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I Got Sober on My Own

When I decided to stop drinking almost two years ago, I did so out of fear. I was having neverending, terrifying, all-encompassing intrusive thoughts about harming my children. They were so real that I was sure I was going to act on them. I tried to fight off what ceased to be thoughts…but they became urges…day and night. I tried everything: medications, outpatient therapy, multiple inpatient stays… I was suicidal, sure I needed to end my own life to save the lives of my babies.

And yet I continued to drink.

I realized drinking was a bad idea, and I planned on stopping. Not right away, of course. It had to be planned. Easter was going to be my last day. We were having friends over. They were all going to bring something I had to try before giving up alcohol for a year.

Just a year, of course, because in a year my mental illness was going to be cured, and I was going to be able to drink again.

I ended up hitting my rock bottom several weeks before Easter, and I decided to start my year countdown on March 30, 2017. At 30 days sober, I went to my first real meeting. A kind man at the meeting hugged me and gave me his 30-day chip, and I went on my way, sure I would never go to a meeting again.

After all, I didn’t need anyone. No 12-step program. No sober friends. Alcohol all around me. Alone.

Despite being sober, I was still very mentally ill. At one point in the first 60 days, I went out to dinner with some friends. I was so unbelievably angry that I couldn’t drink with them that I nearly drove my car off the overpass on the way home.

I made stupid decisions, putting myself in situations where I would “test” myself around alcohol. I was so unhealthy, so angry and tortured and haunted by the pictures my mind showed to me over and over again.

I counted down my months, but not as celebrations of having “made it.”

Each month that ticked away was leading me closer to that drink—that amazing, mind-altering, slide-down-your-throat-and-bring-you-home-again experience.

When I was seven months sober, I connected with a doctor who specialized in maternal mental health. I finally got the correct diagnosis of peripartum onset bipolar disorder. I also got the right medications, and for the first time in two-and-a-half years, I was mentally stable.

Now I could drink again! The next five months passed, and it was finally time: my year was up. I could drink without consequence, it seemed. My therapist warned me against it, but I was sure it was the right choice. I’d been dreaming about it for 12 months, and the time was finally here.

I planned out my “relapse”—my husband and I were going to go to my favorite local brewery.

I had it all laid out in my head: I was going to order my beer, sit down at the table like I always had before I got sick.

But that’s where things got fuzzy, because unlike before I got sick, my reverie had two possible outcomes: I was going to push the drink away, or I was going to guzzle it down, then order another, and another. I was going to drink away the last two-and-a-half years. I was going to drink away my trauma.

I decided after researching the effects of alcohol on bipolar disorder and my many medications that starting to drink again was a bad idea for me. I decided that I was done…and then the cravings started.

Don’t get me wrong, I’d had cravings before. In fact, that whole dry, white-knuckled year was one big craving. But now I realized something. I’d gotten through that year on nothing but fear, determination, and stubborn grit.

I realized that I’d been alone that long, parched 12 months, and I didn’t have to be alone anymore.

I found sober podcasts. I found online groups. I talked to my therapist. And I eventually went back to a meeting, found my sponsor, and started working a program. However, something continued to bother me. I didn’t fit in with the women in the room. I didn’t feel a connection to the speakers and the people who shared.

I was alone again, this time in a room full of people.

I decided to find more programs, more people. I searched the internet to find a solution to all my problems. I didn’t find one, but it did give me alternatives to the program I was working, things I could do simultaneously or separately.

Am I an alcoholic? I still don’t know. I know I can’t have just one drink. I know drinking made my life worse, and I know I can’t do it anymore. I know that even after two years I still think about it all the time, and I know I can’t pick up. I just can’t.

But above all, I know now that I never should have done it alone.

I missed out on a year of knowing the amazing people I’ve met, and the support they’ve given me. I missed out on the laughter and the friendships. I missed out on being able to use my experiences to give back and help others.

So, yes, I did it alone, and I wouldn’t recommend it. I wouldn’t be here if it wasn’t for the people, both online and in person, who have been there for me. Those people, those amazing women, they’ve helped me find this beautiful life I lead today, and I’m forever grateful not to be alone anymore.

This post was submitted by Rachel Nolan.

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