Billy Horschel was enjoying one last serene meal with his wife, Brittany, in New York on Wednesday before they returned home to Florida to rejoin their rambunctious 2-year-old daughter and her infant sister when Horschel received a pinging alert on his phone.
While Horschel was tucking into chips and salsa and a chicken enchilada, someone had used his credit card for two transactions.
“I think we’ve been hacked,” Horschel told his wife, who took the news with aplomb.
It wasn’t that long ago that Brittany Horschel would have processed the unexpected development as further proof that she was unfit to manage the household finances. She would have found a way to blame herself, setting off a chain reaction of corrosive thoughts that would have sent her searching for the spiked vodka drinks she hid around the house.
“It’s hard for me to think back to how I was,” said Brittany, a recovering alcoholic who spent two months last year as an inpatient at a Delray Beach, Fla., treatment center.
She went public with her addiction last month in a social media post the day after Billy beat Jason Day in a playoff at the Byron Nelson Championship to secure his first PGA Tour victory since the 2014 Tour Championship. The victory, coming after three years of personal challenges that Billy had communicated to few people, unleashed a torrent of emotion for which Brittany’s post provided the context.
Two days after Billy’s win at the Tour Championship in September 2014, which came with a $10 million bonus, Brittany gave birth to the couple’s first child, Skylar.
The stresses of first-time parenthood pulled Brittany deeper into the depressive tides that had been carrying her along since a wrist injury in college effectively snuffed out her dream of playing on the L.P.G.A. Tour.
The Horschels started dating at Florida, though Billy, 30, said he had been smitten with Brittany, 29, since their first meeting at a junior golf tournament outside Miami in 2004. Brittany, whom Billy described as a bulldog competitor, hurried back from her first surgery because she missed tournament golf. She reinjured her wrist, requiring two more operation and ending her competitive career.
It also excised her identity as a champion golfer.
“I ultimately felt like golf was the most important part of me, the part that made me interesting,” Brittany said.
She said she began drinking alone, outside social settings, in college to fill the hours that she used to spend on the course or the practice range. The experience of living the highs and lows of a professional golfer vicariously through her husband, whom she married in 2010, was a mixed blessing.
Billy had feared it would be. He said he was taken aback when the strong-willed, spirited woman he had fallen in love with insisted on accompanying him to his tournaments.
“I told her she wasn’t going to want to be riding on my coattails, living her life through me,” he said.
As Billy expected, Brittany quickly tired of all the travel and idle hours on the road. She returned to school to study psychology, but dropped out after realizing she did not have a clue what she would do with the degree.
“I was kind of a lost bird,” she said.
She took the perfectionist tendencies that had served her so well in golf and channeled them into her marriage. “I beat myself up so much,” Brittany said.
In 2013, she suffered a miscarriage. She reacted as if she had just lost a golf tournament, not a baby. It was part of her conditioning as an athlete, she said, “to get over it and keep going.”
“You don’t look back,” she said, adding: “ “It was another loss I kind of breezed right over. Like when I couldn’t play competitive golf anymore, I just said, ‘O.K., whatever. I’m fine.’”
But she was not fine, and alcohol became her form of self-medication. When Brittany became pregnant again, with Skylar, she said, she did not drink. But after the baby was born, the loneliness of caring for an infant while traveling from tournament to tournament with her husband upended her hard-fought sobriety.
“I was alone all day in a hotel room with an infant,” Brittany said, adding, “When Billy’s in tournament mode he’s really focused, which is fine, but even when he was back in the hotel room, he wasn’t really there. It started to wear on me.”
She did not ask for help, she said, because “I felt like that was my job to take care of my daughter. I felt like that’s what I’m supposed to be doing because I’m not doing anything else.”
Horschel said he knew his wife needed help when he started finding stray water or energy drink bottles scattered around the house that contained vestiges of vodka. He threatened her with divorce a half-dozen times. He professed his unconditional love for her. “Nothing I said got through,” Billy said.
Last May, Brittany returned from a vacation to the Cayman Islands and the friends who had accompanied her voiced concerns to her husband. He enlisted their help in staging an intervention.
“I knew I needed help, but I didn’t know how to say the words and I didn’t want to embarrass Billy,” Brittany said. “One person talked and I said: ‘I’m in. Tell me what to do.’ I was totally ready.”
Horschel cleared his schedule, taking a month off from competition before last year’s United States Open to get his wife settled in the South Florida treatment center. At the same time, he oversaw a move to the couple’s new house, which they had gutted and remodeled. Taking care of a toddler was an eye-opening experience for Horschel, whose father helped look after Skylar.
During his wife’s treatment, the couple learned how to communicate more effectively. Billy said he felt awful that he might have given off a vibe that had stoked his wife’s fastidiousness.
“I strive for perfection,” he said, “but inside I know I’m not perfect.”
Brittany has learned to ask for help, even if it is for a task as mundane as clearing the table after a meal or washing the dishes.
“Now when I start feeling overwhelmed I’ll ask, ‘Can anyone help me?’ ” she said.
In April, Brittany gave birth to daughter, Colbie, whom she named after her favorite musician, Colbie Caillat, whose songs lifted her spirits while she was in rehab. Brittany was home when her husband won the tournament in Dallas. She did not realize at first the significance of the date, it had been exactly one year since her last alcoholic drink.
She decided to tell her story in the hopes of helping other people, especially mothers, who may feel the same sense of isolation that she did. She wants them to know that they are not alone.
On Wednesday morning, Horschel and his wife did an interview with Michael Strahan on ABC’s “Good Morning America.” Afterward, Brittany received texts and emails from several of the friends she made at the treatment center.
“They saw me at my worst, when my self-esteem was so low I couldn’t even put a sentence together,” Brittany said.
But her voice has become strong and clear. As the couple left another television appearance, with CNN, Billy leaned into his wife and said, “You did a great job.”
Published at Thu, 22 Jun 2017 20:22:47 +0000