This post was originally published on August 24, 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 Jon.
Click here to see all of our How I Got Sober stories.
What is your sobriety date?
July 28th, 2013 – I just celebrated two years!
Where did you get sober?
I first got sober in Raleigh, North Carolina. After my relapse, I got sober in Chapel Hill, North Carolina.
When did you first start drinking?
I took my first drink at 18, the night I graduated from high school. I didn’t get drunk for the first time until I was 20, about a month shy of my 21st birthday.
How would you describe your life before you quit drinking?
My life became a series of “lateral moves” both career and relationship-wise. I would do the absolute bare minimum to get by day-to-day. I would also involve myself in unhealthy romantic relationships, usually with people who were as sick as I was. The only thing that consistently showed improvement was my music. My use of drugs and alcohol eventually overtook my music until I first got sober at age 35.
What was your childhood like?
I’m the son of two university professors. I had rarely—if ever—seen my parents drink, and certainly never saw them drunk. I was always anxious, my hands had a slight tremor, and I frequently bit my fingernails and wrung my hands. I was painfully shy and introverted, living most of my life in my own head. My imagination provided me an escape—writing stories, drawing and listening to tons of music.
In 1986 I saw my mom drunk for the first time. She explained what happened and that it wouldn’t happen again. This was a promise that would be broken over and over. I found out that my mom had begun a relationship with one of the other teachers—a woman. My parents fought often then. My mom couldn’t be gay/bi, I thought, because I existed. One morning, my dad came downstairs to tell me my mom was moving out. Within a year of seeing her drunk for the first time, my family as I had known it was over. I would never trust or rely on the idea of “family” the same way again.
Do you remember the first time you thought you might have a problem?
I didn’t begin experimenting with drugs (other than alcohol) until my early 20s, when I began to immerse myself in the rave scene of the early 1990s.
How did you rationalize your drinking?
Alcohol was a coping strategy. When I discovered that it had the ability to set me free from the perpetual anxiety I felt and the painful memories from my childhood, it was as if I’d found the Holy Grail. I felt like I needed it to be me.
What do you consider your bottom?
In September of 2009 I lost a job due to poor work performance. Feeling depressed and sad, I got high in the car on my way back home from getting fired. I was arrested and charged with DUI (my second in seven years) and possession. Two weeks later, after an argument with my now ex-girlfriend, I overdosed on a combination of alcohol, prescription drugs and GBL.
Did you go to rehab?
My first stint was at The Wake County Alcoholism Treatment Center, November 22-December 11, 2009. My second was at Freedom House Recovery Center in Chapel Hill, NC from July 27th-August 4th, 2009.
Did anything significant happen while in rehab that is important to your sobriety?
The main thing I got out of rehab is that I never want to go back. I would much rather work a program one day at a time and skip the trip back.
Did you go to AA?
I did—NA, as well. I went mainly because it was required of us in rehab, and because my mom went to AA (and continues to this day). So I knew that to some degree, it had worked for her.
So what did—and do—you do to help you stay sober?
AA is certainly not my sole approach. I’ve been to several different therapists. I take medication that helps my anxiety. I’ve lived in two Oxford Houses that were essential to me in being able to transition from rehab into a normal life.
What do you hate about being an alcoholic?
The negative associations which come with the label and all of the experiences I put myself through to earn it.
What do you love about being an alcoholic?
Nothing. I’ve heard people say in meetings that they’re grateful to be alcoholics, but I believe they misspeak. I love being in recovery from alcoholism and drug addiction.
What are the three best tools you have acquired to stay sober and happy?
My music, my blog and exercise.
I produce and perform a hybrid of EDM (electronic dance music) under the stage name DJ FM and have for close to 18 years. I write my blog, My Last Stand. I walk daily, sometimes jog. For me, it’s kind of a “moving meditation.”
Do you have a sobriety mantra?
“More will be revealed.”
What is the most valuable thing that has happened to you in recovery?
I have confidence in myself and in my choices, probably for the first time in my life.
Have you worked the 12 steps? What is your opinion on them?
I’ve worked the 12 steps twice. That process has been extremely helpful to me in the letting go of old hurts, as well as forgiving myself for all the trouble I caused.
If you could offer a newcomer or someone thinking about getting sober any advice, what would it be?
Remember that your recovery belongs to you and no one else. There are no quizzes at the end of class, no papers to write, no tests to pass. This is a lifelong re-education process, so stay on the path!