This post was originally published on August 3, 2015.
People get sober in all sorts of ways. Sometimes they just quit on their own. Sometimes they go to rehab. They show up in 12-step rooms, ashrams, churches and their parents’ basements. There is no one right way—something we’ve aimed to show in our collection of How I Got Sober stories. While we initially published these as either first person essays by our contributors or as interviews with anonymous sober folks, we eventually began to realize that there were other stories to tell: yours. This is our reader spotlight and this, more specifically, is Emily.
Click here to see all of our How I Got Sober stories.
What is your sobriety date?
February 4, 2015. This was after having nearly seven months of sobriety and relapsing for a month.
Where did you get sober?
When did you first start drinking?
Growing up, my parents used to let me take sips of whatever they were drinking. In fact, when I had an upset stomach, my mother’s would give me a shot of blackberry brandy. But the first time I got drunk wasn’t until the summer before my freshman year of college.
How would you describe your life before you quit drinking?
For the two years before I quit, my life had begun spiraling out of control. I wanted to drink from the moment I got up in the morning until I passed out at night. I planned my drinking around client meetings, kids’ sporting events and other normal adult activities—attempting, but not always succeeding, to not drive drunk.
What was your childhood like?
My mother is an alcoholic, so growing up alcohol was always around. This probably seemed normal to my mom since both her parents were alcoholics as well. Her father was still an active drinker when he committed suicide but her mother ended up getting sober. I don’t think my dad is an alcoholic because even though he drinks as much as my mom does, he can put it down any time.
From a very early age, I loved the taste of beer. My dad played in a men’s softball league and the team was sponsored by the local liquor store, so there was always plenty of beer. Looking back, I realize that one of the reasons I loved attending his games so much was because I got to drink beer. I wasn’t even in high school yet.
What was your relationship with alcohol and drugs as a teenager?
As I grew older, I became more keenly aware of the role alcohol played in our home, specifically in my mother’s life. I watched her drink too much, fight with my father, become physically ill and then pour every bottle of booze she had down the drain. She spent most afternoons napping and was near impossible to wake up. One night, she drank so much before we went to dinner, she forgot we had already ordered our food and got snippy with the waitress for taking too long.
So my increasing awareness of my mother’s alcoholism kept me from pursuing a bigger relationship with alcohol in my teens. I was also an overachiever and pushed myself to perfection. I didn’t hang out with the kind of kids who drank in high school. I was a good kid.
Do you remember the first time you thought you might have a problem?
It was after my daughter was born in 2006. I nursed her exclusively for a year so I was extremely careful about drinking prior to her first birthday. After that, though, I went through periods of heavier than usual drinking—a bottle of wine per night—and found it more difficult to control how much I drank when I went out with friends, on special occasions and holiday gatherings. My binges got worse and I started to wonder if I was turning into my mom.
How did you rationalize your drinking?
I am not sure I consciously rationalized my drinking at all. I knew what I was doing wasn’t normal but I would tell myself, just this one more day—tomorrow I will quit. However, after a car accident in 2001, I did rationalize that drinking was a way to cope with my increasingly severe (and ultimately debilitating) back pain. I know I certainly thought I deserved the reward of drinking; whether I was mourning, celebrating or just relaxing.
What do you consider your bottom?
My bottom was a slow demise. It began in March of 2014 at a client event. Before I checked into my hotel, I bought a six-pack of Sam Adams and downed four beers as I got ready. I have absolutely no idea how much cheap red wine I drank at the event, in fact, I don’t even recall if I was buying drinks or if it was an open bar. All I know, is I had a glass in my hand all night—even when I went to the ladies room. I had to give a speech and could barely put two words together. I even went out with a crew after the event and drank more. In the morning, I felt like complete garbage, had the shakes and had to drink one of the remaining Sam Adams’ before breakfast.
When I got home, I called a wellness coach that had been a client years ago. I knew I had a drinking problem back then but I couldn’t open up to her about it. This time, my call was my cry for help and I was ready to be honest.
Did you go to rehab?
Did you go to AA?
What did you do to seek help and/or stay sober?
I went to a wellness coach I had known from networking circles in the past. I still see her twice a month.
What do you hate about being an alcoholic?
I hated the hangovers, the loss of control when drunk, the way I treated my husband and children when I was drunk. I hated all the energy it took to hide my drinking from everyone, feeling like I couldn’t function without the crutch. When I first quit drinking, I missed my comedic side but now that I have been sober a little bit, I see it coming back.
What do you love about being an alcoholic?
I loved drinking. I love the feeling of a wine glass or beer bottle in my hand and the drink moving past my lips. Drinking felt like a breath of air, how I decompressed after a stressful day. Drinking was how I celebrated and how I mourned. I have had to find new ways to experience those emotions, which has continued to be a challenge. But I’m getting there.
What are the three best tools you have acquired to stay sober and happy?
I drink TAZO Passion iced tea from a wine glass almost every night. I take a long walks along the river by my house. I have also detoxed my body and have eliminated sugar and most dairy; eating clean and organic.
Do you have a sobriety mantra?
One Day at a Time. I also like “Sobriety is a journey, not a destination.”
What is the most valuable thing that has happened to you in recovery?
I started a blog and a sober presence on social media. This has created an opportunity to connect with others who are thinking about getting sober, struggling to stay sober or celebrating their sobriety. I’ve dialed into a community that I didn’t know existed and where I can share my experience as both a creative and therapeutic activity. Also, my relationship with my husband and children is stronger than ever and I am so grateful I escaped the clutches of alcohol before it destroyed my family.
Have you worked the 12 steps? What is your opinion on them?
I haven’t worked the steps but I have made myself familiar with them. Naturally, I’ve tackled Step One—which is simply admitting that I am powerless over alcohol and my life had become unmanageable. I know the 12 steps are essential to many people’s sobriety and recovery. I’m managing without them but I don’t knock it because I haven’t tried it.
If you could offer a newcomer or someone thinking about getting sober any advice, what would it be?
You can’t do it alone. Everyone needs help and support—whether it’s rehab, AA, a sober coach, or something else. Be honest with yourself and those around you. Understand your triggers and find tools to help deal with them. Everyone’s battle is different and in order to find a solution you have to really want sobriety. It’s not easy but, as I tell my kids all the time, sometimes the things most worth doing are the ones that are the most difficult.
Photo courtesy of Emily. Click here to see all of our How I Got Sober stories.
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