By Rebecca Sullivan Balkcom | Photos by Dawn Chapman Whitty
NICOLE PALOMA has had quite the year. After her wildly astounding runway show last October at South Walton Fashion Week, which was met with a standing ovation and left many guests in tears, Paloma was thrust into the “high-highs” of success. Her business took off like wild horses — and so did her drinking. Here’s her story of how getting sober replaced all other goals and everything she had once deemed important took a backseat to this crucial decision.
How did you first start drinking?
The first time I realized I could block emotional pain and constant goings-on in my brain was when I was 15. Having grown up around art, I drew and took photographs, but I found that drinking released a creative edge that now I realize really just quieted my process.
Were you worried that getting sober would affect your creative process as a designer and artist?
My biggest fear was that it was all going to go away once I got sober. The fear of the unknown is the worst, and it’s more the fear of being successful than the fear of failing. I used the excuse of being an “artist” and that I was supposed to be out of control, crazy and erratic. Where I got to with it was that my life and my children became much more important than being a designer.
When I came home from treatment, I was making a tee shirt for a friend and I had so much anxiety just being in the space and feeling the moment. When my creative brain turns on it’s a physical thing and without alcohol I wondered if it would come. I just started putting simple fabric pieces together and it came.
The creativity now comes out less frenetically and as more of a flow. I’m learning not to have anxiety about it and trust that those ideas are still going to come.
I needed to make a dress last night and I was tired. That would have been the time that I typically would have broken open a bottle of wine. But I realized I was tired and listened to my body and went to bed. While I was drifting off to sleep, a wonderful idea came to me. I view my creativity as the closest thing that I have to a higher power.