10 Years Sober What I've Learned and How Far I've Come text over pretty trees

10 Years Sober: What I’ve Learned and How Far I’ve Come

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Are you wondering how to get and stay sober? Once I hit 10 years sober I felt I’d got this down pretty well and want to share with you how I got sober, what I’ve learned, and how I’ve stayed sober for so long.


10 Years Sober

As of March 18, 2022, I am 10 years sober! I never thought I’d make it past the first 24 hours, yet here I am 87,648 hours later! I hope that my story can be an inspiration to others that they can sustain sobriety too.

It wasn’t until 2 years ago that I finally admitted to my Facebook friends and family that I was sober. It likely was a surprise to many of them as I was generally a “functional alcoholic” and once I became sober I was scared to tell anyone, for fear of judgement. Two years ago today I decided not to be ashamed anymore, and now I’m even more public about it.

Update on March 18, 2023, I’m now 11 years sober! Not as big of a deal but still great to be moving forward of course.


The Way it Really WAS

I consider myself incredibly lucky to have gotten sober less than a month before my 26th birthday, after just having a problem for about 5 or so years. Even still, it has had a huge impact on my life.

I didn’t start drinking until I was 19 when I finally gave into peer pressure in my second year of college. I only drank socially and once in a while the first couple of years. I can count on one hand how many college parties I went to, it just wasn’t my crowd.

It wasn’t until I was 21 and able to drink legally that my drinking started to get out of control. It got even worse once I was in graduate school. I won’t go into how bad it was, that’s for another post, but things got progressively worse, especially after some traumas I endured.

I was what some may call a functional alcoholic since I was still able to graduate college, earn two graduate school degrees with a 3.8 GPA, and start a career. I loved my career and dedicated all of myself to it.

However, with the stress and emotional toll of my career, past trauma, and everything else in life, I ended up always looking forward to wine at the end of the day to unwind because my brain just wouldn’t calm down even after work. I’d drink to relax, shut my brain off, and sleep. It started with just a small glass and as my tolerance rose, was at least a bottle of wine a night on weeknights and more on weekends. Usually alone.


Early Days of Sobriety

I won’t bore you with going into detail about my “rock bottom” but I will say that I found keeping myself busy and around my boyfriend, now husband, whenever I wasn’t working those early days was essential. He has been such a huge help and I couldn’t have gotten, or stayed, sober without him. If you want to read more about the day I became sober you can read my blog post about how to have a Sober St. Patrick’s Day.

Removing Temptation

On March 18, 2012 when I got home from the emergency room, I poured the remaining alcohol down the drain, and that was that. I haven’t bought or consumed alcohol since, nor have had it in my house.

In the early days of my sobriety, I would drive 15 minutes to my boyfriend’s house right after work and stay there until the liquor stores closed at 10pm, then drive another 20 minutes home. I couldn’t trust myself not to stop at a liquor store on the way home so even though staying at his place until 10pm made me get to bed quite late, it was worth it. Luckily I didn’t drive him nuts always being around.

Funny story: within months of me getting sober he wanted to propose to me and found it difficult to plan his elaborate proposal since I was always around. He told me much later that he’d stay up quite late after I left to work on the projects and plans for the proposal. (Here is video of the proposal if you’re interested. The beginning portions were filmed after the actual proposal. The proposal is toward the end.)

Keeping Busy

In addition to removing the temptation of alcohol in the house and avoiding liquor stores, I kept very busy in the evenings and on weekends. I lived alone and used to always be so bored, which is part of why I drank. Instead of drinking, I started bringing work home more often, and joined the board of the state association of my profession at the time as their webmaster and membership co-chair. This kept me VERY busy!! I had some experience with websites and everything else I needed I leaned on my wonderful boyfriend for. I could do most things but a full site redesign with custom code was sometimes a bit over my head. This was a great cause, a great way to grow closer to my sweetheart, and a wonderful distraction.

Replacement Drink

There is a LOT of sugar in wine and that’s what my body was used to. When I stopped drinking I craved that sugar like crazy. Instead of turning to soda, I started drinking water with lime which helped me immensely. I think that’s part of how I lost so much weight, too.

In a 32oz Nalgene bottle I’d fill it up with cold water, ice, and then squeeze a whole lime into it. I put the cover on and rocked it back and forth to mix it up. I put the Nalgene in an insulated sleeve and I was ready to go! I took this with me to outdoor concerts where others were drinking alcohol and it helped me feel ‘normal’. It has a great taste, vitamins, is low-calorie, and best of all, real!! Nothing fake or processed. I keep telling myself I should get back into this…maybe today is that day to start lime water again!


