7 Things I’ve Learned From Being Sober for 7 Years

7 years ago today I didn’t want to live anymore. 

Sharing some of the most vulnerable parts of my alcoholic journey to recovery to hopefully help break the stigma around mental health and alcoholism. I hope to encourage people to ask for help and hold on for dear life until hope enters your body for long enough to believe it could work for you too. 

*Content warning: drinking, drugs, suicidal ideations, graphic images*

I’m 7 years sober today (3/17/2021) – free from any mind or mood altering substance which includes alcohol, drugs, nyquil, and even desserts baked with alcohol (yeah – I’m THAT strict, because I have to be.)

And I can honestly say that although I of course struggle as all humans do, for the most part I’m sober AND happy.

Sober and happy…??? I never thought it would be possible. Sober and miserable, yeah. Drunk and happy, of course. Sober and happy? No fucking way. 

{You may be wondering WTF this has to do with intuitive eating, body image healing, food, or anything I do for work/talk about usually on here. It has EVERYthing to do with it because

a.) I wouldn’t be the compassionate provider I am today without my experience of various trauma and how food is intertwined with that journey and my relationship with alcohol.

b.) How can I expect clients to share some of the deepest parts of themselves and pretend I’m a robot?

c.) One of the core values of my business is authenticity. Doesn’t get more authentic than this!

So… Here it goes!

What I was like…

I drank alcoholically from the first time I picked up a drink – when I was 13. My friend asked if I wanted a little OJ for a “chaser” as I laughed out loud and chugged right out of the bottle of Skyy vodka. It immediately filled a void in me I didn’t know existed until it was filled.

That night ended with me blacked out on the  bathroom floor with my friend panic calling my mom – followed by my mom staying awake to watch me sleep all night to make sure I was breathing and wouldn’t choke on my own puke and die in the middle of the night. 

Fast forward through high school, college, and grad school which was just more of the same, but with different people and increasingly worse circumstances. 

Waking up not knowing where I was, who I was with, where my car was, or what had happened the night before. Spending the whole day apologizing to my friends/significant other having no clue what I had even done wrong. Getting kicked out of bars and clubs for causing a ruckus BUT since I still managed to make it to my 8am organic chemistry classes and get A’s on my exams, I considered it a non-issue.

What happened…

At 25 years old I drove a jetski drunk in the ocean in Mexico. Yeah – REALLY wouldn’t recommend that! I was concussed & drowning with a fractured neck until my friend pulled me up and held me above water until the lifeguards came.  I would have drowned and died if she hadn’t been there to pull me up.

I had been completely blacked out walking up to the jetski booth and the next second I was waking up surrounded by lifeguards who were wiping the blood away from my face. I don’t remember driving the jetski AT ALL. 

I had emergency surgery in Mexico (not fun or cool, also wouldn’t recommend). “Hi, this is ___ calling from ____ hospital in Mexico. Your daughter has been in a jetski accident – she’s okay – but she has a fractured neck and needs emergency surgery on her face,” is a call you never want to receive at 3am as a parent. 

Had I been going any faster, or had I crashed any harder, I would have been a complete quadriplegic due to the part of my spine I had fractured. 

I remember being wheeled in a wheelchair through Boston Logan Airport donning a neckbrace, two black eyes, a surgically-healed broken nose and a swollen mouth. When we got to the bottom of the escalator at baggage claim, I will ~N E V E R  F O R G E T~ the look on my parents’ faces and how they both immediately burst into tears. 

I wish I could say I got sober then, but I didn’t. I remember healing from my surgery back home in Boston and although I couldn’t eat solid food because I had stitches all over my mouth, I figured out how to drink wine through a straw 🙈.

Left: pre surgery

Middle: post surgery

Far right: eating my first solid food after the surgery (a month later?)

I kept drinking for a few months after the accident and things got so dark I started to ask myself how I could go about ending things. But then it came out of nowhere. I thought of someone I know who was sober & happy and my entire body flooded with hope. I asked for help. I joined a 12 step recovery program and have never looked back. 

