Madison"s Recovery Story
Our greatest weakness lies in giving up. - Thomas Edison
Hi, my name is Madison Lee, and I haven't had a sip of alcohol since June 20th, 2020. I'm originally from SW Michigan but am currently living in Wisconsin. Here's my sobriety story (long, but this is the short version…)
I still remember the first time I ever realized I was drunk. I remember being in high school and sitting and thinking to myself, "Wow, I love this feeling." My group of friends in high school and I were the "partiers." In our high school yearbook, I was voted "biggest party animal" (the guy that also got it is sober now, too, go figure, lol). College was wild. I went to the hospital w/ alcohol poisoning my freshman year and found myself in many compromising situations. But I seemed to always recover, and I had good grades, so it all seemed like normal "college" behavior.
Right out of college, I started a career in TV news and often worked a 9 pm-7 am shift for the morning show. Soon I found myself using massive amounts of wine to fall asleep in the middle of my day for my graveyard shift. At this point, I was a very high-functioning alcoholic. I was excelling at work, only drinking when I was off the clock. I'd take drinking breaks here and there, but I didn't think I had a problem at all in my 20s. Fast forward to my early 30s, my husband and I moved to a new state, transitioning into a new career, and briefly, I didn't have a job. While he was at work, I was alone and bored in a new place, and my drinking started ramping up. If I started, I couldn't stop. I was drinking one bottle minimum, to maybe as many as three max (it got blurry at that point to know how much I was drinking.) One random night I got really messed up and then woke up on a new friend's couch at 3 am. She told me I called her crying about a fight I had gotten into with my husband. I called my husband to have him pick me up, and when I got home, I kept drinking out of shame. I was so messed up, I called AA and had them put me on the phone with someone at 6 am. I "sobered" up and went to my first AA meeting. Two weeks later, I started drinking again. Then a couple of months later, I found out I was pregnant. I quit drinking during my pregnancy. I focused all my attention on the new life inside me and forgot about my drinking problem.
I had a beautiful, healthy boy, and I didn't start drinking again right away. First, it started with a glass of wine here and there, then I began to chug massive amounts of wine to fall asleep quickly when I could since I knew sleep was rare with a newborn. Soon after I started, the worst of my drinking spiral started to unfold. I was drinking whenever/whatever I could. Looking back, I truly believe I had severe undiagnosed postpartum depression, and that, mixed with an already rocky history with alcohol, was my recipe for disaster. At this point, I'm occasionally drinking in the morning and sneaking drinks, filling liquor bottles with water so my husband couldn't tell. For the most part, I was still getting away with it by hiding it, but I was out of control. Fast forward (through a whole lot of messy shit) to when my son was about 6-months old, my binges were getting extreme. During a family road trip to visit my dad (husband was driving), I packed a massive water bottle full of booze and got hammered for the drive. I continued to binge when we got to my dad's because "I was on vacation." I woke up one morning, a couple of days into the trip, extremely hungover. I didn't drink that morning, so I loaded my son up in the car to visit my aunt. While driving, I had such a bad panic attack that I thought I was having a stroke. My arms, from my elbows to my fingertips, went numb. I managed to pull the car to the side of the road and called an ambulance (mind you, my baby was in the backseat). By the time they arrived, I had calmed, and the paramedics explained that the paralysis could happen from hyperventilating. I went to my aunts, and what did I do? I drank wine to calm down…
A couple of nights later, while still at my dad's, I drank so much that I blacked out and fell asleep on a chair outside my dad's house. I had to be carried in by my dad and husband. The following day my sister came over, and my family had a mini-intervention with me. In a sense, I was so damn relieved. I no longer had to suffer this in secret anymore. It was killing me. My sister said something to me like, "honey, you need to stop pumping milk for your baby if you're going to drink this much." Even though I was safe when I pumped most of the time, for some reason, that statement finally made me realize that I had to quit drinking for my son. So I did. And here I am more than a year later, and I can say I'm still sober.
Has it been easy? Hell no! Has it been worth it? Fuck yes!
Here are my top tips for a successful first year of sobriety:
● Immediately remove all the alcohol from the house.
● Have someone you're close with be an accountability buddy. For me, it was my husband. He knew I couldn't drink. It's vital for someone to understand how serious this is and to do everything in their power not to enable you.
● Find a meeting ASAP. There are so many options now on this front. Personally, some of my favorites include: AA; Smart recovery; SHErecovers; New Fashioned Sobriety
● If you can afford it, find a paid, sober challenge. When I first stopped drinking, I joined the Sober Mom Tribe's 60-day challenge. It was the first small step in a massive undertaking of rewiring my brain.
● Immerse yourself in the sober community apart from meeting groups.
● Sober connections are everything. Many of us feel so alone when we're in the thick of alcoholism, but we now all have each other. And let me tell you, the sober community is made up of the kindest, best friends you always wanted! Here are some outlets that worked for me:
● Reddit r/stopdrinking
● Instagram. Create a sober blog that doesn't identify you if you aren't comfortable with #recoveringoutloud yet. It gives you the space to talk openly about your journey and connects you to others that relate. If you want a base of great pages to follow, check out who I'm following on my sober gram: @mommysoberculture
● Join private recovery support groups on Facebook. There are too many great ones to list!
● Read all the quit lit.
● Listen to all the recovery podcasts. One prime time for me to listen was when I would cook dinner because that was typically when I always drank wine. It helps to empower your decision to stop drinking rather than give in to cravings.
● Help others. If you see posts of people asking questions, engage and reach out to them. Helping others helps ourselves.
● Make sobriety your new hobby. To rewire our brains, we have to totally engage in this new way of thinking.
This piece of advice is cliche, but take it one day at a time. I get anxious when I look at not drinking as a forever thing, so just for today, I'm committing not to drink. When the forever anxiety creeps in, I tell myself that if I make it to my 80s, then all bets are off, and I will allow myself to be a raging alcoholic at that point! Lastly, be easy on yourself, and even if it feels like no one is proud of you, I am! And you deserve to be proud of yourself too! Self-love has been the most crucial piece of my recovery puzzle. To make it stick, you genuinely have to do it for yourself. And even if you're finding it hard to love yourself right now, give it time. In my experience, allowing myself to celebrate mini-milestones has led to me re-learning to love myself. And I truly hope/believe you will have that feeling too!