Faces of Recovery Walla Walla

 In partnership with the talented Adrien Rosamond of Slippery Slope Photography, Trilogy is proud to present: Faces of Recovery Walla Walla.

Addiction has no cure, but it does have a solution; Recovery. There are over 23 million people living and thriving in long-term recovery in the United States and through this blog we will highlight the many local faces and stories of recovery of individuals in our beautiful town of Walla Walla.

Bailey's Story

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Good to see you, thanks for coming and having this conversation. Why don’t we start off with a discussion of what language you use to describe your recovery and why that’s important to you?

I say clean and sober because I go to AA but I’m a recovering addict. So when I talk about my clean time, that’s all encompassing for heroin, for weed, for drinking, I don’t do any of it. I say both because people that are not recovering addicts or active addicts don’t really know when I say clean time I mean I don’t drink as well. Or when you say sober, a lot of people think that you’re just the DD for the night, not that you live a life of recovery. So anytime I talk about it I say clean and sober and in recovery for however long. Today it’s 976 days.

That’s awesome! Alright, can you talk to me a little bit about when you started? Either when you started drinking or when you started using something else, or what feels like the beginning of your active addiction?

The beginning? Okay, so at 15 was the first time I smoked weed and I hated it, I had play practice that night and I couldn’t remember my lines because I was stoned. It wasn’t my thing. I came from a family of alcoholics, so when I started drinking it was with alcoholic tendencies and that was probably about 16 going on 17. I was drinking really hard and I was thinking I don’t want to be an alcoholic like everybody else in my family so I’m going to stop drinking, but I thought I would be okay to do drugs and not become a drug addict. I thought I was too smart. I was an AP student. They wanted me to skip grades in school. I always had straight A’s, 4.0 without trying, so I thought I was better than everybody and it wouldn’t happen to me. So the first hard drug per se I used, I did a lot of acid. I just kind of experimented, wanted to have fun.

The first time I really did drugs as a means to escape from things and not just recreationally, I was 17. I had moved out on my own when I was 16, and I was on a really high dose of antidepressants and my stepmom took me off my dad’s insurance without me knowing it. So I went to go get my prescription and I was on a really high dose of Wellbutrin, went to go get my prescription and they didn’t have it for me. They said, “Well you don’t have insurance, so it’ll be a couple hundred dollars”, which at 17 years old I didn’t have. I’d been around drugs, it wasn’t my thing, again smart kid, hanging out with older people, but I started going through withdrawals from the antidepressants and having brain zaps. Smoking two hits of heroin would make it all go away. So I said okay, I’m only going to do this until I can get my pills again. At this point I didn’t really know what was going on. I didn’t have contact with my dad and my step-mom; I didn’t know that I’d been taken off the insurance. All I knew is I couldn’t get my pills. And again, thought I was too smart to become an addict. So I started smoking heroin. And then my tolerance went up, and I probably used every day for a year without thinking that I was a heroin addict because I always had money, I was always working, I was only using a little bit. And then my tolerance started to grow and one day I couldn’t get it. There were raids all of that and nobody in town had heroin, and I started getting sick. I told myself I was just having the flu or getting a cold or something, and then I realized that everybody else around me that was also using was also sick and those were heroin withdrawals. So at that point I started using to no longer have withdrawals. I started using because I didn’t have a choice. I probably didn’t have a choice for the year before that, but I told myself I did, because I didn’t wake up every day craving heroin. I just did it because that’s the people I was around. I was still going to school, I still graduated.

And so by the time I was 18 I was a full blown heroin addict for about a year. And like I said I still graduated high school, and then I decided to go to massage school. Put myself through massage school as a heroin addict. And by that point at 18 years old I was full blown. Every day. Had to use it or I would go through withdrawals.

So that was the point that you started having some challenges with it?

Yeah, um, so it was challenges for myself at that point, because I’ve lived on my own since I was 16. I hadn’t talked to my mom for a year when I moved out on my own, and I didn’t have contact with my dad or my stepmom, so I wasn’t really like around parents. You know, I was a kid still, but I wasn’t around anybody that would be able to judge like whether or not I was using drugs. I think that it kind of came into question a few times at that point because I was different, but I think that they kind of credited that to me just having my own brain issues that I’ve had forever. Um, and puberty and all of that.

Well, and it sounds like you’d always been a smart kid, and smart kids are often a little different.

