*Excerpt from Polluted: My Sober Journey. Alcohol, Addiction and the 7 Stages to Getting Clean.
The last year of my drinking was a living hell. That may sound dramatic, but there’s no other way to describe it. I was 42 years old, flat broke and living alone in a shitty one-bedroom apartment in Los Angeles. I drank every day, snorted and smoked cocaine whenever I could, and hung around other alcoholics and addicts.
I was living a life of quiet desperation. I was a complete mess, physically, mentally, and spiritually. I had been arrested once and had visited the hospital on multiple occasions because of alcohol poisoning and panic attacks. Over the years, I had burned down every meaningful relationship in my life. I was fat, miserable, and lonely. And that's sugar-coating it.
Worst and most destructive of all, I had lost all faith - faith in my abilities, faith in other people, faith in life, faith in any concept of God.
I was drowning in a polluted ocean of addiction and despair. It wasn't until I found the courage to cry out for help that I was saved from the alcoholic destruction that was waiting for me, a form of slow suicide that has killed many of my friends.
The last day I drank was December 8, 2007. The next day, December 9, the gift of desperation descended upon me like a dove. I was extremely hungover, sick, and tired of being sick and tired. I had had enough, and I wanted help. I had tried everything imaginable to get sober on my own, including therapy, acupuncture, and self-will, but nothing worked. It was abundantly clear that I couldn't get sober on my own. I needed help from people who had gone through what I was going through.
I called a friend who was working on his sobriety in Alcoholics Anonymous (AA). He took me to the first of many meetings that I have attended over the last twelve years. I haven't had a drop of alcohol since that first meeting, and I pray every day that I never have another one.
I want to share with you what the experience of getting sober was like - the good, the bad, and the ugly.
WHAT TO EXPECT
As the saying goes, always expect the unexpected. Entering into any new adventure requires an open mind and a willingness to learn and grow.
Getting sober isn't always easy. I’ll let you in on a little secret; it can be scary at times, like riding a roller coaster when you're afraid of heights, speed, and loud noises. But it's worth the ride if you're willing to accept that you don't have to be in control. Hold on tight, enjoy the wind in your hair, and see where it takes you. You might be pleasantly surprised.
I want to make it clear that I got sober through the twelve steps of Alcoholics Anonymous. AA is the basis of my sobriety. Therefore it informs my language when I discuss addiction and recovery. AA has saved my life. I love the program and still do my best to practice its principles every day.
But not everyone gets sober this way, and that's fine. There is more than one way to get sober, and I support any method that brings a person lasting peace in recovery.
However, as a "twelve-stepper," I will make references to the steps throughout this book because it is the foundation of my recovery. The steps have been a great road map for me to follow. The point is not to beat you over the head with the steps or explain them in detail. I’m not here to promote the program. I only want to clarify and demystify what it's like to get sober. If you choose AA as a means of getting sober, you will have plenty of time to learn more about each of the twelve steps.
I will often use the word “alcohol” throughout this book. However, the term "alcohol" can be interchangeable with "drugs" or any other destructive substance in your life. Whether you engage in compulsive drug abuse or alcohol abuse, each can be exchanged with the other based on your circumstance.
What I’m attempting to convey in this book are the stages most people, myself included, pass through while they’re getting sober and cleaning up their life. I’ve identified 7 Stages of sobriety and the subsequent emotional experiences you will likely encounter in each stage.
It’s important to note that, though you will probably experience each of the 7 Stages at some point, they might not occur in the exact order that I will present them. For instance, you might experience sorrow (Stage 3) before you experience fear (Stage 2). Or you might feel joy (Stage 6) before hope (Stage 5). It doesn't matter what order they appear, but most likely, you will grapple with each of the 7 Stages at some point.
If you're feeling frightened, angry, or hesitant about giving up alcohol (or drugs), you’re not alone. Most people who get sober feel the same way, reluctant to give up the one thing that has given them peace and comfort over the years. But at some point, peace and happiness disappear. Eventually, alcohol mostly brings sadness, regret, and sickness to our lives.
Are you an alcoholic? I have no idea. That's a decision you have to make for yourself. Whatever you decide, getting sober can be accomplished. There is a solution. Millions of people around the world have been successful at achieving lasting peace in recovery. In my own experience, getting sober continues to be the single most significant achievement of my entire life. I love sobriety. Without it, I have nothing, not my health, not my wife, not my home, no money, no serenity, and no hope. Nothing!
As you read through this book, perhaps some of your fear about getting sober will dissipate. You'll discover that there's no mystery to getting sober. It just takes a little hard work, commitment, and a willingness to make some healthy changes that will bring joy and hope back into your life.
If you’re willing to try, let’s explore what you’ll find in the journey ahead.
*Polluted: My Sober Journey is available on Amazon.