How I Got Sober: Leigh

By Sober College 11/28/16

I have learned from experience that when you do the right and best things for yourself the right people come into your life.

Image: 
 A group of smiling faces looking down at the camera.

What is your sobriety date? 

November 25, 2013

Where did you get sober? 

Chicago, Illinois, then Tarzana, California.

When did you start drinking? 

Eighth grade.

How would you describe your life before you quit drinking?

Unmanageable, to say the least.

What were your childhood and teenage years like?

I had an incredible childhood—the best and most supportive parents a girl could ever ask for and three wonderful, loving siblings. But I remember growing up, never being content, always feeling like I never had “enough” or always searching for the “next big thing.” I could never live in the present moment.

My teenage years got a lot darker all due to drugs and alcohol. There was a period where I was doing cocaine every day for four months. I didn’t understand what was happening when I stopped doing it; I thought I was getting “sick,” like developing a cold. In reality, I was having withdrawals, which is very scary at only 16, uneducated on withdrawal and unaware of what was really happening. Things only got worse; my addiction to alcohol only progressed. I dug myself deeper and deeper into the black hole that I called my life.

When did you first think you might have a problem?

When I just couldn’t stop. When I would swear to myself that I was going to drive from my parents’ home to my place and not stop for alcohol and I ended up stopping—every single time. I had no control; my addiction had fully taken over my life and I didn’t know what to do; I didn’t know how to stop. I didn’t see light at the end.

How did you rationalize your drinking?

I would tell myself “everyone does this.” I am a young adult and this is what being a “young adult” is. In reality, no one does this. People who suffer from alcoholism and addiction do what I did. The reason we have such a hard time seeing it is because we surround ourselves with people similar to us, if not worse. That allows us to “be a part of,” “fit in,” and rationalize our behavior through the actions of others. “Well, Suzy got blacked out and got a DUI. I drink every day, but I have a job, am in school and only blackout on weekends. So, I am fine.”

What do you consider your bottom?

I lost my happiness, my joy, my love for life and my will to live. It was almost more painful being alive drinking than it would have been to just not exist anymore. I have never attempted suicide but I can understand and sympathize with those who struggle from this disease that have tried. I had so much pain and was very depressed and isolated. I was drinking to save my life. I had done so much damage and created a lot of chaos that drinking was the only thing that allowed me to escape all of that.

Did you go to rehab?

Yes, Evanston Outpatient Center from April 2013 to June 2013 and Sober College from December 2013 to February 2015.

Did anything significant happen while in rehab that is important to your sobriety?

One moment that I remember vividly, that has always meant so much to me, was my initial meeting with my counselor at Sober College. I sat down on her couch feeling so afraid, broken, clueless and alone. She smiled at me and told me about her life. She opened up with such honesty, love, compassion and understanding. That was the first time I was able to honestly tell someone what was going on. I didn’t have to wear that smile and pretend that everything was okay when everything was awful. I told her what my life was really like. It was one of the best memories I have. I will be forever grateful for her; she is an amazing woman.

Lastly, I was coming home from a night out with the other girls from Melvin (the Sober College house we lived in). We were in the car, laughing so hard. I don’t think I had genuinely laughed that hard in years. It was one of those belly laughs, where you feel like you got a six-pack just from laughing so hard. I had tears from laughter streaming down my face and I remember feeling truly happy. I didn’t have anxiety, worry or fear, or any of the negative feelings I had been enduring for so long. I could smile and say, “I am happy.” That is an incredible feeling.

Did you go to AA? If so, what did you think of it at first? How do you feel about it now?

Yes. I didn’t care for it when I first began going. I would sit inside the rooms of Alcoholics Anonymous and point out everything that was different between me and the people around me. After going to enough meetings, I was finally able to focus and just listen without judgement. I could relate on so many levels with feelings, old ways of life, dangerous situations I had put myself in. I stopped feeling so alone in this.

I was looking for a sponsor and heard an amazing woman share my story. Okay, it wasn’t exactly my story but it was pretty close. She spoke about her life—having so much love for it and all those in it. I was like, “I want that; I want that love, passion and happiness.” So I mustered up the courage and asked her to be my sponsor and she still is.

Have you worked the 12 steps? What is your opinion on them?

Yes, I have worked the 12 steps with my sponsor. Watching her live her life and walk through battles bravely and seemingly fearless, knowing she has a lot of fear, but she does it anyways, is incredible. She teaches me by example. I think they work; there is no doubt in my mind. If they didn’t work, I wouldn’t be here today, writing about how I am sober. I never thought I would not drink.

What do you hate about being an alcoholic?

I don’t hate being an alcoholic anymore. I think one thing that may bother me is everything that’s centered on drinking in our culture, especially for young people. Going to bars and getting “wasted” isn’t my life goal anymore. I have other goals and sometimes it can get a little lonely. But I have learned from experience that when you do the right and best things for yourself the right people come into your life. The people who I want to hang out with won’t be the people who go to bars every night. It will be the people who have career aspirations, personal goals and trips planned—people who focus on things other than drinking.

What do you love about being an alcoholic?

I love the freedom I have! I am no longer a prisoner to alcohol or drugs. I am no longer looking for something to ingest to numb the feelings or escape the discomfort I used to feel in my own skin. I can wake up every morning with a purpose. I can feel grateful and happy. This isn’t to say I experience good feelings all day and every day, but I can always find something to be grateful for, especially if I wake up another day sober.

What are the three best tools you have acquired to stay sober and happy?

  1. A relationship with a Higher Power.

  2. Reaching out to others when I am struggling, knowing that I am not alone.

  3. Being able to feel peace in the midst of chaos.

Do you have a sobriety mantra? 

“Choose Joy”

What is the most valuable thing that has happened to you in recovery?

I came in unsure of what was going to happen but somewhere along the way I found a will to live a sober life. Sitting through countless group and individual therapy sessions, AA/NA/MA meetings, meeting with my sponsor, doing my chores in the house and doing step work—I didn’t know what to expect. I didn’t think any of it would work, but I did it anyways. I did it all, everything that was recommended. And something along the line clicked. For the first time in my life I was content, at peace, serene and sober. I was able to understand, I do have a choice as to how I want to live my life. It is a very liberating experience.

If you could offer a newcomer or someone thinking about getting sober any advice, what would it be?

Throw all of your predetermined notions about AA and the 12-step programs out the window. Sit in a meeting and just listen. As you’re listening to the speaker, try to find three similarities you have. Do that for the first couple of meetings and while doing that, find someone that you look up to in the program and ask them to temporarily sponsor you. I know commitment is scary, so temporary sponsors are the best way to start, that way you can make sure you’re comfortable with that person prior to beginning the steps. Once you’re through the initial stages just take their advice when it comes to sobriety. Trust that they were put in your life for a reason to help you. And they’re obviously doing something right to have gotten sober.

Want to learn more about where Leigh found recovery? Reach Sober College by phone at (877) 979-4373. Find Sober College on Facebook, Twitter, Google+ and Pinterest.

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