This post was originally published on January 4, 2016.
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 Anne S.
Click here to see all of our How I Got Sober stories
What is your sobriety date?
December 1, 2013
Where did you get sober?
Where I live, in Northern Canada.
When did you first start drinking?
As a teenager.
How would you describe your life before you quit drinking?
The last few years my drinking had become a problem. I was always planning to quit and failing on the weekend. I was unhappy, depressed and very anxious.
What was your childhood like?
I have always had high anxiety and high expectation of myself. I was the good girl and always followed the rules. Drinking felt like a way to let off steam and act less responsible. I loved that freedom.
Do you remember the first time you thought you might have a problem?
In 2008, I decided to take a year off work and be a stay at home mom. I found it lonely. I started drinking more in the evenings during the week. After all, I didn’t have to get up to go to work. As the year went by I found it harder and harder to get things done during the day. In hindsight, I was clearly depressed. I decided to return to work to try to create more order in my life. I hoped that would get the daily drinking under control. And it did for a while.
How did you rationalize your drinking?
All my friends drank. My husband drank. I was a successful, fit, educated woman. I believed I was drinking wine, expensive wine, to blow off stress and have fun.
What do you consider your bottom?
My “moment of truth” actually happened to someone else. My husband had a close work acquaintance take him aside and urge him to get help for his increasingly dangerous behavior with alcohol. When he told me, I immediately told him I was done; that I needed to quit too. I told him that I had been suffering for a long time knowing alcohol was hurting me but was unable to get things under control on my own. We emptied the house of alcohol and that was my first day of sobriety. I haven’t had a drink since.
Did you go to rehab?
No, although I had planned to go to Paradise Valley in British Columbia but I never did.
Did you go to 12-step?
I didn’t in the beginning. After about two months I realized I needed more support so I attended some 12-step meetings. I wouldn’t say the 12 steps are my sober path but I do attend occasionally with my husband and I have worked the steps. I think they are an excellent path to self-awareness. I used A Woman’s Way through the Twelve Steps; I found it less critical and fear-based, which is my one issue with 12-step programs. We all need more love, not less. I encourage others to be open minded enough to go to a meeting and listen. They are special places where people tell their truth. That is a rare thing.
Did you, or do you, do anything else to help you stay sober?
On the first day, I called a therapist and started seeing her. I found yoga and follow it as a spiritual path as well as a physical practice. I went into a severe depression along the way and now I take medication for that. It is clear to me I needed that a long time ago. I wish I hadn’t been so afraid of trying it. I also blog and I have sober friends online. It helps that my husband is also sober.
What do you hate about being an alcoholic?
I hate that I acted compulsively for a long time and couldn’t trust myself. It has taken me a long time to rebuild that belief in myself.
What do you love about being an alcoholic?
I have found freedom. I know just how horrible it is to suffer and from that I have a deep love and compassion for anyone struggling with any sort of addiction, compulsive behavior, mental illness or pain.
What are the three best tools you have acquired to stay sober and happy?
Self-compassion, yoga and service to others.
Do you have a sobriety mantra?
My personal mantra is stillness and peace.
What is the most valuable thing that has happened to you in recovery?
I have found myself. And I love me.
If you could offer a newcomer or someone thinking about getting sober any advice, what would it be?
Just do it. Give yourself a chance to see just how beautiful life can be sober. You aren’t giving anything up. You will only gain.
Any additional thoughts?
When I was drinking, I felt like I was just biding time before I died. I thought I had missed my chance and that that was it. Crying into my wine glass on the couch, full of self pity. Now I realize that life is amazing and beautiful. I can do anything.