1) Describe your ‘rock bottom.’
It was the night of July 13, 2007. The infamous Dispatch concert at Madison Square Garden in New York City. In a 24 hour period, I went from being sober (just the physical act, not the state of being) in Washington, D.C. to waking up in a hospital in NYC, lost and alone and completely unaware of what had just happened thanks to a wretched brownout/hangover (or was I still drunk?) after a dangerous night of binge drinking. Something in me clicked almost immediately, knowing I never (and I meant NEVER) wanted to go through a harrowing living nightmare like this again. Luckily my stomach wasn’t pumped. Thankfully I wasn’t on a ventilator. So many gory and grizzly things could have happened to me in my state, and the fact that my purse was returned to me intact was some sort of sign that I interpreted as a higher power / guardian angel moment—because it still had my phone, money, and bus ticket back home.
I go into my story in a variety of podcasts, interviews, etc. but needless to say this wasn’t my first bottom. It was just the first time I realized my behavior was destructive to more than just myself. The fact that my family felt the wrath and panic of my actions really shook me. When I returned home to D.C. I knew I had to make a change. And that’s when I called for help.
2) What were your first 30 days of recovery like?
It’s hard to remember all the details, since this month I’ll have 8.5 years of continuous sobriety under my belt! Almost immediately after I made that initial call for help to my substance abuse and mental health provider, I enrolled (somewhat reluctantly, somewhat enthusiastically) in a group counseling intensive outpatient rehab. My days within that first month were spent partly at work, in my first job out of college, and partly attending these rehab sessions. And AA. It was a requirement to attend 15 AA meetings within that five week period, so that was my introduction to 12 step fellowship.
I felt completely like a fish out of water and didn’t want to be in those rooms—but they were absolutely instrumental to my early recovery. I realized pretty early on in this process that even though I didn’t think in terms of forever (just yet), I liked not having to rely on alcohol as a crutch. I liked not having hangovers. But I was terrified of “giving up” a social life as a freshly turned 24 year old. I thought my days of fun were over.
3) What are the best things that have happened to you since you got clean/sober?
Far and away, my favorite thing is having a clear mind (albeit it’s always cluttered with OCD/ADD/anxiety) but it’s not altered by substances and I wake up after gorgeous sleep hangover-free! I love my relationships with my family and close friends—the latter group changed over the years based on toxic people I had to cut and new friends I made. But some of my biggest supporters have been with me since before I got sober and have always wanted the best for me.
I’d say I’m in my third stage of recovery now, and it’s been absolutely amazing. Words can’t really describe. As I continue carving my own path—and by starting my website–I’ve met so many wonderful, caring, powerful individuals in recovery who are proud to share their stories. I truly feel like I’m part of something bigger than myself, a part of an always changing, always moving amorphous blog of recovery, especially recovery in the online world. It’s nothing short of magnificent.
4) If you could go back in time to you when you were drinking/using what would you tell yourself?
You know, this is a hard one because I don’t regret my choices or my path. Sometimes I wish I could drink like a normal person, sure. But to trade my experiences and wisdom in for the occasional glass of wine isn’t worth it AT ALL. So what I would tell my former self wouldn’t be to moderate or cut back; it would be more a message of love. That I’m OK no matter who I am. That loving ME is the greatest gift I can give, and I don’t need to seek affirmation through others in order to have love for myself. Of course, that’s a tough one. I am constantly working on that, daily.
5) What have been the most useful things you have learnt about yourself since getting sober/clean?
Really getting a handle on my mental health has probably been the most rewarding—and useful—part about getting sober. I felt so isolated for years thinking my panic attacks and obsessive checking/repeating/strange thoughts were unique to just me and me alone. But learning about my mental illnesses and flipping the script by treating them as illnesses and/or neurochemical imbalances (remedies: talk therapy, antidepressants, exercise) as opposed to moral failings is the biggest thing of all. Drinking wasn’t the biggest issue, yet it caused the most heartache. It was drinking to mask my insides, to self-medicate that was the biggest problem. Now that I’ve gotten to the root cause of why I drank, I can attempt to deal with my issues on a daily basis. And as much as I hate having some of these chemical imbalances, they make me who I am. They help me be a more compassionate, empathetic person.
6) Tell me about something wonderful that happened to you recently that never would have happened if you had been drinking.
I show up to all family functions and friends’ dinners, get togethers, parties, fully present (again, with the exception of whatever is taking up mental real estate thanks to that pesky chemical imbalance I’ve got going on in my noggin). So that’s pretty darn great.
But recently, I’ve found my community growing in the most positive way all thanks to following my heart by starting The Sobriety Collective. People reach out to me from all corners of the globe to tell me I make a difference to them. That’s the most touching part of it all. To know I’ve helped someone. And likewise, I’ve reached out to hundreds of folks in recovery and met just as many face-to-face (maybe not hundreds, but each feels like gold to me). Seeing that we have a common experience but we’ve gotten here through our own paths and detours is proof that recovery has room for us all and is *not* one size fits all.7) What are your favorite recovery slogans?
One day at a time—more helpful for me when I get caught up in anxiety or OCD. The not drinking part is second nature to me now…although I realize I always have to stay vigilant so I don’t repeat mistakes of the past.
Stay Classy. Stay Cool. Stay Sober.™- me. I made that one up <3.
8) And lastly, why does ‘recovery rock?’
Because recovery is the bedrock of my life—and it’s magical in all its wonders.