My Experience with AA

Before I stopped drinking, I had been cutting down on drinking for quite a while. I had a close colleague who was in Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) and he knew of my struggles, so he encouraged me to join him for a meeting. When I finally quit drinking for good I joined him at a meeting and I felt like a weight had been lifted. It was great to be around people I could be honest with about my struggles and I am so thankful for them for helping me get on my way. (Quick aside: you don’t have to be completely sober to attend an AA meeting, you can be sober-curious and attend an open meeting without declaring yourself an alcoholic or sober.)

I’m a very black-and-white / all-or-nothing type of person so completely abstaining from alcohol that AA recommends has worked well for me, and continues to. Previously I had tried to cut down but that didn’t work well for me and actually ended up being really dangerous. I don’t consume any non-alcoholic alcohol substitutes and that works well for me.

AA was a part of my life in the beginning, but hasn’t been for years. The city in which I lived the time I got sober was rather small and the AA meeting consisted of all middle-aged men. I wasn’t able to get a sponsor since there weren’t women and as a newly 26 year old female it felt awkward after a while. It was also a very small group and most meetings there was extra time, during which one of the members would generally speak about how depressing his life was. It was really more of a downer than helping me stay sober. I’m glad he had a place to speak but I was already sick of wallowing.
I’m very I’m very lucky to have such a supportive husband who even stopped drinking soon after I did, and has stuck by my side. He’s been my accountability buddy and my confidant through it all.

He even made me a special card for my wallet that states that I’m sober, my sobriety date, and on the back it says if it becomes untrue (if I have a drink) then I have to return the card to him. I kept that in front of my license for the first few years so I’d have to see it if I ever went into a liquor store (I was young, I always got carded). That accountability card is one of the things that has helped me stay sober and true to my word.

AA did help me get on my way but I soon found that it wasn’t for me. This is something that a lot of people, especially women, realize regarding AA. I’ll touch more on that later.

Though I haven’t gone to AA for years, we did keep up with the chip ceremony over the years. I went to AA through most of the first year of sobriety so got my first chips at AA ceremonies where I would stand up and make a speech. Since then, my husband has purchased AA chips for me and we have our own little ceremony each year. I keep my most recent chip in my wallet and the rest of my chips in my bedside table drawer.

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My 10 years of chips

Choosing Sobriety

Sobriety isn’t something that can be forced on you, it needs to be YOUR choice. That’s the hardest thing of when we see someone who we feel is struggling with addiction but they don’t see it themselves. I didn’t realize how much I had missed, how much I had messed up, or how bad things had gotten until I quit drinking completely. I still live with a lot of regret from my drinking years because I tend to ruminate in things.


The Great Things About Sobriety

Since I stopped drinking I’ve lost a lot of weight (50 lbs that first year), saved an estimated $22,000 that I would have otherwise spent on alcohol, and have taken the approximately 18,000 hours I would have spent drinking over the past 10 years and instead worked on hobbies, spent time with my kids and husband, etc.

In the past 10 years I also got engaged to the love of my life, got married, bought a house together, had a child, became a stay-at-home mom, had twins, moved to a bigger house, and now have this blog where I hope to help others, along with teaching my oldest kindergarten and the twins preschool. I honestly don’t think any of that would have happened, or be happening, if I hadn’t stopped drinking completely.

I’m not going to lie to you, life isn’t perfect, but it’s a HECK of a lot better than it was when I was drinking. It’s so great to be able to remember things that were discussed the night before. To not have hangovers. To not be trying to hide the extent of my drinking from others or the stupid things I’d often do. It’s great to not always be yearning for something that is poisoning me. It’s great to be present, in the moment, whether it’s a good moment or bad, I can deal with it clearly because I am sober.


The Way it Really Is NOW

I haven’t really thought about alcohol for years, it just isn’t part of my life anymore. Neither my husband nor I drink anymore so we don’t keep alcohol in the house, and I don’t even want anyone to bring it to our house to drink it themselves. I like having a dry house.

Once in a while I have dreams about drinking, though within the past several years it’s usually not that I drank but that I was pressured to drink and I told people I was sober and don’t drink. I’m not all perfect in my dreams though, sometimes I have dreams of having a drink or two after considering my sobriety for quite some time, and then ask whomever I’m with if that means I have to start all over at day 1 (the answer is yes, I would start all over and throw 10 years away if I had just one drink…hence part of why I’m NOT going to do that!)

When it comes to temptation in the real world, I do my best to stay away from it. I don’t go to breweries or wineries, though there are soooo many where I live now, even if it’s just to chat with other moms. I just need to stay away from it all. I don’t even like the smell of alcohol anymore. If I’m some place where people are drinking, I just try to keep my distance so I don’t smell it and always, always, always have a non-alcoholic drink in my hand. We generally don’t keep soft drinks in the house so if we go someplace and others are drinking, it really is a treat for me to have a Cherry Coke or Mt. Dew.

