The day of my last admission into treatment, February 19 2015, is my sobriety date. I got sober at 20 years old. I didn’t intend to stay sober after I got out of that treatment center, which was Eating Disorder focused. I just thought that I could go in and be sober while I was there, and then leave and resume drinking.
Let’s back up a little bit though. I had come to terms with the fact that I am and addict when I was in treatment in 2014. I had stopped using and drinking of my own accord a month before my admission, and it was the worst. I went through withdrawal symptoms and I no longer knew how to engage in normal human activity. People scared me when I didn’t have substances, and so did life.
But drinking…drinking never felt like a problem. Drinking was just something everyone my age did, I wasn’t abnormal for doing so. Everyone I knew was deep in the party scene, and it felt normal. So, when I left treatment in 2014, I started drinking again. It took me until my sobriety date to stop, and it took a lot of work in treatment to realize that drinking was also a problem for me.
I did the work, and I realized I couldn’t keep living that way; I decided to stay sober.
Now that I’m 22, and 90% of my friends are normies, I have had to navigate maintaining my social life and my sobriety. Obviously, anonymity is not my thing. I respect those who need anonymity, but if I had stayed anonymous, I don’t think my sobriety would have stayed intact for this long.
Before I even started trying to go to bars, anybody that I was going to go with was informed of my sobriety. Most of those conversations went fine. Nobody really questions why anymore, and nobody makes it uncomfortable. And honestly, that’s been the key to me going out and staying sober.
When I go to house parties, they’re at people’s houses who know that I’m sober (and they always offer to buy me juice/soda! It’s so cute. I love it.). If anyone there doesn’t know that I’m sober and they offer me a drink, before I can even say no, my friends jump in and say “Ash doesn’t drink.” I back that up with my own statement about sobriety, but it has been so much easier to do so because my friends have my back. My friends have all been a very strong support for me, and knowing that they still want me around sober, and support my sobriety, is really wonderful.
When I go to bars, I always go with a friend (or more) who knows that I’m sober. I pick all of my friends up, so that I have the Official Responsibility of being Designated Driver. Having the added accountability really helps me to ensure that I will remain sober, because I would never want to hurt my friends. We only go to bars where I can dance, because that’s what I want out of night-life, and that’s what makes going out fun for me.
I also have worked very hard on identifying when it’s a bad idea for me to go out. Have I had a really bad week? Did I not get a lot of sleep last night? Am I angry? Am I trying to avoid responsibility?
In all of those cases, with certain answers, I know that going out is a bad idea. It’s taken some time to be able to identify that, but I know I am looking out for myself and the life I now live when I make those decisions.
I’m still learning that I’m fun, friendly, and good without drugs or alcohol. I’m still learning, and that is the best part about this journey. If I had kept going in my substance-heavy lifestyle, I would not be as successful as I am today. I would not be in remission from behavioral symptoms of my ED or self harm. And I would not know as much about me as I now do. Learning is okay, adjusting is okay. I know that my friends still consider me an incredibly fun person, despite the fact that I don’t bring the “fun” with me.
While getting sober felt like the worst thing I had ever done, physically and emotionally, I am so happy that I did. I like the person that I am, because I am not hiding behind substances and I actually know who that is. And I am infinitely grateful for the therapist who pushed my face into my issues and made me realize that I could not continue living the way I was; there is definitely something better out here now.