When I first started attending a 12-step program, I remember people saying that in order to stay sober, I had to change the person I brought in. I was told the way to do that was taking the 12 steps. I looked around the rooms, compared myself to others (mostly based on appearance), and told myself I wasn’t all that bad; I didn’t need to change. I told myself I was a good person, with lots of friends, and surrounded by people who loved me.
And yet, just weeks earlier, at age 21, I had tried to kill myself.
Despite all my aforementioned positive thoughts, I hated myself. I hated that no matter how hard I thought I tried, I always felt like I was doing something wrong. Nothing I did was ever good enough. I could never be smart enough, athletic enough, or pretty enough.
I didn’t know I had an issue with alcohol. If you had asked me why I felt the way I did I would have given you a list of reasons: my weight, my parents’ expectations, my love life, my grades, the list would have been endless. But alcohol would not have been on it. Because in my mind, it wasn’t the cause of my problems.
Drinking was my solution. Drinking made everything better.
I was a liar. I lied about where I was going, what I was doing, and whom I was with. I was a thief. I spent my parents’ money to make myself feel better, to make people like me, and I lied about where it was going. I slept around. Because being with anyone was infinitely better than being left alone with myself. And because maybe, for a second, I could trick myself into thinking they liked me, and then it wouldn’t be so bad that I didn’t like myself.
In retrospect, I know I didn’t want to admit I needed to change, because admitting that would mean truly admitting I was an alcoholic; something I wasn’t ready to do then. It would take another year, and a whole lot more pain, to get me there. As it turned out, when I took the alcohol away, I was worse than before. Alcohol had been my solution to life, and without it, I needed other things to make me feel better: shopping, sex, eating, not eating…you name it, I tried it.
And when the pain got bad enough, I drank again.
During my three-day relapse, I did everything I hated about myself.
On the third day I was defeated; and ready.
Going through the 12 steps changed my life. Taking an honest and thorough look at the person I was and the harm I caused gave me good reason to never want to go back there again. I made amends, helped others, and still slept around (hey, old habits die hard!!). Finally, once I had made peace with myself and was able to be by myself and comfortable, the right man came along. Five years later, we are married with a beautiful daughter, and an imperfect but beautiful life.
At over 7 years sober I am finally beginning to understand what people mean when they say that the longer you stay sober, the closer you are to your next drink. Because the longer I stay sober, the less I feel connected to that girl who hated herself so much she wanted to die. I barely recognize the girl who routinely woke up next to men she did not know, or worse, men that she knew belonged to someone else. The further removed I am from that girl, the harder it is to remember the pain she felt. It becomes easier to convince myself I no longer need to chase my recovery with the same passion I once did.
At this point, active recovery looks a lot different than it did in the beginning. My sobriety has given me many gifts that keep me constantly busy, and I am beyond grateful for them. There are weeks without meetings, days without prayer. Not surprisingly, the occasional thought of a drink slips in. I find that these days I don’t recoil from those thoughts as quickly as I used to, because the fear of becoming what I once was doesn’t feel so immediate anymore. But inevitably, something always happens: even if I can’t remember how bad it was then, I somehow remember how good it is now.
Even on the bad days, my life is good. My life is good because, against my better judgment, I changed the person I once was and, God willing, I will never have to go back there again.
This post was submitted by Anonymous.