Carly was a straight-A student. She was close with her family and beloved by friends. She was naturally successful and excelled at everything she did. None of that stopped her from developing a cocaine addiction that nearly derailed her life. Since overcoming her struggles with drugs and alcohol, Carly has dedicated her life to helping others do the same.
Carly Benson was born outside of Detroit and moved to Dallas when she was a year old. She was the only child to two loving parents.
Her parents never drank or did drugs when Carly was growing up. However, her mother’s side of the family had a history of alcoholism.
Carly was shy as a kid and truly valued the friends she had. Her tight-knit group would have sleepovers, play in the creeks around Dallas and go to the movies.
By the time she was 14, she finally had her clique of friends and was happy with life in Dallas. It was around this time that she first began experimenting with alcohol.
Carly and her friends started with Goldschläger that they took from one of their parents’ liquor cabinets. At the time, they viewed it as something experimental that many kids their age did.
“We were just curious, like ‘Oh what happens? We’re so cool now,’” Carly told DrugRehab.com.
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Midway through ninth grade, Carly’s parents decided to move the family to Naples, Florida. They had family in the city and had already vacationed there. Naples was a small city that was growing quickly. It presented a good business opportunity for her father, who owned a paint contracting business.
While it worked out for her family in the end, moving to Naples halfway through freshman year seemed like the end of the world to Carly at the time. She had anxiety, and the thought of starting over with new friends, a new school and a new city was terrifying.
“Walking into this whole new experience where I was going to have to talk to people that I didn’t know and put myself out there, looking back, was a very traumatic event for me,” said Carly.
The transition was tough for Carly and her mom at first, but they eventually made Naples their new home.
Once settled, Carly began dating a boy on the football team and quickly became close with his group of friends. It was during this time that drug and alcohol use became a frequent activity for Carly.
Naples sits on the southwest corner of the Florida peninsula, about an hour away from Everglades National Park. Known for its beautiful beaches and golf courses, it is a quiet town and a popular retirement destination.
Drinking beer and smoking weed was a popular social activity for Carly’s new friends in Naples. She began joining them on weekends thinking it was a fun way to experiment. It was not long before it became a weekly occurrence.
It was an escape for Carly. She found that weed and alcohol opened her up and made her feel comfortable.
“I always had that feeling of ‘not-enoughness,’ which fueled my shyness, my lack of confidence,” she said. “When I would drink or I would smoke and hang out with the boys, I felt like I came out of my shell.”
Just before she turned 16, she was in a serious car accident while driving to Myrtle Beach for spring break.
Carly, who had her learner’s permit at the time, was driving her parents and her best friend back to their hotel. It was only three exits away, but the road was wet and very slick. She still does not remember exactly what happened, but she lost control of the car.
It went on two wheels on one side and then two wheels on the other side before Carly passed out. The car flipped.
“When I woke up, the car was spinning like a top for like two or three hundred yards on the highway,” she said. “We finally hit a guard rail, and luckily we didn’t go over. I just remember thinking that the car was going to blow up, and I needed to get out of there as quickly as I could.”
After she made it out of the car, Carly’s next concern was her mom and best friend, who were still trapped inside. Luckily, everyone in the car walked away with only minor injuries.
Still, the trauma from the crash stuck with Carly. She began having nightmares. She was coping with emotions she had never experienced before.
She looks back now and realizes that the trauma she faced during her early high school years most likely played a role in her drug and alcohol use.
“Those were super traumatic events, and it was right around the time when I started drinking and smoking,” Carly said. “I guess in my way I wanted to forget about stuff. I didn’t realize that that was what I was doing, but most of the time nobody realizes that.”
As Carly got older, she began to experiment with harder drugs. She was 17 when she tried LSD. By the time she graduated from high school and during the summer before heading to college, she was regularly doing ecstasy.
“I spent that whole summer basically raving,” said Carly. “There was no such thing as moderation for me.“
Carly left Naples to attend Florida State University. She already had friends there with their own apartment and decided to move in with them.
As soon as Carly arrived at FSU, she started partying almost daily. She still used ecstasy and acid occasionally but was mostly drinking and smoking marijuana to excessive levels.
What was once innocent drinking during high school became regular binge drinking where “the goal was to black out.” What was once smoking a little bit of weed became an all day, every day habit.
