This post was originally published on January 18, 2016.
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 Amy.
Click here to see all of our How I Got Sober stories
What is your sobriety date?
March 10, 2015
Where did you get sober?
North Richland Hills, TX
When did you start drinking?
What was your childhood like?
I had a perfectly happy and normal childhood. I wanted for nothing and my parents were at every pep rally and dance recital. My parents weren’t perfect, but they did the best they could with what they had. All problems and issues were hidden behind closed doors.
The first drink I took was at a New Year’s Eve party when I was in eighth grade. I remember waking up the next morning and my first thought was, “Why don’t people do this all the time?”
I had a lot of friends growing up, but I was very socially awkward. My friends were all very well liked and good looking, and I thought of myself as the black sheep of the group. I guess you could say I always felt different. Drinking made that insecurity somewhat more tolerable, and categorizing myself as an outcast gave me an excuse to self-medicate.
My parents divorced shortly after I turned 13, and life, as I knew it, changed forever. There was a lot of pain and anger I had no idea how to deal with. That’s when I developed and perfected my manipulation skills. These really came in handy by the time I was in full-blown addiction later in life. My parents weren’t super strict, but there were definitely rules in place and I did whatever I could to get around them. All I cared about was escaping reality, no matter the consequences.
I can tell a lot of funny stories about my drinking years. But most of the time I was scared, alone, angry and bored. I knew the future that was coming was a bad one.
What was your life like before you quit drinking?
The word that describes my life before I got sober is “lonely.” Alcoholism is lonely. Even surrounded by people, you don’t feel the connection. Even when those people really love you. Because you think they love the mask you are holding up to the world, not the real you, not the worm inside that is your core self. And I drank even harder to get rid of that realization. Eventually, I completely isolated myself. I got to the point where I had to take eight Xanax just to walk outside and check my mail. I was living in my own prison.
How did you rationalize your drinking?
“If you had my problems, you would drink too” was my classic line, but I honestly thought medicating myself was the only way I could make it through the day alive. I hated living and after a suicide attempt (see next column), I didn’t see another way out.
What do you consider your bottom?
I don’t believe that I have a bottom. The book of Alcoholics Anonymous tells us that outside of sobriety, there are three outcomes for this disease: jails, institutions and death. I have been arrested multiple times due to poor choices made while drunk, I’ve been to a total of five institutions, and in 2011 came pretty damn close to death after a suicide attempt landed me in ICU. There are no other options for me. I hit my bottom when I stopped digging for it.
Did you go to rehab?
I went to the Sante Center for Healing in Argyle, Texas twice in 2011 for 90 days each time. In July 2014 and March 2015 I entered The Right Step in Euless, TX, for a 30-day treatment program. I had positive experiences at both facilities, which is why I ended up returning to both places for a second time after relapsing.
Did you go to AA?
Yes. Alcoholics Anonymous saved my life. At first I thought it was disgusting, to be completely honest. I looked at all of the differences instead of the similarities. I thought it was a bunch of old drunks who were lying about their sobriety dates.
Now I absolutely love it. Those old drunks I used to sit in the back row and mock are now some of my very best friends. The fellowship is something I am so proud to be a part of, and I will forever be thankful that I got out of my head long enough to realize how amazing it is.
What do you hate about being an alcoholic?
I hate the stigma that is attached to it. I hate that there are addicts still suffering because we are afraid to talk about mental health issues or addiction.
What do you love about being an alcoholic?
I have an appreciation for life that, in my opinion, cannot be matched by anyone who has not lived through addiction.
What are the three best tools you have acquired to stay sober and happy?
Trust God. Clean house. Help others.
Do you have a sobriety mantra?
Let it be <3
What is the most valuable thing that has happened to you in recovery?
I’ve been given the ability to be present. Not only in my own life, but in my daughter’s life. I have been given the gift of being able to make mistakes, learn from them and not drink over it.
Have you worked the 12 steps?
Yes. I honestly don’t know how people stay sober without them.
If you could offer a newcomer or someone thinking about getting sober any advice, what would it be?
Sobriety is not for people who want it, it’s not for people who need it, it’s for people who do it.
Click here to see all of our How I Got Sober stories.