Getting Sober Was The Greatest Decision Of My Life

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Disclaimer: This story contains mentions of alcohol abuse and assault that may be triggering to some.

“I don’t recall exactly when I had my first taste of alcohol, but I know I was young. In the Jewish religion, wine is a regular part of all rituals and celebrations. We are actually taught a Hebrew prayer to bless the wine at a very early age and were allowed to take a sip after the blessing. Alcohol was, from the beginning, a normal and acceptable part of life.

I drank here and there throughout high school but really ramped up my drinking once I hit college. I was the funny one, the one who always did something crazy. My friends actually came up with a name for my drunk alter ego: ‘Mrs. Blank.’ They told me they always knew when Mrs. Blank would arrive because I would get this glazed-over look in my eyes. I would very often be up and walking around, saying and doing ridiculous things, but have absolutely zero recollection of it all the next day. Once, my friends secretly tape-recorded me one night when we went to see a band. They wanted to prove Mrs. Blank existed, so they made me listen to myself the next day. I was completely horrified, but yet it was somehow still amusing.

Mrs. Blank often led me to some bad and even downright dangerous situations. One night, in particular, stands out to me. I was at a house party with my good friends, and my last memory was of having a beer and watching the band. The next morning, I woke up at the same house with some of my clothing missing. My friend who lived there said he had pulled me away from a guy at the party with whom I had gone into a bedroom earlier. I didn’t even know who the guy was; my friends had to point him out to me on campus in the following days. I was mortified and almost filed a police report but decided against it. According to my friends, I had been hanging all over this stranger all night. Obviously, I wanted to be with him, and I couldn’t ruin a man’s life over a drunken one-night stand. But I had no memory of any of it. I was confused and scared, but ultimately I knew myself. Mrs. Blank was at the party that night, and she fooled everyone.

My dangerous drinking continued after college. I worked in the restaurant industry for years, and it was just a normal thing to go out after work and get hammered. Once I started bartending, things got worse. I would barely keep it together, doing shots with my customers and getting so drunk I could barely manage my cash drops at the end of the night. A group of regulars ended up watching out for me, helping me with my duties and then walking me to my car.

If I’m being honest, I had a feeling I was a problem drinker from the get-go, but no one ever really sat me down and told me so. Sure, I did a lot of stupid things and occasionally pissed off my friends, but it all seemed to me just a natural part of being young and getting drunk. I don’t think it was until around my mid-thirties I really started to consider I might have a problem. By that point, most of my friends were married with kids. Socializing now meant being a little more of a grownup, having a DD, and not getting blackout drunk.

Yet I continued down that road. I continued to have epically horrific hangovers, to risk drunk driving, and to make an ass out of myself at gatherings. I remember one specific occasion where I said some ugly things about a very good friend of mine and her family, and she overheard. I later profusely apologized, chalking it up to just being too drunk, but I remember thinking to myself, ‘You’re too old for this sh*t.’ My friendship with this gal ultimately recovered, but I knew I was walking on thin ice.

On March 23, 2014, I had just left a party and was driving myself home. It was only a few miles, I told myself. The policeman who pulled me over told me I had run two stop signs and was swerving into the next lane. I was put through the usual sobriety tests, blew a .12 BAC, and was promptly carted off to jail. My then-boyfriend (now husband), Rigel, picked me up early the next morning. I was so humiliated, but he was kind. I’ll never forget him telling me I looked pretty as I sat there staring down at my hands, burning with shame. I spent the next several months visiting my probation officer, blowing into my interlock device to start my car, making excuses to clients of my newly formed private chef business, and sulking over all the spent money. I didn’t drink for at least a month. I knew finally I was in real trouble, but nothing ended up changing.

My drinking continued to spiral more and more and I often wondered if I was an alcoholic. I Googled, ‘How do I know if I’m an alcoholic?’ and the sites I was taken to always told me the same thing. If I have more than X amount of drinks in a day, if I wake up craving alcohol, if I experience withdrawal symptoms when I didn’t drink, and so on. None of these seemed to fit me. I was building a successful business, I was in a happy relationship, I was able to take month-long breaks from booze if I wanted, and I never had physical withdrawal symptoms. I decided I must be okay and focusing on moderation was key.

