How hiking helped Chelle transform from being a ‘functioning alcoholic’ and climb out of addiction

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 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.

A woman giving peace sign
Chelle Fisher now uses hiking as an alternative to drinking.(Supplied: Chelle Fisher)

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.”

A woman on a mountain
Chelle Fisher has been raising funds to support other family violence survirors.(Supplied: Chelle Fisher)

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.