Carly and her friends used their apartment as home base for all their partying operations. When they were not partying at the apartment, they used fake IDs to get into bars and clubs.
Although she was having fun, Carly never felt a connection to the FSU community.
“My classes were so big I felt like I was getting lost and wasn’t having the best experience,” she said.
After her freshman year at FSU, Carly decided to transfer to the University of Tampa to be closer to her parents.
She immediately loved Tampa and felt at home. She became roommates with one of her best friends from Naples, and they joined a sorority together.
“Partying was primary. School was secondary, and I pulled it off.”
“Tampa was bumping for the party scene,” said Carly. “We were having so much fun. We were going out to Ybor City all the time.”
Carly even began working in the Tampa party scene. She was 20 when she started working for a promotions company that focused on venues that served large amounts of alcohol. She started as a beer tub girl before moving on to bartending. It was a fun way to party and make money at the same time.
Throughout her college party days, Carly never struggled with school. She was a straight-A student who would cram for exams the night before. School came naturally to Carly, which allowed her to party as much as she wanted to.
“Partying was primary. School was secondary, and I pulled it off,” she said.
Her party days in Tampa introduced her to the drug that would nearly destroy her life: cocaine.
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Carly’s mom had always warned her about how dangerous cocaine was and that using it even once could kill you. For a long time, Carly was scared of the drug.
“I didn’t try [cocaine] until the second semester my senior year,” said Carly. “I always laugh and go, ‘Man, I almost made it.’”
I always kind of felt like a shy, reserved person, but when I drank and I was doing coke I came out of my shell.
It was not until she saw friends and people she knew using cocaine with no apparent repercussions that she got over her fear. The people around her were doing it, and it looked like they were having a lot of fun.
Eventually Carly became curious enough that she tried cocaine. She only did a small amount the first time and didn’t feel anything. She did a little bit more the second and third time.
“By the fourth or fifth time, I was doing full-out lines and was hooked immediately,” said Carly.
She loved the feeling cocaine gave her. She had energy. She could drink more and for longer periods of time. Cocaine made her feel fearless and gave her the confidence she always felt she lacked.
“I always kind of felt like a shy, reserved person, but when I drank and I was doing coke I came out of my shell,” said Carly. “I had superpowers, or so I thought.”
Cocaine quickly became a staple in Carly’s social life. Every time she drank, she also used cocaine. She justified her cocaine use by telling herself that this was just something people do in college to get it out of their system. She never saw it as a problem.
After graduating from college, Carly would go through periods of time where she did not use cocaine, but she would always pick it back up again. She began using regularly again after a while.
Cocaine had once been a fun way to party for Carly, but it was beginning to feel less and less fun the longer she used it. Cocaine was beginning to take over her life.
“It wasn’t fun anymore because I had made it such a necessity,” she said. “I was the person who couldn’t go out without it.”
Cocaine was fueling destructive habits for Carly. Happy hours turned into all-night cocaine and alcohol binges that went until 10 a.m. the next morning. She began hiding her cocaine when she partied so she didn’t have to share her supply with friends.
Using cocaine while she partied turned into using cocaine to get through a normal day. Carly would do bumps before doing chores around house or doing every day activities.
Her cocaine use was also affecting her sleep schedule.
“I would take naps in the shower or close my door at work and take naps under my desk because I was exhausted,” said Carly.
Cocaine was also causing her mental health to deteriorate. She developed severe anxiety and depression and suffered from panic attacks.
“I did not like to be alone,” Carly said. “I didn’t like to slow down long enough to hear myself think.”
It was around this time she began to question if she had a cocaine use disorder.
Carly kept the rest of her life together; she went to the gym, went to work and paid her bills. Cocaine was not stopping her from being successful, so it was not a problem in her mind.
Looking back now, she says the signs were all there.
“I was a very high-functioning alcoholic and addict,” she said.
Carly began to realize she could not stop using cocaine. She would attempt to set limits on herself when she went out but always spiraled into another all-night cocaine bender.
“I would say, ‘OK, I’m just going to go out for happy hour,’ and then next thing I know it’s 10 o’clock in the morning,” said Carly. “I would get so mad at myself because I was like, ‘Why can’t I be normal? What is wrong with me? Why can’t I go and have a couple glasses of wine and go home?’”
