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 Adolfo.
Click here to see all of our How I Got Sober stories
What is your sobriety date?
May 24, 2014
Where did you get sober?
Los Angeles, California
When did you first start drinking?
I started drinking at 15 but have always been an addict of some kind since I was a child, searching for outside stuff to fill the emptiness I felt inside.
How would you describe your life before you quit drinking?
Flowing against life’s current; discontent with the moment yet afraid to change. Life was painful, confusing with no sense of direction. Pain was my best friend, comforting in a way.
What was your childhood like?
I grew up with parents who both suffered from addiction and I experienced all forms of abuse. Fear was instilled in me before I even knew how to walk. My grandfather died from alcoholism, I told myself I would never end up like my parents but somehow repeated the vicious cycle. As I got older, I was a broken mirror reflecting my past onto the world; emanating hate, anger and fear.
My teenage years were filled with great memories and not so great ones. I found a love for art; writing, poetry and acting. I also became homeless, sleeping in back of a Taco Bell in Indio, CA. I knew early on that if I ever wanted anything out of life, I would have to work for it. The physical abuse from my parents stopped in high school but then started again with bullies. I was born premature, so I am only 5’4 with a small frame, and in high school I only owned two pairs of shorts and two shirts—I was any easy target.
The first drug I did was pot. It wasn’t until I was in my early twenties when I started using cocaine. At first it was for fun but after three hospital bills, I finally quit cold turkey.
When did you start drinking?
After the last time I snorted cocaine, I stayed home for three months. I had bad anxiety so I did everything I could to stop it: I worked out and ate only veggies and berries. I was so focused on outside appearances and my anxiety that I neglected to realize I was an addict. I was putting healthy foods in a broken refrigerator. After my three months of not doing any substance, I went out to a bar. I remember the exact moment I switched my addiction. I told my friend I could never have fun again since I stopped using cocaine. He suggested I chug a Jack Daniels on the rocks. So I did— and in that moment, my drinking became heavy, A warm numbing feeling came over me and I was on my way to a great lesson.
Do you remember the first time you thought you might have a problem?
Everyone who loved me saw the problem before I did. I was a functioning alcoholic; all my bills were paid and I had things in my life that came before drinking. I was the opposite of my parents and I always compared my addiction to theirs, but everyone’s addiction is different.
I knew I had a problem because every time I drank I would wake up to tears in a loved ones eyes. I committed tons of blackout crimes, yet all I wanted to do was be self-abusive and drink until I became anyone besides my true self.
How did you rationalize your drinking?
I don’t think I ever defended my drinking, I knew it was an issue but did not know how to change. I thought the addiction was in the substance but I realized alcoholism is alcohol Inside Self and Mind. I told myself I would only drink wine, than only beer, then only on Tuesday; I was trying to control something that was bigger than me. I would tell others I was an addict but I did not connect with the word. I did not truly believe I was nor did I feel— with every ounce of my body— that I was, like I do now.
What do you consider your bottom?
I woke up one day and realized everything that went wrong or was going wrong in my life was due to alcohol: my recent break up, the car crashes, court dates, my fatty liver, everything. I realized that all those things were not who I was because after each incident I felt guilt and shame. So I started to separate myself from my mental disease. The voices in my head telling me to drink were the enemy, the disease, because my true self did not want to keep drinking.
Did you go to 12-step?
I’ve been in and out of the rooms for 10 years but all I heard were people talking about what they did while they were using, I remember my first meeting; a guy was listing off all his drunken mistakes, prison, stealing cars, beating up people. After he spoke, I thought I must not be an addict because I didn’t do any of those things when I was using. Nothing that any of the speakers said connected with me.
One day, while I was at sober living, I went to an AA called Primetime in Los Angeles. These meeting focus on the mind, ego and body of the addict and how that affects them in everyday life. They focus on the moment, today, and not on the past. I ended up drinking again and leaving sober living but what they spoke about planted a needed seed of change within me.
I am always open to anything that will keep me sober. If someone told me I needed to eat tree bark to stay sober, I would try it. I have to always be open to new ideas and new ways, I never want to know it all because then I become stagnant. I feel that we all evolve in our sobriety and so should our program.
I personally cannot be anonymous. I feel pink clouds can last forever as long as I expand my pink cloud to allow me to feel human. I do feel a broken mind can’t fix a broken mind but you can heal the mind yourself, so you can fix it.
I see myself as an advocate for sobriety.
Have you worked the 12 steps? What is your opinion on them?
I feel the 12 steps are spiritual practices that even people who are non-addicts can use to have a better life. I feel from my experience that AA and 12 the steps are not the only way. There are millions of people who stay sober without AA but I don’t dismiss them. If they don’t work for you right now, put it in your back pocket because you might need them down the line. What doesn’t work for me now might be needed later. I am evolving and so should my program.
What do you hate about being an alcoholic?
What do you love about being an alcoholic?
What are the three best tools you have acquired to stay sober and happy?
Art is my form of therapy. It helps me purge the darkness and turn it into light, something good.
Being the watcher of my mind and thoughts, then changing them to happy and positive ones. I am the captain of my perception.
During my morning shower, I ask the universe to guide my feet and ask what can I do better today than I did yesterday. The shower washes away yesterday, giving me a clean slate for today.
Do you have a sobriety mantra?
I have three quotes that I wrote that I have to say out loud everyday:
- Sober not just from substances, sober from past, sober from ones ego, sober from anything and everything that is preventing my full potential.
- No one has the power to make you feel any less than what you feel for yourself.
- I am not my past addiction nor the symptoms, guilt, shame and pain. I am the courage and strength it took to change.
What is the most valuable thing that has happened to you in recovery?
I have learned that my addiction is a blessing. If it were not for my addiction, I would not be sober. In sobriety, I found a program that has healed my soul, cleared my mind and helped me let go of the past.
Also, a few years back, I purchased a domain name called Sober Is the New Black because I wanted to blog to document my days sober, hoping it might help others find their true self. But I never went live with it because I was still in denial. I wrote a post but never hit the publish button.
Fast forward to May 24, 2014, my first day sober. I was writing my feelings on my iPhone and remembered that I had that blog, so I went live day one sober. I believe the universe gives us signs when we are on the right path. The sign that changed my life was I purchase the domain name on May 24, 2011 and happened to get sober and go publish my first entry on May 24 2014, exactly three years later. I didn’t even realize it until a few weeks later.
If you could offer a newcomer or someone thinking about getting sober any advice, what would it be?
In the beginning, you are detoxing the body but also the mind. You might be feeling, happy, sad, confused, chaotic, blissful, angry and jealous, but that is normal. Feelings will stabilize and in a few months and you might actually feel empty inside because you have purged all the negativity, making room to fill yourself up with purpose: art, hobbies, happiness.
Find the root causes of the addiction and make peace with the past. We can’t change the past so we have to accept it for what it is; something that has happened. We don’t have to be okay with it but we can learn from that experience. Let it go and make the next right move.
The universe knows exactly what we need to go through to evolve our mind and soul. That will bring an awareness of our true self and purpose.
Any additional thoughts?
Healing isn’t so much about becoming a better or happier person but about letting go of everything that isn’t your true self.
Photo courtesy of Adolfo; used with permission. Click here to see all of our How I Got Sober stories.