On eight years of sobriety: the wonderful and terrifying reality of an alcohol-free life

Categories: Breeality Bites

Bree2006Bree2012.jpg
On the left, big fat drunk me in 2006. On the right, sober me.
It feels weird to commemorate quitting something that almost killed you. But on July 22 every year since 2006, I say thank you and congratulations to myself for being alive and healthy. As a drunk, I was somehow spared multiple DUIs; I drove drunk -- blackout drunk, at that -- many times over the course of half a decade. I never managed to get caught or kill anyone. I don't know if that's called luck.

Driving is just one of the many things I now do sober that I used to do drunk. Living a life without alcohol is pretty great most of the time (especially when it comes to not harming yourself or others with your own bad choices). But sometimes, it sucks. That's how sobriety works: If it was a super-easy thing to navigate and overcome, no one would be an addict. But the truth is, addicts are addicts forever and always. Addiction is not curable -- which is why, eight years after I stopped drinking, I still think and dream about it.

See also: Philip Seymour Hoffman, heroin and the secret club of addiction

By dream about it, I mean I still have nightmares about it. In these dreams, I am either getting smashed as fast as I can and no one can stop me, or I am unaware that I'm an alcoholic until long after I've downed several drinks and realize that I'm supposed to be sober. I've been having dreams like this since I quit drinking, and while I hope they go away someday, I doubt they will. If anything, they are reminders of how fucked up my life was with alcohol in it.

I should mention that I do smoke weed from time to time. I still consider myself a sober person; that is my own choice of language, and I stick by it. I may smoke weed every day for a week and then not touch it for a year. I'm no expert, but I am aware that my actions and my relationship to marijuana are not on an addictive level. I've never smoked weed and started a fight at a bar where I ended up throwing pint glasses across the room and not remembered any of it the next day. My weed smoking has never threatened to dismantle my family. My minimal weed consumption has never been the reason I've been fired from a job, dumped or lost a friendship. But alcohol has.

Though I've gotten used to it, there is still a moment of mild discomfort and panic when I am in a new social situation and alcohol is involved. Like last weekend, when I was at a house party for some friends of my boyfriend and just about everyone there was hammered. I've had eight long years to get used to being in places where others are drinking (and oftentimes getting very, very drunk), and for the most part, I'm cool with it. I'm an adult who likes to be around other adults, and that often entails drinking.

I have honed several techniques that allow me to bypass rounds of shots and drinks that inevitably get offered to me throughout nights like this. Usually, I just turn my barstool the other way when group drinks are being poured, or I strategically excuse myself and feign a sudden need to pee and hide in the bathroom for a moment. But it wasn't all of the alcohol being spilled all over this party that was hard to dodge; it was the shock of a gentleman's face when, as I was leaving, he said, "Have a good night and drive safe!"

Knowing how drunk everyone at this gathering was, I could see the emphasis on "safe" in his face. I looked at him and replied, "Oh, I will! I don't drink, so everyone in my car will be just fine." He just stared at me. It is a stare I am accustomed to; it is a stare that asks, how can you hang out in a place all night, surrounded by people pounding a keg and bottle after bottle of whiskey and not drink any of it?



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59 comments
patrick.collins
patrick.collins

Bree, I know I told you this over the weekend but I just came back and reread this. Thanks for your courage, realness and...well...putting everything out there. It's truly an inspiration to be a better person. Thanks.

randy.hays1
randy.hays1

I have 8 years sobriety also.  I'm happy being sober.   Exercise and eating right feels a lot better than the constant drinking.  Life is good.  Good article!

Daisy Rothschild
Daisy Rothschild

The problem is, I've seen enough now to realize that for many, it's not a choice. And 'moderation' is really not possible for some people, physically.

Daisy Rothschild
Daisy Rothschild

Good for Bree, and I hope someone shows her the comments here (as I didn't want to fork over my 'private' info to the app to post a reply on the blog page.) The only thing I would say besides congratulations on making it, every single day! is... I am only a little disappointed she did not share the HOW of how she did it. Addiction is a chemical, physical disease, not one of morality, as most sober people think. It is not a life-style choice. There are genetic markers that are passed on from generation to generation. I didn't used to believe this, but I've seen enough to understand now. And yes, I can see being sober with occasional pot, it's not at all the same, because it doesn't activate the same receptors in the brain. Perhaps not technically, I don't know, but I say good show, and more positive articles like this Westword! Follow up story? Bree, tell us the process and how long it took and did you go to rehab or do it yourself? I bet it could help a lot of people, or at least be a good read for those who can never imagine being in your shoes.