When Carly was coming down after her binges, she would feel shame and guilt over breaking her promise to herself not to do cocaine and party all night.
She would go over the events of the night before, recounting all the things she regretted. The highs of her cocaine use were causing lows that followed her throughout her daily life.
“There’s just this horrible voice in your head that just tells you what a bad person you are,” she said. “That’s I think why I started getting anxiety, because my comedown started spilling over into my normal regular life.”
In 2007, Carly went through a breakup with her boyfriend of four years. Although the breakup was relatively clean, it was a hard time for Carly. It was during this time that her substance abuse peaked.
Her friends were becoming concerned with her drug use and suggested that she slow down and stop partying so much.
In 2008, Carly went on a trip to Miami with friends for her birthday. She went on a drug bender like she never had before, and she did not sleep or eat that weekend.
“I did every drug in the book,” said Carly. “Adderall, coke, ecstasy, Red Bull and vodka, ketamine.”
After two days of nonstop partying, Carly became very ill as she and her friends were getting ready to go to an after-hours club.
“I started hallucinating. My eyes were rolling back in my head,” she said.
“I was afraid that if I fell asleep I wasn’t going to wake up,” Carly said.
Her body was rejecting the drugs and alcohol. To this day, Carly believes she should have gone to the hospital to get her stomach pumped. She says she is lucky to have survived.
After that weekend, Carly’s friends continued to plead for her to cut down on her substance abuse. They told her that her partying was not normal and that they were scared for her well-being.
Carly slowed down for a week or so, but she quickly brushed their comments away and continued partying at a dangerous rate.
“I was afraid that if I fell asleep I wasn’t going to wake up.”
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Shortly after that, Carly went on a girl’s trip to Las Vegas. On the plane, her wallet was stolen. She spent the weekend on a drinking and drug bender trying to forget that she’d lost her wallet.
“I was pissed off,” she said. “I got an eight ball [3.5 grams of cocaine] and ditched the whole group of girls because I wanted to go to an after-hours party. They were really mad at me.”
After the trip, she felt guilty for ditching her friends and acting selfishly. She was starting to see how drugs and alcohol were affecting personal relationships that were important in her life.
She began to hear a small voice in the back of her head that said there was a better way and that she should change.
Aug. 16, 2008, was finally her breaking point. It was a Friday night. Carly’s friend wanted to go to happy hour. She originally was not going to go, but she finally agreed to go under the condition that she would have two drinks and go home. No all-night partying. No cocaine.
“Those two drinks turned into me trying to find coke, nobody really wanting to do it with me, me finding someone who wanted to do it with me,” said Carly. “The next thing I know, it’s like 9 o’clock in the morning and I’m standing in my friend’s kitchen. I’m out of coke and I’m with this guy. … I still don’t remember his name to this day.”
She remembers standing in her friend’s kitchen asking herself, “Why am I doing this? Why am I living my life this way?”
She drove home even though she knew she shouldn’t drive. She had not slept very much that week and was exhausted from her night of cocaine and drinking.
When she got home, she started to feel sick and hallucinate.
“I just remember sort of seeing things. I was shaking. I couldn’t fall asleep,” she said. “Now I realize I was having delirium tremens that day.”
Carly panicked. She called a friend who was two months sober at the time and confessed to him that she could not live this party lifestyle she had been leading. She asked him how he got sober and how she could too.
“This was the first time I said I had a problem,” Carly said. “I needed to get help.”
She knew she had a cocaine and alcohol use disorder. She knew she had to change or risk losing everything.
It was now the morning of Aug. 17, 2008, and Carly was at the end of her rope. She needed to change. She needed a miracle to break her struggles with cocaine and alcohol.
She was alone in her apartment crying and desperately trying to figure out how to change her life, how to live without cocaine and how to live without partying.
Carly — who was not a religious person — didn’t know what else to do. She started praying.
“Something came over me, and I just dropped to my hands and knees, and I started praying,” she said. “I was like, ‘I don’t even know if I’m doing this right, but I can’t live this way anymore. I really need your help. I need a miracle.’”
From that moment on, Carly never drank or did cocaine again.
Later that day, she went to an Alcoholics Anonymous meeting at the suggestion of a friend. She was nervous when she arrived and even drove around the block a couple times before finally mustering the courage to go in.
