This post was originally published on November 23, 2015.
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 Danijela.
Click here to see all of our How I Got Sober stories
What is your sobriety date?
July 7, 2010
Where did you get sober?
When did you first start drinking?
I drank for a period of about 2 months when I was 14. I stopped drinking and really didn’t have anything until I was 19, when I met my ex-husband.
How would you describe your life before you quit drinking?
My life was like a roller coaster ride. Alcohol, drugs and the effects they had on my emotions, spirituality and physical state, turned me into a much darker version of myself. I tried many times to fix myself, but I would always end up falling back down again.
What was your childhood like?
I remember being happy and free and would play all of the time. I was a very curious child. My parents worked a lot. My mother worked evenings, so my father took care of us mostly when he would come home from work. He suffers from this same disease, but it wasn’t that big of an issue when I was younger.
I now relate a lot of my issues from my past to my relationship with a certain group of friends from grades seven and eight. Those were tough years with a lot of bullying. When I got to high school, things got easier in a sense, but my relationship with girls was tainted from grade school and would carry on into my adulthood.
Do you remember the first time you thought you might have a problem?
I left my son’s father when I was 27. I moved many times, had many jobs and attempted to start over again too many times to count. I knew I had a drinking problem right from the beginning, but I never knew it was the actual drink that was the problem. During this time I had many partners, as well. The idea that I might have a disease didn’t even occur to me until the last year of drinking. I just assumed I was a messed up person.
How did you rationalize your drinking?
I would blame myself for drinking too much, for doing drugs and wasting my money. The shame and guilt were so immense that I would get drunk and high in spite of myself.
What do you consider your bottom?
My first DUI was the beginning of the end. February 10, 2010, I got into my car during a blackout and drove the wrong was on the highway for 26 kms. It took another DUI and a third arrest on July 7th, 2010, before I woke up.
Did you go to rehab?
When I decided to sober up, I was sitting in a jail cell. Here I was, a mother, in jail, because of the drink. I was so ashamed. I chose to go to AA as well as an outpatient recovery program.
Did anything significant happen while in rehab that is important to your sobriety?
It happened the first night. I went to my first AA meeting in Oakville, Ontario, on July 16th, 2010. It was an open meeting and there must have been 100 people there. It was truly amazing. I had no idea there were so many people out there, just like me. I knew right then and there I was home.
Did you go to AA?
Yes. AA was what got me sober. I accepted it for what it was trying to do. Yes, it is a spiritual program and I had a soul sickness. I needed to be told that I didn’t have to do it alone.
What do you hate about being an alcoholic?
I really don’t care or think about the actual physical addiction or allergy to alcohol that I have. What alcohol did to me spiritually and emotionally is what I hate the most.
What do you love about being an alcoholic?
I wouldn’t use the word love. Alcoholism is tearing my family apart and is literally killing those that I love. I am so grateful that I am still alive. I have been able to get sober and live the life I have always wanted and to be the woman I have always wanted to be.
What are the three best tools you have acquired to stay sober and happy?
Forgiveness, acceptance and mindfulness.
Do you have a sobriety mantra?
I think of it this way: I can pick up that one, simple alcoholic beverage and choose to ruin all that I have gained and loved—to ruin the lives of those whom I love—or I can stay away from that one simple alcoholic beverage. I can live the most awesome life and give love to those around me. It’s very simple.
What is the most valuable thing that has happened to you in recovery?
I have gained the respect and trust of my family. I have the most beautiful relationship with my son, who I couldn’t be more proud of. I decided to go after one of biggest dreams and went to University. I am in my fourth year now, double-majoring in Women and Gender Studies and Religion, with a minor in South Slavic Studies.
Have you worked the 12 steps? What is your opinion on them?
Yes. I needed something to teach me how to live my life again, and the 12 steps did that. I realized that I had to change my life completely from top to bottom. You have to get past the literal words and see the steps for what they truly are.
If you could offer a newcomer or someone thinking about getting sober any advice, what would it be?
Remove everything—I mean everything—people, places and things that contributed to your alcoholism. Just think, you can start your life all over again, right from the beginning. I assure you that before you know it, you can be that person you have always wanted to be. There is so much more to life than the drink. Once you can see that, you are gold!
A few years ago I had the urge to share my story and publish my memoir. I plan to re-write it once I finish University. It’s a short read, with some juicy details that tell my story. Some parts of my life since I wrote it have changed, but the main purpose of the book has not.
Click here to see all of our How I Got Sober stories.