Yeah, I was always weird, so you know I was just weird. But, when it really started to cause problems was I think after I got myself through massage school. I barely made it through massage school; I don’t know how I did. I was high every day going to class. I was high when I took exams. I was high when I gave massages. I was a full blown heroin addict putting myself through Anatomy & Physiology and all of this. But once I actually graduated and got my massage license was when it like actually became a problem because I didn’t have money all of the time, and that’s when I started to lie, that’s when I started to steal. I would be hanging out with all of these people and in neighborhoods that obviously were drug neighborhoods, and I lived in Moses Lake, it was a small community and so people started asking questions. And so, then I just had to lie about my whereabouts, and if I didn’t have drugs for the day, or for like the evening, I wouldn’t go and follow through with plans. I was flaky. If I had to go and see my grandma or something, I would not go unless I had drugs and so I continuously was lying to make up—like if I’d go missing for a day and a half I’d be like “Well I had laryngitis and slept through it”. Weird dumb excuses that started making people question what was going on with me, and that’s when it started causing problems for everybody else around me as well.

Okay. Was there a specific incident or moment that prompted you to consider recovery or seek treatment?

Um, I don’t know if it was a specific moment per se, but I realized I was a slave. I was a slave to the drug. I was no longer getting high to have fun like I used to when I did acid and drank and all of that, I was getting up every day and I had to have drugs or I would get sick. I couldn’t go anywhere. I used to go on road trips whenever I wanted. I used to go to Seattle just because I wanted to go to Seattle. I had best friends in Wenatchee and Cashmere and would drive there whenever just to go do fun things, and I couldn’t do that anymore because it was always on my mind. Whether or not I was going to be able to get by. Whether or not I was going to get sick while I was there. I always had to make sure I had enough. And then, honestly, I got contact with my dad again, and he and my stepmom had divorced. He was living in Colorado, and for my birthday he said “I’m going to buy you a plane ticket to come up for a week in Colorado”. And I took drugs with me on a plane to Colorado to go spend time with my family who I hadn’t seen in forever and all I was worried about the entire time was getting high. And because I was a drug addict I obviously used up my portion of drugs before I was supposed to and then I started going through withdrawals the last two days that I was there. Pretending that I was just coming down with the flu, and I was sick, and them knowing I looked like shit. When I got back, it was like a wakeup call that I really needed to do something different, but I didn’t for another year or so. I started looking into rehab. At that point a couple of people that I knew had gotten clean, they were living in California and different things, and put me onto some different rehabs and I started looking into it. But I was dating a guy at the time that also used, we were selling together, and so I had all I needed right there. We had a system. Because I was selling I could always get high, I always had stuff. But I knew that’s not who I wanted to be. It was an abusive relationship that I was in, and I grew up in an abusive home, but I told myself it was okay because I was getting high and that was all that mattered. But about a year after that, I was just kind of done, and I told my mom. I told her I’d been using pills, I didn’t say heroin because saying heroin is--

It’s a big word.

Big word. And I never even thought of myself as a heroin addict because we would always say we were “doing H” or “smoking brown” or “down”, we never said, “Oh, I am a heroin addict” you know that’s not something that crosses your mind. And she called my dad, and my dad drove from Okanogan to Moses Lake, and the three of us sat in a room together—in my massage room—and they hadn’t been in a room together since I was like 3 or 4, so it was very surreal and very weird. And I just told them that I had a problem with pills, and I went to rehab the next day. It was kind of like a moment where I was like, okay my parents know, there’s no going back, I need to do this, and I did an assessment over the phone the next morning and was on a plane to California like three hours later.

That’s amazing, so you got some family support in making that expedited—

---Huge. Yeah, no absolutely. I was supposed to go to Sundown. My mom like looked up recovery stuff, like rehab, and she thought she was calling Sundown, and she must’ve like clicked on an ad or something, and she called a place in CA and set everything up and it was good with my insurance. My dad immediately put me on his insurance, like that day, too. And they said, “Where is she flying out of?” And my mom was like, “You’re an idiot, it’s like an hour and a half away.” And they were like, “No, this is California.” And I was like, screw it. I need to get out of here, I need to get away from this relationship, from this town and so I left. I went.


Cool. That makes a lot of sense. So how did you progress from there? How did you get clean and sober?

