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. This is Daniel’s story:
What is your sobriety date?
May 17, 2015
Where did you get sober?
When did you start drinking?
I drank very scarcely in high school, and then really picked it up more in college where it really took off.
How would you describe your life before you quit drinking?
My life was very isolated, I partied for a little bit in my early 20s but drinking became a necessity very quickly and it wasn’t about having a good time anymore, it was just about numbing myself and being able to function somewhat.
What was your childhood like? Teenage years?
My childhood was great, I was very blessed with two loving parents in a beautiful town and a very nice house. I remember my neighborhood having something like 25 other kids around my age to play with everyday. I was provided with everything a teenager could possibly ask for.
When did you first think you might have a problem?
I left college after two years because I stopped attending class and would drink instead. I didn’t think about it until I moved back home from college in which I reflected on the past couple years and could not believe how bad I blew the opportunity I had at school and it really brought me to a low I had never felt before. The only way I knew how to deal with it was drink more.
How did you rationalize your drinking?
There were so many excuses I would tell myself. At first I would tell myself that I am in my early 20s and lots of people party hard at my age. Once it became an everyday thing I would always tell myself that tomorrow I will not drink. Towards the end it became a lot of self-pity, the ‘if you were me you would drink too’ type of thing. God, I loved feeling bad for myself.
What do you consider your bottom?
My bottom happened in 2015. I had just been fired from my father’s company for stealing—it was one of the worst days of my life. I stayed holed up in a room I would never leave unless for more alcohol for months. I had never been so isolated. A few months after being fired, my mom called me one morning and told me that my father had died of a heart attack, it absolutely blew me away. My life had truly become a living nightmare.
Did you go to rehab? If so, where?
I did go to rehab shortly after my dad died, two months to be exact. I have been to treatment five times. This time was in South Florida. Each other time was between 2010 and 2014, between Florida and New Jersey. I was the ‘chronic relapser’ we all know and have compassion for.
Did anything significant happen while in rehab that is important to your sobriety?
This time as opposed to each other time was so different. My previous treatment centers I really thought I knew what was best for me, and didn’t ask for much outside help. This time I was so beaten down and hopeless that I no longer trusted myself and did not care if I was right about anything. As the big book says, I was beaten into a state of reasonableness. Thank god.
Did you go to AA? If so, what did you think of it at first? How do you feel about it now?
I was the type who went to AA for years but didn’t do any step work. This time I dove into everything completely. Within my first few months I was in the middle of step work, had regular contact with my sponsor, had a homegroup with a commitment. Everything that was asked I simply did. That was the difference, for all the years before I was asked to do all this and never listened, when I finally listened and took action, my life changed!! It’s that simple!
What do you hate about being an alcoholic?
My mind, it still likes to throw really negative stuff at me and some days it can be very loud and hard to ignore. I know my alcoholism centers in my mind and is a driving force behind my thoughts.
What do you love about being an alcoholic?
The comradery that is formed between myself and other sober alcoholics. In today’s age we spend so much time on social media and our phones just texting people to communicate. I think it’s very special I have a group of people I see face to face regularly and speak with in person regularly—it’s a rarity these days for most people.
What are the three best tools you have acquired to stay sober and happy?
Humility is very important to me, it means remaining teachable and I hope to always be teachable. Once I start thinking I know everything again, I am in major trouble.
Honesty, not only with others but with myself. Honesty with myself means when I am having a bad day, which does still happen, I acknowledge it any let somebody else know. Keeping problems ruminating in my mind is a very dangerous thing for me and not worth holding in.
Willingness, as I go down the road of sobriety I hit so many new obstacles that I need to deal with, I just hope I am always willing to face them and deal with them rather than go back to avoiding every problem in my life and pretending they don’t exist.
Do you have a sobriety mantra?
I like to constantly tell myself “Everything is good” on days when I am just completely wrapped up in my head. I project a lot into the future (I feel most of us are guilty of this) to the point I can’t even enjoy today. Today I am alive and sober and that is a beautiful thing I should always enjoy.
What is the most valuable thing that has happened to you in recovery?
I feel a part of my family again, especially my mom, we talk at least once a week on the phone. I had put her through so much pain and she still loved me unconditionally, it is very easily the most valuable thing I have received in recovery.
Have you worked the 12 steps? What is your opinion on them?
I have a few times. They certainly helped but I feel sometimes we treat the 12 steps as a graduation program. Meaning being under the belief that if you complete them you will be free forever! I have fallen victim to that belief before and it didn’t end well. Of course step work is important, but practicing the principles of those steps in your everyday life is just as vital.
If you could offer a newcomer or someone thinking about getting sober any advice, what would it be?
Let others do the thinking for you for a while, obviously people who are in recovery and that you trust. For years I struggled with being desperate at first, but once I started feeling better I would make my own decisions again and those decisions would take me out every single time. Surrender is necessary in this process and to me surrender is as simply as no longer doing what your thoughts are telling you to do and doing what someone else who you’ve accepted guidance from tells you to do.
Any additional thoughts?
Don’t be too hard on yourself. When I first entered recovery this time I thought I had to be this spiritual saint and if I acted out or made a dumb decision then that meant I was a failure. All of us are going to make mistakes, all of us are going to come up short at sometime in life, probably in a major way, forgive yourself, move on and grow from it.
Daniel Wittler is an Outreach Specialist for Recovery Local, a local addiction/recovery based marketing company. He advocates long-term sobriety by writing for websites like journeypure.com, providing resources to recovering addicts and shedding light on drug addiction. Daniel believes that absolutely anyone can get sober provided they are ready to take action in their own life.