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 Andrew:
What is your sobriety date?
November 12, 2015
Where did you get sober?
At home and as a service user at the UK N.H.S.’s Inclusion Drug and Alcohol Service. Their groups saved me.
When did you start drinking?
In 2003, when I gave up heroin.
How would you describe your life before you quit drinking?
It was a complete nightmare. Everything was falling apart—my health, my sanity, my job and my marriage. I was drinking a bottle of whiskey a day (at least) and it was killing everything.
What were your childhood and teenage years like?
I had a very happy childhood. My father put a lot of academic pressure on me, over which we clashed spectacularly. Instead of going on to study music at university, I joined a punk rock band. Although I experimented with lots of drugs over the next couple of decades, working in the music industry, addiction didn’t hit me until I was in my late 30s, when I was at my most successful.
When did you first think you might have a problem?
2014(ish), or when my marriage began to implode.
How did you rationalize your drinking?
I lied—to myself and everybody else. I didn’t have a drinking problem. I could stop whenever I wanted. I was completely deluded; I needed a drink every morning to stop my hands from shaking.
What do you consider your bottom?
My wife came home one night to find me unconscious and bleeding, with food burning in the oven. I was having panic attacks and couldn’t go into work. I was one relapse away from losing my wife and daughter, who are my life. I had stopped being creative. I was dead inside.
Did you go to rehab?
Did you go to AA? If so, what did you think of it at first? How do you feel about it now?
I went to NA as I had been addicted previously to heroin, but I was still drinking at the time. I did not take it seriously. I was not ready for it. I go to the occasional NA and AA meetings now but I am not a regular. I prefer the groups at Inclusion.
Have you worked the 12 steps? What is your opinion on them?
I use them as a framework for my recovery but I have not officially used them. But if they work for you—use them!
If not 12-step, what did you do to seek help and/stay sober?
I started writing my blog in March (three months in). It keeps my alcoholism/addiction in the front of my head. It reminds me every day of where I have come from. I regularly attend groups at Inclusion and I volunteer at The Edge Café, Cambridge’s new recovery café.
What do you hate about being an alcoholic?
The lies, disrespect and the complete lack of any honor.
What do you love about being an alcoholic?
The openness and connection I have found in sobriety. I now regularly chat with other sober drunks/addicts from all over the world through my Twitter and Facebook pages.
What are the three best tools you have acquired to stay sober and happy?
Honesty, connection and writing.
Do you have a sobriety mantra?
Connection, connection, connection.
What is the most valuable thing that has happened to you in recovery?
It is difficult to pinpoint one thing as everything is valuable, but the thing I am most grateful for is that my marriage is on the mend. My wife and daughter are beginning to trust me again. I am not ashamed.
If you could offer a newcomer or someone thinking about getting sober any advice, what would it be?
Visit your doctor and find a group—there is always one nearby! After a skeptical start, I discovered the recovery community/family. Like many other addicts, I had isolated myself from the universe, so the thought of sharing stories and group work was simply not in my frame of reference. I did not like the idea whatsoever. However, it only took a couple of sessions for me to find my place. My recovery was built on sharing stories in these rooms. What have you got to lose?
Any additional thoughts?
Photo courtesy of Andrew; used with permission. Click here to read all our How I Got Sober stories.