14 min read
On the outside, the successful social media influencer’s life seemed perfect. Inside, it was imploding.
Externally, Lizzy Savetsky’s life seems perfect. She’s a famous social media influencer and Jewish activist. One would never know that she is engaged in a fierce battle against alcoholism.
Her last drink was on July 31, 2021. Every day is a new challenge.
She vividly remembers hitting rock bottom. “It was Shabbat afternoon. I started drinking at the synagogue and then continued at home. We were having guests over and I blacked out while hosting. I don’t remember anything until I woke up the next morning.”
But the look on her husband’s exhausted face said it all: I’m tired. I'm tired of lying to the kids and to your parents. I’m tired of enabling you by covering up this garbage… And I can’t do it anymore.
“In that moment I realized I could lose everything. That’s when I was willing to hand everything over to God and give this battle my all.”
Lizzy grew up in Fort Worth, Texas to a family of overachievers. Hard work and education were at the core of her family’s values. Her parents expected perfection, which created incredible pressure, especially academically.
“I never got a B on a report card in my entire life. It was an unspoken expectation. Our family doesn’t get B’s. We are an A family. I wanted to get good grades to make my parents proud. I lived my life for everyone else. I desperately longed for my father’s approval, and had a deep-seated fear of rejection and an inferiority complex.”
Lizzy went on to lead that exemplary life. She was a cheerleader, sang in country music shows every weekend, and participated in pageants like Miss Teen Texas.
“I was a chronic perfectionist, never satisfied and always wanting more. I wanted everything. I wanted to be at the right parties and wear the right outfit. I wanted to be everything to everyone. Wherever I was, I was killing it.”
But she never figured out who she was or what made her happy. “What I thought made me happy was being loved by people and living up to expectations others had for me.”
Lizzy didn’t grow up around anyone who drank. “My parents never touched anything that made them feel out of control. We didn’t have alcohol in the house.”
Her parents’ desire to control defined their parenting. They were on top of Lizzy’s every move. She had a strict curfew and was never allowed to sleep out because they didn’t trust anyone. Lizzy felt she had no sense of choice.
Eventually, Lizzy attended NYU’s Gallatin School of Individualized Study. “I didn’t want to be boxed into one thing. I made my own compilation of courses.” Her chosen major was the study of the psychology of rock stars.
While she was studying the inner workings of a rock star, she was striving to become one herself, singing in night clubs and performing in venues across New York City. She began drinking regularly, but nothing more serious than the behavior of a typical college student.
She managed to keep her grades up, despite constantly partying. Outwardly she led an awesome life, but inwardly, the hole inside kept getting bigger.
Ira, the man she would eventually marry, kept popping up in her life. He was an observant Jew, and although Lizzy was raised with a strong Jewish identity, she didn’t know much about Judaism. Her curiosity was piqued and this prompted her to start learning about Judaism at Meor in New York City.
“Meor changed the entire trajectory of my life. I found a lot of the meaning that I was searching for. I have a lot of demons. It helped build me up for a while.”
Eventually she decided to go to Israel, even though her parents were against it. She went anyway and realized it was the first decision she ever made without their approval. It was both terrifying and freeing.
Upon arriving at a Jerusalem seminary, she saw a girl in her school smoking a cigarette. They started chatting, and the girl offered her a drink in the dorm room.
I was in a foreign country and was trying to discover myself. Drinking made me forget everything.
“I drank so much that I got sick and threw up. I woke up the next morning hungover and didn’t care—I drank some more. I was in a foreign country and was trying to discover myself. I didn’t know how to deal with it. Drinking made me forget everything. It took the edge off. That was the day I started drinking every day. I was uncomfortable, and I couldn’t sit in my discomfort. I found it easier to catch a buzz and escape it. It really worked.”
Lizzy didn’t feel the need to hide her drinking. In Israel, socially appropriate opportunities to drink were everywhere. This contributed to Lizzy being unaware that she was developing a drinking problem.
When Lizzy returned to America, she and Ira eventually married and moved to Philadelphia, where Ira attended medical school. Lizzy earned her Master’s degree and they relocated back to New York City for her husband’s residency.