As the meeting was winding down, Carly took the white chip given to people at their first AA meeting. While she did not continue with AA after that night, she still carries the chip as a reminder of that life-changing day.
Carly truly believes that she had a divine intervention that day. She attributes gaining the strength to get sober to God.
“There was a before and an after when I got on my hands and knees and prayed that day,” said Carly. “Once you have an experience like that — it doesn’t always happen that way for everybody — but man, I was a believer.”
The time Carly used to spend getting high and drunk was now filled with reading the Bible and going to church. She became a more spiritual person and worked to grow closer in her relationship with God.
Her new-found spirituality and sobriety allowed Carly to reflect on who she was as a person and examine parts of her life she had never paid much attention to.
She learned about her parents’ faith, something she never had an interest in before. They never forced religion on her as a child, and Carly was mostly unfamiliar with the extent of her parents’ faith.
“They read the Bible and have a very strong foundation and faith in what they believe in, but I had never really had that conversation with them before,” she said. “They had the trust in God that he would get me there, one way or another.”
“Once you have an experience like that — it doesn’t always happen that way for everybody — but man, I was a believer.”
Improving her relationship with God gave Carly motivation to stay sober. She truly felt a change inside of her. She says her spirituality helped her through the fears most people have about getting sober.
She made it a point to not let her sobriety ruin her social life. After an initial step back from going out, Carly decided she was not going to sit out special events with friends simply because she was now sober.
After two months of sobriety, Carly decided to attend a friend’s birthday weekend in Clearwater Beach, Florida. It was going to be an all-weekend blowout, complete with a hotel room, boat rental and, of course, lots of drinking and cocaine use.
Carly was nervous about being in that type of environment; it would be the first time since she’d gotten sober. Still, she wanted to prove to herself that she did not need booze and cocaine to have fun with her friends.
During the weekend, Carly watched her friends party for the first time with sober eyes. She watched as they drank for hours and did line after line of cocaine. That weekend confirmed to Carly that she did not want to be like that anymore.
She made it through the weekend and stayed sober. She realized that she could still go out with her friends and have a good time. She did not need cocaine or alcohol to do that.
“That was a really big thing for me,” said Carly. “I’m going to make a vow to myself that just because I’m sober doesn’t mean I’m boring.”
After 10 years in Tampa, Carly moved back to Naples. She’d just ended a relationship with her current boyfriend and suddenly found herself back in a town where she did not know a lot of people.
She now had an abundance of time that she’d never anticipated. With this newly found time, Carly began to question what she wanted in life. She decided to take a break from dating to find out more about her passions and what was important to her.
She started reading self-help and personal development books. She fell in love with Gabrielle Bernstein’s work and began following motivational blogs about recovery. Carly developed an interest in helping others overcome their struggles and attended a weekend retreat to learn about becoming a life coach.
It was around this time she found the healing power of writing. It was new to Carly, but she loved it immediately. She even took a writing class at the local community college to develop more as a writer.
“That became very therapeutic for me, and that’s what I started filling my time with,” said Carly.
She started writing about her sobriety and former struggles with drugs and alcohol. She wrote about the things she was learning about herself.
“I’m going to make a vow to myself that just because I’m sober doesn’t mean I’m boring.”
Taking time to focus on herself allowed Carly to find her passions and realize what she wanted to do with her life moving forward.
At first, Carly’s writing was just for her. It was a way to heal and a way to express her emotions and thoughts about everything she had dealt with over the past few years.
She wrote a story about the last night she drank. Though she usually kept her writing private, she decided to show the story to a couple of people. They were blown away by the impact it had on them.
“I remember I showed it to a couple people, and they were like, ‘Whoa, this is very good. You could help a lot of people with this,’” said Carly.
Coming from a web development background, Carly decided to start her own blog. That is how MiraclesAreBrewing.com was born.
She didn’t tell anyone about her blog at first. It was a way for Carly to chronicle her life for her own benefit, like a journal that was available for everyone online.
“I wanted to write on there about my experiences and all this loving of introspection I was doing through my writing,” she said. “That’s kind of how it all started.”
The time spent discovering more about herself led Carly to the path she is on today. She was not dating anyone, but that was okay. To her, the time alone was a blessing.