So relapse is part of my story, as it is a lot of people’s. I went to rehab. I knew I did not want to come back to Washington. I’d been to 26 states but I’d never been to the East Coast, so I was like screw it, let’s move to Philadelphia. ‘Cause at 28 days clean you know what’s best for your life. [laughs] And so I moved to a sober living in Philadelphia, because if you completed the treatment center in CA they would pay for your plane ticket home or wherever you wanted to go. And so I went to Philly, I went from a town of 23,000 to a city of 1.5 million, which was a huge change, but it was super cool.
I was doing really great there, but I was still drinking. I mean, we weren’t supposed to, but me and the girls in the house would still go sneak and get beer from the corner store and drink and get drunk and I thought it was okay because it wasn’t heroin. Again, I have this complex where I think that I can do what nobody else can. And they say you’re not going to be able to drink, and I was 21 years old. I wasn’t going to not drink, that seemed stupid, so I kept drinking. And I was doing okay, I was managing alright, and was going to meetings and stuff there claiming clean time because I had clean time off of heroin. But I was going to AA meetings and pretending like I was completely clean and sober.

So then I wanted to visit my dad for the summer, and in May of 2016 I flew back to Okanogan and spent the summer with my dad, and I thought it was a good idea to go visit people in Moses Lake. I thought, you know, it’s been 7 months since I’ve done heroin. I’ll be okay. I went down to visit friends, walked in, old friends I used to sell to who were now selling, and I mean within an hour I was doing heroin again. I relapsed for about a month and a half, I kept driving back and forth from Moses Lake to Okanogan, and immediately, I was right back to how bad I was after 4.5 years of use. Within a month, I was spending all of my money on drugs, I was driving literally 2.5 hours just to get drugs and then driving back. And I was miserable again. But I had grown up in a household that I didn’t really know what unconditional love was, because I had grown up in an abusive household with a sociopath mom, and I was really scared to tell my dad. And finally I texted him and said, “Dad, I’ve been f&%ing up” and he said, “Yeah, I know”. I thought I’d been keeping it a secret, but apparently not. So I got some suboxone and some weed, and I detoxed myself on my grandma’s couch.


It was horrible, I hated every minute of it, but by September 1st of 2016, I was clean again. That’s the date that I claim. It might have been a few days before that that I was actually clean, but that’s the date that I have stuck with because it’s easier to remember. So I may have a few more days that I actually claim. And then, 20 days after that, eight o’clock in the morning, I was driving down to get a pack of cigarettes. My dad lives eight miles up the mountain in Okanogan, and I hadn’t put my seatbelt on yet, because it was a chilly morning, and I was just driving. And there was this fluke thing where there was gravel on the right hand side of the road, and when I came around the corner my tire went from gravel to the pavement and my car flipped so it was facing up the mountain. And I toppled off about 30 feet side to side. Because I wasn’t wearing a seatbelt I went flying around the car. It came down on its wheels, all the windows were shattered, except the front one which was just hanging. The driver door was popped open and I was hanging halfway out of it. My shoes had flown off, the stereo deck of my car had flown out, everything that was in my car flew out. And I broke my back. So I had to call my dad. I went to the hospital and I just kept telling them, I’m a recovering addict and I have 20 days clean, I can’t take pills, I can’t take pills, I can’t take pills. And they prescribed me pills for 4-6 months. And I knew that I couldn’t do that, so I made a week and a half prescription last for three weeks, and then I went on muscle relaxers for a month, and then I just started rehabbing my back myself. But six days after I broke my back, my best friend of 13 years and my first love got in a car accident and he passed away. And as weird as that sounds, that was what really solidified me being clean. Because within my first 30 days of sobriety I had a broken back and a broken heart and I didn’t know what to do. And I realized I was going to have to either change my life or I was going to kill myself, and that’s really what set the point of me continuing on the path of recovery.

That makes a lot of sense.
So that’s how I did that.

So do you have any advice for people who are new in recovery?

It seems hard. It seems hard to go from using every day and not knowing how to get by without a drink or a drug, but the hard thing is getting up every day and trying to figure out how you’re going to get money, how you’re going to get high, being with family and friends but not actually being there because your mind is just thinking about your next one. That’s the real work. I realized, I actually had this epiphany not too long ago, that when I was using—I realized I was going through withdrawals a year into being an addict, and I was an addict in active addiction for five years. I fought for four years for a life I didn’t even want. I fought so hard every day to get high and to preserve that life of being an addict, and I hated it. I hated myself, I hated where I was at. I thought that if I didn’t try to get clean, I wouldn’t find out that I couldn’t. I had this complex where—what happens if I try to get clean and I find out I can’t and I really have to take a look at my life and go this is going to be my forever. I’m going to be a heroin addict forever. And that kept me from seeking help for a really long time. The other thing that kept me from seeking help was thinking that being clean was a feeling of not having. You know, I thought that when I got clean it was just going to be that feeling in the pit of my stomach when I woke up and I didn’t have dope. I thought that’s what being clean was.

