This time last year, I was a teacher living in London, in her own place, doing ‘well’ to the outside world, but underneath the carefully constructed facade, I was actually drowning. I had begun what I now affectionately refer to as my ‘final descent to rock bottom’. It was a decline I believe started many years ago and a journey I had to make to start the climb back up.
I had a normal middle class upbringing and I wanted for nothing as a child. Except actually, I wanted for everything. I’ve often heard recovering addicts describe this strange emotion; it’s called feeling ‘less-than’. No matter what I had (which was more than enough), I always wanted more. I felt that if I just had my friend’s teddy or the latest trainers or more CDs, I’d finally be happy. Inevitably when I got those things (by being very spoiled), I found they couldn’t fill the hole inside me.
When I found alcohol (and later other substances), I discovered that something had the capacity to fill the hole. In actuality, all that happened was that drinking made me forget the hole was there for a little while. It always came back and – worse – it grew to gaping.
I’ve never been able to consume alcohol (or any mind altering substance for that matter) with either control or any measure of predictability. Before I even hit the legal drinking age, I had checked off most of the ‘what-not-to-dos’, the classic alcoholic markers. I was arrested for being drunk and disorderly at thirteen, I frequently wet myself and I thought that blacking out was par for the course on a night out. I never knew my limits, always went too far and my behaviour while drunk, was erratic, dangerous and extreme. This went under the radar in my early twenties when I was at university and went on to work in marketing; it was glamourous and everyone was doing it.
Now I realise that not everyone was doing it in the way I was doing it.
For example, when living in a shared house in my second year at university, I would drink alone in my room and go out into Central London alone. You’d think the fact my contemporaries (who were no angels) couldn’t keep up might have been a more obvious sign I was in trouble but for years, any niggling ideas that I might have a problem were swiftly swilled away by more booze.
Over the years, I had periods of stability – usually procured in the pursuit of a new job or partner, but giving up drinking entirely never entered my mind. No matter how successful I became, things routinely ended up – eventually – crashing down around me and my drinking progressed. I had more accidents and I began to obsessively worry about my health, turning up at hospitals and calling ambulances convinced I was dying of a heart attack. What was actually happening was that my body was – as it ought to – responding to my intake. I suffered horrendous gastroenteritis, problems with my vision and at one point a swollen liver. Still, the body (particularly the liver) is a pretty hardy thing, and as soon as I recovered from whatever malady I was suffering at the time, the horror of it receded enough for me to start again.
I am a real victim of euphoric recall, where my mind will replay to me the ‘best bits’ of my drinking, kind of like they do on Big Brother when someone gets evicted. Gone are the memories of hugging the toilet bowl and promising never to do it again. These real terrors are spliced and replaced with rose-tinted fakery of things that might not have ever really happened, since I can’t really remember much when I have a drink.
It was in my late twenties/early thirties that my lifestyle began to really take its toll on my mental health. In my relationships with others I could be abusive, dishonest and manipulative. To myself, I was nothing short of vicious. I frequently self-harmed and over-medicated with drugs both illicit and legal. I sometimes sought help rather half-heartedly and started and stopped prescriptions for SSRIs (a type of anti-depressant) and doctored-ordered CBT (a type of talking therapy). I ignored advice to seek help from drugs and alcohol services and now believe I only went along with suggestions to improve my mental health because I believed that it might make me ‘well enough to drink’.
I just didn’t understand that alcohol was likely exacerbating my depression, if not being the root cause of it.
My life trundled on; a succession of ups and downs, a car crash of broken relationships and promises. Somewhere along the way, I became a teacher and grew to love the career I’d chosen, but it still wasn’t enough to curb my drinking.
I’ve since learned that nothing can curb my drinking, because I’m an alcoholic. I’ve got friends who chose booze over their homes, partners, and even their kids. This is not because they are bad people or don’t love their children – it is because addiction is a complex, powerful disease that tells the sufferer that the poison is the cure.
