READER SPOTLIGHT: How I Got Sober: Nadia
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READER SPOTLIGHT: How I Got Sober: Nadia


how do i quit drinking?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 Nadia.

Click here to see all of our How I Got Sober stories

What is your sobriety date?

April 29, 1998

Where did you get sober?

Los Angeles, CA

When did you first start drinking?

I don’t remember my first drink—I know it was pretty early as alcohol was always around us. But I first set out to actually get drunk when I was 12.

How would you describe your life before you quit drinking?

Before I quit drinking, my life was a total loss. I was a homeless crack-head/alcoholic, squatting in Los Angeles and shoplifting for a living. I weighed less than 100 lbs., which at 5’8” is pretty scary. I’d lost everything I owned and all the people that loved me.

What was your childhood like?

I was born in Canada—the youngest of three—and we had a pretty good life, though my dad was clearly an alcoholic. We lived all over the world (Egypt, Norway, Texas, Colorado) and were fairly well off. My parents argued all the time though, and I was painfully shy as well. I wanted to escape. I started drinking when I was 12, while we were living in Cairo, Egypt. After that, we moved to Stavanger, Norway for my high school years. Like I said, I was painfully shy, except when I was drinking—then I was smart and witty and cute. Or so I thought. I’m sure I was really annoying.

In junior high and high school, I was drunk most weekends and during the week I’d drink wine with dinner and maybe smoke pot in my room. It was the only time I felt real. My parents separated when I was 15, and I lived with my alcoholic dad and his drunken girlfriend in Norway, drinking away my sorrows. My parents got back together and we eventually moved to Denver my senior year of high school. X, acid. It was on. Coke was my favorite, along with alcohol.

Do you remember the first time you thought you might have a problem?

At 25, I had quit drugs for about five years, but was still drinking harder than ever. I remember getting drunk with a homeless guy who wanted to buy my car (it’s a long story!) and after he left I ended up hugging the toilet for hours. I looked in the mirror and thought, “How is this any different from when you were doing coke?!” I still didn’t stop. I’d quit doing coke because my boss, who was very proper, had taken me aside to talk about my absences. I’d been on a week-long bender, had hardly slept and burst into tears in his office. Poor man didn’t know what to do.

Eventually, because I was drinking, I relapsed on coke and ended up smoking crack. It was the beginning of what would be a long rock bottom. My mom had died and I was so depressed; crack took away all emotions. It’s a long story, but I met these homeless people who were “boosters” (shoplifters) and I began driving them to stores to shoplift. They’d pay me in crack. I’d split it with my boyfriend, but he would lock me in the bathroom or do other, even worse things. I finally I kicked him out and the homeless bunch moved in—until we got evicted. Then, we were on the streets: living in hotels in Echo Park and McArthur Park, boosting and smoking crack. Life was just insane. I never thought that I would go so low. I had had a great life and a great job.

We ended up squatting in an abandoned apartment when the man who was the booster got caught and went to prison. I took over and got caught many times. By the end, I had two felonies and was facing three years in prison. This all happened over a four-year period.

How did you rationalize your drinking?

With drinking, it always seemed “social” and normal. I always said I could quit any time, which I did, periodically, to prove it to myself. The coke was also social and normal at first—it was the ‘80s and I worked in the film industry! But when it turned into crack, I hid from everyone. I couldn’t rationalize this, but I didn’t know how to stop. I tried to kill myself once or twice but failed. I didn’t know how I could live without drugs and I knew I would die if I continued to take them.

What do you consider your bottom?

I lost my job, lost all relationships, lost everything I owned and lost all grace. My final bottom was when I was arrested for my second felony shoplifting/commercial burglary. I was in jail again. No one would take my calls. Finally, my brother answered the phone. He had one year sober. I didn’t even understand what he was talking about, but he tried to help me while I was still in jail. The last year or two of my using, I was in jail for a combined period of 10 months.

Did you go to rehab?

I went in 1996 after my friends did an intervention. I only lasted three weeks and was using within a few days. But the second time, I went was from jail. My brother arranged for me to be released directly to Alcoholism Center For Women, in Los Angeles. I thought I would just stay a few weeks until I got some clothes and a job. Ha! I ended up staying for six months and frankly, wanted to stay longer. ACW saved my life; I have no doubt about that. It was a tough place; rules were strictly enforced, we had lots of group therapy, lots of drama. In fact, my crack dealer lived around the corner from the rehab and a friend from the streets lived in a motel across from it. There was temptation all around, but I was determined.

