This post was originally published on November 2, 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 Veronica.
Click here to see all of our How I Got Sober stories.
What is your sobriety date?
May 2, 2000
Where did you get sober?
Key West, Florida
When did you start drinking?
When I was about 15.
How would you describe your life before you quit drinking?
I was constantly searching for the answer. I was convinced that if I could just find the right man/job/place to live, all would be well. I tore through my life, always running away or toward something. I lived a life of quiet desperation. I gave the appearance of being normal, I tried to fit in and I did what everyone else was doing. On the inside I was dying, with no way of telling anyone how much pain I was in.
What was your childhood like?
I was born different. I always felt that I wasn’t good enough. My childhood wasn’t abusive, just lonely and isolated. I always looked older, so it was easy to get into bars and nightclubs. Drinking was a light bulb for me. It was the first time I felt comfortable in my own skin. I tried drugs around the same time and loved them.
Do you remember the first time you thought you might have a problem?
At 17, I had a psychotic episode on LSD and thought I was going mad. I thought about suicide all the time and would have about 20 panic attacks a day for years after. I couldn’t tell anyone what was wrong because I couldn’t put into words what was happening to me.
How did you rationalize your drinking?
It was easy—everyone drank the way I did. I never thought it was a problem, I thought it was entirely normal. I thought people who didn’t drink how I did were the weird ones. I knew something was wrong with me, but I thought it was some rare mental health problem. It wasn’t until I actually stopped and looked back that I realized how abnormal my drinking was.
What do you consider your bottom?
I was out in Key West one night doing shots at a bar. I remember turning to the guy sitting next to me to ask if he wanted to go to a party. That’s the last thing I remember. I woke up the next afternoon in a bedroom, at a strange apartment, with no memory of the last 16 hours or so. I was fully dressed, so I was pretty sure I hadn’t had sex with anyone. Screwing up my courage, I went out to talk to the guy sitting on the sofa watching TV. He said we got in his car and I threw up everywhere. He wanted to take me home, but I couldn’t tell him where I lived. He brought me back to his place because he didn’t know what else to do. He was a genuinely nice guy and I knew I was very, very lucky. At that time, there was a story in the local press about a woman who met a guy at a bar in Key West and had gone home with him. That guy was currently on trial for her murder. I got sober a couple of months later.
Did you go to rehab?
No. When I became a therapist and worked in rehab, I really wished I‘d had that experience.
Did anything significant happen while in rehab that is important to your sobriety?
My moment of clarity was in AA. I hadn’t related to anything anyone said until someone spoke about the fear that had dominated their lives and affected everything they did. When I heard that, I knew I was in the right place. My drinking was only a symptom of a deeper problem.
Did you go to AA?
Yes. At first, I loved being in this giant club of people who all understood me. I thought everyone was lovely and we were all “in it together.” Then I realized that not everyone was as “well” as they first presented.
So what did—and do—you do to help you stay sober?
The 12 steps saved my life. AA was the first place that clearly defined what my problem was and what the solution was.
What do you hate about being an alcoholic?
That it almost killed me and robbed me of opportunities I could have taken when I was younger. I wish I’d had children younger, for instance. But I was not in a fit state to raise children in my 20’s.
What do you love about being an alcoholic?
That it forced me to search so deeply within myself to find God.
What’s the best tool you have acquired to stay sober and happy?
Revealing myself to myself through regular 10th step inventory, and then telling someone else.
Do you have a sobriety mantra?
“Live your truth.”
What is the most valuable thing that has happened to you in recovery?
Being taken through the 12 steps in a weekend directly from the Big Book.
What is your opinion on the 12 steps?
The 12 steps are just ancient spiritual wisdom. In the gnostic religions (pre-Christianity), they practiced a form of the fourth and 10th steps. They are a simple mechanical process that enable you to have a spiritual experience. All a spiritual experience means is that you see everything differently.
If you could offer a newcomer or someone thinking about getting sober any advice, what would it be?
I would never offer unsolicited advice. If they asked, I would tell them to beat a path to the door of someone who has what you want and beg them to show you what they did to get it.