She started working in the fashion industry. She attended many events and parties, living a glamorous life while feeling empty inside.
Two years later, she had her first daughter, Stella, and started a blog called, Excessories Expert, about how to incorporate over-the-top accessories into one’s wardrobe. She loved writing and it gave her a chance to flex her creative muscles while her husband was working around the clock.
The blog morphed into an Instagram page which attracted a massive following of over 200,000. She loved the social media world. It was natural for her to share her life with her dedicated followers, which included the addition of another child.
Soon she was collaborating with hotels and various well-known clothing lines. These companies flew Lizzy around the world to promote their businesses, but the pit of emptiness resurfaced. She started to feel she was living a lie.
The couple were struggling to have a third child, and Lizzy felt her husband was never around. She was alone with two children, all the time. She felt like her family wasn’t yet complete, but was also overwhelmed by her life as it was. Infertility treatment added more layers of stress, emotion, and depression. She was consumed with loneliness as she experienced three pregnancy losses within a single year.
“I really didn’t want to continue posting outfit photos. It felt gross to me. I was living a lie.
I was posting all these beautiful pictures, but my life was falling apart. During that period I decided to use my platform to talk about what was happening. I started to open up about my pregnancy losses and my pain.”
Now I have everything I’ve ever worked for. Another child, a successful career. I should be happy. But she wasn’t. She was struggling with anxiety and depression.
At that point in the world of social media, not many people were utilizing their platforms to share their personal stories. This was something that followers really connected to. “My vulnerability only made me more attractive. It wasn’t my goal, but it worked and it made me feel less alone.”
After her husband’s residency, they moved to Dallas for his fellowship. Lizzy didn’t anticipate this kind of suburban life and it revived many of her demons.
She had never been an adult in Texas. She was living a typical “mom” life, waiting in carpool lines and shopping for groceries. There were more moments of stillness and quiet. She didn’t want that time to think because she didn’t want to face her demons.
Then their third child, Ollie, was born. She thought, Now I have everything I’ve ever worked for. Another child, a successful career. I should be happy. But she wasn’t. She was struggling with anxiety and depression.
Shortly after Ollie’s birth, she made the decision to use her platform for Israel advocacy. The moment she posted a picture of herself in an Israeli flag, she realized there was no going back.
“I knew I was going to lose followers, but I felt I had to fight for my people. I had opened a can of worms and I wasn't emotionally equipped to handle it. Living a very public life made it hard to hold it together. That was the beginning of the end for me.”
Lizzy had exhibited alcoholic tendencies for many years before she realized she was an alcoholic.
“When I left Israel and moved to Philadelphia, I was again in a foreign environment and totally alone. While my husband was in medical school, I drank. Alcohol was my constant companion. When I was alone at night, I would have the company of a glass of wine, sometimes two or three.
“I remember the first night I was in the apartment in Philadelphia and did not have a wine opener. I somehow used a knife to uncork it. I didn’t care how I was going to get that bottle open, but I remember having an intense desire to get into that bottle and drink it. I became very dependent.”
Lizzy didn’t realize she had a problem.
When she drank, fights with her husband increased. He didn’t like that she was drinking alone on the couch at night, but he didn’t want to confront her either, so he never brought it up.
“I was super high-functioning. Any time I got sloppy, it was around other people who were sloppy, too. I was never embarrassed or needed to apologize.”
When they moved to Manhattan, there were a few nights she didn’t get home until six in the morning. She would drink heavily while her husband continued his studies. “I was committed to this man I never saw, and all my friends were out partying. I wanted to be with them.”
They kept refilling my glass. I would come home, put the kids down, and pass out for the night. This was my routine.
Lizzy notes that she would take her two daughters out to dinner so she could leave her “mess” there. “I wouldn’t eat, I would just have wine. They knew me there, so they kept refilling my glass. I would come home, put the kids down, and pass out for the night. This was my routine.”
Alcohol was her companion and best friend. She loved that she could get away with drinking wine at lunch with friends, and then have more wine at happy hour.
“The outside world wasn’t going to tell me to stop. It had to come from within.”
