How hiking helped Chelle transform from being a ‘functioning alcoholic’ and climb out of addiction
An Albany woman has plumbed the lowest depths and climbed high peaks in a battle with the bottle.
- Chelle Fisher battled alcohol and drug addiction from her teens
- She has climbed eight mountains in eight days to raise awareness and money for a WA family violence centre
- Ms Fisher says hiking has helped her regain control of her life
Chelle Fisher spent 23 years struggling with drug and alcohol addiction but has now kicked those habits and this month climbed eight peaks in West Australia’s south to help people escaping domestic violence.
Ms Fisher turned to alcohol and drugs as a child after experiencing family violence.
“I go hiking every year,” the 43-year-old said.
“Part of my sobriety, or how I got sober, was basically instead of drinking that six-pack of an afternoon, I replaced that with going for a hike.”
It is now eight years since Ms Fisher had her last drink and she challenged herself to scale eight mountains in eight days to celebrate.
“I started at the age of 13,” she said.
“I started because that was my coping mechanism. I was going through a lot of family domestic violence.
“My coping was drugs and alcohol. So I battled with that addiction for 23 years.”
Some days it was more than a six-pack.
“It was half a carton and I was functioning. I was a functioning alcoholic; I started a business, I was a mum — I had to run a household,” she said.
But it couldn’t go on forever.
Starting new, healthy habits
Tired of waking up feeling like hell, Ms Fisher started to make changes.
“There’s so much that I don’t remember, which is sad. Because I got married, I had two children and I was kind of just on autopilot,” she said.
“I wasn’t really living, I was just kind of surviving.
“It was in my early 20s, probably about eight years later, that I sort of started to realise, ‘Hey, there’s got to be more to life than what I’m doing’.
“Slowly and surely, I began to creep out of the hole that I was in and find my way.”
It was July 2014 and a “mother of all hangovers” got Ms Fisher off the couch and onto the mountains.
“I was so badly hungover. It was very scary. And I just said, ‘No more’. And it was easier when I made that choice,” she said.
“And that’s when I was able to start [to] just get out and hike.”
Ms Fisher said challenging any negative thoughts helped her along her new path.
“I also had to remind myself that this was a pattern,” she said.
“It wasn’t so much that I was weak, it was just a pattern that I was playing over and over because I didn’t know anything else.
“So I had to give myself something else, which was hiking.”
Peaks raise money and awareness
Over eight days, Ms Fisher climbed eight mountains in the Great Southern. She started with Mt Hallowell near Denmark and finished with Mt Frankland near Walpole.
But it was Nancy Peak in the Porongurups on a wet and windy day that presented her biggest challenge.
“Honestly, I don’t usually get scared when I’m out exploring the outdoors but I was scared,” she said.
“What I didn’t account for was the wind gusts. Seriously, the wind gusts were like 30- to 40-kilometre winds.
“I was frozen at one point because I felt that if I moved it may blow me off the mountain.”
Ms Fisher survived to tell the tale and completed her challenge to raise funds for Albany’s Family Domestic Violence Action Group.
“I just feel that I’m giving something back to an organisation who can potentially help someone so they can avoid going down the path I did,” she said.