By the time I was 34, I was almost defeated by the poison. My mum passed away suddenly in 2015 and this was a dam-busting turning point. It is one of my biggest regrets that I used her death as an excuse to get worse, not better. I quite simply lost control and embarked on two very dark years of drinking and taking drugs, nearly always to blackout and nearly always alone. I was signed off work, unable to cope with life anymore and one bleak evening in December last year, I took enough paracetamol and antidepressants to floor a horse. I devastated my family, shocked my friends and almost died. And yet, I still wanted to drink. In fact, the very reason I believe I tried to take my own life was because I could no longer see a future for me without drinking. It was killing me, but I didn’t think I could live without it.
After being resuscitated in a London hospital, I was admitted to a psychiatric inpatient facility for a week. As many of us do, I lied to every professional in there about how much I was drinking and using. Even though I had nearly left this world, I was still desperately hopeful there was something ‘medical’ that would explain my behaviour. Once that was sorted, I could crack on with the boozing.
I was in luck. In my experience, medical doctors seem to know very little about the nature of addiction, how it corrupts integrity and decimates honesty, so I was given a diagnosis of Emotionally Unstable Personality Disorder (a disturbingly common label often incorrectly given to addicts). I grabbed onto this diagnosis like it was a Christmas present. Such is the insanity of addiction; I was more amenable to the idea of having a serious psychiatric disorder than I was to addressing my drinking.
This is where I think the borderlines between alcoholism and mental addiction and mental health are blurred. I still don’t fully understand where one ends and the other begins. Does one cause the other, are they symptomatically the same? Opinion varies. What I do know is that the solution to ending my misery was very simple – I had to admit that alcohol was no longer (nor had it ever been) the friend I thought it was.
After a last ditch attempt at “controlled drinking” just before Christmas, which ended with me coming round in a hotel room having ‘lost’ days rather than hours to a blackout, I rocked up – shaking – to a twelve step meeting. Shortly after that, I discovered there was a thriving online recovery community and these two things became the bedrock of my recovery. I am now ten months clean and sober.
Since choosing sobriety, my life has changed in almost every imaginable way. It’s incredibly challenging at times; we live in a society saturated with the message that alcohol is fun and sober is boring. Mums are sold wine as a payoff, gin comes branded by unicorns and prosecco is just bloody everywhere! Learning to rewire your coping mechanisms is no picnic and having to explain to people why you CHOOSE not to ingest a poisonous toxin can be exhausting. But it’s worth it. Because along with these challenges come countless rewards, the most significant being a new way of life that is no longer mired in chaos.
In recovery, I have learned that discomfort is a normal part of life, as are sadness, angst and anxiety. These feelings are okay and it’s okay to sit with them instead of drown them in Sauvignon Blanc. I am tapering off anti-depressants and learning to meditate and through the help of friends, fellowship and online sisterhood I finally find that I like myself. I’m not sure when that happened, but I’m glad it did!
I have had mixed responses to my choice to come clean about my journey through addiction, but I believe telling our stories is important for so many reasons.
I do this because I need to not keep this gift to myself. I do it because had I known about the amount of support and love that was out there, I might not have been so frightened in my rock bottom.
I do this because speaking up about recovering from addiction should be as revered as surviving any life-threatening illness.
I do it because I want people to see my sobriety as a strength and not a weakness or an inability to “cope” with alcohol.
I do this because I was pretty much the last to know I was an addict and there are a lot of people out there, who are dear to me, who have been patiently waiting for me to get well. None of these people have failed to show up for me these past ten months and I’ve been blown away by people’s kindness and support.
If you are struggling with addiction or think you may have a problem, please know: you are not alone and there is always a way out of the chaos. You can climb out of your rock bottom, as I have mine.
Written by Emma, edited by Sober Fish
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In January 2017, after several dismal attempts at moderating my drinking, I decided to do an extended period of sobriety.
For at least six months, I had been hearing this whisper telling me that the party girl lifestyle was no longer serving me; that if I wanted to live the life I dreamed of, alcohol had to go. But I was hesitant to make a change. Didn’t giving up alcohol mean that I had a problem? I didn’t feel like I had a problem…but that doesn’t mean that alcohol wasn’t a problem.
But it was.
So, on January 1, 2017, I decided I’d had enough and committed to doing a sober stint for Dry January.
What went from a 30-day challenge to a 90-day commitment turned to a whole year of testing the sober waters. A 30-something, social, single lady in a thriving city, I realized I had two distinct options when it came to my social and dating life: either withdraw and become a recluse, or figure out how to navigate the social and dating scenes sober.
