This post was originally published on October 3, 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 blogger Molly B.:
What is your sobriety date?
May 21, 2016
Where did you get sober?
San Diego, California.
When did you start drinking?
I dabbled in drinking and drugs from age 11 to 15 but stopped abruptly because I was afraid of where that path would take me. Now I believe that fear was a foreshadowing of what was yet to come. I started drinking again when I was 18 during my freshman year of college. It seemed like everyone was binge drinking and I desperately wanted to fit in.
How would you describe your life before you quit drinking?
At 30 years old, I was living the perfect life on paper. I was relatively good looking, college educated and had a good credit score. I lived in the most beautiful city in America, had a successful career, traveled the globe every year and enjoyed the company of a great group of friends. According to my Facebook profile and society’s standards, things were looking good.
But inside I was a disaster.
The reality was that I was slowly dying inside—cut by cut. I anesthetized my emotions by drinking myself into oblivion every single night. I suffered from soul-crushing depression and anxiety, and I hated myself.
I endured an intense amount of trauma in my early life. I grew up poor. I was physically and mentally abused as a child. I rarely felt loved. I was bullied. I was called ugly and stupid for a large chunk of my childhood. I have daddy issues. I have been raped (a few times), stalked, brainwashed, sexually harassed and more. As an adult, I sometimes worked grueling 60- or 70-hour weeks. Then in June 2015, I found out that I am infertile and am in early onset pre-menopause. Instead of acknowledging that trauma, I ignored it. I drank right through it. I claimed to be emotionless. So I blew out all of my dopamine by abusing drugs and alcohol.
Genetically, I was also born to be an alcoholic—I have it on both sides of my family. In fact, when I tracked down some of the death certificates of my ancestors (morbid, I know) from the late 1800s to early 1900s, I saw that many of them died from cirrhosis or accidents like getting run over by streetcars or falling out of windows. It seems that “party animal” was embedded in my DNA.
So, what seemed to be a “normal” amount of binge drinking in college and my early 20s snowballed into full-blown addiction by my late 20s.
When did you first think you might have a problem?
I was in complete denial until fall 2015. I started hearing faint whispers in the back of my head that maybe, just maybe, something was wrong with this picture. That’s when my behavior started really frightening me. It took almost six months for me to finally seek help.
How did you rationalize your drinking?
Like most alcoholics, I clung to any and every shred of evidence that I was a “normal drinker.” I would tell myself things like:
“Well, everyone drinks as much as I do.”
“She’s doing a little ‘hair of the dog,’ so it’s okay if I do it.”
“I don’t drink during the work week.” (That one is a lie. I was sneaking vodka into my pink lemonade at home.)
“I’m not the smelly guy on the park bench drinking out of a paper bag. THAT’s what an alcoholic is.”
What do you consider your bottom?
In early February 2016, I woke up sick and feeling like my soul had been scraped out with a butter knife. I woke up feeling this way most mornings. Why did I keep doing this to myself? I seemed to lack the “off” switch that normal humans possess once they’ve had a few. I don’t know why that morning was different, but it was. The whisper in the back of my head saying “the jig is up” escalated to a shout.
You don’t give up the sauce because of a bad hangover or the shame of a few drunk texts. (As the distinguished scholar T-Pain once said, “Blame it on the al-al-al-al-cohol.”) You give it up because you don’t recognize yourself anymore. You give it up because you’re terrifying yourself. You give it up because you’ve become a shell of the person you once were. I suppose I was sick of feeling terrified all the time.
Did you go to rehab? If so, where?
Yes, and it was the best experience of my life. I tried to quit drinking on my own for three months or so because I’m a stubborn prick who thinks she has superhuman strength. As you can imagine, that didn’t turn out so well, so I went to plan B and checked myself into a rehab facility, Whiteside Manor, in Riverside, California. I stayed 28 days from June 1 to June 29, 2016.
Did anything significant happen while in rehab that is important to your sobriety?
When I began my journey to sobriety, I resisted AA because it seemed God-centric. I wanted a science-based solution because don’t you know I’m so smart. Then one day a friend from outpatient treatment handed me the Big Book of Alcoholics Anonymous and for whatever reason (God), the ice around my heart instantly melted. As I began to read the text, I realized that AAs believed in a God of their own understanding. If I found Him in a synagogue, church or mosque, that would work. If I found him in a tree or door knob, I suppose that would work too.
When I entered inpatient treatment (rehab), I decided on day one that I would invite my Higher Power into my life. And within 24 hours, he performed an incredible miracle in my life. That was the little nudge I needed to keep believing.
Did you go to AA? If so, what did you think of it at first? How do you feel about it now?
Not at first. But my rehab facility was based in the 12-steps so I got a quick and thorough education in AA. Once I welcomed my Higher Power into my life and let the fear and resistance fade away, I grew to fall in love with AA.
What do you hate about being an alcoholic?
This is a tough question because of course it isn’t easy to be an alcoholic. But I wouldn’t change my path because it helped make me who I am growing into today. If I had to choose something, it would be all the pain and suffering I put my loved ones through while I was drinking.
What do you love about being an alcoholic?
I am completely fascinated by the rigorous self-improvement presented in the 12 steps. I’m learning so much about myself.
What are the three best tools you have acquired to stay sober and happy?
The first is daily reflection, prayer and meditation. The second is finding a community of like-minded people in recovery (I started a free support group on Facebook called “Sober Warriors.” It’s a private group for those worried about anonymity. Any and everyone is welcome to join). The third is AA meetings.
Do you have a sobriety mantra?
We don’t have to ponder what it’s going to be like to be sober forever. We just have to worry about staying sober today.
I used to roll my eyes at the slogans in AA. “Keep it simple.” “It works if you work it.” “Easy does it.” But one of the clichés that helps me is “one day at a time.” It’s too much to think about spending the next 70 years without imbibing, but anyone can stay sober for just one day.
What is the most valuable thing that has happened to you in recovery?
Going to rehab. It gave me a great foundation for my recovery and I learned so many useful tools.
Have you worked the 12 steps? What is your opinion on them?
I am working the steps now by using the Big Book Awakening with my sponsor. I’m finding that it’s a thorough and relatable way to work them. I am learning new things about myself everyday through step work.
If you could offer a newcomer or someone thinking about getting sober any advice, what would it be?
Reach out to others for help. Go to a meeting. Check into a rehab treatment facility. Find sober accountability groups on Facebook. Listen to podcasts about recovery. Check out InTheRooms.com. There are a number of tools available to support the alcoholic who is still sick.
Photo courtesy of Molly B; used with permission.