Before I go someplace that I know people will be drinking and they don’t know my sober status, I rehearse in my mind what I’m going to say if the question should arise. Honestly, it hardly arises. If it does though, I generally just say ‘I don’t drink’ instead of going into a whole blog post about why 😉 haha! A few years ago I got pushed on the subject as someone wanted to buy me a drink and I flat out said “I’m an alcoholic and I’ve been sober for several years, I’m not going to throw that away…but thanks for the offer.” Really though, it’s no one’s business, and it reminds me of this:

Alcohol is the ONE drug that people have to explain why they DON’T do it and sometimes are made to feel bad if they don’t drink. 

Why the heck is it that way?! So messed up! No one would come up to you and ask “hey, why aren’t you snorting crack right now?!” Is snorting crack even a thing? I honestly don’t know, I’ve never done drugs, but you get my point.


An Easy Way to Track Sobriety

Earlier I mentioned how many hours sober I am at the time of writing this and how much money I’ve saved being sober. All of that information came from the I Am Sober app. I don’t keep track of days sober anymore, though I do still have all of my AA chips from the early days, but this app keeps track of them for me. It’s nice to look randomly and see how many days I am sober (3,652 days if you’re wondering), how much I’ve likely saved, and a place to go for support if needed.


Resources

There are many resources available if you or someone you know are struggling with addiction, whether it be alcohol, drugs, or whatever. Try not to be ashamed to reach out for help. Realize that though AA is seen as the gold standard, there are more options out there if you’re willing to look for them.

Alcoholics Anonymous (AA)

Typically you can look in your local newspaper to find AA meetings near you, though there are many places to look online as well. These days there are plenty of in-person and online/virtual AA meetings.

Conduct a Google Search for ‘AA Meetings Near Me’ which should show a map of AA meetings near you, along with some website results. Keep in mind that the first few posts of any results are often sponsored which means they may be trying to sell you a treatment program. You don’t have to pay to go to AA, though for many, treatment programs are very helpful.

Find by State: I live in Minnesota so when I searched ‘AA Meetings Near Me’ I got results including https://aaminnesota.org/ which shows online and in-person meetings in Minnesota. I also came across https://aaminneapolis.org/meetings/ that lists meetings every day of the week and what type of meetings there are available. These are great places to start! If you’re not in MN, check out your own state.

Non-AA

In recent years I came across the book Quit Like a Woman: The Radical Choice Not to Drink in a Culture Obsessed with Alcohol by Holly Whitaker. It’s amazing! There is also a wonderfully supportive Facebook group based around the book that I’ve been part of for a year or so. They go through the book, chapter by chapter with 2 virtual meetings a week. This has really helped so many women.

Holly Whitaker also has a program called Tempist which is an online sobriety membership with loads of support including group calls, coaching, and programs.


In Closing

Making the decision to quit drinking can seem so daunting and scary. If you feel it’s something you should consider, try starting small such as giving up alcohol for Lent, or Dry-Tober in October, or a dry summer, or whatever. Soon you’ll find how much more enjoyable life is when you’re not drinking and how much more you can remember! My gosh, the memories!!

That said, I realize that not everyone needs to stop drinking, and I’m not saying that everyone should. Each person is different but I do know that the alcohol industry has been targeting all of us, just like the tobacco industry did, and it’s only getting worse. If you do drink, next time you have a drink, ask yourself why you’re drinking and if it’s really necessary. In Holly’s book Quit Like a Woman, referenced above, she goes deep into how poisonous alcohol is to everyone, it’s very eye opening and horrifying.

All that to say…Holy crap, I’m 10 years sober!

I truly don’t think I’d be married to my sweetheart with 3 healthy kids if I hadn’t gotten sober 10 years ago. When I met my husband I made a vow to myself to not mess this up, and thankfully, I didn’t.

I’ve been lucky enough to be sober for my wedding, my honeymoon, 10 New Years Eves, 10 birthdays, 10 Fourth of Julys, etc. I’m also lucky enough to become sober before I had children, so they never saw the way that I was back when I drank.

It was a lot of hard work to get sober and I’m proud of my sobriety. If I can do it, you can do it, and be proud of it.


10 Years Sober What I've Learned and How Far I've Come text over pretty trees

Founder, Professional Blogger at The Way it Really Is, LLC | [email protected] | Website

As a mom of identical twins and a son two years older, I have gained invaluable experience in the realm, and chaos, of parenting. With a Master's Degree and Education Specialist Degree in School Psychology, I spent years as a school psychologist, helping children navigate through their educational and emotional challenges. Now as a stay at home mom and professional blogger, I combine my areas of expertise to help you in your parenting journey.

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  1. Vi March 25, 2022
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