Did anything significant happen while in rehab that is important to your sobriety?

Before signing in, I stood on the front porch and just cried. I cried because I knew this was it—this was the moment I had to say goodbye to drugs and alcohol. I knew I had to, in order to live, but I was so very scared. That was my moment of surrender. I felt it.

Did you go to 12-step?

Both rehabs I went to were 12-step and at first, I was like, “No way!” I saw the word “God” everywhere and panicked. I never had a relationship with God and I didn’t understand that it could be a Higher Power of my understanding. I finally figured that out at ACW and with the help of my brother and counselors. Now, I think everyone in the world should do the 12 steps. It’s common-sense stuff that helps people live sanely!

Have you worked the 12 steps? What is your opinion on them?

Yes, I’ve worked through them many times over the past 17 years. I’ve been fortunate enough to not relapse since ACW and I’ve done the steps with several different sponsors and sponsees. They are my saving grace!

What do you hate about being an alcoholic?

You know, there’s not much I hate about being an alcoholic anymore. I love my life and I wouldn’t be the strong woman I am without having lived through all I did. I sometimes wish I hadn’t thrown away so many years (and so much money!), but on the other hand, it was a process I had to go through. I certainly don’t miss alcohol!

What do you love about being an alcoholic?

I love the Steps.

What are the three best tools you have acquired to stay sober and happy?

I think my best tools are a sense of constant gratitude, a sense of grace and calm/patience. I tell my sponsees all the time to do gratitude lists.

Do you have a sobriety mantra?

I guess I just try to stay in gratitude and if my head starts spinning I just pause! Except, I picture doggie “paws” in my head, which makes me laugh and stop spinning.

What is the most valuable thing that has happened to you in recovery?

First of all, I got pregnant two weeks after I graduated from ACW. The “dad” bailed even though I’d known him for 14 years, but my daughter was the best, most amazing thing that ever happened to me. It was hard being a single, freshly sober mom, but it taught me true love.

Second, I re-met the love of my life, Brian. We had dated in the late ‘80s and were just a drunken mess of drama, emotion and chemistry. He broke up with me because he didn’t want a relationship and then got married to someone else three months later. When I got sober, I reached out to him to make amends, but he wanted nothing to do with me. Then, 10 years later, I received an email at work from Brian! He said he was divorced and wanted to talk with me. It turned out he was about six months sober and wanted to make amends! Flash forward seven years and we’ve been married five years. We live in Nashville, still sober and in love,

Third, I became a published author! It was always my dream to be published—I’d been writing for years—and since I got sober I’d written a lot of personal, cathartic short stories about addiction, abuse and recovery. I knew a woman through AA who was a great writer and had a publishing company, Punk Hostage Press. Somehow, I got a story to her. She read it and called me and told me I write phenomenally! I just about died. She said they wanted to publish a collection of my short stories. I got it all together and we published Scars in the autumn of 2014. Not only was my dream realized, but I’ve also heard from so many women about how the book has changed their lives. They could relate to so much of it. I had no idea how many people in my life were as damaged as I used to be, which is sad. But if the book can help just one person reach out and stop drinking or drugging or cutting, then I am one happy writer.

If you could offer a newcomer or someone thinking about getting sober any advice, what would it be?

Oh…gosh. It’s hard, but it’s the only solution. I can’t imagine life loaded again. It was so hard, the emotions were so hard, the lifestyle was so hard. Everything was a nightmare. Getting sober saved me.

Any additional thoughts?

I’m just so grateful to have gotten this. I’ve had ups and downs, for sure: I bought a house, lost that house, got rich, got poor, had incredible health problems (disc degenerative disease with five or six fused disks and a hip replacement), battled depression, been a single mom, worked up to being a VP, ended up on disability and so on…Life happens. But without sobriety and the steps and my Higher Power, I would just be dead.

Photo courtesy of Nadia; used with permission. Click here to see all of our How I Got Sober stories.

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About Author

Anna-Vera Dudas is a freelance writer originally from Melbourne, Australia. An avid traveler and former sports journalist, Anna is obsessed with films, TV, good books, and is hoping to write a few one day.