This post was originally published on November 9, 2015.
People get sober in all sorts of ways. Sometimes they 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?
December 7, 2012
Where did you get sober?
Durham, North Carolina
When did you first start drinking?
I was 14. I started with two big liters of Sun Country wine coolers with my friends.
How would you describe your life before you quit drinking?
I was always hungover, wishing I could quit drinking or rationalizing a trip to the store to buy wine. I was blacking out almost every time I drank. I would drink two bottles of wine while my husband was at work (he worked nights at the time) and I wouldn’t remember him getting home. I was miserable, caught between the woman I wanted to be and the one I actually was.
What was your childhood like?
My early childhood was pretty happy. Around the time I was five, my family bought a house and moved to a small town. That’s when everything fell apart. I didn’t have anything in common with the kids in my neighborhood and things changed at home. My dad started working all the time. I didn’t understand why he just disappeared. With my dad working like that, my mom was completely full of resentment. In high school, I used alcohol to make being sexual easier. I went to a church lock-in when I was 15 or 16 and lost my virginity, which I don’t remember at all. To this day, I don’t know how it happened. Did I say yes? Did I say no? Did it matter? After that, I had an “anything goes” attitude about sexuality, especially after I’d been drinking. I stopped caring about how I felt about myself.
Do you remember the first time you thought you might have a problem?
I knew I had a problem almost from the get-go. I went to an AA meeting in my early 20’s. I wrote journal entries about wishing I could quit drinking, how I knew I had a problem, how if only I could give up booze, I could get my life together.
How did you rationalize your drinking?
I told myself it wasn’t that bad because I didn’t drink in the morning or every day. I could not drink for days at a time. I made friends with people who drank like I did, so it seemed normal. I have a lot of alcoholism in my family, so I’d blame it on that. I told myself I was okay because I was married, had two children and never went to jail.
What do you consider your bottom?
I promised my children I would make French toast for breakfast and help with homework. The night before, I drank at least two bottles of wine and ate a couple of these pot coconut things. That morning, I could not get out of bed. I can still picture both boys standing next to my bed asking me what was wrong, when was I going to get up, was I okay? They brought up a plate of French toast they made with their dad, left it on my bedside table and kissed me goodbye. I knew then that it was now or never. I was going to end up alone—no longer a part of my family—if I didn’t get my shit together.
Did you go to rehab?
Did you go to AA?
No. I went to one AA meeting in my early 20’s, and then one other after I got sober. I thought for a long time that AA or rehab were the only ways to get sober.
So what did—and do—you do to help you stay sober?
I found a sober blog called Tired of Thinking About Drinking, written by a woman named Belle. I sent her an email to tell her I was quitting and that I really liked her blog. She wrote me back! She offered to be a pen pal, and I took her up on it. I wrote to her every morning for months, and we still keep in touch. I also started my own blog, Soberbia. I decided that if I was going to write this blog it wasn’t going to be like all the journals I’ve kept over the years. It was going to be me—sober—never going back. I also attended a recovery group for awhile. It was so wonderful to see the “me too” in person, look at other women like me and know they understood where I was coming from.
What do you hate about being an alcoholic?
I hate the years it took me to be brave enough to quit. I hate all the shame I carry from the things I never would have done if I wasn’t drunk. I hate that it made me so afraid to shine when I could have soared. I hate that I missed my children being babies, especially my youngest.
What do you love about being an alcoholic?
I love knowing that I never have to drink again. I love the way it made me know all the deepest, darkest parts of myself. I love that I know my limit, which I learned from a lot of trial and error in how to take care of myself. I love the gratitude I feel for the life I live today. I love that I can help other people begin again, too.
What are the three best tools you have acquired to stay sober and happy?
Saying yes to myself. Being a wise beginner every day. Reading and writing—they have saved my life more times than I could count. So has author Anne Lamott.
Do you have a sobriety mantra?
Breathe. Time is big. I am so grateful that there are undefined, giant handfuls of moments for me to find, to live and to dig into without a rush or hurry. I don’t have to hurry up to get sober—I AM sober.
What is the most valuable thing that has happened to you in recovery?
I get to be myself and I’m totally cool with that.
Have you worked the 12 steps? What is your opinion on them?
I haven’t done the 12 steps, but I think they’re terrific.
If you could offer a newcomer or someone thinking about getting sober any advice, what would it be?
The answers you’re looking for aren’t in that bottle, they’re inside of you. When you face your fears instead of drinking, they just seem to get more manageable. You are a glorious being! To be yourself is a beautiful, hard, wonderful, never-ending thing. How lovely is that? Pretty fucking lovely.
Click here to see all of our How I Got Sober stories.