Henry Kelsey
Henry Kelsey

Good read, but I don't see how she can call herself sober while still smoking pot. Drink free is one thing, but weed is still a drug, hence she is not totally sober.

Mickie Beaman
Mickie Beaman

Sober 8 yrs also on July 20th! My niece's birthday even. She just turned 16 and no longer remembers me being a drunk. I still have drinking nightmares also. Not as much as in the early years. Thankfully.

Charlene McCune
Charlene McCune

I can relate.. I never did get to the addictive part of drinking, but I did go through a phase thinking I wanted to hide my issues in something, anything... it took only one black out driving for me to say no more... and I stopped drinking for years... now it is just a cocktail once or twice a year... I don't do anything else but smoke cigarettes... so more power to her... and living without vices is very hard... facing reality takes courage...

Chris Prokesh Compoz Sauthoff
Chris Prokesh Compoz Sauthoff

Awesome! This is like reading my story. Except hangovers meant i wasnt drinking..so not really an issue. And i still had a stroke some years after stopping

Josh Truscott
Josh Truscott

Amazing! Thanks for sharing and for writing this...

grogan79
grogan79

I'm almost 10 years sober, thanks, nice article.

Rob Jennings
Rob Jennings

Nice article. I quit twelve years ago and haven't looked back. Drunks are annoying to me now whereas previously I only hung out with drunks.

Kris Herzberger Potter
Kris Herzberger Potter

Congrats to you for being 8 years sober! I realize this was not an easy feat. But you have shown how strong you are. YOU are much stronger than addiction! You can do it.....you can stay sober! You Ian accomplish anything you set your mind to, using the same techniques you used to win over the addiction!

Skye Buller Lewis
Skye Buller Lewis

I can relate to this article so much. My poison was a different drug, but I have the same feelings. It's refreshing to read such an honest account of how recovery feels.

Candie Bernard
Candie Bernard

I have referred clients there! What a great opportunity for those in recovery :).

Dominic Fante
Dominic Fante

Dear Westword: More of this, less bullshit about texas and half-retarded commenters

Anonymous
Anonymous

Congratulations! Twenty years sober for me. I still have the dreams, though they are no longer nightmares. More like just enjoying a really good beer, then I wake up. No overpowering urge to drink. Quitting was very difficult at first. Waking up without a hangover, and all the other attendant baggage, was wonderful. It kept me going in the toughest times. I suppose I am not normal, but who is? You really do need to be true to yourself.

Kelly Thompson
Kelly Thompson

It's my experience that unless an alcoholic practices entire abstinence, they WILL eventually drink again. Keep us posted! Let us know how the pot smoking works out.

Tamara Marks
Tamara Marks

Do you know about Phoenix Multisport? We are a sober, active community for people in recovery. Look us up and come on out!

Raquela Metz
Raquela Metz

it is terrifying and wonderful. thank you for describing this to the normies.

Tamara Marks
Tamara Marks

Bree! Do you know about Phoenix Multisport? We are a sober, active community for people in recovery! Call me 303-440-0547.

Mark Berry
Mark Berry

Way to say it. Well done and honest. Some folks can't deal with the subject of not drinking cause it causes them to think about their own deal while others can't deal with honesty.

Melissa C Sandoval
Melissa C Sandoval

Because feeling depressed and suicidal feels much more wonderful sober.

Tricia Cornish
Tricia Cornish

This is the best thing I read today - thank you for sharing!

Robert Goose Guzmán
Robert Goose Guzmán

Indeed. I have home through periods where I didn't drink and I must tell you that the majority of drinkers feel uncomfortable around non-drinkers... I'm just not one of those types of drinkers. Cheers

Chris Gartenmann
Chris Gartenmann

I am one of those that can't drink Goose, that is why I was pounding the rootbeer at the BBQ. Cheers.

punessen
punessen

Thanks for sharing your reality with us, Bree. Like you, I spent several years uncomfortably numb. I quit booze 35 years ago and have never regretted it. Being an atheist in a 12 step program (actually, not that uncommon) has been a very rewarding adventure. There's no one-size-fits-all recovery, it's a very personal individual thing. Good luck to you. 

Robert Goose Guzmán
Robert Goose Guzmán

I love wine, the social events and the shows. I do drink and that is my reality. On the other side, I have friends that can't or don't drink. I applaud those that have that level of clarity about their own situations. I have nothing but praise for Bree, and she is a courageous individual. Cheers

Jonny Cap
Jonny Cap

I like the contrast and recognition of her relationships with substances. Her definition of sobriety is one that I think many people accept, and that many more should.