I’ll be honest, the first option sounded appealing. A highly sensitive person and outgoing introvert, I used drinking as a social lubricant to make me feel more comfortable and outgoing in social settings. For a long time, I thought I needed alcohol to help me tolerate social scenes and help me be more talkative on dates. As I got deeper and deeper into my alcohol-free journey, I came to one solid (yet rather unpopular) conclusion: if something (a social situation or group of people) wasn’t fun unless I was drinking…the situation or people simply were not fun. Furthermore, if I wasn’t capable of meeting new people or conquering something without the liquid courage provided by a cocktail, who was I?
During this time, I found my truth. I had always been a wildly vibrant, outgoing, silly, joyful, insightful, empathic, smart, capable woman. I had not been using alcohol to bring out that side of me. I had been using alcohol to dull that side of me because I was afraid of my light. I was intimidated by sharing with the world what made me different and special. I was unsure how to operate in a world that settled for mediocrity, knowing I was meant to shine.
So, I dulled myself down in the most socially acceptable way there was: with alcohol (please note that my eyes are full of tears as I type this because I understand how profound this realization is. I’m grateful for the opportunity to share my experience with you in hope that you will see a bit of my story in your own).
As I discovered my truth, I also gained the courage to accept the challenge of engaging in the social and dating world sober. Full disclosure: this took time. The physical detox from alcohol is just the beginning of the growth you experience when you quit drinking (regardless of the reason). I encourage you to take time to heal, explore and simply become comfortable sitting with yourself and experiencing the gamut of emotions which will now be available to you.
When I was ready to dip my toe back into the dating pool, a quick survey of my girlfriends and colleagues revealed that it would be quite tricky (some even suggested it would be intolerable). With few options, I decided to give it a try and logged back into a few popular dating apps. I knew immediately that I’d eliminate a large portion of the dating pool. There would be plenty of guys who couldn’t handle dating someone who didn’t drink. To be fair, I’d already dated a lot of those guys and it hadn’t really gotten me anywhere.
So, after I eliminated the guys who I deemed ‘too boozy’ from the start, I had to plan my next move. How would I reveal my new sober lifestyle to my dates? You might find yourself saying, “do I even need to tell potential romantic partners that I’m not drinking?” or “Won’t the right guy/girl just be accepting of my new lifestyle?” I can give an unequivocal, “yes” to both questions, but let me offer you some insight.
If a potential romantic partner has asked you to meet for drinks, you do need to disclose your lifestyle to them. It’s not fair to you or them to wait until you are ‘meeting for drinks’ to disclose. This could turn into a waste of your time, and theirs, if there is a lifestyle misalignment. But, I’ve heard from many sober singles that this is a very tricky conversation. I agree, it is…and I’ve had it the wrong way enough times to know exactly how to have it (I share these tips in a special free guide I created which can be found on my website: authenticallyamanda.com/soberdating).
On to the second question: Won’t the right guy/girl just be accepting of my new lifestyle? Yes, of course they will. But in the world of dating…especially with the added layer of complexity created through dating apps and sites, you have to manage this conversation with finesse because you, an alcohol-free person, are still in the minority and, while potential romantic partners might have the best of intentions, they do not know how to navigate the sober dating world…you might have to offer some guidance. This means, come to the table prepared to offer suggestions for non-drinking date options, as opposed to saying, “I actually don’t drink,” if they’ve asked you to meet up for drinks.
I’ve found that many potential romantic partners are very open to and accepting of my alcohol-free lifestyle, but also don’t have the immediate skill set to navigate a conversation. In the world of dating apps these days, it’s easy enough for a guy/girl to drop a conversation if he/she doesn’t know how to respond. And in a world where drinking is socially acceptable and encouraged; it’s completely okay if they don’t know how to respond. That doesn’t mean they won’t be a good match or date, they just need education.
I think it’s important to share that I have encountered a lot of uncomfortable situations dating; it hasn’t been all doves and rainbows. But I’ve learned so much about my own capacity for handling my own emotions and awkwardness. I share about my failures and successes dating and socializing over on my blog authenticallyamanda.com and Instagram @authenticallyamanda.
I hope you’ll follow along and reach out if you too are navigating the social, single and sober world.
