This piece is part of our Mental Health Month blog series, where we highlight and explore lesser-known mental health challenges. Here’s Tori’s experience with and perspective on alcoholism.
I don’t remember my first drink. Not really. I was raised around alcohol and by alcoholics. Wine and such weren’t hard to come by. I do remember drinking whenever I could—despite being underage. At my uncle’s restaurant openings, holiday parties, especially when my dad asked his older sister not to give me booze, school bonfires I never felt cool enough to be at—sober or otherwise.
Ever since I was introduced to alcohol it became about getting more. Always more. Not long after my first drink came my first drunk. Then my first blackout, trip to the drunk tank, legal fine, etc. My sponsor says it best, ‘it was incredibly difficult to tell if I was drinking like an alcoholic or if I was drinking like any other college student in the US.’ Pre-gaming is a part of our culture, enough so that fun and alcohol had become synonymous.
I never learned to drink pretty though.
I woke up drenched in urine. Not knowing where I was. I’d pissed whatever bed I’d been placed in and quickly found out that I was in the local detox, casually referred to as the ‘drunk tank.’ I’d been picked up the night before for drunk and disorderly conduct. It was pre-Uber times, so they called me a cab back to my college dorm. I remember getting into the shower, terrified someone would see me, fully clothed, with a plastic TJ Maxx bag. I stripped and proceeded to throw my clothes out in the backyard dumpster. That was my second night at college and it would have made for a sufficient rock bottom, but I was nowhere near done drinking.
It took me seven more years of blackouts, not knowing where I was, fearing the unopened texts on my phone, losing friends and relationships, and deep shame before I got sober. I was familiar with Alcoholics Anonymous. My grandmother and my mother had both tried out the program for themselves. I was aware there were 12 steps (although I couldn’t name them at the time), I was familiar with the serenity prayer, and I knew that I was desperate to be the only one in my alcoholic family who could drink non-alcoholically.
But there was a flaw in my plan because alcoholics and addicts are physically wired differently than those without a substance use disorder. Science has proven this. It’s referred to as ‘The Great Obsession.’ Alcoholics are powerless over the first drink. I am powerless over the first drink. Once I have one, I will always have a second. No matter what.
My eventual rock bottom looked like me falling to my knees and begging any and every god to take me or the pain away. I didn’t care which one. I’d been sexually assaulted earlier that evening and decided to drunkenly drive to my ex-partner’s apartment, the one I’d moved out of weeks prior. The relationship had turned abusive and that evening was no different. After a physical fight, I crawled back into my Subaru and made my way home. That’s when the praying started. It truly was a “You had to be there” moment, but that pain, that genuine plea for help, led me to my first meeting of Alcoholics Anonymous.
There, I learned all about my lack of terminal uniqueness. Turns out everything I’d been feeling my whole life: deep-seated resentment, debilitating fear, erratic rage, colossal shame, the feeling that I somehow deserved to feel pain and was simultaneously a waste of space—all commonalities amongst sober alcoholics.
I was also quickly informed of how lucky I was to hit my rock bottom so young. We like to say, “There’s a bottom below the bottom you know,” meaning we can choose to keep digging, to keep ripping and running, to keep drinking, but we don’t have to. A sufficient bottom does not need to include total calamity for it to be enough to make someone stop. My bottom hurt, a lot, as did most of my drinking escapades, but I still have what we call “not yets” waiting for me if I were to choose to start drinking again. Some of those not yets include the loss of financial security, a DUI, permanent legal ramifications, and the state of my liver.
A small part of me used to think to qualify to join Alcoholics Anonymous you needed to have a gruesome story. It just so happens that the only requirement for membership is a desire to stop drinking. It took me seven years to want to stop. Earlier on I wanted to stop losing friendships, I wanted to stop the negative physical impacts brought on by my drinking, I wanted to stop having such little respect for myself that I consistently put myself in physical danger, but it was never rooted deeply enough to actually want to stop drinking. Not until 2018, a little over two and a half years ago.
My last drink was also my last drunk. There are quite a few slogans within my 12-step program, all of which I hold near and dear to my heart, but my two favorites are: “This is not a self-improvement program, this is a self-acceptance program” and “Progress, not perfection.” I’ve learned to grow up in sobriety, to mend my wounds, parent my inner child, and forgive others as well as myself. Alcoholics Anonymous has given me everything that alcohol promised: self-love, confidence, once-in-a-lifetime friendships, stability, and serenity.
I stay sober because I genuinely have no desire to drink today, but I remain a proud member of a 12-step recovery program because I know I have another drunk in me, but I’m not so certain I have another recovery in me. Since getting sober, life has by no means become a wish-granting factory, I’ve experienced some dream-come-true moments, as well as the fruition of most of my fears, but I’ve walked through each of them soberly and that fact remains front and center in my mind.
I’m an alcoholic and my name is Tori.
You deserve love and a safe place to begin, continue, or restart your journey toward healing. We encourage you to use TWLOHA’s FIND HELP Tool to locate professional help and to read more stories like this one here. If you reside outside of the US, please browse our growing International Resources database. You can also text TWLOHA to 741741 to be connected for free, 24/7 to a trained Crisis Text Line counselor. If it’s encouragement or a listening ear that you need, email our team at [email protected].
You are such a light and an amazing AA!!
Keep up the good work you are an inspiration to many!
If you are just climbing into your boat for this trip down the Styx River, I hope you will check out Ellen Petersen book net-bossorg/how-to-help-an-alcoholic-you-love, for some insight into the things I wished I had known in the beginning. And if you’ve been on the river for awhile now, check out WrenRWaters.com for how you can finally took control of this boat called My Life and steering it into more peaceful waters.