Lizzy was embarrassed by the amount of bottles she would hear clanking in the garbage when she tossed another one away. She thought, Oh that’s a lot of alcohol for one person. There was always some shame. A constant voice kept asking, Do you think you have a problem?
“After my ectopic miscarriage, we got home from the hospital. Ira went to bed and I went to vodka. He never knew. When I wanted to turn the pain off, I went for the alcohol.”
Things started to take a turn when she was drunk during a live interview with the Israeli Consul General of New York. There were thousands watching her. She was mortified.
“I was finally getting to live my dream, and my drinking was getting in the way of it. I was doing things I said I would never do. I blacked out in front of my parents and kids. I was no longer functioning. I never drank and drove, but I am sure that would have happened at some point too if I did not stop.”
As a step toward recovery, Lizzy began taking Antabuse, a medication that makes it impossible for a person to metabolize alcohol, making them sick if they ingest it. This enabled Lizzy to physically stop drinking while taking the medication, but it took over all of her mental headspace. She stopped taking the medication and realized she needed to attend AA, but wasn’t able to take that next step.
Instead, she started sneaking wine. “We once slept at a friend’s house for a few weeks while we were in between houses, and I found my way to her cabinet. I knew exactly how much I could drink without her noticing.
“I had zero control. I couldn’t be in a room with alcohol without drinking it.
“At one point, I was literally drinking all day.
“I was turning into everything I didn’t want to be. I was ruining my life and couldn't stop. I woke up one morning, telling Ira that I wanted to kill myself. That’s when I went to Alcoholics Anonymous.
“When I got to AA, I couldn’t stop crying. It was the first time I felt I really belonged somewhere. They said, ‘We will love you until you can love yourself.’ It was the first time I ever really felt understood.
“Alcoholism is one of the first things I failed at. I was not used to that feeling. It felt horrible.
“I realized you cannot will your way out of alcoholism—there isn’t any willpower about it. It’s a disease. I just had to surrender to the problem, and surrender to the program.”
Lizzy went to Alcoholics Anonymous meetings for 90 days straight. She is reminded every day that she is an alcoholic. Today she is celebrating her first full year of sobriety, and still attends meetings regularly.
“Progress, not perfection,” is now her life motto.
“I never realized that my drinking had nothing to do with drinking. I was soul-sick. It blew my mind when I started diving into AA. Most meetings didn’t talk about alcohol at all. That’s not why any of us drank. The things that I drank over are what I spend my days working on.”
That’s why Lizzy is now implementing boundaries in her life and learning her unhealthy patterns, especially when it comes to people-pleasing.
“Progress, not perfection,” is now her life motto.
“I used to spend so many years worrying about the future. Now, I stay in the present and keep God with me throughout my day. I am constantly praying to God and reminding myself that I’m not alone. I always have God protecting me, and I didn’t feel that when I was looking for it in a bottle.
“Whenever I am triggered, I just remember how much I have to lose. Nothing is worth it.”
Lizzy believes her sobriety is her greatest accomplishment, more important than anything else. When Lizzy first began attending AA, she felt ashamed. Ira was even more embarrassed and worried that people might see her walk in and tell someone.
“Our embarrassment went away very quickly when we saw how much I changed. It was so ironic. I wasn’t embarrassed to be drunk and acting like a lunatic, but was embarrassed to go to AA. It made no logical sense.”
Lizzy advises others in the throes of addiction that it’s impossible to conquer addiction alone. Reach out for help.
Lizzy now understands that someone who has the courage to make huge changes and get help is noble and admirable. “People are quick to judge because it’s not a disease like cancer. I conquer the shame by letting go of what other people think of my sobriety. I don’t care. I want to be alive. I choose this path.”
Lizzy advises others in the throes of addiction that it’s okay to reach out for help. It is impossible to conquer addiction alone. She believes fellowship and God are the two most important ingredients for recovery.
“My spiritual connection has grown exponentially. I didn’t see God in such a loving way when I was so dark. God’s love is so profound. I reframed my whole relationship to God.”
Lizzy bravely chose to share her story because, “If even one person is helped with this struggle, it is worth everything, even sacrificing my anonymity.”