Taking charge of her life

Feraco takes on running, fitness — and finds sobriety

Lots of travel — and ups and downs — early in life has landed her back in Midcoast
By Holly Vanorse Spicer | Aug 16, 2019
Courtesy of: Beth Feraco Beth Feraco.

Thomaston — Four years ago, during a dark time of her life, Beth Feraco of Thomaston realized in a pivotal moment, she could have lost everything, including not just her own life, but the lives of her son and step-daughter.

Since that day, Feraco, 46, has been building a new, healthy, and sober life. She tells her story of alcoholism, and how she found sobriety with the help of running and fitness in hopes to end the stigma behind recovery, and to help others.

Born in Bridgeport, Conn., she lived, and attended schools there until the end of her sophomore year when her family moved to the Camden area. Feraco graduated from Camden-Rockport High School.

Just four days before her high school graduation, her father passed away from a sudden heart attack. It was not the only loss she had her senior year.

"It happened like, every three months, someone died," Feraco said.

One of her friends took his life while at a party. Another, was in a car accident just months later.

After her father passed away, Feraco said she began the plan to move to Florida.

"I was, 'I hate Maine, I don't want to live here again, everyone dies,' " she said.

Feraco, along with her boyfriend at the time, Mike, moved to Florida after graduation

Only a few months after moving to Florida, Feraco returned to Maine. When she returned, the mother of her friend, Adam, that had passed in the car accident, gave her the train ticket that had been meant to be his.

That ticket brought Feraco to Arizona. Mike also made the move with her.

Turning point

After living in Arizona for awhile, Feraco struck out for California. This time, the relationship between she and Mike was severed, and she made the trek solo. Once in California, she took jobs as a bartender.

"And that's when I started drinking," she said.

"I was in the bar life."

While she was bartending in Los Angeles, Calif., one of the bartenders that Feraco worked with, had her make clothes for them. She said that it lead to her having her own clothing line for a while.

"Then that ended up fizzling out. It was just too much partying," she said.

Feraco said one day, something inside clicked, and she knew she needed to make a change.

"I was like, 'I can't be here anymore. I'm gonna die. I'm gonna die here,' " she said.

That moment led her to make the choice to move back to the East Coast.

Her brother, Matthew, went to Los Angeles, and they made the cross-country drive from California, to Connecticut, where their sister, Sarah, lived.

Her brother helped Feraco get a job in New York City, and once she found an apartment there, she moved from Connecticut to live.

Settled in New York, Feraco received word Mike had been looking for her. His visit to see her spearheaded her move back to the Midcoast of Maine where Mike was living with his daughter from a previous relationship.

Bringing their relationship full circle, Feraco and Mike got married.

"The drinking in-between was up and down," she said.

The drinking stopped while she was pregnant with her son, Johnny. She also did not drink while she was nursing.

Spiral begins

When she began drinking again, Feraco said that it started with a drink while making dinner. From there, it escalated from the one drink, to one bottle of wine, then to two bottles.

Since she was a stay-at-home mother, others around her had not noticed how badly it had become. She also attributes others not realizing the severity, to that she and her husband never particularly went to the bars.

“I’d be at home, drinking,” she said.

Because her husband plowed snow during the winter, Feraco was home alone with the children often. When he was finished plowing, he would bring her a bottle of wine home. Something that they both look back on now, realizing contributed to the issue.

Feraco said she did not have much help, and at the same time, she said she never asked for it. She did a lot herself, and did so because she felt as though if she did not, she would be perceived as less than capable.

“Meanwhile, I needed help, badly," she said.

Feraco also struggled with anxiety. She said she had struggled with anxiety since she was 18 years old, and the move from Florida, back to Maine was triggered by the anxiety attacks she had been having.

"I had to be flown back to Maine because I was having anxiety attacks," she said.

She said they were so bad she thought she was dying, just as her father had.

"I thought, 'I'm having a heart attack, my arm's hurting, I'm going to die like him,' " she said.

After having her son, she said she had to go to the hospital for her anxiety, and was on medication on and off for treatment.

"I would drink because I thought it was helping my anxiety, but that was actually making it worse," she said.

Alongside that anxiety, was a lack of sleep that most often comes in-hand with having an infant and small child.

"It was like, no sleep, trying to be a mom, and just trying to be the perfect mom. I’m going to story time, hungover, and can’t wait until three o’clock, for my next drink,” she said.

Feraco is not alone. From the National Epidemiologic Survey on Alcohol Related Conditions, between 2002 and 2013, the number of women who consumed more than four drinks a day rose 60 percent.

Those meeting the criteria for alcohol-use disorders, indicative of problem drinking, rose a staggering 84 percent.

The National Institute for Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism reports 5.3 million women in the United States of America suffer from alcohol-use disorder, and that 51.5 percent of women in the U.S. report drinking alcohol within the last month. 60.4 percent of the male population in the nation report having alcohol within the last 30 days.

Addiction experts, and researchers now look to what is being called "Mommy Wine Culture" for answers in the rise of women with alcohol abuse disorder, and problematic drinking.