My advice is to give yourself a chance. My life today is beyond anything I deserve. I cried on my way here out of pure happiness because of the fact that these are things that are coming to fruition for me that I never in my wildest dreams would have imagined. When I was at my darkest point and not knowing if I was going to OD or kill myself or what, I never imagined that my life is what it is today, and it takes changing everything. If you’re new, you can’t save other people, you can only save yourself. And it’s just so worth it. Give yourself a chance, because the worst thing that can happen is you find out that it’s not for you. Right? Being clean, being happy, it’s not your thing, you don’t like it. You don’t lose any time. I’ve been away from the streets, even including my relapse stuff, away from the streets for three and a half years and nothing has changed. The only thing that’s different is I’m down 30 people. In the 3 years that I’ve been gone, 30 of my friends have died because of this disease. The people that are still out there are still miserable, are still talking about getting clean, are still wishing that it wasn’t their life. It doesn’t get better. Nobody gets clean and then goes back out and then comes back in talking about how they wish they never would have gotten clean. For the most part, life isn’t easy but you learn how to manage it, and you surround yourself with good people. And you cling to the ones that know what they’re talking about, that have some time under their belt not just being clean but living a life of recovery because there’s a solid difference.

Can you talk a little bit about that difference?

So, yeah, I have 976 days clean and sober today but I probably have 800 days of recovery. I’ve been clean that entire time, but I started working the steps—and I don’t believe that the 12 steps is the only way to go—but the basis of being in recovery is changing your life. Because the drugs and the alcohol were not my problem. They were a symptom of my problem. My problem was me. And it’s hard to admit that, right, that I am the problem, I am the maker of all my own issues. But it was, I knew that I’d always struggled with depression and with issues, not feeling like I fit in, and growing up in an abusive household just searching for love in everything. And I knew those things and I hid them with drugs because I didn’t want to feel them. But being in recovery means taking a look at yourself, and changing those things and working on those things. Every day trying to be a little—everybody says be a little bit better than you were the day before—but my goal is to be a little less shitty than I was the day before because sometimes it’s daunting to be better than I was yesterday. But being in recovery is helping others, it’s not being so self-centered. And that’s hard for me because I’m a very self-centered individual, completely. But I every day help somebody else, whether they’re in the program or just somebody that I know needs that help, because I stay clean and I stay living this better life by changing those things and by looking to do good to make up for all the bad I did for five years.

So would you say that you think the most important aspect of maintaining recovery and continuing to strive for recovery is service, for you?

For me, yeah. I think it’s one of the most important things. One of the clichés is “We only keep what we have by giving it away.” But for me, personally, none of this matters if I can’t help somebody else out. It’s not enough for me to just wake up and be clean. That’s a miracle in and of itself, and anybody that wakes up today and doesn’t get high when they want to get high is a miracle. But what’s the point, if I know that other people are out there and are suffering and are going through the same emotions and the same turmoil that I did, and I know the solution? I know that there’s a better way and I don’t do anything to help them. I have to every day wake up and help somebody else. And it helps me! It helps me get out of my head, because that’s the worst place to be as an addict is stuck in your own head and thinking about your own shit, and when I help others it selfishly helps myself.

It sounds like you do participate in some recovery support groups?

Mhmm, I sponsor other women; I am just of service in general. Facebook is a weird platform, but it’s the one that I speak my truth on a lot, and because I am so open and honest I am able to help people in Moses Lake. I’ve had old massage clients of mine contact me to help get their son into rehab, and now write him letters. He’s in a year-long program. And people that I didn’t even know were using come to me now and are in my inbox, and that’s the most beautiful thing to me. I just filled out an application to go into the jails and take meetings into the jails, because I think women are very overlooked when it comes to recovery because there are so many more men’s Oxford Houses than there are women’s. Women suffer, too, and we tend to get overlooked and fall through the cracks and I want to do something to make a difference about that.

That’s legit. Thank you for doing that work.

I’m excited.

I can’t wait to hear about what some of that experience is like for you. Without violating anonymity, obviously, but just like a sense of what that dynamic is. Is there anything else that you’d like to share that seems really pressing for folks that are considering recovery or folks who have been in recovery a while, or folks who are serving folks in recovery? What are the insights that you think that maybe “normies” who are providing services need to have?

