For Meara, her thirst for getting sober needed to change into a hunger before she could embrace a Naked Life.
I had a great group of friends, but we didn’t really start drinking much until Senior year. Attending college in Chicago, most of the social events were at bars so we rocked the fake IDs and spent what little money we had buying cheap beer and shots. I definitely drank a lot in college. After college (in 2004) I moved back to Milwaukee. It was a busy, productive, and fun couple of years. I taught with some of my best friends and together, we discovered happy hours and going to the bars to do lesson planning or grad school work together. I also had a big group of non-coworker friends.
Basically, I was at the bars drinking every Friday and Saturday to “go out,” every Tuesday for “Trivia Night,” and often Sundays for “Sunday Fundays.”
Even with all this partying, I was a successful teacher, I got my Masters’ Degree with no problems, and I even started climbing the ladder towards leadership positions as a young professional.
Through these 10’ish years, I dated a lot of guys who I’d meet through friends-of-friends. Usually these relationships started on, and were sustained through, booze. It was fun and I didn’t take things too seriously. My friends always made fun of me, endearingly, because I was kind of known for passing out at strange places – bathroom stalls in bars, someone’s lawn where we were partying, couches, kitchen tables, etc. Around 2010, I started realizing that this kind of thing was happening too often. No one else was passing out like I was.
Looking back at the last 15 years of my adult (post-college) life, I definitely see the progression that I didn’t notice when I was living it. What started out as social binge drinking ticked up a notch with a few distinct events:
1) Breaking Up Is Hard To Do.
He was a semi-recovering alcoholic and drug addict and in the thick of our relationship, he was going through AA and NA and dealing with his mom’s suicide. I was struggling with knowing how to support him. We were 25-year-old kids trying to navigate some pretty mature things. I toned down my drinking while we were together and he was sober and I even abstained a majority of the time. Once he started drinking again, it was a flood gate and we drank often.
2) I started drinking from the stress of teaching.
While I know better now, I thought it was helping me then.
3) I discovered drinking at home alone.
I know it sounds silly, but I had barely considered this for years. Maybe I’d have a beer or two before meeting friends, but now it was boxed wine every night and then vodka drinks every night.
4) I discovered I could hide my drinking.
This was where things took a huge turn for the worse. Six years ago, I met my current boyfriend, who is basically a non-drinker. With him being a non-drinker and me beginning to realize that my drinking was probably not normal, I began hiding my drinking when we hung out. I’d have a water bottle of a mixed drink or beers in my car or I’d quietly make a drink in the kitchen while we watched a movie. About 5 years ago we moved in together and I think part of me felt like I didn’t have the alone time I needed, so the hiding became worse and worse. This led to a cycle of being self-conscious and aware of my drinking problem. I drank more while enjoying it less.
I was hungover at work basically every day, the only variant being how hungover I was. It’d range from being a little foggy to dry heaving in the bathroom whenever I could get a bathroom break to calling in sick due to a hangover (this only happened maaaaaybe three times, but it happened nonetheless). I was still a hard working teacher, I was effective with teaching, and I got praise for my work with kids. But I felt like I was faking all of these good things because in reality, I was hungover and unhealthy. That’s my biggest regret when I look back – not being the patient and present teacher I could have been for those kids.
5) I started drinking in the mornings.
“Hair of the dog.” It was just once in a while – until it was almost every Saturday morning and then every Saturday and Sunday morning. It was either, “I’m so hungover I need a drink to feel human” or “Good for me! I didn’t drink as much as usual last night, so I deserve this morning drink!” During the final stages of my decline, the part I never want to admit, was that I had a couple of days where I even drank before going to work. This is so hard to admit and makes me emotional just typing it. I was at the point, though, that I needed the morning drinks so that I could feel human. I honestly thought that having a drink or two was necessary to help me be a better teacher because it would ease the hangover enough for me to function.
