My name is Liz, I’m 29 years old, and I live in Philadelphia. On September 8th, 2018 I checked myself into detox for alcohol and on September 9th, 2018 I experienced my first day sober in many years. Today I have not consumed a drop of alcohol in over a year, and I couldn’t be more excited to share my story. For me, sobriety is not just about abstinence from substances. For me, sobriety is a lifestyle, a commitment, a promise to myself to always be better today than I was yesterday. At first, I believed removing alcohol would fix everything. And honestly, it did fix a lot. But, removing alcohol which had become my “solution” to all of my problems over the years, meant I had to find other solutions. I had to find ways to cope with anxiety, stress and trauma. I had to truthfully learn how to live life again.
My whole quirk about drinking was that I only drank vodka from the get-go, and for 12 years. To preface – my whole life, I only drank water. I didn’t like flavored or carbonated drinks growing up, so I never ever drank soda or juice or literally anything. When I was introduced to parties and alcohol, I chose to drink straight vodka and it sort of stuck. Everyone tried to get me to try beer or wine, but vodka or sometimes rum was all I would drink. I thought I chose this path because of my childhood drink phobia, but truthfully, it was because I forced myself to drink this one other substance besides water – for the effect. And the thing about brainwashing out youth into alcohol consumption, is that no one thought it was particularly strange. We were all “in it for the effect” throughout high school and college. The point of drinking was to get wasted. Nights like these were a dime a dozen. Everyone’s mission at 18, 21, 23, 25, was to just get drunk. Make those memories you barely remember. The more you forget, the better it was, right?
But what seemed normal, never actually was. I didn’t just end up in detox at 28 years old. This was a progression.
It progressed over many years – from being an innocent weekend warrior, pressuring everyone into shots on a Tuesday, to day-long Sunday hangovers. One day, I realized I was drinking every single night and had been for a while. Eventually, I was drinking on the clock at my restaurant job where it was “acceptable”. Then, the hair of the dog that bit you at 10 am became normal. A drink with lunch. Wild happy hours. Constant headaches.
After a while, I realized the nausea seemed to last all day. Out of nowhere, I realized I hadn’t gone a single day without vomiting in months, maybe a year. Maybe more? All of a sudden, I was sick every morning. I knew I was now suffering from constant withdrawal, but how would I stop this cycle? I needed to drink to not feel sick, and then eventually I needed to drink a lot to not feel sick.
I got a 9-5 job and suddenly I needed to drink before leaving my house at 8:30 in the morning. If I woke up in the middle of the night, I got the shakes. Eventually, I was hallucinating before bed. I was delirious. Paranoid. Where was all my money going? I hadn’t eaten anything in days. My body was so bloated and yet so starved. I felt empty. Walking became difficult. Standing up made me start to faint every time. The world kept spinning around me and now I was sick most of the day, every day. There as no reprieve. I could feel my body shutting down. I knew that death was near. Then, one morning, drinking before work, I had a seizure.
My mom met me at the hospital, and I drank from a water bottle of vodka each time she turned her back. I knew the kind of help everyone would offer me, but I was too afraid and ashamed to have anyone know the truth of how bad it had gotten. Being diagnosed with a vitamin deficiency was acceptable. I had to keep the withdrawal at bay and just keep it moving.
When I got home and continued to drink, my roommate who was the only one with any inkling of my drinking habits, confronted me. Too afraid to lose her, and caught in a moment of complete surrender, I spent the next day or so looking at detoxes before taking the first one with an empty bed. I spent five days away from everyone and everything I knew and loved, not even completely convinced I would never touch a drink again. I just wanted to get better in the moment, get physically removed from the alcohol and see what would happen. See if I could be normal after that.
So, what happened next? For the first time in at least a year, I drew a sober breath. Had my first full sober 24 hours in at least 5 or 6 years. Then I had my first sober week in definitely 8 + years. Started going to AA meetings thanks to some amazing people. I found out a lot about myself that I didn’t want to know. I learned a whole lot about what I had been suffering from. I started to rediscover who I was, what I liked, what I didn’t. What I needed to do next. How to heal. How to grow. How to socialize again with other humans, without substances. How to fall asleep at night. How to fully laugh. How to process my emotions and how to communicate with the people I loved. Every small thing was difficult and even a year later, this is still true for a lot of things.
I had to re-program my brain and re-learn a lot of “normal”, “basic” things. I fell in love. I got my heart broken. I lost one of my best friends. I was surprised to find myself battling with depression and suicidal ideation at 6 months sober. I researched and read a lot. I took care of myself. I kept my feet moving. I shared with others. I looked deep inside myself, and I made the effort every day to keep loving myself, no matter what. One day at a time.
When I was drinking, there was a lot of thing in my life I had resigned myself to believing I deserved. Things I believed were normal. Alcohol was the glaze over everything that constantly reassured me, it’s okay, it’s alright. And at the end of the day, I believed alcohol because I never cared about tomorrow like I cared about the drink right now. Nothing in my line of sight went beyond that unless I was obsessing about the next drink, and the next drink. And then one day, that’s all my life was. A series of obsessing over this drink and the next drink and the next.
Alcohol was where my days would begin and end. They say the trick to changing your life is changing your daily habits. There’s got to be some truth to that because one day, don’t we all look back and see our lives as the cumulation of our days? How we spend our days is how we truly spend our lives? I think that’s how it goes. In September of 2018 I changed everything about how I spent my days and now I’m looking back on the past year and I’m seeing a completely different life than the one I used to live. Removing alcohol and working a step program has allowed me to see every crack in my own design. And with that clarity, I began repairing from within. Finding spiritual purpose. Seeking authentic relationships. I am still learning. Still trying. Seeking progress.
On September 8th, 2018 Elizabeth checked herself into detox for alcohol and on September 9th, 2018 she experienced her first day sober in many years. She is also the owner of Puptown Girl Pet Care in Philadelphia.