Written by Amanda, barely edited by Sober Fish
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I had been sober and ‘kiss free’ for 13 months before I felt I was ready to plunge back into the world of internet dating.
I downloaded the dating app ‘Bumble’ and started swiping. Almost immediately, I saw a friend from childhood who I hadn’t spoken to since I was 8 years old. I swiped right and it was a match, so I sent my first message “How the hell have you been for the last 20 years?” and waited patiently for his reply.
The conversation was easy. As sobriety can be a deal breaker, my profile openly stated that I was sober. He mentioned my sobriety in weird idolisation, saying it wasn’t something he could do but that he wished he could as he’d heard great things.
A few days later, he told me he had taken cocaine at the weekend. I told myself I was cool with this as he said it didn’t happen often, that he didn’t seek it out and that he just had a hard time saying no. My better judgement was screaming out but because I really wanted him, I ignored it.
Our first date was a perfect evening of staring into each others eyes and laughing and soon it was time for my first sober kiss. It was the type of kiss you see at the end of a movie when the girl gets the guy, with fireworks and incredible passion!
Things continued to progress with the same fire. He had soulful depth and had examined his inner psyche. This was something which really turned me on in sobriety. He knew what it was like to dig through the darkest places of the mind. Once, he sat with me in silence for 20 minutes as I worked up the nerve to be vulnerable to a man without liquid courage. It was all new to me. His patience turned to understanding and appreciation of my vulnerability.
In the beginning I was 100% myself and I thought he got me on a level that I’d never experienced before. He didn’t drink alcohol for our first couple dates and after that, asked me respectfully if it was ok for him to have a drink.
We would see each other 2-3 times a week until I took a trip to Denver and then things changed.
The night before I came home, he told me how happy he was with me, that he was all in and we could talk about what that meant when I got back. I felt it was finally happening for me; a healthy happy relationship would be another gift of my sobriety.
However, when I got home, he was different. Once again, my gut was telling me things weren’t right but I ignored it. A few days later he told me that he needed space and asked if we could slow things down. He told me that he sometimes got distant and it was hard for everyone in his life. Panic ensued in my body. I felt anxious. I was feeling rejection for the first time in 13 months and it hurt.
Although we continued to see each other, things were never the same again.
Desperate for his affection, I grasped at any crumb he would throw my way, however any positive moment would be quickly overshadowed by the overwhelming unhappiness he had in his life. I sympathized with him but could feel my own depression grow from his sadness. I tried to break things off with him but he told me that wasn’t what he wanted so I took that as a sign he was coming round.
From the day I started to retreat back to myself, I made a promise that I would no longer question if he liked me. I would work on me instead and get back to a self that I liked. After that, I only saw him one more time and knew it was over.
After a while, I started to wake up with a new perspective on life. I realised I’d been spending too much energy on people that did not reciprocate. I reached out one last time and he said something that really stuck “Your need for reassurances really wore me down. I think you have some issues you need to work through”.
Instead of dismissing his criticism, I chose to listen. As painful as it was to hear, he was right and I was thankful for his honesty. I had never been in a healthy relationship; all of my relationships ended up like this. Why did I think I would magically be in a healthy relationship just because I was sober now?
With his words ringing in my ears, I got on the internet for a different reason. I started reading about attachment styles. Oh hello anxious/fearful attachment! and emailed my therapist to set up an appointment. My research and digging continued and then it hit me like a ton of bricks.
People pleasing, fear of rejection, low self worth, validation by others opinions of me, not trusting oneself and all was rooted in addiction. It was me; all of the above.
I realised that I had no clue what a real loving relationship was supposed to look like mainly because I’d never had a proper example. There was also a possibility that I didn’t even know what love was.
These revelations were more heartbreaking to me than the heartwrenching catalyst that had forced me to look at myself. As numbing these thoughts with drugs and alcohol wasn’t an option for me, I sought help from my therapist and did some serious reading and research.
Slowly, I began to heal. It was painful. I cried and I sobbed every day for a month but in the end, I found bravery, self confidence, and a fearlessness I had never known before. The codependent weight has finally been lifted off my shoulders and I was able to release baggage and trauma by acknowledging and forgiving myself and the men of my past.