The Story of Finding Freedom
Once I started realizing it was getting bad, I admitted that I had a problem. I admitted it to myself first – and I hear that’s the hardest part. No, for me I absolutely knew it was a problem. Here and there I’d admit it to a couple of friends and they’d agree that they felt they also needed to slow down on drinking, but no one ever really told me they felt I had a problem. I tried some phone apps to moderate drinking and never had success. I considered AA because it was all I knew, but decided against it because of the “higher power” aspect and a fear of running into someone I knew, especially a parent of a student.
One day, the first day of summer break of 2017, when I was finishing at one school and preparing to move on to a new school in the fall, I googled “quitting drinking without AA” or something along those lines. I found This Naked Mind! That day, I signed up for the video courses, I ordered the book online, I signed up for the online community, I made my first post, and I declared I was ready to be free! How cute. It didn’t last.
Thirst For Getting Sober
However, what did last was my constant thirst for getting sober and reading more about it. Every reference Annie made in TNM became a book on my list to read or listen to. Every one of those books branched off in to additional research and reading.
I spent 10 months (from June 2017 to April 2018) consuming literature. I read Craig Beck, William Porter, Jason Vale, Allen Carr, Amy Johnson, Kevin O’Hara, and even Dr. Sarno (helped my back pain!!). I devoured the memoirs of Elizabeth Vargas, Caroline Knapp, Augusten Burroughs, Lisa Smith, Sarah Hepola, Clare Pooley, Mary Karr, and Jody Sweetin. I tried programs like 30 Day Sobriety Solution and Alcohol Experiment.
These 10 months were so important in my development. Even though I was not able to stop drinking for any stretches longer than 15 days or so, my subconscious mind was changing. I got really into trying to understand neuro pathways and de-conditioning the constant messages from society and media. I let myself down time after time by not being able to stop drinking, but I continued doing the work.
If you’re discovering a thirst for getting sober you can preview the book. Start reading This Naked Mind today!
In April 2018, I had my most emotionally charged hangover ever. I was DONE with this shit. It was one of the few times I had called in to work for a hangover and I’m never going to regret making that decision to call in. The day before had started with hair of the dog, continued with a few drinks throughout the day at work, went on to hiding it during two different social events in the evening (while proudly proclaiming that I was a nondrinker!), and ended with me being so drunk I didn’t remember how I got home. Don’t get me wrong, this wasn’t the first time I couldn’t remember how I got home, but it had to be the last.
This day when I stayed home from work, I reached out to a friend who also struggles with alcohol. We went on a long walk, we had tea (I couldn’t stomach any food), and I spent time reading The Unexpected Joy of Being Sober. While reading, I came across her chapter about social groups that meet and aren’t AA. I googled each group and read about them and I stuck on Refuge Recovery. It just so happened there was a meeting that night in a suburb about 20 minutes away! It had to be fate. I went to that meeting (still a little shaky from the hangover) and fell in love with that community. My thirst for getting sober had become a hunger.
I haven’t drank since that day. It took going to an in-person support group that helped everything that I’d read from TNM and other books to finally click in place. While I had said a million times, “This time feels different. This Day One is the one” – this really was the one.
Since I Stopped Drinking
It’s been 7 months since that last hangover. I have been going to Refuge Recovery every week and I was even nominated to be one of the rotating facilitators. Presently, I work out 5 times a week. I try to make a daily meditation practice. Today, I am more patient, more present, more confident, and in better health than I have ever been in before. I check in to the TNM community often but I post less than I used to. I listen to TNM podcasts, reread the books, relisten to Craig Beck and William Porter often.
Every morning I have a habit of taking about 10 seconds to reflect on what I’m grateful for, and “being free” is always at the top of that list. I think about alcohol often, but as a reflection and not as a desire. These are amazing things and I have come farther than I ever would have imagined!
Share Your Story
I have had a few friends ask me for some resources and I always start with telling them about TNM or the Alcohol Experiment. The thirst for getting sober is taking off and sharing or stories can help! Please share your story to help others!