My Last Drink Was Fifteen Years Ago

Posted on June 11, 2013

An interview with “Julie” on the subject of addiction recovery.

JulieHow many years have you been sober and how did drinking affect/damage your life?

My last drink was on June 15, 1998.

I began drinking as a young teen – heavily and almost daily, right from the start – which meant that during my formative years I didn’t develop healthy ways of coping with life. As a result, although I was academically and professionally successful, I was emotionally fragile and unable to deal with life without seeking solace in alcohol. Eventually, alcohol became the center of my life.

I was able to muddle through for quite a while, but by my early 30s, my drinking had seriously affected my ability to function. I couldn’t concentrate, suffered from daily panic attacks, and blacked out nearly every night. However, I didn’t want to admit that my drinking was creating these problems, so instead of addressing the issue, I quit working! I was married and had young children, so my decision to quit work wasn’t questioned, but in the resulting isolation my addiction reached full bloom. Those last few years were sheer hell, and at age 36, after drinking for 25 years, I reached the end. I decided to quit drinking and have not taken a drink since I made that decision.

Has recovery been an ongoing struggle and how do you cope with it?

It was very difficult at first, but at this point it isn’t a struggle at all.

I believe this is an important point. Sometimes, in our eagerness to convince people not to backslide, I think we send the message that recovery is not just a process but a never-ending struggle. That is not how it has been for me. I’m not minimizing the work involved, believe me. It took a long time, and it required immense commitment on my part. At the beginning I was sick, troubled, lost, and had no coping skills beyond drinking. You don’t turn a situation like that around overnight. But the work I did, and the commitment I made at the very start, has allowed me to live my life in freedom…not in a permanent state of fear. I don’t even really think of myself as being “in recovery” anymore; rather I see myself as someone who is simply living life.

Do you feel like you are missing anything now that you aren’t drinking—or do you feel like your life is better and you experience more now?

I absolutely don’t feel that I am missing anything now that I’m not drinking. By the time I quit, drinking wasn’t the least bit fun. Instead, it was a chore, like a ball and chain I dragged around for years. Quitting was not only an immense relief, but it provided me with the freedom to do things I could never have done while drinking. One extremely satisfying thing I’ve been able to do since I quit is to become involved with SMART Recovery, and with helping others to find their own road to recovery from addiction.

What do you recommend for someone just starting on their sobriety journey?

This is a hard question, because there are many different, valid approaches to recovery, and what helped me might not be right for the next person. I do think, though, that you can’t go wrong by doing the following:

    Commit yourself to the change process. After quitting my own addiction and watching others do the same, I believe that a deep and genuine commitment to change is the single most important component of any successful recovery.

    Do some research and decide on a recovery approach that makes sense to you. Whether it be a recovery support group such as SMART Recovery or a 12 step program, whether it be professional treatment or individual counseling, whether you use one philosophy or combine bits and pieces of several, in the end it’s like exercise: the approach that will help you is the one you will actually DO.

    Don’t let anyone tell you that one particular philosophy is the only “right” way to approach recovery. This simply isn’t true.

    Have a positive attitude. Don’t think of recovery as giving something up, but as allowing yourself the freedom to enjoy your life.

    Be kind to yourself: Remember, you are more than your addiction.

Congratulations, Julie, on your fifteen years in recovery!

Thank you for being an inspiration and a valuable member of the SMART Recovery Volunteer Team.

About the author: This post first appeared on the Criminal Lawyer website. This post is the latest in their effort to share the stories of real people who have struggled with addiction. Read more about their struggles and victories as they learn to live sober again.

10 thoughts on “My Last Drink Was Fifteen Years Ago

  1. William

    I like the common sense approach of SMART and its adherents. I too fell into the category of booze affecting my life adversely in several areas-financial(blowing huge amounts of money), career(stagnation), health(anxiety/panic attacks), and family and friends(lack of committment and not following through with alleged promises).
    With me (and I suspect others)the primary “cure” was very logical-age and wisdom. These are ideas not suggested at the local Church basement meeting,however, it was basically that simple for me. The idea of running around in bars these days is simply not on the radar for me. It is good to have some structure with a logical approach,like SMART. But first, the desire to live the life that goes along with boozing had to vanish. It is very difficult for me to imagine going back to that life, now in my early 50’s. Could I have admitted to that while still in my 30’s? Unfortunately no.

  2. Terry M

    Thank you for your comments. I stated drinking again in 2008 after 16 plus years clean in N.A. During those clean years I never prayed and thought that my recovery was my responsibility . I helped others as a sponsor and always told them that their recovery was based on their behavior. If they were religious that was fine as their beliefs were their choice. My job was to help, not dictate. I am going
    to a Smart Recovery meeting tomorrow here in Ajijic Mexico. I do not believe in bad rapping other forms of recovery. But they sure want to tell me how I am wrong to be a Humanist.

  3. Salem

    Fall down 7; stand up 8. We are not walking mistakes and we are not problems to be solved. We are humans whom made poor decisions as we grow. Grow where you are planted; don’t throw out the nurtured soil and start all over again. Grab some fertilizer/support/friends and water and poof….you will bloom where you are planted just as you grow from this place too. Peace Out

  4. Tammy22

    I could relate to your story. I started drinking at a very young age and quit for 12 years and then started back. Today I’m committed to change my destructive behavior and start living a healthier and happier life. Hearing your story was very inspiring. Thank you.

  5. not_powerless

    I haven’t been alcohol dependent since August 8th 2011 but I have had a couple of lapses lasting no longer than 48 hrs. In the old program I was following I would have been told to rewind my sobriety date and start all over again. I was filled with guilt in that program and my lapses became relapses and ultimately I went back to dependent drinking for a good 10 years. SMART doesn’t have the same kind of dynamic. I learned from my most recent lapses that I wasn’t really missing much and when I wrote out a CBA and looked at the long-term consequences of continuing this behaviour, it was obvious that abstinence is the best option for me.

    I am really happy that someone has 15 years continuous sobriety and I have learned that just because I have slipped up a couple of times, I don’t have to rate myself as a worse (or better) than they are. No one gets medals for length of sobriety in SMART and I hope it stays that way.

    1. Charlotte J.

      If you fell off your bike, and were able to get back up and go on your way, would you wheel the bicycle back to your starting point before continuing on towards your destination? Possibly not||| I find this a useful way to explain Smart Recovery’s less catastrophic approach to lapses.

      1. Jean

        I love the analogy of falling off a bike and not returning to the starting point! What’s the point?! It’s not starting over, it’s beginning again! Thanks for this!

    2. Cristy K.

      Thank GOD I found you!! Losing the Love of my Life,over this! Been falling on my face ALOT,lately,and if he could only SEE THIS,maybe he´d get it??? He sure does know how to push my buttons…the ones thaat make me QUIT Quitting,and he won´t see that.I wish I could tell him how HARD it is,to Look Forward,when HE keeps making me look Back,the ol´fool!!! God Bless all the Dads,this weekend. (I may fall on my face,but at least Iḿ falling FORWARD!!!—seen on an old SMART Blog)

  6. Pistol-Pete

    Thank you Julie for your very positive story. I am making an effort to quit drinking and I agree with you that making a commitment and looking forward to the positive changes in your life are very very important aspect of recovery.

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