I have been sober for two years and five months. This is my story.
I’m going to start at the beginning of the end and then go back to the beginning.
I went for a routine doctor’s visit and I went in without much worry. It was just a weight check, blood pressure, regular stuff. I was on a medication at the time where I had to see the doctor every six months to refill my prescription. When I got there they told me that my doctor had retired and I’d be seeing his replacement. I got a pang in my chest. Why? I’d been seeing my old doctor for years and he seemed to accept me as I was, how I looked, and never questioned me. I assumed since he was older, maybe he went by an “old school” protocol where unless I was limping or in pain, he wouldn’t ask many questions and I wouldn’t divulge any more than I had to.
I had been a nightly, blackout, vodka alcoholic for about seven years at this point. But I always felt that I could skate by with him. My face had been red and my eyes were red but he never mentioned anything. He took my word that that I felt “great and everything was fine.”
I went in and my heart sank. She was fresh-faced and young. She looked ambitious. She mentioned my weight talked about losing a few pounds and she asked the dreaded question: When is the last time you had blood work done? “Ummm, a few years ago, why?” She answered that she likes to get a full blood panel done on new patients. She gave me a piece of paper with the name and number of a lab. She gave me 90 days to get it done and come for my next appointment. Phew, I thought. I will stop drinking now and give my liver 88 days to rest. I will stop now. This is my time. Now.
I was well aware that there was something wrong with my body. I had had a nagging pain in my right side since 2010 and I had drank heavily and nightly since then. That would be three years by this point.
Every night of those 90 days I swore up and down that I would stop in time to give my liver time to rest and heal. Heck, I’d ace that bloodwork and they’d never know the difference. My numbers would be fine if I could just stop for 90 days. Okay, 80 days. 60. I drank for 89 of those days, stopped for one sleepless night and had blood drawn the next morning.
A few days later I would find out that my fears were confirmed.
I had a trauma-free childhood. I had two honest, loving parents and a very ordinary child by any measure. I wasn’t abused by anyone. I didn’t party as a teen. I was a rule follower. There is nothing in my past that would point to my later alcoholism.
I had my first drink at 19. I drank four Red Dog beers at a dorm party and threw up all night with the room spinning. I vomited all over someone’s comforter who I didn’t even know. I missed work the next day. Four beers. This baffles me to this day. From 19-21 I drank with friends maybe once a month, often enough to vomit. I could hardly stand the taste of alcohol, especially vodka and beer. I could barely get it past my lips. But I did, and I drank and vomited.
When I turned 21 I was introduced to the bar life. Going out was fun and I rarely overindulged. It was around this time when I realized how much I enjoyed alcohol. I am a naturally more anxious and introverted person. Alcohol made me funny, outgoing. I could strike up a conversation with any stranger at any bar and we’d be fast friends for the night. I could sing karaoke. I was funny too. I’d twirl the microphone stand and dance when I sang. At the time I didn’t have a care in the world. My tolerance was just so I could drink enough to feel loose and free but not get sick.
What I remember most specifically about this time is that I had an “off switch.” Drinks are done at 8 pm? Fine with me. Dinner party with only two glasses of wine for the night? Fine by me. No drinks at this party? Fine by me. Alcohol added fun and freedom when it was around, but when it wasn’t, I didn’t feel the least bit alarmed or crave more. At this point I don’t think most people would have considered me an alcoholic. I certainly didn’t.
My fun going-out-and-having-fun phase continued for a few years. I began drinking at home. Alcohol was the perfect addition to watching a movie, talking on the phone, hanging out with friends. I remember buying a 1.75 handle of vodka and I’d drink about an inch of it per night, alone at my house. You could have literally looked at it the next day and wondered if there was even any missing. It was vodka from the beginning because it was cheapest and I could mix with zero calories mixers. Again, my tolerance was the perfect balance because I could drink to be happy and sleep and laugh, then wake up feeling fabulous and have a great day with another treat that evening: more drinking. I was probably drinking about four drinks a night. But it was also every night. I had no reason not to drink every night.
One of the things I appreciated about alcohol the most was that it let me go to sleep right away and sleep like a baby. At this point, again, my “off switch” was working just fine.
It’s hard to pinpoint exactly what changed and when. I remember at the end of college once going to a morning class with a pretty bad hangover. This was a first. I guess for the first time my weeknight drinking was finally catching up with me. I brushed it off, as I would later become a pro at, and continued with my nightly drinking.
The best way to describe my decline would be that it increased by about one drink a night per year. What four drinks did for me at 24 years old, it took five when I was 25 and so forth.
