Seven years of sobriety, and here I am. All it took was one step, and then another, and then 10 more. I did it though. I made it here. Eventually.
It amuses me to no end when I tell people how long I’ve been sober, and their response is: “Wait, how old are you?” They try to do the math in their head, and I chuckle a bit at the way their eyes wheel in their heads when they figure it out. I got sober 9 months after my 21st birthday. 9 months of being old enough to drink, finally, but I already had a problem. When you take into account that I started drinking around age 15, it makes more sense, but perhaps not much. I was genetically predisposed towards alcoholism, which my parents warned me about when I was younger. I didn’t listen, though. And now, as I celebrate 7 years and 2 days of sobriety, I can’t help but reflect on how I’ve gotten here.
I don’t know when or what my first drink was. Possibly a Smirnoff Ice when I was too young to know better? But it didn’t take long before drinking took over my life. I was only 16, and drinking had already become my main priority. I used men, and friends, to get that sweet liquid fire. I’d do anything at all to get it, even if it meant shoplifting bottles of wine, camping out in front of liquor stores and using my practiced, saucy smile on likely buyers, slipping cash to homeless men while I hid in the shadows as they swaggered into the grocery store to get whatever I could afford.
It was an addiction, and I was caught in it.
When you’re younger, it’s easier to explain it away: oh, she’s young, she’s just experimenting, she’s just going through a phase.
That was not the case. I was 19 when I tried to get sober for the first time. My family, and even my friends staged interventions about my alcoholism. You’d think that living in a house with a drug dealer and waking up every day unsure of what I’d done the night before would have proved that to me, but it didn’t. I still hoarded bottles the way firedrakes hoarded treasure. I was an entirely different person when I drank. At first, I used it because I was painfully shy, almost crippled by social anxiety. Drinking lowered my inhibitions, and I felt that I became more free, more fun, more party-girl-wild. Only, it eventually turned to anger, blackout nights where I ran naked down the streets, throwing bottles at my sister’s head, shrieking as I ran away from my friends into the depthless nights while they spent hours searching for me all over the city.
When you’re caught in an addiction, it’s easy to feel powerless against it. And in a way, you are. If you pick up that bottle and take a drink, you’re powerless. But if you have the willpower, and the right support system, you don’t even have to pick up that bottle. I am lucky, so goddamn lucky, that I had friends and family to steer me in the right direction. It took me many, many tries, but I finally managed not to pick up that bottle.
It was November 21, 2011, that I tried to commit suicide. I was so controlled by my addiction and by my pain that I couldn’t see a way out. And so I began taking the sleeping pills, one by one, and mixing them with the alcohol I kept near my bedside. But my mom found out and stopped me in time, and the very next day we went to see my psychiatrist. They both put their foot down, and I took the day off work to recover from the previous night’s effects. My mother took me to an AA meeting where I met my sponsor, the same woman who has now been my sponsor for over 7 years.
I am so, so lucky.
I know not many people have the luck, or the support and guidance I did. They don’t have someone to hold their hands and guide them to the nearest AA meeting, they don’t have parents who fiercely love and protect them, they don’t have friends who offer up their forgiveness like a piece of joy in a grey, drawn world. But if you can take that step, by yourself, you’ll never regret the peace that you’ll find.
People ask me if I miss drinking.
Do I? Do I miss the nights that I can’t remember anything after 8pm, do I miss the drunken voicemails I left my ex-boyfriends, do I miss the way I shattered and ripped apart everything that was good and pure? Hell no. But that doesn’t mean the temptation goes away.
It gets better. Believe me, it gets better.
All you have to do is take that first step. And then another. And then, when you can, 10 more. Just take that step.