going to enable a person, you might as well just go dig a grave for that person because you’re just helping them kill themselves.”

When asked what life will be like in five years, Miller stated, “How old will I be? 56. Well I’ll still be using Oil of Olay.”

Having reached many goals that she never thought she would attain, such as her business and owning her own home, right now she just hopes for a continued healthy, happy future.

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