Recently I hopped back into the dating world with my new life lens and had two dates in two weeks. Honesty, openness, and authenticity afloat, I still didn’t see either man after the first date. This time however, I moved on easily from the rejection.
I now understand that there is value in these learning experiences and will continue the inner guidance and self knowledge whilst sometime wistfully daydreaming about the man I left 5 years ago.
Written by Kate, edited by Sober Fish
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When I was 17 years old, I started my first dream job as a trainee Zoo Keeper. I was shy and uncomfortable around people and had always said I would never drink or smoke because I’d seen how alcohol affected people and didn’t like it.
I’d been invited out by my work mates who all liked a drink and was introduced to cider and baby sham, the ‘in drink’ back then. I liked the taste of it and it went down a treat. Then I had another, then another. It was great, I felt great and I could talk to people now! What a night! I felt amazing!
The next morning however, was a totally different story. I felt strange and confused, like I was hallucinating. I didn’t like the feeling and deep down, I knew this was something I didn’t want to do again; it really wasn’t for me.
On the next night out though, I felt shy and awkward and thought ‘I’ll just have the one to give me a little confidence’. And then had another and then another, and so it went on.
I soon realised I couldn’t have ‘just the one’ but I was young and your younger years were supposed to be spent like that right?
My nights out were amazing. I met so many people and had the best social life. Before long, I was out most nights of the week.
Sometimes, grabbing a quick drink after work turned into being kicked out at closing time, still in my work clothes. In the morning, I would head to work red-eyed and stinking of booze from the night before. My boss would shout ‘Were you out drinking last night again? Look at the state of you’ but I’d just laugh and get on with my work.
During those years, I tried all the drinks; different spirits, beers, wine, etc. I loved vodka but it made me violent. I tried whisky but didn’t like the taste and it gave me severe hangovers.
All of my relationships centred around alcohol and none of them ever lasted very long. I’d attract people who liked a drink as much as I did and gradually saw less of my sensible drinking friends.
When I reached my late 20’s and had another failed relationship, I realised that alcohol had played a big part in this relationship from start to finish. I’d become quite violent to my partner at the time and would feel terrible the following day, staying in bed for as long as possible so that I didn’t have to face the shame of what I’d said or done the night before.
After this realisation, I decided to monitor my drinking habits a bit more. I’d choose drinks that were a bit lower in alcohol content and try to have a glass of water in between drinks. I even decided to work in a bar at weekends so I’d still be socialising but not drinking, but none of it worked. Hell, I just drank more working in the bar spending all my tips on alcohol when I finished!
Every time I tried to moderate my alcohol intake and failed, my drinking would then get worse. It felt like going to a weight management class to lose lots of weight only to then put it all back on again and then some.
In my early 30’s, I knew my drinking was unhealthy but thought ‘I’m not an alcoholic’ as I don’t drink in the mornings, can keep a job and a roof over my head and don’t need to drink every day.
I knew I was a binge drinker but that was ok right? Yeah, I blacked out nearly every time I drank, yeah I’d wake up in strange houses and yeah, I’d been in hospital twice this year due to drink related accidents.
I then decided that what I’d do was just drink at home so I wouldn’t embarrass myself any further. I’d buy a box of red wine (because that’s good for you right?) and I’d have just 1 glass of wine per night, no bingeing and therefore consume less than 14 units a week.
This way, if I did drink more than a glass of wine, nobody will see me making a fool of myself. I wouldn’t dread answering the phone or the door the next day. It was sorted.
So on a Thursday night, I’d buy a box of red wine and sit it in the kitchen. I’d have a glass then convince myself it wasn’t quite a full glass so I’d just have a little more. Then I’d think ‘it’s still early and I feel fine’ and have another .. and then wake up at 5am the next day with a hangover and … you guessed it .. an empty box of wine!
So what do I do now? People keep telling me I’m not an alcoholic as I don’t drink every day but something is clearly not right.
On New Year’s Eve in 2001, I had a fabulous night celebrating in Edinburgh and ended up going to a party afterwards.
In the morning, I woke up half dressed with no idea what happened as I had no memory. Still drunk, I went to my parents for New Year’s Day dinner. As the alcohol started to wear off, the hangover and depression started to kick in with the realisation that something had happened, something I had let happen. I was riddled with guilt and fear and broke down to my mother. I was desperate now and knew I can’t go on like this. I knew that after this event, I could never drink again. Never.