What changed? My nightly drinking became more necessary than just for fun. I honestly drank 365 days a year. It was always at home and alone. I even lived in a different state than all my family and friends so what was going to stop me? I truly drank in seclusion.
I crossed the line where I now had a headache every morning when I woke up. Every day at work I had a splitting headache that would go away mid-morning. It was nothing that a few cups of coffee couldn’t fix and a Tylenol. Appearance wise I was slim and fresh-faced, white eyes and a smile on my face.
By 26-27 I was doing some serious drinking every night at home. It didn’t matter whether it was Christmas Eve, the night before a job interview, or a work night, I was drinking the same amount every night. I even drank when I had a cold or a mild flu. There were some serious flus where I was unable to drink. I used to buy a fifth and it would last 3 days. Now they were lasting two days and when I finished it the second night, I’d wish there was more.
My tolerance was increasing and I was starting to feel pretty awful every day.
I’d wake up every morning and think “I’m not going to drink tonight” and then I would drink that night.
Through this time, I lived with my partner who drank every night but not as much as me. He was not and is not an alcoholic so I’ve always had this clear distinction between he and myself. We would share a fifth every night. I’d drink ¾ of it and he’d drink ¼.
I measured and planned alcohol purchases with mathematical precision. Around 28 years old, I knew a fifth would no longer be enough for us for one night. I would but a fifth and put it in the freezer. I’d buy a quart and put it in the cupboard behind cans of food. We would drink on the patio. When I’d go inside I’d fill every other drink with the one from the cupboard and the others from the one in the freezer.
My goal every night was to make sure I had enough alcohol to last me from the time I got home from work until my head hit the pillow.
I began protecting this plan more than anything else. I didn’t realize it at the time but I was planning my nightly drinking from the time I woke up until the time I went to bed. At 7:00 AM I’d be planning to not drink that night. By lunch I’d be planning to drink less than normal. By afternoon I’d be thinking about what store to go to. I rotated liquor stores to make sure I didn’t go to the same one two days in a row.
I bought just enough to satisfy him and pass myself out every day. I never bought more because if I bought more, I drank more. The nightly ritual continued for several years. I was consuming about 12 standard drinks at this point, every night. At the end of this “middle phase,” I was drinking enough to make myself feel absolutely terrible every day, all day. My headaches now lasted all day and were only helped by taking my first drink.
I had a long “end” because I kept kicking the can further and further down the road, unwilling and unable to admit to anyone or myself that I needed to stop drinking. On the flipside, I was fully aware that I was an alcoholic. But couldn’t I be an alcoholic just a bit longer? I was never in denial really.
At this point I was drinking huge amounts every night and waking up every day feeling absolutely horrible. I truly think it was my age that helped me to get myself out of bed and get to work. If most people had woken up feeling how I felt, they would have called in sick. Call in sick? Not me. I told myself that if I ever missed work then I would have to stop drinking. I never missed a day. I also was massively hungover every day. My hygiene began to deteriorate. I showered every day but my clothing began to be wrinkled and thrown together at the last minute. I often went to work with “bedhead.” Once I showed up to work with toothpaste still around my mouth from brushing in such a panic. Haircuts became a rare occurrence. I had severe diarrhea every day, two to five times. It would come on suddenly with little warning. Several times I did not make it to the bathroom in time. Luckly this never happened at work.
Things changed very drastically at this point after about 7 years of nightly drinking. It had changed my appearance. I had gained about 40 pounds, my eyes were always, always bloodshot and puffy. My face was a hot shade of red. Both adults and children commented on this. My face was flushed and sweaty. I sweated all the time, even when it was cold. My hands began trembling in the morning when I would put in my contacts.
Panic attacks had started. Feelings of shallow breath, doom, and despair were now consuming me every day. If they gave gold medals for pretending to be productive and healthy when you are in the depths of a hangover, I would win. I would be the champion. What allowed me to live like this and work was that I never vomited. I hadn’t vomited in years, even after drinking horribly sickening amounts.
It got to the point where I didn’t know if I was going to blackout or not when I started drinking. Again, it didn’t matter whether this was a work night or a New Years Eve party. Sometimes I drink twelve, set my alarm, and remember the night. Other times I would blackout and wake up with all the lights on in the house, the stove on, front door open, car unlocked outside, still dressed from the day before. I can’t count the times I have woken up with thawed food in the microwave from the night before.
