Rachel's Recovery Story
"Progress is impossible without change" - George Bernard Shaw
My name is Rachel Brady. I’m currently living in North Carolina, but was born and raised in Southern California. My sobriety birthday is May 20, 2018!
I grew up on a vineyard and was introduced to alcohol fairly early. It wasn’t uncommon for family to drink at lunch, dinner, and while winding down for bed. However, I was also raised in a strict household and wasn’t allowed to go out to high school parties, drink, or experiment with drugs. Therefore, the concept of partying and drinking became this sort of forbidden fruit that I saw as my golden ticket towards acceptance and belonging, especially after years of bullying and feeling like an outcast. I experimented with alcohol a few times in high school, but it wasn’t until after graduation and college that I dove head first into drinking and associating partying with feeling loved and worthy of friendship.
My drinking started off in a bumpy yet normalized fashion. I would go out to house parties, drink with friends, and felt like a socially active college student. However, there were red flags that would start to pop up early on. I would always be the one who took it a little too far, or be the one who ended up being caught. I would always blame it on “bad luck,” but it only escalated from there.
I started lying about how much I had to drink or if I even drank at all. I would blackout more frequently and have emotional outbursts during those blackouts. I would start pregaming the pregame and get drunk at inappropriate hours because, hey, “it’s not alcoholism until you graduate, right?” My drinking became the common denominator in 90% of my drama and struggles with relationships and friendships.
I knew that drinking didn’t serve me and got in the way of living a more peaceful and authentic life for a long time. After graduating college, I believed that if I took myself out of the environment that triggered so many blackouts and pain, it would simply solve itself. However, my antics had created quite a few unresolved inner wounds that would take more than simple abstinence to heal. I would white knuckle it for a few weeks, end up drinking, and exacerbate my depression and anxiety. It finally took severe depression and trying to take my own life to open my eyes and finally accept outside help, including a month-long stay with inpatient treatment. Although the decision was ultimately mine, I am immensely grateful for the friends and family that stuck around to help keep me accountable.
The two challenges that immediately come to mind were the cravings and the social stigma. Although it had been proven time and time again that alcohol was not meant to play a part in my life, my body and mind still needed to learn how to respond and recognize triggers/cravings. I had to learn how to process those cravings without judgement or self-beratement, and remember that they could move through without being acted upon. The social aspect was difficult because of some stigma that is still carried when it comes to getting sober, particularly if you were in treatment or if it came from an “addictive” standpoint. After losing some friends and realizing that some people simply wouldn’t understand my journey, I had to internalize that my sobriety is my business and nobody else’s, and it is far too precious for me to let others’ unsolicited opinions dictate.
The most vital techniques were learning how to set and enforce boundaries for social settings, finding alternative beverages that felt like a luxury instead of a punishment, and seeking therapy to deepen my relationship with myself. I believe that for my personal journey, there are multiple layers to tend to when it comes to creating a sustainable recovery program. Yes, my decision to quit drinking was powerful in itself, but there are multiple wounds for me to heal from, and there’s no shame in seeking additional help if getting sober isn’t the full answer.
The best part of being sober for me is that it clears the noise. When I was in the midst of my drinking, it felt like life was one giant hamster wheel - drink, blackout or make a fool of myself, damage control the morning after while tending a massive hangover, and anxiety throughout the next week until it was time to drink again. Whenever I wake up on a weekend morning clearheaded, even years later, I take time to express gratitude and marvel at the fact that I can simply move on with my day instead of running a systems check of the night before.
My best piece of advice is that change is not the enemy - continuing to ruminate in misery is. It is completely understandable and normal to be nervous or hesitant about a lifestyle change, whether you are taking a break or considering full sobriety. However, there comes a point where the discomfort of trying something new must overpower the pain of staying the same. Trust the process, find a way to hold yourself accountable, and take it 24 hours at a time - or even an hour at a time if you need to.