I didn’t drink for the next 2 weeks but I missed it. I convinced myself that I’d had a huge fright and that I’d be ok but would stop drinking when I felt like I was getting drunk.
So, once again, I decided that I’d just drink in the house and bought a small bottle of rum. Oh boy I’d missed this; the taste, the feeling. I felt great, amazing, so happy. After a couple of hours, the bottle was empty and I was in a party mood. I called a taxi to take me to the local pub and decided to meet up with some old drinking buddies then go onto a party. It’d be fine, I convinced myself. I was working in the morning so I wouldn’t stay late.
When I woke up, my head hurt like hell. I couldn’t remember but concluded I must’ve drunk whisky. Then I realised I wasn’t at home. Oh no, I’d blacked out again and I needed to get to work. I quickly went home, got changed and somehow, drove to work. I was so ill, I just couldn’t be there and luckily managed to get away early where I climbed into bed, and stayed for 2 whole days.
I couldn’t go on like this. I couldn’t live with alcohol but I didn’t think I could live without it either. I needed someone or something to help me.
On 28 January 2002, my dad was having a retirement party. I didn’t want to embarrass him or make a fool of myself and knew I needed help.
I decided to go to the doctor but he wasn’t much help, telling me I wasn’t an alcoholic. He prescribed me some pills to help with the side effects of not drinking alcohol and refers me to a community psychiatric nurse, advising I will wait sometime for an appointment.
In the meantime, I tried Alcoholics Anonymous but decided it wasn’t for me. I then found a womens group through the NHS that I attended once a week. I found that talking to other women and being re-educated about alcohol helped me so much. My employer was a great help too by giving me the time off.
My parents were so supportive. I thought nobody understood but if it wasn’t for them, I’m sure I would’ve have failed. I cried and cried when I realised this was it. It felt like the end of a relationship I thought I could never leave, I was bereft.
15 years on, I now own my home, have my own business, have travelled all over the world; New Zealand twice, Australia, Kenya twice. I have volunteered for an HIV orphanage for 3 months, went to Namibia to volunteer with the Endangered Species Trust, visited Singapore and Hong Kong, all on my own. I have discovered a love of cooking and found out how magical and amazing life is. I have 2 dogs and a cat who are my life.
I am 48 and still single and that’s fine because my life is so full. I’d like to meet someone eventually but it’s not the ‘be all and end all’; I’m in no hurry.
Being sober is definitely the best thing I have ever done. It’s been an amazing journey of self discovery.
In a weird way, I’m actually grateful for my experience with alcohol, I reached rock bottom, my rock bottom and if I hadn’t, I wouldn’t have experienced just how wonderful life can be.
I know if I hadn’t stopped drinking when I did, I’d be dead now.
If I had listened to the people that told me I wasn’t an alcoholic, I’d be dead right now.
Instead, I listened to the inner voice inside me, the one I ignored as a 17 year old. The one I will never ignore again, for that inner voice, is my guide.
Written by Jackie, edited by Sober Fish
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Hello, my name is Kelly, I’m 25 years old, and every day I’m grateful that I stopped drinking when I was young.
My heavy drinking was between age 19 and 23 and it took until I was at least 6 months sober to realise I’d been trapped in someone else’s mind and body.
There’s sometimes a misconception that you only have to get sober if you’ve been an alcoholic for your whole life but here’s the thing guys … I caught control of my disease when I turned 24.
I didn’t know that I would be done with drinking for good at 24 years old. Maybe it was because I hadn’t got a drink driving conviction yet? Or hadn’t totalled my brand new first car? Or completely lost my mind? Or lost all respect from my family, friends and co-workers?
On 1st March 2017, I went out with a few friends drinking. We started at about noon with mimosas, then scorpion bowls (an alcoholic concoction containing fruit juice multiple types of rum, vodka, gin, and Grenadine) then on to a local city bar. I don’t remember anything from this night except my last pickle back shot (a shot of whiskey chased by a pickle).
Thankfully, I woke up at home the next morning and went downstairs. My car was there, untouched, so I guessed that I must’ve driven it home. My mom then told me exactly what had happened. It turned out that I had tried to drive my car home from the bar. My friend tried in vain to get me out from behind the wheel and we ended up fighting. My parents were then called and had to come to the bar to save me. My mom drove my car home and apparently my dad took me home in his car, where I proceeded to pee myself and found it hysterical.