Blackouts became regular, several times a week. If there are two types of drunks, happy drunks and mean drunks, I was a mean drunk. At parties or at home, I would lash out in a rage. I’d bring up old issues from the past, I would insult people with personal attacks, In blackouts I have done things I never thought were possible for me. I have broken valuables on purpose, I have broken a window to get back into a house, and I have woken up in blood twice from injuries sustained from falling. I was too drunk to clean myself up and passed out in it. I will never forget one morning in particular. I had fallen and busted my chin open in a blackout and walked around the house and patio yelling at my partner. When I woke up the next morning there was blood drops in every room of the house.
Facebook, email, and texting became my enemy during this time. I would write outrageous things on my Facebook wall, other people’s Facebook walls, and send long texting chains that either made no sense, or spilled my deepest and darkest thoughts and secrets.
I can honestly say that the most horrifying, mortifying, cringe-inducing memory of all of my drinking was the Facebook posts for the world to see. That was the worst part of my drinking.
In 2010 I began to feel a nagging but dull pain in my right side. It scared the living daylights out of me but as only us alcoholics know, when we are in fear we drink. I continued drinking and just hoped and prayed it would go away. It would go away for a month and come back for a month. This is when I joined this website, Soberrecovery. 2010 was my year to quit. I just could not ignore the pain in my side and I was finally open to the idea of stopping. I began posting on here and talking with others. My record of sobriety was 10 days. I stopped logging in, decided that I had shown myself that I was not alcohol dependent and that I just wouldn’t drink as much in the future.
I can honestly say that from 2010-2013 was by far the worst of my drinking.
My three states of being were:
I didn’t even remember what it felt like to not have a hangover. In the final few years the panic attacks became daily and there were days I didn’t even get out of bed. I would shower and pretend to be okay around 4 pm so I could greet my partner at the door and pretend that I had a totally normal day. We would drink together on the patio that night.
Probably the strangest sensation I’ve ever felt is the feeling of your body trembling inside because you are so hungover and you’re going through withdrawals and trying to take that first drink. You are both repulsed and delighted by it. It makes you want to vomit but you know if you can just get a few down then you can continue drinking that night and feel “normal” even though you’ve long forgotten what “normal” even means.
One low moment near the end was when I ran out of vodka late one night. I went to the recycle bin and carefully poured out the drops from probably 12 empty vodka bottles in the recycle bin until the drops added up at an entire shot. I was terribly relieved to have that one final drink that night.
I began to not drink on Sunday nights because I was too sick from the night before to even drink that first drink. Again, no vomiting but my body felt like it was dying. The pains from my right side began to to my left side and lower back. Sometimes I would get an electric shock feeling around my ribcage on the right side. I’d wake up at 3 AM with pains in my sides and swear, swear that I was done drinking. I’d drink the next night. On the Monday after I didn’t drink Sunday night, I was still hungover. But rather than feeling that acute, hangover feeling, I’d feeling anxious like I was going to stop breathing. I went to work every day either withdrawing from alcohol.
Google searches about alcohol related illness and death became a daily horror show for me. I’d think about my health all day, every day, except when I was drunk. I knew I was killing myself.
Back to that doctor visit in June 2013.
I went in to get my results. I knew something was terribly wrong and I was right. As they took my blood pressure, before the doctor came into the room I had a panic attack. My blood pressure was 190/120 and I had a hard time breathing. I’ll never forget what the nurse said: “Your blood pressure should NOT be this high for someone your age.” I was 31. She sounded shocked and angry at the same time. She said she was going to give me a shot of something to bring it down. They were out of the shot though at the office and said they’d have to go to the hospital across the street and get it. I told her that I actually felt like this panicked feeling every day so she doesn’t need to worry. This was true. They finally decided to not give me the shot.
The doctor came in and smiled and looked calm. She pulled up the results on a computer screen. She went through many different things and described levels and made hand gestures. From the way I felt every day I thought my blood would have read like taking vitamin levels from gasoline. To my shock, my kidneys were fine, vitamin levels fine, all levels fine until the last page. With a calm smile she explained that my liver enzyme levels were very elevated and that I had been diagnosed with acute alcoholic hepatitis. I thought I was going to die of despair right there in the room. I knew that was second stage of liver disease. I had skipped right over fatty liver somewhere in my nightly binging.
She asked me how much I drank and I lied. “Ummm, a six pack a night?” I thought beer sounded less scary than vodka and that amount seemed low to me. She was very calm but looked surprised. Shockingly, she told me that I should lower that to one beer month. My levels were between double and triple for both ALT and AST.
I walked out of that office certain that I would never drink again. I had never been to sure of anything in my life. It was like the sky had opened up and sent my final warning: I am no longer going to drink alcohol.
I stopped that night but had never been so depressed in my life. I was so shaken I didn’t tell my family or even my partner. I had elevated heart rate, feelings of severe anxiety, and insomnia. I felt restless and angry for the first week.