When the pandemic hit and our world went on lockdown, I had to keep working. My private chef business was hanging on by a thread, but I had enough clientele to keep me afloat. I felt kind of invincible…the world was falling apart, but I was in this bubble of self-preservation and it was going swell. This curious thing happened where I had to slow down, and I found myself practicing more self-care. I was working out daily, meditating, and on a very strict diet. Yet there I was making a sport out of drinking. I switched from wine to hard seltzer because it was ‘healthier.’ I started casually taking one in the car just to run down to the mailbox, and then farther to the gas station. I was playing a sick game, and I knew it was wrong, but I kept at it. After all, we were living in unprecedented times, and I was thriving.

So many nights that spring were spent fighting with Rigel over, well, nothing really. Fueled by booze on the night of May 28, 2020, my drunk rage reached a fever pitch during another fight, and I took off to the local pub. After a few more drinks, I decided to head home. My next memory was of waking up in a haze, my face buried in the deployed airbag with no idea where I was or how I got there. Then I was in an ambulance. And then, the hospital. I was told I had hopped the guardrail and rolled my SUV several times before coming to rest, wheels down, on a hilly median. Thankfully, and by the grace of something incredible, no one else was involved and no property was damaged.

A car after it was totaled in a drunk driving crash

I have absolutely zero memory of what happened in the moments leading up to the wreck. I remember talking to the police officer and telling him I had a drink, but I felt totally fine to drive. I didn’t even know my blood or urine had not been tested; my doctor later had to search the ER records to tell me. To this day, I don’t know why, but I was not tested, and I walked away from the accident with a reckless charge only. I had a bad concussion, a sprained neck, a separated shoulder, and a few burns and bruises. I was alive. No one knew the truth about the accident, not even my husband. I was invincible. And I kept drinking.

On October 10, I went to hear some music at a winery. I think I had about two bottles before deciding to drive over to my friend’s farm. I climbed onto her horse bareback, more wine in my hand. Not surprisingly, I fell off five minutes later, landing square on my shoulder. I knew something was wrong, but I was so drunk I just crawled into the closest bed and passed out. Thankfully, my friend called Rigel, who came right over, got me out of bed, and drove me straight to the ER. I had a broken collarbone and had to face the next couple of weeks of having to have my husband comb my hair and help me dress. I felt so stupid, but I kept drinking.

I had a pivotal moment not long after, while I was working. I had picked up a 22 oz. hard seltzer earlier. I remember standing there in the kitchen before noon, guzzling it down, when suddenly I broke down in tears. I asked myself, ‘Why are you doing this? Do you need this drink? What does that mean?’ And I cried because I didn’t know the answers. I knew I was in deep, but I didn’t know how to respond to the voices begging me to change. I kept drinking; maybe I thought I could drown them out.

Less than one month later, I got nearly blackout drunk during a vacation and ended up kissing a man, a total stranger. The next morning, I had to catch a flight home, and Rigel texted to ask how I was doing. I took a selfie, eyes droopy and bloodshot, totally miserable, and sent it to him. Even with a mask on, he could see how hungover I was. I went to the bar, ordered a Bloody Mary, and seethed with hatred for myself and what I had become. I was so full of guilt, I wanted to crawl into a hole and die. I would not be a cheater. I would not go back on the promises I made when I said my wedding vows. I could not. This was it, the final straw. That Bloody Mary would end up being my last drink. Even more so than almost losing my life in that car accident, my husband and my marriage ended up being what saved me.

When I got home, I told Rigel I was taking a break from drinking and I wanted to check out AA. I didn’t tell him what happened; I wasn’t ready. But he supported my decision, and three days later, I walked into my first AA meeting. I wish I could say I had some kind of spiritual awakening, but AA wasn’t for me. I kept going because I didn’t know any other way to be supported while I tried to stay sober, and I didn’t drink. I also loved the people and appreciated hearing their stories. Telling mine was extremely cathartic as well. I came clean about everything, right away, and it felt amazing.