That night, I lost respect from so many people but guess what? I still didn’t think I had a problem; I just thought I’d had a super rough night once again.
On 2nd March 2017, my mom decided to take me to rehab at Butler Hospital to stay as an inpatient for one week. She told me that if I didn’t go, the locks would be changed to our house and my belongings would be left outside for me to move out.
That morning, I walked over to the liquor store and bought a pint of Jack Daniels. I was on the phone to my friend Kelly, telling her how drunk I was going to be when I arrived at the rehab centre. I told her ‘It’s not like I can’t stop; I just like drinking! I don’t want to stop!’
But as soon as I arrived at the hospital, I sobered up. I realised that this was my last chance to make amends with myself, my parents, my close friends and especially my brother with whom I was once so very close.
The people around me at rehab were so inspiring and helped me transition mentally towards sober living. It wasn’t until I was sitting in group meetings with much older people that I realised how blessed I was to be given this opportunity at such a young age. I was, and still am, completely non-judgmental and so was everyone else. I lowered my guards, opened my ears, stopped defending my actions, and made the decision that I didn’t want to drink anymore.
I finally realised that the pain I was causing to myself and everyone around me wasn’t worth it. Nothing good was going to come out of my life if I didn’t take responsibility for myself. I realized when I was alone in the hospital that people don’t wait around forever, no matter how much they love you and working towards this new goal was extremely empowering. I was excited to work on my journey as a sober young woman, for myself and everyone else.
Dating sober is a different ball game for sure. I didn’t really start dating again until I was about 6 months sober. I had to learn how to date again, without pre-gaming and showing up annihilated. I remember thinking ‘do people actually meet up sober?’ That must be SO awkward. What am I even supposed to talk about if I’m not wasted?
Alcohol was always a great security blanket for me. Dating sober was like learning how to walk again. I definitely had to make sure that I took time to get myself right first. You really can’t love anyone else until you love yourself; I very much understand that in a new perspective.
Now that I have rediscovered myself, I’m able to meet people and tell my story. At first, I felt ashamed and like I had nothing to offer anyone but now I’m so proud and have higher standards for both myself and in someone I’m dating.
My family relationships have been given a chance to rebuild as I lost a lot of respect when I was drinking. My grandparents love to hear my progress stories and look forward to seeing me and hearing about my sober life. I feel much more included than I have in years.
Before I got sober, I would drink a water bottle full of Smirnoff before I faced the stress of a family who hated me because of my drinking problem. Now, I get excited to see my family and talk to everyone freely because I don’t reek like booze. It takes away a large amount of my social anxiety for sure. Not needing to hide everything is such a great feeling!
I cope on my own in a much healthier way now. Instead of buying alcohol to mask my good day, bad day, sad day, work day, I meditate instead. I write, I exercise and I go for hikes. I find the outdoors and fresh air is great in recovery. It might sound silly, but reflecting on all of my days sober so far helps me cope with many things.
I don’t think about drinking again because it would destroy all of my hard work which has got to me where I am today. Writing my story down and looking at pictures also helps me immensely. I’m so grateful to all of my best friends who stuck by my side through many chapters of my life and I’m glad I made it possible for them to see the person I’m capable of being. I love them all more than they’ll ever understand.
I’m so grateful to be alive and to be able to tell my story. I feel like I am finally myself again after being in the dark for so long.
Recovery is so worth it. If my story gets to one person that needs to read it, my work here is complete ❤️
Written by Kelly, edited by Sober Fish
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Don’t be scared to walk alone
Don’t be scared to like it
There’s no time that you must be home
So sleep where your darkness falls
The benefits of getting sober while single and childfree are numerous but the most important one is that you have the time and freedom to devote your focus to yourself and your sobriety.
There’s no spouse who refuses to stop keeping vodka in the cabinet or children that won’t sleep through the night. There’s nothing to prevent you from your recovery which means that if getting sober requires three meetings a day or 90 days in treatment like myself, you never have to compromise.
