If someone asked me to envision an alcoholic six years ago, I immediately would have thought of someone disheveled, drinking from a bottle hidden in a brown paper bag, asking for money. I assumed an alcoholic would be a person who could not go a single day without drinking. I had a misconception of alcoholism and addiction because of what I had seen on TV and in movies, so I never imagined alcoholism affecting or touching me. How could a girl like me (young, well-educated, and from a good, “religious” family) have a problem with drugs and alcohol?
My drinking career began when I was fifteen. I can vividly remember my first drink. I was at home with two girlfriends when we decided to steal alcohol from my parents’ liquor cabinet. I remember drinking and hating the taste at first, but all suddenly my body felt completely numb and relaxed. All my insecurities and fears washed away with each sip. The feeling was intoxicating, and I remember feeling instantly hooked and wanting more. That first night I experienced the first black out of many more to come. I fell in love with drinking, and it quickly became my crutch I would rely on throughout my adolescence.
Every time I went out, my thoughts would follow a similar pattern: when could I start drinking? How much was I going to drink? Would there be enough? Each time I would drink, I never knew what would happen. Sometimes, I could keep things under control and have a good time just like everyone else. These were the nights I would always remember and eventually use to convince myself that I didn’t have a problem. I chose to ignore the majority of times in which I would wake up with absolutely no recollection of what occurred the night before. I was constantly chasing that perfect high and failing miserably. After spending years cycling through drinking, blacking out, and apologizing the next morning, it FINALLY became clear to me that I had a problem. It reached a point where I couldn’t imagine my life without alcohol in it, but I knew I couldn’t continue down this same path. The damage that I was doing to my body and those around me slowly became unbearable. I was in enough pain, both physically and mentally, that I knew I had to make a change. I had to stop drinking or watch everything I held dear slip away.
On August 25th, 2013, I entered a 12 step program, quit drinking, got a sponsor, and began working on my recovery. For the first time, I was intentionally dealing with my emotions rather than running away or numbing myself from the pain. I thought that if I could just quit drinking, my life would immediately get better. And at first, removing alcohol did improve my life. I was no longer blacking out and having to complete my apology tour. My loved ones slowly started to trust me again. I was no longer sneaking around and trying to hide my alcohol bottles from those around me. I was finally free to just be myself.
However, this proved to be more challenging than I thought. Now, l had to wake up every morning and deal with my pain, fears, and emotions. I no longer had alcohol to carry me through. Before, alcohol had been there to amplify my good feelings and help me celebrate the good things. It had also numbed my bad feelings and taken away the pain. Now, I was forced to confront my issues head on. This was extremely scary, and I couldn’t comprehend why I was struggling so much even though I was no longer drinking. I was finally able to see that alcohol was not my problem. It was simply a solution to the pain and suffering I felt being me. My problem was me.
This meant I had to take a good, hard, honest look at myself, and decide if I really wanted to change. I had to begin to address the core issues that made me want to drink in the first place. Through the help of a program and sponsor, I learned that in order to build healthy self-esteem, I had to get out of my head and start doing positive actions. I could no longer isolate myself with my feelings. I had to get outside and be of service to others. The program allowed me to find others who were just like me and were able to understand what I was going through. I found women I could trust and who possessed the qualities I wanted to incorporate into my own life. The more I surrounded myself with positive influences, the easier it was for me to mimic their positive attributes and apply them to my own life.
Throughout my journey, I have learned that recovery is about more than just sobriety. It requires continuous spiritual and personal growth and change. Change does not happen overnight. Every single day, I must wake up and make a conscious decision to act in a manner that propels me towards the confident and serene woman I want to be. Some days are better than others, but the more work I put into my recovery program, the easier it is for me to choose to do the next right thing. I can begin to put my time and energy into building up the positive and letting go of all the negative. The world is at my fingertips – but only if I choose to work for it. It is all up to me.
Disclaimer: I do not believe there is just “one right way” to getting sober. What worked for me might not be best for someone else. I think there are many different avenues to achieving the same goal: healthy sobriety. I am responsible for my own well-being and no one else. I can only share from my own experience. For me, I could not get sober on my own. My best piece of advice is to surround yourself with those who possess the qualities you want and are working towards similar goals. I also know that I had to be ready and willing to change, no one else could make the change for me.
Here’s to positive change, one petal at a time.