I think, and I’m going to say this in a way that’s going to make me sound like a jerk, but I think that a lot of people who are serving others in recovery think that they have a grasp of what addiction is like without actually have that grasp of what addiction is like. I think that if you’re going to give counseling and give of yourself to somebody who is in addiction or in recovery, you need to spend your time around people who are actually in recovery and working a program. You need to get into the mind of an addict. When I went to rehab and somebody was trying to tell me what I needed to do, I wanted to tell them to go &^%*&$% because they have no idea, they’ve never lived this life. It’s really hard for an addict to listen to somebody that has never lived addiction, because it takes a hold of your brain and makes it work backwards, basically, and when somebody tells you, “Well just don’t pick up and you won’t get high,” or “Don’t drink and you won’t get drunk” and they’ve never lived it, it’s very hard. But if you spend your time around addicts before giving advice and start to get a grasp of what it really truly is like…having recovering addicts on your board and having multiple facets of recovery, because like I said, 12 steps isn’t the only way to go. It’s what’s worked for me. But whether it’s church, or Celebrate Recovery, or CBT, DBT, there are multiple ways to get clean and to stay clean. I think that it’s very important that we explore all avenues, because all that matters is one more day. I think that’s very important for people that are going to be working with addicts. One addict working with another addict or one alcoholic working with another alcoholic is unparalleled. So if you’re going to be a mentor to those, you need to have a good grasp of what it’s really like so that you’re not just talking out of your ass.

I appreciate your insight, thank you.

(Interview by Malia, Trilogy's Recovery Intern)

Lenna's Story

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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?

16 years!

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)

Riley's Story

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Q: When did you start using?

It wasn’t until the summer before I went to college where I think I felt like I was abusing alcohol, that’s when I had my first blackout. But there were times in high school where I snuck a bottle of some weird Jamaican rum from my parents. I would take a shot or two before hanging out with friends. I didn’t think about it at the time but looking back now I’m like “okay that’s not normal.”

Q: What was the initial reason you started using?

I think I was attracted to the potential for having fun. I was always more attracted to alcohol than other drugs. I was always kind of lured into it, and I felt like there was some appeal to this idea that it would be very fun to get drunk. And then I tried it and I liked it, and so I kept doing it because it felt good, I liked it.

Q: When did your use start causing problems in your life?

It may have been before this, but the moment where I first had the thoughts like this is something I might not have control over and it’s something that’s causing problems and making my life unmanageable would have been around junior or senior year of college. I actually went to Whitman College, and I was in a fraternity there, living with a bunch of dudes. The culture there was very encouraging of abusive behavior and encouraged drinking to blackout, and celebrated the stupid things you do when you’re that drunk. I was kind of like “that guy”, and I definitely had a lot of embarrassing stories from college that were a result of drinking to blackout. But it was end of junior year, early senior year where I thought “I don’t want to be ‘that guy’, I don’t want to wake up and be told that I punched through the drywall. I don’t enjoy that. People around me, my friends all thought it was very funny and they would laugh, and I would sort of laugh with them. But on the inside, I didn’t like that. I started to feel almost like there were two me’s. Sober me and blackout me. That was around senior year of college, and that’s probably when I could first really see that this could be a problem.

Q: How long were you using for before you got sober?

It was about six or seven years.

Q: Was there a specific incident or moment that prompted you to get sober?

It wasn’t like everything was fine, and then there was a moment and then I realized that nothing was fine. For me, I knew that nothing was fine. I knew that I had a problem and I knew that I needed help for a long time before I finally decided to take the advice of someone else who was telling me that I needed to go to treatment. There were many moments where I could’ve very easily decided to get sober. In fact, it was almost every day I would wake up and say, “I don’t want to drink tonight”, but I would. It could have been any day. What ended up happening is that I was actually working in the wine industry, which is a very convenient thing to do when you’re an alcoholic. I was making wine up in Seattle, and my mom came and visited me. She surprised me and took me out to lunch, and we sat down and she just asked me how I was doing and I started bawling, I just broke down. I told her that I was drinking too much, and it was out of control and I really needed help. She took me to see her doctor, who actually was in Seattle, I think the next day. That was the first time I was actually honest with a doctor about how much I was drinking, before that I had always lied. I told him very honestly about what had been going on in my life and how much I had been drinking, and he said, “I can’t guarantee that you’re gonna be alive in 30 days. That’s sort of up in the air based on what you’re telling me.” And so he said, “You really need to go to treatment.” I’m not sure why that day I was just more open, I think it was my mom, that’s the easiest moment to point to. Just my mom coming to visit me, I just couldn’t even answer the question.

