This post was originally published on October 12, 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 Nancy.
Click here to see all of our How I Got Sober stories.
When did you get sober?
May 11, 2014
Where did you get sober?
Encinitas, CA (San Diego)
When did you start drinking?
How would you describe your life before you quit drinking?
Chaotic. Miserable. Self-indulgent. Trivial. Living the double life, hoping no one would find out and trying to fit in. Numerous geographics, jobs, men—anything to fill the void.
What was your childhood like?
It was fairly happy, I never wanted for anything. I was the middle child of three in a middle class suburban home. However, I grew up CIA: Catholic, Italian and Alcoholic.
Nothing really happened that fueled my desire—I just wanted to drink and grow up quickly. I saw others using alcohol daily, so it was something that seemed normal to me. I couldn’t wait to grow up and see what the fuss was all about. When I had my first drink—Ahhh…I got it. I knew what the pull was. For me it was instant relief, confidence and F everyone else.
Do you remember the first time you thought you might have a problem?
In addition to continual drinking, I also had a bit of a cocaine problem that started at age 19. I knew I had a problem, I just learned how to live with it. I got my first DUI at 32 and my second DUI (that got me sober) at 37.
How did you rationalize your drinking?
I rationalized it by the people that I surrounded myself with. They were as bad—or worse—than me. Except for occasions like when I had a childhood friend visit me and she made a comment like, “Gosh, I need a week to detox after visiting you.”
What do you consider your bottom?
Getting my second DUI was the one that really made me re-examine my life and how I ended up where I was. It took me six weeks to get to an AA meeting. I only went because my attorney had suggested it. I wasn’t thinking that I wanted to get sober, I just wanted the heat off. However, going to that meeting made me realize that people actually get and stay sober and that there is another way to live. I realized that everything bad that had ever happened to me was because of my drinking and drugging—it was my moment of clarity and it hit me hard.
Did you go to rehab?
No. I didn’t want anyone to know what was going on in my life, especially my employer.
Did you go to AA?
Yes and I continue to go.
At first, I needed to be there to get the court card signed, but what I heard at my first meeting was hope. I left there and drank for the next week and that’s when I had my moment of clarity. I decided to go back and give the AA recovery thing a shot. I was all out of options. I still go to AA and I work with a sponsor. I sponsor other women and I’m grateful for the people in AA who have helped me along the way. I’ve moved four times in sobriety and each time I get to meet new people in a fellowship that understands me and wants to help. Where else can you find that?
What do you hate about being an alcoholic?
The stigma that is attached to it—the feeling that people think we are less than and that we aren’t worthy.
What do you love about being an alcoholic?
That I finally figured out what was wrong with me. I have a design for living now and if I follow that, I’m pretty sure I’ll stay sober and have a pretty darn good life.
What are the three best tools you have acquired to stay sober and happy?
Going to meetings, working the steps, prayer and meditation (that’s four, but you get the gist).
Do you have a sobriety mantra?
“Keep coming back” and “One day at a time.”
What is the most valuable thing that has happened to you in recovery?
My most valuable things are internal. I’ve regained self-respect. I like myself today—that alone is huge for me. I’m grateful that I am not lying and manipulating to get what I want anymore.
Have you worked the 12 steps? What is your opinion on them?
I have worked the steps about seven times in my sobriety and I love them. They have helped me in so many areas of my life, not just spiritually, but emotionally and mentally. They’ve shaped me into being a better person. I don’t understand why anyone would join a 12-step program if they aren’t going to work the steps. That’s just my opinion, but I think they are a great tool and guide for anyone in recovery. I’m not an AA Nazi, and I don’t think it’s the only way to get sober, but I just know what worked for me. I’m truly grateful for the steps and for AA.
If you could offer a newcomer or someone thinking about getting sober any advice, what would it be?
Get honest with yourself and don’t be scared. Being true to yourself and having courage is the first step in getting sober. Get to an AA meeting, call SMART Recovery or go to your local church—wherever you need to go. Just get real and take that first step.