Nonetheless, saying, ‘Hi, I’m an alcoholic,’ every time just didn’t sit well with me. I didn’t feel like an alcoholic, and I didn’t like the label. Soon after, on the suggestion of a friend, I began reading Quit Like a Woman by Holly Whitaker. And something just clicked. Then and only then did I know beyond a shadow of a doubt I would never drink alcohol again. I felt invincible, but this time it was because I was empowered and finally, actually free of the chains of alcohol.

Shortly after receiving my two-month chip at AA, I decided I no longer needed to go and said goodbye to my friends. I have the utmost respect for the program, and I know it helps so many people. I just want others to know it’s not the only way to get and stay sober. About a month later, I confessed to Rigel what had happened on that trip. I explained Mrs. Blank had shown up for the final time, and I got rid of her for good when I came home. I was prepared for the worst, but after three completely sober months, my incredible husband could see I had actually changed. I had put in the work, and I was different.

During the mayhem of 2020, Rigel and I had been kicking around the idea of selling our house. We were in a tricky financial situation and had attempted to refinance our mortgage several times to no avail. When he brought up the idea of buying an RV, I laughed. But then we started to look online, and eventually, we looked in person. The math made sense. If we sold our house, we could walk away with enough money to pay down our mountain of debt, and an RV payment would be comparatively small. So in early 2021, we pulled the trigger. I was almost 4 months sober when we brought home, our Wheel House. On March 31 (and with our house on the market), we took off from my hometown of 34 years and headed to Georgia. Rigel snagged a big handyman job with some friends in Savannah, and the plan is to follow the work.

It has been a wonderfully insane couple of months. I have networked and found a couple of cooking jobs, but in the meantime, I’m working at a popular café. On top of making this huge, life-changing move, I’m also back in the restaurant world. I thought it would all be so hard to do without the crutch of alcohol, but I couldn’t have been more wrong. Is it different? Yes. Is it a little strange and awkward at times? For sure. This is a drinking town, and sometimes I catch myself daydreaming about sipping margaritas on the beach or walking around downtown Savannah with a gin and tonic in my hand.

But, then, I play the tape forward and the ending is always the same. Instead of spending quality time with my friends and loved ones, I was acting a fool and getting sick. Instead of making memories, I had been blacking them out. I don’t want to do any of that ever again. Every time I start to think, ‘Man, a drink would be nice right now,’ but I don’t give in, I feel more pride in myself than I ever have before. This is my greatest accomplishment.

By the time you read this, I will be seven months alcohol-free. 11/9/2020 was the first day of the best of my life. I decided to be completely open about my journey and started by admitting to my family and then my friends the severity of my struggles. I told the truth to Rigel and my family about my accident, and now anyone reading will know too. I still feel shame for what I did and all it could’ve caused, and I certainly feel some anxiety about opening up. But ultimately, I need to.

Since going public with my story to my circle and on my social media, I have been contacted by numerous friends and strangers who either want to offer their support or were seeking some. Before, I said getting sober was my greatest accomplishment, but when I dig deeper, what really makes my heart swell is knowing I have helped another person or I may have prevented another person from making the same mistakes. If even one person decides not to drink and drive or decides to stop drinking altogether, then every bit of my transparency will be worth the many rock bottoms I hit to get to where I am now. A beautiful, exciting life awaits filled with love and possibility. My gratitude is endless.”

This story was submitted to Love What Matters by a woman who wishes to remain anonymous. Submit your own story here.

Read more inspiring stories about sobriety:

‘Why do you drink wine every night?’ I shrugged it off. It was my nightly ritual. This was the beginning of the end.’: Sober warrior shares alcohol-free journey, ‘It’s an amazing freedom’

‘I found his gun while blacked out. I held it to my head, trying to pull the trigger. His roommate ripped it away.’: Woman’s life has changed ‘drastically’ since becoming sober, turned her ‘nightmare’ into a ‘blessing’

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