In a New York Post piece, they look towards the pop culture community, which is known for commonly cheering on drinking mothers. Singer Kelly Clarkson has been quoted saying the secret to parenting is alcohol.

Catherine Paradis, a senior research and policy analyst at the Canadian Centre on Substance Use and Addiction in Ottawa, points out that the alcohol industry has cornered the market on “me time,” and that the notion of “I deserve this” is a part of the marketing for alcohol.

That marketing, from major brands hits on maternal drinking with apparel, cups, travel mugs, with terms such as "Mom Juice" or "Mommy's Time Out Cup" blazoned across them. It has trickled down into infant wear, with phrases such as "I'm the reason why mommy drinks."

Adding in with the rise of social media use, one can easily find groups like "Moms Who Need Vodka," boasting nearly four million followers, or "Mommy Needs a Beer," with one million followers. There are also videos listing reasons why mothers should drink cluttering YouTube.

Finding sobriety

Four years ago, Feraco was visiting a family friend's camp in the Camden area with her son and step-daughter.

"I'd had close to a bottle of wine, I had the two kids, and I drove. I drove them from Camden to Thomaston," she said.

"After that, I was like, I can't do this anymore. I could have killed them. I could have killed myself."

Feraco walked into her first Alcoholics Anonymous meeting, located near her house, just a few days later.

"They had a 7 a.m. meeting, and I went there every day for a year," she said.

While she was attending the meetings, someone in the program connected her with Alison Leonard.

Leonard, known locally at the time for her passion for running and fitness, is who Feraco credits getting her into running.

"She started this bootcamp thing, so I started that first," Feraco said.

While they were doing the bootcamp, Leonard told her she thought Feraco would be good at running, and thought she would like it.

"I just started running with her all of the time," Feraco said.

After Leonard moved to Augusta for a job opportunity, Feraco said she did not know what she was going to do, or who she was going to work out with.

Around that same time, Hybrid Fitness moved into a Main Street location in Thomaston, just two blocks from where Feraco lives.

Feraco got a membership to the gym, would work out, or take classes, and then she would walk home after.

After awhile, Hunter Grindle, owner of the gym, was in need of an admin for computer work, Feraco said. She saw the job opportunity as a way for her to make the transition from a stay-at-home mom, since her son was going to be starting preschool that year.

Grindle approached her and asked if she would like to start teaching classes, saying he felt she would make a great personal trainer.

She shadowed and interned while working to gain her certifications for fitness and nutrition.

Helping others

Now, Feraco is a strength and conditioning coach, and nutrition coach at Hybrid.

“I love it. It’s like, that’s become my life,” she said.

“The running turned into this, and now I’m helping other people. So it’s cool,” she said.

Looking back on where everything began to change, and she began her sober life, running had the biggest impact on the shift.

“It just makes you feel good. Then you start to lose weight, and you’re getting stronger,” she said.

She added that running is not easy.

“When you’re doing hard things, harder things don’t seem as hard. The quitting drinking started to not seem so hard because I was pushing myself in other areas,” Feraco said.

Studies show the benefits of exercise in recovery are stress reduction, better sleep, increased energy, and improved mood. Exercise also protects against disease, and protects the brain from damage. It also reduces the relapse probability of a person in recovery.

The community within fitness, either in the gym, running, rock climbing or other areas, also creates accountability for the person in recovery, as well as a support system, lessening the feeling of being alone.

“A lot of people [struggling] are like me, and hide it, and are afraid to talk about it. But it’s real. I know a lot of stay at home moms who have reached out to me, that struggle,” she said.

“It’s the 'Mommy Timeout' thing, glorifying it, it’s a real thing, that’s not funny,” Feraco said.

She said it is hard, and it is not easy to admit one has a problem, and step out. Going to meetings was a relief for her, she said, adding it had felt like a weight had been lifted from her shoulders.

Feraco also recalls during those darker times, wishing someone would send her to rehab. She said she, at time, had wished that someone would realize how badly she needed help.

"I'm glad that's behind me though, that was a really dark time. It's lonely. A lonely place to be," she said.

"Now I'm here to help others to know that they can do hard things."

Feraco said she would like to, however she is able, to incorporate recovery with exercise. Either as a class at Hybrid Fitness, or start something with running.

“I want to do a Recovery 5K and raise money for a recovery house. They have the new recovery house in Camden. Something like that just to get more people involved, because there are so many people around here struggling, or they know someone who is struggling around here,” she said.

Until then, Feraco will keep telling her story, and helping others do the things they think are hard to do.

Beth Feraco. (Courtesy of: Beth Feraco)
Beth Feraco. (Courtesy of: Beth Feraco)
Beth Feraco. (Courtesy of: Beth Feraco)
Beth Feraco. (Courtesy of: Beth Feraco)
Comments (1)
Posted by: Ananur Forma | Aug 17, 2019 08:05

Fantastic. You are an inspiration!!!!

Maine has a huge alcohol/drug problem... hopefully many will look to you, and others like you.

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