I needed this ❤
No matter the upbringing, however one becomes an addict is tragic to no end. I can sympathize with this for my own reasons, but wish the pain on noone. Trying to be cool, running from demons, or numbing the pain does not seem to have an end with addiction. It’s great to hear those who have fought so hard to crawl out from the abyss. Keep fighting to stay sober.
My father was an alcoholic and h we ended up dying by suicide because he drank everyday and mixed his medication with it, my best friend also is one she has went so far as to drank mouthwash and hairspray it is really sad to see people you love deal with this disease
We are so sorry for your loss, Sandy. And we hope that your best friend can find the care and help she needs and deserves. Please know that there are more stories like this and resources to be found here: https://twloha.com/find-help/help-by-topic/addiction/
Thank you for the help you’re giving so many by sharing your pain and your journey.
Love love love this i have been in recovery now for 5yrs and have never been so happy my life now is 2nd to none so greatful
I’m Proud Of You
I felt this story in my heart. I decided to quit drinking, I’m 25. I love this story and it spoke volumes to me.
Thank you for sharing your story!!
Thank you for sharing. This resonated more than you know and I applaud your courage and honesty.
Beautiful story addition can be tough to overcome but with support and programs it can be accomplished
Thank you for sharing your story. I too, am an alcoholic in recovery. Your story is the first I’ve read here, I happened upon this app by chance. Funny how when I quit drinking, I thought my life would magically be smooth sailing and all smiles. Far from that. Im happy to be here. Love & Peace
Yo hablo español pero aun así este blog es todo lo cierto de esta vida
I read this and immediately sent this to a good friend of mine hoping it will give him some hope ya know ..
I’ve overcame addiction twice in my life and almost died.
Im sn alcoholic and my name is Lisa
You never really expect it to effect you.
Thank you for sharing. This was a true reminder why I choose to stay sober. I just made it to my 15 month mark and am glad I made this decision.
Wow, how inspiring.
Good job telling your story
Reading your story helped me tremendously. Feeling like I’m alone constantly doesn’t help the issues I face but makes them worse. I try to self medicate with alcohol and nicotine, I have since I was 16. It started out when I was a kid, my mom would come stumbling home drunk, would cheat on my father and willingly bring those men around or leave with him. Leaving us. So even when she or anyone else would take a sip of alcohol in front of me; I would immediately start sobbing. I would usually get in trouble or sent to my room but I was like that up until she passed away from cancer when I was 14. For two years I drowned myself in food, other times I would starve myself. When I reached 16 I started drinking alcohol, that was where the issue began or at least that particular problem. Knowing there’s someone out there that has faced a similar situation as me makes me feel a little less lost. Like yes…I’m on this path of healing now but I’m not the only one walking it. So thank you!
We are so sorry for what you’ve endured and experienced. We’re also so grateful you found Tori’s words and that her story resonated with you and has allowed you to feel a little less lost and alone. You are most definitely not walking the healing path alone—nor the path of trauma and pain. If you are ever in need of a safe space to share or looking for encouragement/support, please email our team at [email protected]. We’re here.
Thank you so much for sharing your story. I’m so proud of you!
Thank you Tori for sharing your life with total strangers! One thing I am becoming more aware of when it comes to people who have an addiction or some type of mental health (or both) is the number of people who have a loved one, a dear friend, neighbor, etc. with any form of the above and their lack of knowledge with regards to the specific diagnosis. On a personal level when I was diagnosed with post partum depression 4 years and 4 months after my baby was born, I was very blessed to have a Doctor who took the time to explain it all to me. I wrote in a journal often, and after diagnosis, I went through and read what was in them. On some level I knew something was wrong, but depression was a bad word, it would mean I had character flaws, what effect would this have on my husband and children, my parents, would people talk, look at us differently, and so on. I try to learn as much as I can about mental health and how I can educate others to reduce the risk of feeling like I did, knowledge is power!
I too have experienced addiction. Both of my parents were addicts. Thankfully when I hit rock bottom, my best friend, on her deathbed, helped nurse me back to sobriety. I had lost every penny I had, my home, my sanity, my self respect. I thought I’d die, but here I am, 17 years later,.
The 12 steps work
This is a great message
Thank you so much for sharing your story. My mom was an alcoholic and my whole childhood was affected by that.
Beautiful. Thank you for sharing!
Touching, very informative, I am family of addicted…
I’m so proud of you putting down the alcohol. I understand the struggle of not over doing the alcohol. Great job tori
Thanks Tori, that really hit home with me. I’m 24 days sober now, it might not seem like a lot to many people, but getting sober and not touching any alcohol is a very big, and hard thing for me. But I have the mindset and the heart to keep going. Thanks again
It’s never easy being addicted to something. Wether it be a substance, or something you mentally can’t live without. Healing will have lots of ups and downs, but I’m proud of you for staying sober. It’s never easy <3
This really motivates me.
Proud of you. Takes true strength.
My name is David I relapsed after 17yrs clean went out for 22yrs walking back into the rooms was hard. People would say you didn’t work the steps right wrong sponsors. The first NA meeting I ever went to is the Double Bubble Aliquippa Pa. I was at a meeting someone told me bubble was celebrating 44th anniversary. I went 150 people were there I ask if John or Allen were coming unfortunately they passed. There was only one NA meeting where I grew up small town so we all new each other. I’m the only one left from the original meeting. Just remember relapse doesn’t mean your a failure. Give yourself a break