It's been one year since I took my last drink.
It feels amazing to say that.
But for at least two years up until that last drink, I talked myself into and out of asking for help many times. I knew I drank too much. I thought I could quit on my own. I told myself time and time again that I would quit "tomorrow." But my discovery of cake vodka martinis and the last half of a bottle of brandy proved to me I couldn't. I was miserable. Sad. Lost.
I sought help. I told my family. I told my boss. I took a couple weeks off work. And although my initial chemical health assessment showed that I qualified for in-patient treatment, the counselor recommended that I start out-patient treatment for chemical dependency. Of course I was concerned about his recommendation, but it turned out to be exactly what I needed.
During my four months of treatment, I met some wonderful people, both men and women. A group of us still keep in touch. I had amazing support from my parents, which has brought us closer together. My son also supported my choice to quit drinking too, which thrills me. But throughout treatment and afterward, I learned that I am not the only person in the world who needed help to stop my addiction and that I don't have to be ashamed of or hide from it.
Asking for help is a smart choice. It shows you are brave, you want to make a positive change, and you're willing to do the work. Not seeking help, on the other hand, is what causes problems — driving drunk, hurting others, hurting yourself. Since I've been open with others about my sobriety, three friends have asked me for advice and help with situations in their lives that involve chemical dependency — either for them or for someone they know. I believe they felt comfortable asking me because of my openness with my problem. If I'd kept my sobriety a secret, they wouldn't have asked me for help.
In the 1930s when Alcoholics Anonymous first began, there was a stigma about alcoholism. So people didn't want others to know they had a drinking or drug problem, which is why AA is anonymous. I can respect that, and I do when I go to AA meetings. It is a fantastic program that has worked for hundreds of thousands of people since the 1930s. However, I believe that the stigma needs to be dissolved. No one is perfect — everyone has problems. Whether it's financial woes, marital problems, a family member with special needs or mental illness, we all have problems. Being an alcoholic is just another problem. And it's only when you hide it and don't ask for help that it can turn into something worse than it is. Open up and you will find that others open up as well.
Please don't misunderstand me — being an alcoholic and going through treatment is obviously not what I had planned. But after many years with alcohol as a part of my life in different social situations, I began to think that I couldn't have fun without drinking. I didn't know what kind of grown-up drink I would pair with my steak if I could no longer drink a glass of red wine. (Does anyone ever just have one glass of wine with dinner?) If I couldn't drink brandy or wine, what would I drink after a bad day at work? I didn't even know what other grown-up drinks there were. But I've learned that there are other drinks available, including water, which I drink a lot more of now. And of course lattes, which aren't nearly as expensive as alcohol.
Let me give you an example of the expense of alcohol. One time when I was out with friends, we closed down the bar, but not before ordering several chocolate martinis. My bar bill that night, including appetizers, was about $123. Just my tab alone. I had closed out my tab once and started a new tab when I decided it was a good idea to order martinis. Compare that to a more recent happy hour when a friend and I ordered appetizers and iced tea. We each had two or three refills of tea. Our combined tab was only about $20.
Not only is happy hour less expensive sans alcohol, I no longer need to worry about seeing the "Extra DWI Enforcement This Weekend" signs, being hungover at work, or sleeping all day Saturday (just kidding, I sometimes still sleep all day on Saturday). There's a little extra money in my bank account. I've lost a little weight. I'm generally happier (although please don't confirm that with my coworkers), I have a closer relationship with my parents, and my son (now he usually responds to my text messages). I feel proud of myself for making a good decision. I feel good about being honest with people and being able to help and support others. I feel emotionally stronger. And although I know that one year of sobriety is only a blip on the radar of life, I am confident that I will remain sober if I take it one day at a time.
When I first started looking into different treatment programs, I thought it was way too expensive, and I would never be able to afford it. The truth is I couldn't not afford it. If you think you may have a drug or alcohol problem, please don't be ashamed or embarrassed. You are not alone. Ask for help. It's the grown-up choice.