This post was originally published on September 8, 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 Magz.
Click here to see all of our How I Got Sober stories.
What is your sobriety date?
April 15, 2008
Where did you get sober?
When did you start drinking?
I tried to drink when I was 16. I took a huge swig of Jack Daniels at a party and promptly vomited all over the floor in front of everyone. This event was so embarrassing that I vowed not to drink ever again.
How would you describe your life before you quit drinking?
At first, I thought that I had become the ultimate party girl. I landed my first, very high-paying job as a graphic designer in DC before I even finished my degree. Everything started falling apart when my drinking got out of control. I was fired from one job because my boss said I came in smelling like a brewery. I quit another job because I was called into the office several times for tardiness and absences.
My life became was very small and lonely. I alienated my friends with my outrageous and dangerous behavior. I hung out at the ex’s house while he was at work, spending my days sitting on the couch, in raggedy sweats, drinking.
When I was 33, I found that I was pregnant. I promptly quit drinking and smoking cigarettes. In my mind, that meant that I was definitely not an alcoholic. However, when my daughter was only three months old, I began drinking again. The next four years were treacherous and filled with many court dates and detoxes.
What was your childhood like?
I lived with my alcoholic mom until I was four. Then, I lived with my grandparents; next, with my dad. I cannot really say that I had a bad childhood. It appeared that I had all that a kid would need, except feeling like I had a real home.
I did not drink or do drugs as a teenager. I was so scared that I would become like my biological mom that I just would not let myself go there. I started smoking cigarettes and listening to heavy metal instead. My parents thought I was a bad kid—even though I had straight A’s—because I wore ripped up clothes, had multicolored makeup and teased my hair. Things got intense until I moved out when I was 18.
Do you remember the first time you thought you might have a problem?
At some point, the blackouts and risky behavior became the norm. I started drinking alone at home in fear of making an ass of myself or doing something dangerous while blacked out. At 31, I was arrested for a DUI with a very high BAC in my system. I had to serve five days in jail and lost my license for a year. I decided to sell my car so I would not drink and drive anymore.
How did you rationalize your drinking?
I truly believed that I was too educated, too smart and too successful to be an alcoholic. All the things that were happening were just bad luck or some kind of punishment. I felt that I most definitely was nothing like my biological mother, who never had a job and barely could take care of herself, let alone me.
What do you consider your bottom?
My last drunk was not something I planned. It was a sunny Friday afternoon when I started drinking. It was Monday morning when I woke up. I was lying face down on the kitchen floor, barely able to move. The house was a wreck and I was still wearing the same clothes I wore on Friday. Somewhere between dying and getting sober, I thought of my four-year-old daughter. It seemed that her life was now very similar to my own—I finally realized that I had, in fact, become my mother.
Did you go to rehab?
I went to a court-ordered intensive outpatient rehab after I lost custody of my daughter. I thought I was going to be there three to six months tops, but I ended up at the IOP for 20 long months.
Did anything significant happen while in rehab that is important to your sobriety?
Not really. I dreaded it and I believed that I just did not belong there. I wanted to get the court off my back and regain custody of my daughter. I stayed sober for six months straight toward the very end until I graduated.
Did you go to AA?
What do you hate about being an alcoholic?
What do you love about being an alcoholic?
I am not sure that I could say I love being an alcoholic. I love being an alcoholic in recovery with the overwhelming feeling of gratitude for my new life and true happiness.
What are the three best tools you have acquired to stay sober and happy?
Support. Support. Support.
When we meet others who are struggling, we realize that we are not alone—that others also feel this way. Together, we find the strength to combat our alcoholism and thrive in our lives.
Do you have a sobriety mantra?
What is the most valuable thing that has happened to you in recovery?
The one thing that totally changed my perspective about sobriety and life was watching my step mom lose her battle with cancer. It was only because I was sober that I was able to be there for her and my family through it all. I am so very grateful for that time because it showed me that I really could go through all life events without drinking.
Have you worked the 12 steps? What is your opinion on them?
Yes. It was a life-changing experience. It was a grueling discovery of self that helped me see the underlying causes of my drinking. The steps helped me clean my past and get rid of the shame and guilt. They gave me the tools to live life to be a productive member of society.
If you could offer a newcomer or someone thinking about getting sober any advice, what would it be?
The one question to ask yourself should not be if you can quit; the question should be do you really want to quit?
I truly believe that we all have in us the power and will to change. The only people who succeed are those who earnestly want to, with all their might, change.