“You know what, you guys? Today I celebrate 12 years of sobriety. I have not had a drink or a drug in TWELVE years, and that is something to CELEBRATE!
When we hear the word ‘alcoholic’ or ‘addict,’ we attach a stigma to those words. I am here to tell you I am not ‘less than’ because I’ve abused drugs and alcohol in my past. I’m here to shout from the rooftops I am IN RECOVERY and PROUD of that!
Too often we negatively label people with addictions, assuming they just can’t get it together or they are bad, irresponsible, selfish and weak-willed. Too often we label them negatively and we fail to see the pain that is underneath. Addiction is not a choice. Addiction is a disease and it can affect anyone.
My upbringing was wonderful. I have two loving parents who are still married today. They raised me and my brother well. I did not grow up in poverty, or have a traumatic event happen in my childhood. I went to church. We ate dinner as a family every night in our beautiful home. We went on ski trips and vacations. I wanted for nothing. I did well in school and was considered a nice girl. I was given every opportunity to succeed in life.
And yet, I became an alcoholic and a drug addict.
Drugs and alcohol became more important to me than anything. I never felt good enough around others, always felt intimidated or shy. Drinking allowed me to find a kind of bravery and helped me to feel like I fit in. Nothing ‘happened’ to make me an addict and alcoholic. There is no ‘reason’ I should have turned to drugs or alcohol. I just was hard-wired for the disease of addiction.
When I was a senior in high school, I started hanging out with people who drank and went to parties. Up until then, I never wanted to try drinking and had never really had the opportunity. I remember wanting to fit in, feeling nervous around new people and desperately seeking approval. From the first time I drank, I was hooked. Drinking allowed me to find a kind of bravery where I felt comfortable talking to people, going to parties, and receiving attention. I was a blackout drinker from the very start; I would lose hours, sometimes entire nights, to the black abyss of memory.
In my freshman year of college, I met a guy who sold ecstasy and I was immediately hooked. We were in a relationship off and on for six years. We would drink and use drugs constantly, and inevitably I failed out of college. We got an apartment together that was really just a place to use drugs. We had milk crates for furniture. We would go out to bars, and random people would always end up back at our place, sometimes for days. There were weapons and scary people around me at all times. At this point cocaine was the drug of choice, though I would take any drug offered to me, and alcohol was a constant.
The relationship with this drug dealer was extremely abusive and unhealthy. I was told daily that no one else would ever love me, that I couldn’t leave. I was a shell of a person. Nothing mattered except using and drinking. After staying up for days partying, I would sit alone in the apartment all day, convinced that people were outside trying to get in. I would lie on the floor, looking under the crack of the door for shadows that I was sure were going to appear any minute. This is what constant drinking and drug use did to my brain. And I thought this was freedom. I thought because I was able to use drugs and drink all the time, that I was free. I alienated my family and anyone who cared about me. There were many moments where I thought I was going to die, but I didn’t care. I was a complete slave to the disease of addiction.
This continued on for a while, and after a hospital stay due to not taking care of myself, I went to live with a family member who was willing to take me in. My drinking continued while I lived with her and I struggled a lot. I did not take responsibilities seriously and gave no thought to the effect of my actions on others. I was still in the grips of addiction. After some time, I agreed to go to rehab. I was finally ready to face what I had become.
The rehab I went to was wonderful. It was at an old farmhouse in upstate New York. The people there loved me and helped me to learn to love myself. I learned how to deal with life on life’s terms and what to do when I felt like I needed a drink. I learned that people can be gracious, kind, and supportive. When I came home from rehab, I immediately threw myself into a twelve-step program. I knew I had to immerse myself in recovery to stay sober. Let me tell you this: this first year was NOT easy. Though I did all the right things to stay sober, I was pretty miserable at times. It was so difficult to learn to live a normal life after neglecting myself for so long. There were many times I wanted to drink, many nights I lay crying in bed thinking that my life was over. I did lose some friends as a result of not drinking, but that was okay. I got sober at the age of 25, and at 25, most people are going to bars and partying. I was the youngest person in every twelve-step meeting I attended. I have been so lucky to remain sober ever since my first rehab. So many people come in and out of recovery programs, relapsing and unable to stay sober. Keeping with the twelve-step program has saved my life.
I ended up moving to Florida to stay with an aunt who has long-term sobriety. It was in Florida that I truly found myself again. I had an incredible group of sober friends and we did everything together. My life was full and meaningful again, something I didn’t think would ever happen. I took care of myself physically, mentally, spiritually and emotionally. I continued twelve-step work and helped others. I went back to school and completed my undergrad degree. I did the hard work of repairing my relationship with my family. I made amends as suggested in the program, and learned to stay true to my word.
I have been sober for twelve years. I now live back in my native New Hampshire and have a beautiful family. My husband is a wonderful, hardworking man who loves and understands me. My children never have to see me drink. My parents are a vital part of my life and I have close relationships with them both. My brother is my best friend again. Recovery is a part of my daily life, and I still attend regular twelve-step meetings.
My life is incredible today! I never would have thought this is where I would end up. Back in my darkest days, I didn’t even think I’d live to be 30 years old. Now I’m living a peaceful life filled with so much love, yoga, meditation, spirituality, recovery, beautiful, crazy children and so many people who love me. I can finally love people back. I finally love myself. I have a creative outlet in making jewelry that I sell on Etsy. I am a certified Recovery Coach. I am taking a certification course to become a yoga teacher and I plan to combine yoga and recovery and take yoga classes into rehabs, addiction treatment centers, and halfway houses. I want to carry the message to as many struggling alcoholics and addicts as I am able.
I’m sharing my story in hopes of inspiring others. I want to celebrate recovery and share that recovery is possible to those who want it. Addicts are everywhere, and they need help. Let’s break the stigma attached to the words addict and alcoholic and focus on the in-recovery piece. If my story helps just one person to get help, then I’ll be happy! I truly believe in spreading the message of hope and recovery. Don’t give up on yourself. Don’t give up on your loved ones. Recovery is possible. Brighter days are coming.”
This story was submitted to Love What Matters by Sara Martino of Chester, New Hampshire. Subscribe to our free email newsletter, Living Better—your ultimate guide for actionable insights, evidence backed advice, and captivating personal stories, propelling you forward to living a more fulfilling life.
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