This post was originally published on September 5, 2016.
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 Eric:
What is your sobriety date?
November 4, 2007
Where did you get sober?
When did you start drinking?
I recall drinking before I was 10 and always liking the way it made me feel. I really started to drink in my early teens.
How would you describe your life before you quit drinking?
During my teens and even into college I had some great times drinking and drugging. It wasn’t until about my sophomore year in college that I recognized it was a problem. That doesn’t mean I didn’t have my fair share of trouble directly related to my drinking and drugging up until that point.
What was your childhood like? Teenage years?
My childhood was kind of sad—my mother and father split up. I am a product of an interracial relationship (father was black, mom is white) and my mother remarried a guy who didn’t really love us. In the end, we lived several years being abused. When I was 10 my mother, sister and I escaped from him. My teenage years were better. I found martial arts and wrestling and for the first time in my life I felt like I belonged.
When did you first think you might have a problem?
My junior year in college, a professor pulled me to the side after a morning class. I was pretty intoxicated and she pointed out she was concerned about me. That same year I got my first DWI.
How did you rationalize your drinking?
It was easy to rationalize my drinking and drugging. Up until I got sober I didn’t really care about what you thought or felt about my drinking. I didn’t know that I was using alcohol and drugs to simply survive my emotions.
What do you consider your bottom?
I have had many bottoms. The tricky thing about addiction is that the longer I used, the more I was willing to extend those bottoms. In the end I had been to therapeutic communities and jail. Lost every job and every meaningful relationship I ever had. I was pretty much homeless. I had a home (it was in foreclosure) but I had pretty much turned it into a shooting gallery/crack house. I was alone for real and it wasn’t my imagination. I had truly alienated everyone who ever cared about me.
Did you go to rehab?
I didn’t know rehabs like the one I own now, or the ones I have worked in, existed. My idea of rehab was a facility where they degraded you and told you how much of a burden and POS you are. I went to a few different detox units in hospitals and I went to a state-run center called Hilltop in Baltimore (it’s now closed because of insurance fraud dealing with Medicaid and Medicare patients).
Did anything significant happen while in rehab that is important to your sobriety?
It wasn’t a spiritual experience like a pink cloud or rays of sunshine. I remember asking a kid who was a tech if I could do my laundry on a Thursday (Wednesday was my day to do laundry). It dawned on me that I was a 31-year-old, basically asking a kid for permission to do something that every adult should be able to do on his own. I was like, what the fuck—this shouldn’t be this way. I wish I could say it was more spiritual or moving, but for me it was a moment where I was like “This sucks and I don’t want to do this to myself anymore.”
Did you go to AA? If so, what did you think of it at first? How do you feel about it now?
I ended up going to Narcotics Anonymous. I had gone to AA for years and for whatever reason didn’t connect to that fellowship. It wasn’t until many years into my recovery that I started to become open minded to Alcoholics Anonymous. I have always believed in 12-step programs; it just took awhile for me to come around to attending AA.
A lot of my clients are resistant to the 12 steps. I was never opposed because I was in so much pain that it didn’t matter where anybody told me to go. If I could get some relief, I would have gone anywhere. Plus—people in meetings seemed relatively happy.
What do you hate about being an alcoholic?
I don’t hate anything about being a recovering alcoholic. I hate the pain that I have caused myself, my family and my community. I hate the torment that I put my parents through. In active addiction I was a real savage.
What do you love about being an alcoholic?
I love that I am connected to this group of people who have struggled, been in the same place and gotten to the other side. I love that I can go to a place and always identify, hear what I need and apply it to my own life. I love that through working the 12 steps, I have learned who I am and what makes me tick, the good the bad and the ugly.
My whole life that I have today is a direct result of my personal recovery. I met my wife in a meeting and my children have never seen me loaded. My business is grounded in the principals of helping people struggling with addiction, what more could I ask for?
What are the three best tools you have acquired to stay sober and happy?
I have learned to keep things in perspective. I am always trying to remain grateful for the life I have found in recovery. And although I struggle sometimes, I try to think before I act.
Do you have a sobriety mantra?
As corny as it sounds, “just for today.”
What is the most valuable thing that has happened to you in recovery?
I trusted the process. I found a man who was willing to sponsor me and I trusted his guidance and direction. I still have the same sponsor today. I believe that was really something—especially early in my recovery—that helped me. It’s important to really let someone get to know you, so that when the shit hits the fan (and it will) they can check you.
Have you worked the 12 steps? What is your opinion on them?
I have worked the 12 steps and traditions with a sponsor more than once.
If you could offer a newcomer or someone thinking about getting sober any advice, what would it be?
Get involved in something. If you don’t want to participate in a 12-step program, find something else that you connect with. I have learned that isolation is truly dangerous for me. Early on, if I was alone I found someone to hang out with. When I was thinking something crazy, I told someone. And when things seemed bleak and hopeless, I didn’t use—most importantly.
Any additional thoughts?
I love helping people find a new way of life and getting them to tap in to the possibilities their life can hold.
Eric Paskin is a nationally certified and sought after interventionist and the owner of Restore Health and Wellness Center, a licensed and joint commission accredited full continuum of care program that offers detox, residential treatment, Partial Hospitalization Programming (PHP) and Intensive Outpatient Programming (IOP) in Los Angeles. Check out www.restorecenterLA.com to learn more.
Photo provided by Eric Paskin; used with permission.