I want to start by saying that my struggle with alcoholism was the greatest gift I have ever received. It was also the single hardest demon I’ve had to defeat.
My experiences of living with alcoholism and my eventual recovery sent me down a path to a wonderful and perfect purpose for my life. If I had the option to erase it from my past, I’d decline, however, at the same time, I wouldn’t wish this struggle on anyone else in the world.
I started drinking as a teenager like many people do and was about 16 when I first got drunk. It wasn’t love at first sight. The heavy drinking started properly when I turned 21 in May 2010, and I was drinking to excess for more days than not.
I was a full-blown alcoholic before I turned 22.
Alcoholism runs in my dad’s side of the family and he struggled with alcoholism for his entire life. I’d heard that a family history of alcoholism could give one a predisposition for addiction, but on a personal level, I didn’t understand how much more likely I was to get addicted.
Nearly everyone around me drank as often as I did, although in smaller amounts. In some ways, alcohol affected my body differently than the other people I was around at the time. I could drink much more than most people I knew, but near the end of my drinking career, I could easily black-out after only 4 beers on a night despite drinking 24 beers in total.
Anyone who has struggled with alcoholism can tell you what it feels like when you wake up each morning. I woke up in absolute terror every single day for years. I was unable to breathe properly, shook uncontrollably and lived in a perpetual state of panic. I was terrified to look at my phone after a night of drinking which was every morning. I was in so much pain but more than anything, I felt completely and utterly alone. I believed that I was experiencing severe anxiety, which I was, but it was only years later that I made the connection that alcohol was making everything worse.
In the summer of 2012, aged 23, I was living in a city several hours from my hometown with no support system in place. I did have three true friends there who did their best to help me, but I wasn’t getting the message that it was my drinking which was causing me to feel the way I felt and to live the way I was living. It was easier to do what I’ve always done and try to handle things on my own than it was for me to ask for help. That is, until it wasn’t.
I had been on the phone to my mom whilst parked in a grocery store car park about a quarter mile from my apartment. We finished the call and almost immediately, I started shaking worse than I ever had before. I had difficulty breathing and was sweating even though I felt like I was going to freeze to death. Somehow, I drove my car home and although I could barely walk, or see, I made it into my dark apartment and collapsed on the couch.
No one was home and I had no mobile service within the apartment to call anyone but still I tried. My phone screen was so bright in the dark living room but I couldn’t hold it still enough to read it because I was shaking so much. I desperately needed water but couldn’t get up to walk ten feet to the sink to get some. I pulled a blanket over myself and stared into the darkness. The shaking intensified into convulsions, and I had what I now know was my first seizure due to alcohol withdrawal. I don’t remember falling asleep.
Over the next two weeks, I had six more seizures before deciding I needed to go to the hospital. I was experiencing convulsions, auditory and visual hallucinations, severe feelings of temperature change, inability to see, and panic. At the time, I thought I was having panic attacks as didn’t know what the symptoms of alcohol withdrawal were plus I’d never heard of delirium tremens (sometimes known as the DT’s).
One of my best friends took me to the emergency room, where they ran lots of tests, injected me with three entire bags of saline to rehydrate me, wrote me a prescription for 10 Ativan (an anti-anxiety drug) but at no point was I asked about my alcohol consumption.
My first shot at sobriety lasted 14 months. I relapsed the night of my dad’s memorial service in May 2014. For the next year and a half, I fought to stay sober and was sober for much more of the time than I was actively drinking. I continued to relapse because I was not willing to face the pain that I had been trying to mask for so long.
Halloween 2015 wasn’t the worst night of my life, but it was the final straw. I finally stopped relapsing on 1 November 2015.
Today, I have been sober for 2 years, 9 months, and 6 days. To be honest, I don’t count anymore and used an online calculator to get that exact figure.
This time was different because I WAS F***ING DONE. I was READY. I saw clearly and understood for real that if I continued drinking, I would lose everything and everyone I loved and then it would kill me. I became a fighter the same day that I surrendered to these facts.
Fast forward to now, and I am a Certified Sober Life Coach, helping people in recovery rebuild their lives or build new ones from scratch once they get clean or sober. I became the person I needed when I first got sober. Like I said at the very beginning of my story, my alcoholism gave me a purpose for my life. My struggle wasn’t for nothing. My mess is my message and I know that I am here to guide those struggling with the same thing I was able to overcome. I am here to support, teach, and coach those who are just a few paces behind me on the journey of recovery and I’m thankful to have lived through what I did to be who I am today doing what I’m doing for others.
In Love and Service,
Sober Life Coach
Host of the Sober and Successful podcast
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Written by Andrea, edited by Sober Fish
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