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 author, AfterParty contributor and blogger, Dana:
What is your sobriety date?
January 1, 2014. I first got sober in August of 2011 until a brief, four-day relapse.
Where did you get sober?
At home, in Lindsborg, Kansas.
When did you start drinking?
I never really had a “crazy” drinking life—started in college. I didn’t have terrible trouble with it until after I had my children. That’s why my alcoholism was so tricky. I was able to say, for a long time, that I never blacked out, didn’t get arrested—it was sneaky that way.
How would you describe your life before you quit drinking?
At the very end, I was a zombie mom. I had two small boys (only 18 months apart) and I was basically surviving each day. Trying to deal with massive loads of guilt, self-loathing and just plain old hangovers with two little boys was hell. I also would over compensate for my drinking by trying to be “super mom” with activities, crafts, all sorts of outings and then these would (of course) exhaust me. I would then flop down on the couch and think, “Well, I need a drink. I deserve it.” Terrible vicious cycle.
What was your childhood like? Teenage years?
Pretty normal. I grew up in the ‘burbs. I remember being a total control freak, though, even then. Straight As. Honor roll. First in my class to get a job. I had to be the “best” at it all. I about gave myself an ulcer. Also, I grew up with a dad in recovery, so there’s that.
When did you first think you might have a problem?
In my 20s, my roommate came home one night, and I was drinking, alone, watching a movie or something. She looked right at me and said, “Why are you drinking alone, Dana? That’s not okay.” I had never had anyone say that to me. And honestly, it made me kind of mad. But now, when I look back I realize—my roomie, who really loved me and wanted only the best for me, was a highly sensitive and smart girl and I think she saw it before I did. It took me some 20 more years to really “get it.”
How did you rationalize your drinking?
Mainly I told myself deserved it. I was a mom! It was so hard! I was so tired! My life was so boring! The really sad part was that the drinking was making my life hard, tired and boring.
What do you consider your bottom?
There was no big, awful moment. That’s why it was so hard for me—I never had a night in jail or total blackouts or even just colossal fights with the husband. What I had instead was a long, slow decline. Finally, one afternoon, my Higher Power decided to deal with me—I ended up sitting on the floor in my kitchen crying. And I just knew, then, that I had to stop. It was not some big dramatic moment, but it was what happened to me.
Did you go to rehab?
Did you go to AA? If so, what did you think of it at first? How did you feel about it now?
I did and do go to AA. I was terrified. I grew up with my dad having these meetings in our family room, and my sister and I always had to go in afterwards and help clean up the ashtrays. Anyhow, the night I finally decided to quit, I remember crying to my husband, “I can quit. But I CANNOT go to meetings. I just CAN’T.” And then, the next morning, I got some keys in my hand and I found a meeting. And it was terrifying. But, as soon as they started talking, I was right at home. It was like I could finally breathe. I have attended meetings ever since and they have saved me. Sometimes they are awesome, sometimes they are not, but either way, they keep me sober.
Have you worked the 12 steps? What is your opinion on them?
I had to figure out that I no longer needed to be in charge of all the world anymore. The 12 steps helped me see that there is a God and I am not it. It was a desperately needed wake up call, and one that I am grateful for! The 12 steps helped “organize” and prioritize my life—as one who is rather all or nothing about anything in my life, sticking to the steps keeps me focused and simplifies things. They also keep me open to the spiritual side of life, which is exciting and magical and keeps things interesting.
What do you hate about being an alcoholic?
I call it “twitchy brain”—I still get those feelings of anxiety, panic and depression. Being sober didn’t take all that away, and being in recovery, at times, means I have to deal with my annoying feelings and not run from them.
What do you love about being an alcoholic?
Being sober means I get to deal with my annoying feelings and not run from them! And then I feel so very very free. And that is the best thing ever. “Happy, joyous, free”—it’s for real.
What are the three best tools you have acquire to stay sober and happy?
Meetings, prayer and humility.
Do you have a sobriety mantra?
I like to mutter the Serenity Prayer with a lot of curse words interjected at choice spots—it keeps me sane and it also helps me to smile.
What is the most valuable thing that has happened to you in recovery?
My children will never see their momma drunk. Also, my marriage, my friendships, all my relationships have been refined through this process. The people that I need in my life? We are stronger for it. The people who are toxic and no good for me? I have learned to boot them.
If you could offer a newcomer or someone thinking about getting sober any advice, what would it be?
I used to think that getting sober would be just that—sober, dull, dry and boring. It’s NOT. My life is a peaceful, promising roller coaster ride now, but the fun kind. Not the kind that makes me hurl afterwards. You will laugh again. And it will be the deep, belly kind of laugh that feeds your soul.
Any additional thoughts?
My brother died in January of 2013 from this disease. Prior to his death our family was unable to contact him—he had pretty much disappeared. But, I was able to see him the day before his death. I told him I loved him and I do. And I miss having my big brother. This is truly a family disease.
Getting sober is the best thing that I ever did for myself. And, I did it for myself. Not for my kids. Not for my husband. I really, really did it for me. Moms forget that—we put all sorts of things in front of us—and then we liquor up because we are so damn tired. This is a good thing to do for us, first. It’s hard and mind-bending, and it will blow all your expectations out of the water, but it will be worth it.
Click here to see all of our How I Got Sober stories.
Photo courtesy of Dana Bowman. Used with permission.
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