READER SPOTLIGHT: How I Got Sober: Bryan (Part One)
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READER SPOTLIGHT: How I Got Sober: Bryan (Part One)


how do i quit drinkingPeople 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 Bryan Edmund. Founder and CEO of The Sobriety Network, find him on Instagram and listen to The Sobriety Network Podcast on iTunes.

(We’ve broken Bryan’s story into two parts; check back next week for part two.)

Click here to see all of our How I Got Sober stories

What is your sobriety date?

June 7, 2014

Where did you get sober?

Bronx, NY

When did you first start drinking?

When I was 12 years old.

How would you describe your life before you quit drinking?

In one word: unconscious. Before I quit drinking, my awareness was pretty much nonexistent.

What was your childhood like?

As a child, I was always socially uncomfortable. I was definitely the quiet kid and liked to keep to myself. I found two escapes that gave me relief from the uncomfortable feelings and replaced them with a sense of power, control and importance. The first was with a basketball; I had a natural talent and would play every single day, year round. The second was with a 40 oz. Budweiser.

My teenage years, after discovering the effects of alcohol, became a balancing act of figuring out how to play basketball successfully while also being able to drink successfully. I wanted the best of both worlds.

As the years went on, alcohol eventually won. I chose alcohol over the game that I loved to play, over the girlfriend of five years I loved deeply, over my family who never stopped loving me no matter how angry or ridiculous I acted. I chose alcohol over everything and anything that ever tried to get in “our” way. It was the ultimate love affair. It needed to be broken, but I couldn’t figure out how to end a relationship with the only thing in this world that fulfilled every need, desire and craving I had ever had. Nor did I want to.

Do you remember the first time you thought you might have a problem?

The first time I went on Spring Break in college, I met this kid Brad in Acapulco, Mexico who was running the program. He was living my dream. He was traveling the world, partying with beautiful women on the beach all day and popping bottles at the club every night—all while getting paid to do it. It was the Entourage lifestyle and everything I’d encountered in life so far had me thinking it equaled success. He was living a lifestyle I believed would finally make me happy and fulfilled, if I could just figure out a way to achieve it.

I stayed in contact with Brad and asked him exactly what he had done, since I wanted to follow in his footsteps. I did everything he told me to and—fast forward three years—I became the kid running the Spring Break program in Cancun, Mexico. I was popping bottles, spraying girls down in the wet T-shirt contest and raving on the beach all day, every single day, for 28 days straight. I achieved the goal I set three years earlier

But here’s the deal—the flip side of this lifestyle was not what I had envisioned. The internal pain and suffering was still there, the loneliness did not leave, the depression, fear and anxiety only grew deeper and the hatred I had for myself got worse. I woke up in complete despair, wondering why my life seemed so perfect to everyone (including myself) on the outside, but my internal world was in complete disarray. I felt confused, lost, helpless and suicidal. I made a decision for the first time after that trip that I could no longer live like this. The Entourage lifestyle was not the solution I’d been searching for. I decided I was gonna stop drinking, drugging, gambling and chasing after women. I was going to be a better person.

Three days later I was drunk again. And two weeks after that, my body shut down and I woke up in a hospital bed with my family standing around me, wondering what the hell was wrong with me. I had completely lost the power of choice when it came to whether or not I was going to pick up a drink.

How did you rationalize your drinking?

I grew up in an environment where drinking was the norm. Everyone in my neighborhood drank. It was weird if you didn’t. I told myself I wasn’t as bad as some of my friends. I justified my drinking by telling myself, “At least you’re not shooting heroin.” I would rationalize it by telling people, “If you were stuck with me and my thoughts 24/7, you’d be drinking too.”

What do you consider your bottom?

I wanted to ask for help for years but could never find the strength. Surrendering and admitting complete defeat seemed like a cowardly move at the time. I told myself that “real men don’t ask for help” and “I will figure it out on my own.” But, unfortunately for me, I always ended up back at the end of a bottle, which always led to more drugs, more gambling and more misery.

One Monday morning in early November 2012, I woke in my parents’ bathtub wanting to die. And I finally had a good enough reason. With only 200 bucks in my bank account, I had somehow managed to accrue $25,000 of gambling debt to a neighborhood bookie while blacked out on a five-day run. Maybe that isn’t a ton of money for some people, but for a 24-year-old kid from the Bronx who never had more than 500 bucks in the bank at one time, it might as well have been a million dollars.

I had been out pumping my body full of alcohol, weed, cocaine, molly, Vicodin, Xanax and Ativan. Pretty much anything I could find. I remember waking up in that bathtub, with my parents looking down at me, wondering what the hell was going on. I decided that I did not want to be here any longer and, in a hopeless state of mind, walked up to the roof of my building with the intention of putting an end to my misery.

It was a desperate cry for help. I did not have enough strength to just man up and ask for help. My mind always found a way to rationalize the terrible actions I was taking, though I now believe I subconsciously wanted to lose that money. I needed to lose that money. I was begging for some type of cataclysmic event to take place that would provide an excuse to end it.

But instead of jumping, I came down from the roof, called my father and brother into the living room and told them I needed help, that I was in trouble. 
I don’t think there is one person in this world that actually wants to commit suicide. I believe that the mind was created to protect itself and suicidal thoughts are simply its way of wanting to end pain as quickly as possible. It’s why I always ended up back at a drink. Because alcohol works. It was my solution for everything in life: it relieved the pain and brought me pleasure instantly, every time! Unfortunately, it stopped working.

With tears running down my face, and my body trembling from the poisons I’d been pouring into it, I broke down for the first time in years. I finally found my voice and called my other brother, starting to explain the trouble I had gotten myself into. To my surprise, the words that came through the phone might as well have been from God himself. In a calm and certain voice, my oldest brother gave me a solution. He gave me a way out. Expressing nothing but love, he told me, “This is what you’re gonna do. You’re gonna find out exactly how much you owe. I am going to give you the money. You’re gonna go to a 28 day program. You’re gonna get out and get a job and you’re going to pay me back every last dollar.”

Laughter broke through my depression. The belief that I could ever pay my brother back this kind of money sounded comical—it was not possible. In my mind, there was no way that amount was attainable for someone like me.

I love this quote: “If you believe you can, you can. If you believe you can’t, you can’t. Either way, you’re right.” This has been one of the greatest lessons of my life. I accepted my brother’s offer and started my journey of recovery. I am proud to say that, as a result of being on this path of personal growth, spiritual curiosity and being fully immersed in the wonderful world of recovery, the money has been paid back in full.

Check back next week for part two.

Photo courtesy of Bryan Edmund; used with permission. Click here to see all of our How I Got Sober stories.

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About Author

Anna-Vera Dudas is a freelance writer originally from Melbourne, Australia. An avid traveler and former sports journalist, Anna is obsessed with films, TV, good books, and is hoping to write a few one day.