Cass Patton
Cass Patton

My favorite part: "a hangover -- it's like a hall pass to be a wasteoid" Definitely not a trait to live up to - Keep up the good work!! :)

Aaron Davidson
Aaron Davidson

You're a beautiful person, Bree. Thanks for sharing your testimony. God bless you as you continue to grow.

Rick Hall
Rick Hall

This is the kind of stuff I like to read on WW

Shirley Fraser Todd
Shirley Fraser Todd

Excellent explanation. My Dad was a recovering alcoholic for 10 yrs. Thankfully, we as his family enjoyed those wonderful 10 yrs. He died at age 66 because of alcohol damage to his younger body that carried over in to his later years.

Mike Duran
Mike Duran

Probably the best article I've read on Westword in awhile. Thank you Bree. I struggled with alcohol myself, alcoholism runs in my family, one day I just decided that I hated the way alcohol made me feel, especially the day after. While I haven't totally sworn it off, I have learned how to drink in moderation. Thank you again for your story Bree.

Susi Kim
Susi Kim

Damn, thank you for your openness and honesty- you are a role model for me and I hope anyone else seeking to be really honest with themselves.

Jan Daugherty McNutt
Jan Daugherty McNutt

Good for you. But I certainly understand wanting a do-nothing-hangover kind of day. Just remember, you gain ten pounds and still feel sh*tty. A good article.

LeahA
LeahA

I find it strange that @massivepainus says "You don't sound like much of an addict." Who the hell is anyone to say to someone else who says "I'm an addict" that--NO, in fact, you aren't an addict. Ridiculous. I don't know if the writer is an addict--medically, mentally, physically, etc.--but she thinks/says/feels she is, so...I have to take her word for it. 

jeremyjohn79
jeremyjohn79

Hanging around drunk people when you yourself are not on the same level is kind of annoying, good on you for being able to being around nonsense while sober! 

Ed Haas
Ed Haas

Sobriety has moments when it's needed. Like when you're driving or at work. Every other instance of living? I prefer to be high on something.

massivepainus
massivepainus

As a recovering addict myself, I feel like i don't understand what this article is actually about. Addiction is an extremely important and relevant topic these days. 40 Million Americans are addicts, which is 1 in every 7 people. Which in turn makes addiction the most deadly disease we have in the contemporary world. This beats out Heart Disease (27 million), Diabetes (26 Million), and cancer (19 Million). so its disappointing to see an article (written by an addict) that does not challenge the stigmas of addiction, or attempt to show how much support/help is out there for people who are struggling. Reading about your relationship to alcohol makes you sound more like a dry drunk then someone who is actually in recovery. Everyone has there own path so it's fair for you to completely dismiss this comment. I don't think that addiction is something to be taken lightly, and turned into a puff piece. Congratulations on 8 years, but remember your only doing what normal people do without trying.

bradleyqt
bradleyqt

@massivepainus What makes this a "puff piece" in your eyes?  It's personal commentary not an informative article on how to get sober.

Do you want to include resources about how people get sober?  Awesome.  Please post those resources. Please challenge the stigma of addiction in your article.  Please show how much support and help there is out there for people who are struggling.  Basically, write the article you want to see instead of bitching that this is not the article you wanted to see.

Do something positive to make the world what you want it to be.

Bree, I liked how you included your tricks for avoiding being served.

breecdavies
breecdavies

@massivepainus I don't have anything to prove. Take my writing as you wish. I'll be an addict until I die and I don't wear that as a badge of anything other than my own reality. Your reality looks different and that's for you. 

thumphreys
thumphreys

@breecdavies @massivepainus one of the reasons I quit AA after a number of years was due to comments and judgments like these "you're not sick enough" or "you're too sick" or "you must be a dry drunk" (wtf is that anyway)???...I don't understand why addicts can't be accepting of other addicts regardless of their own preconceived judgments and their self-proclaimed omniscience of addiction. What's so wrong with supporting each other on whatever scale of the sobriety spectrum we are on? Good for you and congratulations on your continued journey on this tough road of sobriety. 

massivepainus
massivepainus

@breecdavies I've just never heard of a addict that thinks that they are normal and fit in. and that's my reality, not yours. 

joshstockwell
joshstockwell

@breecdavies @thumphreys @massivepainus If you can't stop when you start every evening your an addict.  If you can not start every evening your an addict with self control... Not everybody needs meetings, I don't and I quit before it ruined my life as well.  But I assure you, if I start tonight at happy hour, I am not stopping until passout time.  Everybody needs different tools to quit, for me it was a supportive family and a thriving business....no meetings, rehab, or rock bottom.  Just some introspection and a healthy fear of turning out like so many others in my family have.  It was a great write up and I related to it in many areas.

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