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 Ted C. He is the founder of MOBER, a new mobile app that provides connection and support for people pursuing recovery, Ted is also a passionate member of the recovery advocacy movement.
Click here to see all of our How I Got Sober stories
What is your sobriety date?
March 5, 2014
Where did you get sober?
Los Angeles, CA
When did you first start drinking?
In eighth grade
How would you describe your life before you quit drinking?
Drugs—crystal meth, specifically—took me down. At the end, my life became very small and very dark. I had no hope of finding a solution, was too ashamed to ask for help and was basically passively waiting for suicide. Saying my life was unmanageable is an understatement.
What was your childhood like?
I come from a loving—slightly OCD—family that planted the seeds of perfectionism. I had a privileged upbringing and was blessed to have access to plentiful resources and opportunities as a child and young adult. I have always been an overachiever; I believe that achievement and validation were my first addictions. My entire sense of self was built on what you thought about me, which sometimes I believed. I drank alcohol, smoked cigarettes and pot all through high school and college—with long stretches of binge partying mixed in—but it never got out of control. I was always able to “get away with it.” I was quite proud of the fact that I didn’t ever take any hard drugs, and I looked down on those who did.
Do you remember the first time you thought you might have a problem?
I lived in London from 2003 to 2006, during which time I finally started exploring my sexuality. I started spending a lot of time in the very seductive gay nightclub scene and my binge drinking got out of control. Instead of cutting down, I decided to add stimulants and party drugs to the mix, as they helped the party last longer. I very naively thought that “partying” was part of what it meant to be gay and started to adjust my lifestyle to accommodate going out all the time. I quit a stable job so that I could work as a consultant with flexible hours and my “partying” skyrocketed. I went from being a career-minded overachiever, to a dilettante and party boy. My finances started to suffer, which finally woke me up to the bad choices I was making and the impact of the drinking and drug use. I pulled myself together and got another job that moved me to Mexico. I thought London was the problem—but despite my best intentions to curtail the drinking and drug use, I found the party crowd quickly and picked up where I left off in London.
How did you rationalize your drinking?
All my friends drink. I am always able to “handle it.” I am the life of the party. Partying is just part of what it is to be gay. I work hard and deserve to blow off some steam.
What do you consider your bottom?
At the end—after I spent all of my money, lost my job, become HIV-positive, worried my family sick, alienated my dog and become a multiple-times-a-day IV drug user—I still thought I was having “fun.” Or rather, I preferred that very small, predictable life, to the seemingly impossible task of getting sober and pulling myself together. For three days straight, I missed flights to go to rehab. In the end, it was my drug dealer who bought me the one-way ticket to Los Angeles.
Did you go to rehab?
Yes—I spent 54 days at an inpatient rehab in Malibu, where they had a program focused on “stimulant abuse and intimacy disorders.” I will forever be grateful to that facility—and to my family—for finding a way to get through to me and introduce me to recovery.
Did you go to 12-step?
Yes—I love the 12 steps and I am grateful that a spiritual solution is working for me. I have worked all 12 steps with my sponsor and I am now working them with my three beloved sponsees. I hit at least six meetings a week, I have commitments and I participate in fellowship. I am all in and it is such a relief to have so much structure and support as I settle into this life in recovery.
Did you, or do you, do anything else to help you stay sober?
- I relapsed twice during my first year, which proved to me that I am indeed an addict
- I spent more than six months in sober living
- I attended three Intensive Outpatient Programs (IOP)
- I attended a feedback group for more than a year
- I saw a therapist for over a year
- I go to the gym regularly
- I make sure to get a full night’s sleep
- I stay in frequent contact with my family and my “sober posse”
- I have co-founded a mobile app (MOBER) that provides a peer-support network for people in/pursuing recovery
- I have gotten involved in the recovery advocacy movement YPR
- I find ways to be of service in the larger community
What do you hate about being an alcoholic?
I’m bummed that I can’t have a glass of red wine with a nice steak every once in a while. I mean, I could, but I can’t predict what would happen afterward. I’m also not wild about the stigma associated with being an addict/alcoholic, though I do believe that it is steadily decreasing as people understand substance use disorder as a medical condition and not a moral failing.
What do you love about being an alcoholic?
In the end, active alcoholism and drug addiction sucked. That said, I love being an alcoholic/addict in recovery. I have tremendous respect and admiration for anyone who can find long-term recovery from “a seemingly hopeless state of mind and body,” no matter how they got—or stay—sober. I love understanding that I don’t have to be perfect to be of value. I love having people with whom I can identify on a deep level, despite superficial differences. I absolutely love having found an issue/cause to be passionate about; there are so many more of us out there who need help. I am grateful to have an opportunity to participate in making recovery more accessible and in reducing the stigma around substance use disorder.
What are the three best tools you have acquired to stay sober and happy?
My favorite tool is an app I created called MOBER. It is a mobile social network for people in recovery that I have been working hard to bring to life over the past two years. February marked the official launch of our first app, which is available on both iOS and Android, and has already grown to almost 1,000 members in Southern California alone. Our hope is that people will use the MOBER platform as a tool for peer support and discovery of recovery resources, wherever they may be in the world. It is still early days, but we have already seen members connecting for service, fellowship and advice (I’ve helped two people find sponsors and directed one person to his first meeting!). We have also already held several “MOBER Mob” service events in the LA area and look forward to hosting many more in the coming months.
Working the steps (with my sponsor and sponsees), service and gratitude lists have been invaluable tools as well.
Do you have a sobriety mantra?
I love the serenity prayer. I also love reminding my sponsees to find their “spiritual happy place” when agitated.
What is the most valuable thing that has happened to you in recovery?
I have found a passion for recovery advocacy and truly see it as a civil rights issue for our time. I studied government in college, but never found an issue that I was truly passionate about. My parents had the Civil Rights movement, my elder gays had the AIDS epidemic, but I was too far in my disease to participate in the fight for gay marriage. Advocating for the rights of addicts to receive treatment, reducing incarceration levels and eliminating stigma are all things I can wholeheartedly support. I am so grateful I have found a way to take my experience as an addict and turn it into something I can be proud of (for more on the recovery advocacy movement, check out www.facingaddiction.org).
Feeling connected to my family, finding spirituality and social entrepreneurship are also at the top of the list.
If you could offer a newcomer or someone thinking about getting sober any advice, what would it be?
It is possible to live a full, happy life in recovery and you are never too far gone to try. Just be open-minded to the idea that you will be required to make a lot of changes if you want to stay sober long-term. In the end, only you can make the choice to save your life, but there are lots of people and resources out there that are ready and willing to help you.
Any additional thoughts?
Photo courtesy of Ted C; used with permission. Click here to see all of our How I Got Sober stories.
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