“That time in my life where it was complete solitude was the biggest gift I’ve ever been given besides my sobriety,” Carly said.
Sobriety brought her clarity. She had a new perspective on life with new goals and aspirations. Through God’s guidance, she wanted to grow MiraclesAreBrewing.com. More importantly, she wanted to help others.
In April 2013, Carly decided to take a big step and share her blog on her personal Facebook page. She was nervous and unsure of how people would react, but she decided to post it anyway.
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The immediate feedback was overwhelmingly positive. People loved her work. They loved how honest it was, and many people related to the stories she told through her writing.
Carly made a Facebook page for Miracles Are Brewing shortly after that. She developed a following of readers and continued to add to the blog as often as she could.
“I started to get real consistent with my writing and real consistent with the posting because it just brought me joy,” said Carly. “I felt like, ‘Man, I’ve been given this gift of writing. I’ve been given this miracle of sobriety, and I want to be of service.’”
People started reaching out to Carly through her blog and social media pages. They wanted to know how she got sober. They wanted help getting sober.
She began to realize how helpful her blog was to so many people. Miracles Are Brewing allowed people suffering in silence to have a voice. It gave them a forum to talk to openly and honestly about addiction, and it was all online.
Carly was ecstatic that her blog was helping others, but it was helping her through sobriety as well.
Miracles Are Brewing became “an accountability tool.” Anytime she felt tempted to have a drink or break her sobriety, she remembered her blog and her followers. She could not break the promise she made to herself or to them.
As time passed, she became more consistent with her posts. The blog’s Facebook page was becoming very popular.
“I felt like, ‘Man, I’ve been given this gift of writing. I’ve been given this miracle of sobriety, and I want to be of service.’”
Carly saw she was making a difference. The work she was doing was fulfilling, and it allowed her to give back. She decided to become even more serious about helping others and became certified as a life coach.
“I went through a formal coaching program with an online training program through Light University,” she said. “I got certified as a Christian life coach through them.”
Carly is not your average life coach. She has the educational background to help people professionally, and her experiences with drug abuse allow her to relate to others struggling with the same issues.
Upon earning her certification in 2014, Carly began coaching people one on one. Her goal was to provide a safe place where people could reflect on their lives and work toward goals and their own well-being.
She started with a mission statement for coaching:
“My mission is to teach people to love their weirdness and to bring forth the most epic versions of themselves. To live epic lives that are purpose-driven, passion-fueled, faith-centered and serve others in a way that offers impactful change.”
Most of Carly’s one-on-one coaching is done over the phone. She coaches anywhere from 10 to 15 clients at a time.
She also has big plans for the future.
Carly recently earned her yoga certification through the Baptiste Institute, which she plans to incorporate into new self-improvement retreats through Miracles Are Brewing. She will be holding her first of many workshops and retreats throughout 2017.
“The workshops and retreats will feature yoga, dancing, talks and connection — all the things that are near and dear to my heart on what helped me to stay sober. These gatherings will be an opportunity for me to teach people how I did it and what worked for me.”
She is also currently working on an e-book with Kelly Fitzgerald — the writer behind the Sober Señorita blog — called “How to Quit Drinking: An All Inclusive Resource Guide.”
The e-book will provide firsthand perspectives on what Carly and Kelly did to get sober as well as resources for others trying to end their substance abuse.
Carly is also working on a book of her own.
“It’s going to be a guide for people,” said Carly. “A daily guide with tips, tricks and things that have worked for me on how to change your life.”
The book is meant to not only help people with sobriety, but also help those looking to work on their personal development. She hopes the book can be “a daily companion for making change in your life.”
Carly attributes her happiness and success to her sobriety. She knows she might not be here if she were still using drugs. Sobriety has brought her a second chance to be the person she wants to be.
“I’ve found this amazing, epic life that I never thought was possible,” she said. “I’m traveling, and I know who I am as a person. I know what I want. I know what I like and what I don’t.”
What she wants now out of life more than anything is to help others find their amazing, epic life. She encourages people struggling with addiction to find help. She wants them to know there is a community of people like you ready to welcome you into sobriety.
“I think stepping into sobriety sort of helps you find your most epic self, and that’s what it’s about for me now,” said Carly. “Helping people step into that, whatever it looks like for them.”