We were in the process of moving. A week later we were moving a bed that came crashing to the ground on my foot. The loud noise and pain zapped me out of my conviction: I’m drinking tonight. But only tonight.
I drank for one more year, nightly and heavily. Every night I swore it would be my last. The hangover continued to get worse and worse. I could barely get myself out of bed to go work anymore. One morning I slept in and forgot to set my alarm. I was late. I went to work in the same outfit I had worn the night before. I drank that night.
June 26, 2014 I drank 12 beers like nothing. I had no idea when I would stop. I had not plan to stop. I simply could not bring myself to stop. June 27 I woke up with the one hangover I’ve ever had that can’t be accurately described in words. I’ll try. I woke up with my head in so much pain I couldn’t open my eyes. I was incredibly tired yet I felt so agitated I kept turning over in bed, like a mad person. Many parts of my body hurt, my head, my chest, my stomach, even my legs. I had a zapping pain in my lower back. I thought I was going into liver failure. I had read that one of the last symptoms is back pain.
I honestly don’t know how I got through that day but I knew one thing. I couldn’t go on like this. Not one more day.
I logged in here and waited as the minutes and hours went by that day, that night, the next day. It was truly a waiting game of how to pass time without alcohol. I craved and ate candy at astonishing levels. I binged on junk food, milkshakes, nachos, soda. I had a week of sleepless nights. I was on vacation from work.
Each milestone was an astonishment. A week felt like a year. A month felt like a year. But I knew I couldn’t go back to drinking. I logged in here probably 10-15 hours a day. I was obsessed with reading others’ stories. It was the only way I could pass the time. I went in the chat room, I read threads from years ago. Again, I just knew I was done.
The first Christmas was hard. I remember looking at the clock at 5:40 knowing the liquor store closed at six. I also knew if you got in the line at 5:59, got the in the door, the would still sell to you. I also knew they were closed the next day. Watching the clock strike six on Christmas Eve was a moment of jubilation and stress.
I quit in the summer and thought summer was the hardest time of year to quit. When fall came, I thought fall was the hardest season to be sober. When winter came, I thought “Wow, it’s really hard not to drink during the winter.” Spring seemed even harder. I’m not saying it got harder to stay sober. I’m saying there is NEVER a perfect time to quit.
No day was harder than the first. No week was harder than the first week. No month was harder than the first month. At three month, things started to go smoothly. At a year, I stopped thinking about drinking and at two years I never think about drinking. I think about sobriety but not drinking.
Before I got sober I read on here from someone that “three days is harder than three week.” He’s right. I think three months is easier than three weeks. There is no way to accurately describe how hard it is to break the addiction of alcohol those first few days. If you drink, you’re really not losing much, right? You’re so programmed to drink, you don’t know any other way.
I never wavered since June 27, 2014. I’ve never even come close to actually drinking. I had a moment of clarity on June 27, 2014 about my future if I continued to drink and I couldn’t ignore it anymore. I can honestly say that I believe I would be dead right now if I had continued. I don’t think my body could have held out much longer.
Back to the doctor talk. When I stopped I told myself that I would wait five years to ever go back and face a doctor. Well, as luck would have it, I had stomach pains and had to go in to get checked for gallstones. Long story short, I had full bloodwork, CT scan with dye contrast, everything. I had been sober 18 months. I am in complete and perfect health. My liver healed. No scarring. No inflammation. Nothing. My body is healed from my alcoholism. I healed my body by drinking Pepsi by the gallon, nachos, and milkshakes. All it took was for me to stop drinking alcohol. I’ve started eating better in sobriety but for those first six months fatty, high carb food was my personal savior.
So what’s life like now?
*Work became immensely easier. It’s half as hard now that I’m not *hungover every single day.
*I wake up every morning feeling just fine.
*My eyes are white again.
*I have lost weight without even trying.
*I no longer embarrass myself online or in public.
*I am not late to work every day.
*I have a sense of optimism about the future rather than feelings of doom and terror.
*I stick to my commitments.
*I am paying my bills on time. My credit is improving.
*My house is cleaner. My car is cleaner.
*I am saving $400 a month.
*All of my health ailments have disappeared. My blood pressure is normal too.
*My hands are steady.
*I am calmer. I am not in “fight or flight” all the time now.
*I have more time in every way. I think about work and stuff rather than planning how and when to get alcohol.
*I can shop in the evenings. I can drive in the evenings. I can drive at 3 AM!
*I don’t ignore phone calls after a certain point in the evening.
I truly don’t believe I ever would have stopped drinking if it weren’t for this website and the people on here that share my experience. Thank you.