Q: How did you get sober?

I got sober by taking the advice of other people and acting on it, not just sort of listening to it but actually acting on it. Getting sober was not my idea, like when I stopped drinking my full intention was to spend 30 days sober and then get as drunk as I wanted to be. It started with me saying, “I don’t really want to go to treatment but I clearly don’t have control over this thing, and I don’t feel capable of fixing myself; I don’t feel like I have the answers.” So I was willing to do a 30 day treatment, and then while there, things just change. Your thinking changes, you meet people, and you talk about what’s going on. You start to learn about alcoholism and addiction and the way it impacts your brain. You meet people who have had 50 years of sobriety and then they take a drink and they’re right back to day one. Going into treatment was the first time I’d been around other alcoholics and addicts who were talking about their disease, and describing the way that they feel and think, and what happens when they take a drink. I immediately connected to all of it, because before treatment and even back in college I often wondered if this is impacting other people the way that this is impacting me. I didn’t believe people when they told me, “Oh I go home from the bar and then I just go to sleep.” Like wait, you don’t stay up and drink? Like B.S.! I didn’t believe that people didn’t drink like me, it was a very confusing thing. But then I got to treatment and I found people who were like me, and they were telling me about AA as well and the 12 steps. I went to an AA meeting in treatment, which I didn’t love, but before those thirty days were up, I decided maybe I’d do sixty days. I moved the flagpost out a little bit; I went into another stage of treatment, I went to a different place where I’d describe it as a sober fraternity. It was kind of like being back at my fraternity but we were all trying to recover from alcohol and opiates and all that. That place really emphasized 12 step programs as the solution, and I found a sponsor who was a guy very similar to me. He had what I wanted: he is very friendly, he’s happy. That’s what I didn’t have in those first couple of months. I was sober but I wasn’t happy. I certainly didn’t like the idea of being this boring, sober teetotaler for the rest of my life, that was not an idea I was willing to entertain. But I stuck with it, I kept moving that flagpost out. First it was thirty days, then it was sixty, then ninety days. Finally, at some point I decided I was gonna get rid of that; there’s not a day that I’m waiting for where I can drink again. With enough time and talking about it, there was no upside to drinking, there was nothing to gain from it. Although, I know that any day I can pick up a drink and go right back to square one, but I still go to AA and I still try to work the program because that’s what makes me sober.

Q: What keeps you sober?

What keeps me sober is continuing to take the action that is required to keep me happy in sobriety. What I’ve found is that the 12 steps aren’t just about keeping you sober; you won’t stay sober if you’re just miserable. What I’ve discovered through AA and the 12 steps is a life where I’m just happier than I was. I’m happier than I was before I ever took a drink. I stay sober by making myself useful to other alcoholics, and by making myself useful, they help me as well. It’s a totally mutually beneficial thing. I can get lost in my own designs and plans and forget about the fact that I should probably be dead or in jail, and that every single day is a gift. When I’m reminded of that, it helps me stay sober. But I actually have to go to meetings, I don’t remember all that by myself. I have to actually go to a meeting, talk to other people, and experience that again to really “re-up” my sobriety.

Q: Do you have any advice for people who are new to recovery?

Take it one day at a time. Honesty is also really valuable always, but especially in the early stages. If you find yourself in AA, or NA, or Trilogy or in treatment, it’s probably for a reason. Finally, you will not lose anything by not using today. You don’t lose anything by just committing to staying sober for today. It’s worth it for you to seek honesty and willingness, even if you don’t feel willing, maybe just try to find willingness to be willing! So honesty, willingness, and just focus on today.

Q: How long do you have sober now?

Next month I will have six years hopefully!

Q: What do you think is the most important aspect of maintaining sobriety?

It’s important to continue to work with other people in recovery, whether you feel like you’re on the giving or receiving end of that. Again, I think it’s a mutually beneficial program, but it only works when there are at least two people who are ready to talk to each other and help each other. Very often, whatever frustration or problem you’re experiencing, there’s probably something in another person’s experience that’s very similar, and vice versa. At a bare minimum, I think sobriety requires us to continue to engage with other alcoholics and addicts, and just share whatever is going on. Even if what you’re feeling is “I hate being sober”; that’s a valuable feeling to share, I think almost everyone can relate to that. I don’t know anyone who’s sober and doing it by themselves, and I’ve met hundreds if not thousands of people in recovery. We just cannot do it by ourselves, I really believe that.  

(Interview by Declan, former Trilogy Youth Employee)

Trilogy Recovery Community
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