This post was originally published on November 30, 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 Teresa.
Click here to see all of our How I Got Sober stories
What is your sobriety date?
December 1, 2013.
Where did you get sober?
When did you start drinking?
I had my first drunk when I was a senior in High School: a bottle of peppermint Schnapps behind a hardware store with my friends. I was so sick the next day.
How would you describe your life before you quit drinking?
I was struggling to keep it all together. I was in an unhappy marriage, living in a house that I was ashamed of, had two beautiful children that I was responsible for. I was working a full time job and a part time job, trying to make ends meet and take care of the children and the house. My husband at the time was working a part time job (on purpose) so he could have four days off a week to travel, play golf and live life.
What was your childhood like?
I come from an Irish Catholic family where every event had alcohol at the center. When I was in junior high and high school, I feared that my mother had a drinking problem. She would get drunk occasionally and start fights with my dad. My dad, who had been a daily drinker, stopped drinking when I was in junior high but never attended treatment or AA. No one talked about alcohol being an issue. Although we all knew it was.
When I was growing up, I had the “if only” syndrome: if only “x” would happen, then I would be happy. When that particular thing would happen, I still wasn’t happy. The “if only” syndrome continued into my adult life. If only I got married, if only I had a child, if only I went back to school—I was never happy.
How did you rationalize your drinking?
I told myself, “I am taking care of everybody, I am the bread winner of the family, I have a stressful job, I deserve to let loose, it’s the only way I can tolerate my husband, I cleaned the entire house, I deserve to drink,” etc.
What do you consider your bottom?
I was parking in parking lots and drinking until I fell asleep in the back of my car. I went to a family event, fell and blacked out. I don’t remember how I got home (turns out my sister drove me home).
Did you go to rehab?
I started outpatient rehab in June, 2012. I successfully completed it in June, 2013.
Did anything significant happen while in rehab that is important to your sobriety?
I thought if I would show up and participated in treatment, I would magically get sober. I thought I was doing all the right things. I was not in AA at that point. When I moved up to the advanced program of outpatient treatment, my husband said, “Good, then I don’t have to worry about you anymore” and left for a vacation in Alaska.
I was still working a full-time job and a part-time job while in treatment; I was pissed. I felt like I was getting sober so he could live this great life and I would continue to work and take care of the kids and the house and he could continue living his “Life of Reilly.” I started drinking at 10 am that day. I ran out of alcohol and got in my car that evening to go get more. I crashed into a tree about 100 feet from my house and was arrested for a DWI. I put myself back into the beginning program of treatment and that was the first day I admitted to myself and the group that I was an alcoholic and that I was powerless over alcohol. I started going to AA, found a sponsor and got a home group.
What did you think of AA at first? How do you feel about it now?
The first time I went to AA was actually a few years before I started outpatient treatment. I thought it was nice to hear the stories. It didn’t stick with me.
What do you hate about being an alcoholic?
I hate that I have to think about it every day of my life.
What do you love about being an alcoholic?
I love that I have changed my life around by leaving my unhappy marriage and becoming a better person. I have learned that I am enough. I have learned that I do not have to control everyone and every situation.
What are the three best tools you have acquired to stay sober and happy?
Go to meetings, be honest (with myself and others) and maintain sober friendships.
Do you have a sobriety mantra?
Give it to God.
Have you worked the 12 steps? What is your opinion on them?
I am in the process of working the 12 steps and I think everyone should do them. It is about changing yourself and your perspective and learning how to live the best life possible.
If you could offer a newcomer or someone thinking about getting sober any advice, what would it be?
Be open-minded to anything that people offer you to stay sober.
Click here to see all of our How I Got Sober stories.