7 year ago me was broken, dishevelled, not showering, and broke AF with zero desire to live. It took a LONG time for me to heal, mend, process trauma, open up to and trust others, and find my voice. I didn’t cry once my entire first 2 years sober because I was so emotionally blocked, and it wasn’t until I was at least 3 years sober that I had a true, FULL ASS belly laugh that I felt to my core.

In early sobriety I was so dead inside that when someone said a sunset was “pretty” I didn’t understand what they meant – it didn’t seem pretty to me, I was actually just annoyed by the sun in my eyes and everything hurt so bad it felt like my entire body was a raw nerve ending. 

I remember asking my new sober friend Anna how to get out of early sobriety, that’s how much I hated it and she said, “you stay sober.” 🙄

So I did. I counted seconds, which turned to minutes, which turned to hours, then days, weeks, months and so forth. My dad came to every monthly celebration and watching him cheer from the back of the room was some of the purest motivation I needed. 

I dug the fuck in and did the work asked of me by my recovery peers. I showed up, took suggestions, asked for help over and over, helped others and somewhere along the way I healed.

I began to stand up straighter, shower (lol!), get relationships back, become financially independent, and most importantly – wanting to live. 

What I’m like now…

I honestly can’t believe I get to live this life. Most days, I’m happy, joyous and I feel free. Free from the pain, suffering, and anguish that active alcoholism brings. My experience in alcoholism recovery also helps me be a better provider to my clients as I deeply understand turning to food/alcohol/other things to fill a void. 

I’m grateful my parents can sleep at night. I’m grateful to be in a healthy relationship with someone who is also sober. We’ve built our relationship on recovery, honesty, and a commitment to spiritual growth both together and separately. Almost all my friends are sober, and those who aren’t support my recovery whole heartedly.

Not only do I wakeup in my own bed knowing where my car is and what happened the day/night before, but when I wakeup I’m GRATEFUL and so happy to be alive another day. 

The top 7 things i’ve learned from being sober for 7 years are…

1. You don’t have to do it alone. Recovery, sobriety, life, fear, pain, suffering, none of it. No matter what you’re going through there is SOMEone, SOMEwhere who has been there or is currently there as well and knows what it’s like and/or is perfectly equipped to help you. All you have to do is take the first step and be vulnerable, ask for help, put yourself out there. 

2. It’s about progress, not perfection. My recovery has been MESSYYYYY AF. I haven’t done it perfectly and honestly IDK if you can actually do anything perfectly really. For me, it’s about putting one foot in front of the other. You don’t have to see the whole staircase, just take the first step. 

3. Alcoholism doesn’t discriminate. It doesn’t care who you are, where you’re from, what car you drive, if you’re homeless or live in a mansion. It doesn’t give a flying fuck. No one is too “high bottom” or “low bottom” to ask for/need help.

4. You don’t need a whole boat load of willingness to change. All you need is a tiny little freckle’s worth. 

5. The sunset really is so beautiful. Chasing sunsets has become one of my top fave things to do. 

6. This too shall pass. When you’re really going through it – I mean like can’t get out of bed, snot running down your cheeks, wanna crawl into a hole and never come out going through it – it feels like it’s gonna be that way forever. But it won’t. HOPE – hold on, pain ends. 

7. ODAAT – one day at a time. It’s how I got through early sobriety and it’s how I’ve gotten through this pandemic. Keep it in the day. If you have one foot in the past, and one in the future then you’re pissing on the present. 

 

PHEW that was a lot. Now I have a vulnerability hangover 🙈

Leave me a comment below, I’d love to hear from you!

*If you or someone you know is struggling, please ask for help*

National Suicide Prevention Lifeline website click here and phone number: 1-800-273-8255

The Trevor Helpline 866-4-U-TREVOR (488-7386)
Specifically for Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender youth and young adults

Alcoholics Anonymous https://aa.org 

Disclaimer: Statements in this post are for educational use only and are not intended to diagnose, cure, treat or prevent conditions. Readers are advised to consult with their healthcare providers prior to making any changes to their healthcare management.