It’s taken me 8 years to find gratitude for my divorced, child-free, sober status because I was stuck and wished I could change the past. I’d assumed I would be a happily married, moderately drinking mother to beautiful children, with a loving husband and a house in the suburbs, but I had to accept that wasn’t and probably will never be my story.
I never drank moderately. My unhealthy marriage ended suddenly when my ex-husband violently kicked me while I was pregnant. I lost the baby; it was my second loss, and first incident of physical violence after less than two years of marriage. I left and never went back, but failed to find the right help, falling deeper and deeper into alcohol abuse to numb the pain.
My drinking seemed normal to most people because I drank alone and it went unnoticed for years. By the end, I didn’t have many friends; the only ones left drank more aggressively than I did and told me rehab was for quitters.
I was overweight, depressed, in debt and in a horrible cycle of dating unhealthy men. There was not much support for my decision to get help except from my management and coworkers who were incredibly kind and compassionate. My friends and family thought I was being dramatic and told me ‘everyone drinks too much occasionally’ but I knew my drinking was dangerous, was getting worse quickly and would one day result in something horrific happening.
I checked myself into Passages Malibu rehabilitation centre after a final written warning woke me up to the truth and made me realize that if I didn’t take dramatic action, I would eventually lose everything like so many of my family members before me. My brother, uncle, cousin and godmother all had drink driving convictions and three of my four grandparents died from alcohol related health issues before I was born.
Rather than wait for the same to happen to me, I took my health into my own hands and transformed my mind, body, and spirit through sobriety.
I looked at rehab as a wellness retreat with a focus on addiction in a broad sense rather than limit the lessons to alcohol. I applied them to multiple areas of my life where addiction was an issue like overspending, binge eating, dating and travelling to escape reality.
Being single and childfree gave me the time and resources to hire a personal trainer, nutritionist, become a yoga teacher, pay off all my debt, get promoted and lose over sixty pounds in a year because without alcohol there are no limits to what is possible. I took my therapists advice and stopped dating and communicating with men and it was the best decision I have made in my entire life.
Getting sober while single gave me the ability to get to know myself again after all the years lost to drinking and helped me remember that I am a beautiful soul worthy of a healthy and happy relationship. I became my own best friend and created a life for myself that I don’t want to escape from and instead crave the calmness of my bathtub over a crowded bar or fancy restaurant.
Sobriety after over twenty years of heavy alcohol abuse is a hard and lonely road whether you are in a relationship or not. It requires more strength than I ever imagined and I am forever grateful for the help I received. For years, I wished the past could be changed and mourned that I never had children or a partner but now I cry tears of gratitude for my freedom.
All too often people jump into relationships because they are scared to be alone but I think being alone forced me to become stronger and more sure of who I am and what I want from my life.
Sobriety requires an examination of the darkest parts of ourselves and forces us to bring them to light to heal. It’s deeply internal work and I am thankful to have had the space and time for this journey without pressure from another person to go faster or recover in a different way that they deemed to be more acceptable. For example some people might require their spouse to attend a certain number of meetings per week or have various other conditions to be met during early sobriety but I have none of those issues.
Sobriety offers the opportunity for a spiritual journey, total transformation and the ability to create an entirely new and different life for yourself. Being single, sober and childfree gives you the freedom to design that new life entirely around your unique preferences and desires. For example I want to purchase a small condo in Sun Valley, Idaho and live there during the summer while teaching yoga internationally in the winter and being single and childfree affords me the freedom to make it happen.
In the beginning it can feel lonely, sad and hard to be doing this work alone but I urge you to look at the situation from a different view to see the freedom and opportunity that lies ahead. If you are struggling please know there is nothing to be ashamed of, treatment does work and you can heal.
I am now nineteen months sober and have accepted that I am likely not going to be invited to certain events where drinking is the main focus and many people will choose not to hang out with me or date me because alcohol plays a big role in their life. This used to make me feel left out but then I found new people to do more interesting things with in my free time. The world is so big and beautiful there is no reason to fear being excluded, you just keep searching and eventually will find the place you belong.
Keep the faith and you will one day look back and laugh at the idea that drinking is fun or glamorous because you have experienced so much more that life has to offer and will see it for the scam it truly is.
Written by Karin, barely edited by Sober Fish
Website – https://www.thedrydiet.com
E-mail – firstname.lastname@example.org
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