This week’s Sober Story comes from Emily, a 35-year-old living in Boca Raton, Florida, United States.
Mrs D: How long have you been in recovery?
Emily: I have been sober since October 2014.
Mrs D: What can you tell us about the last months/years of your drinking before you gave up?
Emily: My drinking became a problem after the economy crashed in 2009. It was a constant struggle to find steady work as a Graphic Designer. My fear of not having enough money and losing my career was a huge reason I drank so heavily. I did eventually land some long-term work, but I was very unhappy in those job positions. After three years of heavy drinking, I admitted myself into treatment in South Florida. When I completed treatment my struggle with my career continued, leading me into multiple relapses. The last 15 months of my drinking were dreadful. There was a very brief period of sobriety in there somewhere, but it barely means anything to me. During this time I was mainly living at my mom’s house. It was a challenge to hide my drinking from her and very stressful mapping out my secret drinking schedule. I spent most of my time stopping at liquor stores, filling up my coffee mugs and disposing the empty pints in dumpsters. I also had to make sure I had enough to smuggle back into the house for the night. This was all consuming. I slipped into some dangerous territory, finding myself in a psychosis and convinced I was going to die.
Mrs D: What was the final straw that led you to get sober?
Emily: I walked into my dream job interview at 9 am immensely hungover. I had taken a few swigs of vodka that morning just so I could get myself going and out the door. I was hired after just 20 minutes of interviewing. I couldn’t believe it. I thought I had a gigantic sign on my forehead saying “Put me in rehab!” With only two weeks before my start date, I knew this was going to be a disaster.
Mrs D: Did your work notice anything was wrong?
Emily: My boss sent me home early on my first day because I was visibly ill. My whole face was flushed and I thought I was going to puke all over the place. One day I was shaking at my desk and was convinced my kidneys were failing. My boss could see me shaking and I blamed it on my anxiety. He knew what was going on, he just didn’t want to believe it. After working there for 5 weeks I didn’t have an ounce of energy left. It was time for me to leave.
Mrs D: That would have been hard..
Emily: When this job ended, I felt like I blew my one chance at getting my career together. I spent the next month drinking harder than ever before. I couldn’t sleep as I was going through withdrawls 24 hours a day. Convinced I was dying I poured my last pint of vodka down the bathroom sink, woke my mom up at 5 am and asked her to drive me to treatment.
Mrs D: How was it for you in the early days? What was most difficult?
Emily: My early days in sobriety were very exciting and overwhelming at the same time. Feeling an urgency to get my life together, my mind started running a hundred miles an hour. I found some relief through meditation and exercise. I also found a sponsor who helped me stay calm and collected. With 22 years sober, she had plenty of experience and time to guide me through the steps of AA. Even with all the support from my sponsor, I still struggled at the beginning of my recovery. Staying focused was very difficult and my short-term memory was shot. This was very scary for me because it hadn’t happened before and I was worried it was permanent. Luckily, it did not take long for my body to repair the damage I had done.
Mrs D: What reaction did you get from family & friends when you started getting sober?
Emily: My family was very happy to see me getting sober, especially my mom. I was finally able to spend quality time with her. My sister started calling me on a regular basis and my brother invited me to visit him in Seattle. I didn’t have any friends before I got sober because I spent all my time alone. When I got sober I had no problem making new friends and I was surprised how many people wanted to be around me.
Mrs D: That’s awesome! Have you ever experienced a relapse?
Emily: Yes, I had two dreadful relapses. They are not lying when they say it gets worse every time. It’s a miracle I’m still alive and I’m very grateful to be sitting here writing my story.
Mrs D: How long did it take for things to start to calm down for you emotionally & physically?
Emily: Things calmed down for me emotionally fairly quickly. This was because I was finally ready to be sober and it was not my first time through recovery. Physically I’d say it took me a few months before I was completely healthy and stable. I had some stomach problems and was taking Zantac, but with the proper diet my body was able to repair itself.
Mrs D: How hard was it getting used to socialising sober?
Emily: It was pretty easy for me to socialize sober because people actually wanted to talk to me. I was so isolated when I was drinking, my social life was non-existent. Most of my friends today are in recovery, but the ones who are not are actually very intrigued with hearing my story. They’ve even cut back on their drinking after seeing how well I’m doing without alcohol.
Mrs D: Was there anything surprising that you learned about yourself when you stopped drinking?
Emily: When I stopped drinking I realized that I’m a pretty interesting person and I have a lot to offer. In active addiction I had zero self-confidence and I was always second guessing myself. Being sober enabled me to make confident decisions, which was very empowering for me. People even started asking me for advice. This was all new to me.
Mrs D: How did your life change?
Emily: I reconnected with my higher self in sobriety, allowing me to live my best life. The answers were within me the whole time, all I had to do was listen. It’s easy for me to live a happy life today because I no longer live in denial. I also became willing to explore new employment opportunities outside of Graphic Design. I currently work as a writer for YourFirstStep.org, a useful resource for those struggling with addiction and substance abuse related disorders. All my coworkers are in recovery so I don’t have to worry about anyone asking me why I don’t drink, I can leave early if I have to make it to a meeting, and I’m helping other alcoholics achieve long-term sobriety. Now that is a dream job for me.
Mrs D: What are the main benefits that emerged for you from getting sober?
Emily: I’m genuinely happy, healthy, confident and likable. I’ve become very in-tune with my soul and it’s the most peaceful feeling. I don’t live in fear anymore. I live an amazing life full of opportunities.
Mrs D: Would you do anything differently given the chance to go through the process again?
Emily: Everything that happened needed to happen in order for me to make progress.
Mrs D: What advice or tips would you have for those who are just starting on this journey?
Emily: In early recovery you may be eager to get your life together quickly. Realize this is an ongoing journey and it will take time to make progress. Reach out to your sober support and find that sponsor with a lot of time sober. You will make progress if you are willing and ready to be sober.
Mrs D: Anything else you’d like to share?
Emily: Stay true to yourself. The answers are within you.