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 more specifically, is Kelly.
Click here to see all of our How I Got Sober stories.
What is your sobriety date?
May 7, 2013
Where did you get sober?
When did you first start drinking?
I was in high school. A friend and I raided her parents’ liquor cabinet and I puked gin and peach Schnapps into her sink after drinking it straight from the bottle.
How would you describe your life before you quit drinking?
Miserable. Pathetic. I would use phrases like “YOLO” and “Live every day like it’s your last!” to justify my destructive drinking habits and life decisions. I was constantly creating drama and thrived in it.
What was your childhood like?
I consider my childhood to be happy and mostly carefree, though I grew up with alcoholism in my home. It runs in my family and it was a taboo subject. I thought it didn’t affect me much until I realized in later years how angry I had become at an absent parent. In high school, I always longed to be one of those popular girls who received all the attention. Alcohol seemed to fit right into the equation. It allowed me to let loose.
Do you remember the first time you thought you might have a problem?
Blacking out started to become a regular thing in college. I’m talking Sarah Hepola-type blackouts, where you lose hours of your life. College also marked one of many toxic relationships with men that included emotional and physical abuse. Ex-boyfriends would get mad at me for my drinking shenanigans and the fact that they always had to babysit me. One said to me, “Kel, if the things that happen to you when you drink happened to me, I would never drink again.”
How did you rationalize your drinking?
I told myself everyone blacked out. I was just living in the moment and enjoying myself—no big deal. I surrounded myself with people who drank just as much as I did or more. I blamed different types of liquor. I had never been fired. I wasn’t drinking at work. I didn’t get a DUI. I deserved to drink after a hard day’s work, a failed relationship, or any type of achievement.
What do you consider your bottom?
I was on vacation with my friends in Punta Cana, Dominican Republic, at an all-inclusive resort for a bachelorette party. I had been pleading with my boyfriend (who did not want me to go) for months, telling him that I had it all under control. I promised that I wouldn’t black out. I drank the first day, but I remember everything and texted him throughout the day to show him I was okay. By the second day, I blacked out. I was filled with panic, shame and regret the following day. I didn’t have to tell him what happened because he already knew. He texted me to say he was done. I continued to drink while in Punta Cana, but that Monday I made a pact with myself at the airport on my way home: I was done. I never wanted to feel like that again. I would try something I never tried before—to leave behind drugs and alcohol completely.
Did you go to rehab?
Did you go to AA?
At about two months sober, I attended some online AA meetings. I never really understood what was going on and the people in the online rooms were extremely pushy about me needing to go to a face-to-face meeting and getting a sponsor.
After moving to Florida from Cancun in June 2014, one of my blog readers from my new town contacted me. She invited me to go with her to AA meetings. At that time, I wasn’t really planning on going because I made it over one year sober without it. But I decided to give it a shot. I had a great experience. I’ve met a lot of great women and I still go today. Although I don’t buy into all of AA’s ideology, I take what I like and leave the rest.
So what did—and do—you do to help you stay sober?
In my first year of sobriety, I read a lot of books and blogs about sobriety. I found solace in websites like Sober Nation, Soberistas, After Party and the Fix. I read drinking memoirs and books from Veronica Valli, Gabrielle Glaser, and Caroline Knapp. I began writing my own blog when I was eight months sober. It wasn’t until I was one year sober that I posted about sobriety—that was the one that went viral.
What do you hate about being an alcoholic?
I hate not having control of the way I drink. I hate not being able to indulge in alcohol in a healthy way. I hate admitting defeat. I hate that I let alcohol rob years of my life.
What do you love about being an alcoholic?
I love that I’ve found sobriety and recovery. Being a sober alcoholic has allowed me to discover my love of writing. Recovery has given me the ability to love and be loved. It has also given me a fellowship of amazing women in the rooms and with my fellow sober bloggers online.
What are the three best tools you have acquired to stay sober and happy?
The ability to live in the present moment. To stop, pause, and think before reacting or making decisions. The ability to look at my side of the street in every situation and analyze what I can learn or improve upon.
Do you have a sobriety mantra?
“Sobriety is self-love.”
What is the most valuable thing that has happened to you in recovery?
I have learned to love myself again. I think I hated myself for a very long time and my behavior was a self-fulfilling prophecy. I finally believe I am worthy of good things.
Have you worked the 12 steps? What is your opinion on them?
Yes. They helped me discover a lot about myself and why I drank. It was therapeutic and educational. I imagine I’ll work them again in the future. Personally, I prefer the Alternative 12 Steps that have the exact same concepts without religious rhetoric.
If you could offer a newcomer or someone thinking about getting sober any advice, what would it be?
Getting sober is the best decision I ever made. It’s not always easy, but it’s always worth it. Just don’t drink, just for today—start with today. You’ll live a life beyond your wildest dreams. You’ll prefer sobriety. Sobriety isn’t the end; it’s the beginning.