Q: When did you start using?
I was 19.
Q: What was the initial reason you started using?
The drinking age in Idaho was 19, and I lived in Washington and Idaho was only 8 miles away. So, I went with friends and we all went to go drinking.
Q: When did your use start causing problems in your life?
I was about 45. I was drinking an awful lot at night after work, and I went to bed drunk most nights. That caused conflict with my children who couldn’t ask mommy questions after a certain hour, and some marital strife.
Q: How long were you using for before you got sober?
From age 19-45 (26 years)
Q: Was there a specific incident or moment that prompted you to get sober? If so, please describe.
My kids performed an intervention, and at that point I realized how much I had let my kids down, and how I had lost their trust. They sent me to treatment and I thought, “Okay, this has become a problem for them as well as me.” I never did see it as a problem, until I looked back on it. At the time I thought I was doing okay; I was holding down a good job and drinking only after work and on the weekends. I thought I had control of it but obviously I didn’t, so it was letting my kids down knowing I had blown it.
Q: How did you get sober?
It took 21 days at Sundown. The first two weeks I didn’t think I belonged there, and then finally I realized about the third week that I’m an alcoholic and I need to fix something. It was Sundown that got me there, and they convinced me that I could never drink again.
Q: What keeps you sober?
Knowing that the minute I drink again I’m gonna be back where I was before and I have no desire to be that person again. My kids know they can trust me now not to drink, and I would let myself down. The first couple weeks out of Sundown was very difficult, and I don’t wanna go through that again; having to park on the other side of the Safeway parking lot so I wasn’t near the liquor store, driving all the way around so I wasn’t by the liquor store; rearranging my furniture so I wasn’t sitting in the same place and expect to have a drink there. I don’t want to go back there. It was very expensive, it was very destructive, and I don’t want to go back.
Q: Do you have any advice for people who are new to recovery?
Well they told us in Sundown, “We only want you to change one thing, and that is everything,” and that really is true. All my friends were my drinking buddies, so I couldn’t be around my friends anymore. I had to make new friends, which is very difficult, especially for young people new to recovery because that’s where their people are. I mean if they’re all drug users or drinkers then you just have to stay away from them until you’re strong enough. I can go into a bar now, it doesn’t bother me at all. People can drink around me, it doesn’t bother me, but in the beginning of it, it was really a struggle. So, I would say change everything. Whatever it is that you used to do that led to your using, avoid those situations.
Q: How long do you have sober now?
Q: What do you think is the most important aspect of maintaining sobriety?
The knowledge that you can maintain sobriety. Once that is firmly inside you, that you can maintain this, that you can have fun without drinking, you can make friends without drinking, you can be productive without drinking, when you’re convinced that you can do it, I think that’s the strongest thing that will keep you sober.
Q: Do you participate in any recovery support groups?
No I don’t. What I do is I volunteer at an assisted living place and every day I give them a word, and they have to write a definition of the word. Today it was Harry and hairy, and so they had to tell me that Harry was a name and hairy was like a bear. Then, I gather them up and I give them points and then they win prizes. That to me is so rewarding. So no, I don’t participate in any groups but I also know that AA has turned some people’s lives around. I know what Trilogy does, and I know they make a huge difference in an awful lot of lives. Whatever works for the individual. There are several paths to recovery. Mine doesn’t happen to include AA or Life Ring or any of those things. I went to AA before I got sober, and it wasn’t for me. I mean there’s nothing wrong with it, I think it’s a wonderful program. I have taken people who are new to recovery, I’ve said, “If you want to go to an AA group I’ll take you,” and I’ve taken them and sat there with them and encouraged them to go. One lady went for years, and she said she wouldn’t have gone the first time if I hadn’t taken her. I attend the Trilogy parent group though. My son is an addict too, so to see parents go through the same path I went with my son, and the path that I went as an alcoholic, it’s really beneficial to me to relive that and remember how horrible it felt. So I suppose that’s my support group, the family support group.
Q: How do you think being of service relates to sobriety?
It gives you a purpose. It gives you a good feeling of having done something for somebody else. Also to see the joy of other people if you’re cleaning out someone’s garage for them to go, “Wow, look what you did!” It’s a really good feeling, it’s a warm feeling, and you feel helpful. If somebody else appreciates it you appreciate what you did more.
Q: Is there anything else you would like to share?
I like sobriety. Of course when I was drinking I didn’t think I would. I didn’t think I could have fun, I didn’t think I could laugh, I didn’t think I’d be as productive. There were certain things where you could have a drink and you could do that thing, you couldn’t do it without having a drink. Well, I found out I can do it without having a drink. I like being sober. I feel cleaner, I feel more in control, which is the other thing I didn’t like about drinking is that I felt out of control an awful lot. I wasn’t aware of it until I looked back and I think, “Yeah I was out of control.”
(Interview by Declan, former Trilogy Youth Employee)