I started drinking in junior high school as a way to fit in. I drank in high school. I went off to college and drank myself right into academic probation and ended up quitting school. I had a huge tolerance for alcohol. Things really took off in my mid twenties when I was living alone because I could drink as much as I wanted and no one was around to see. I attended my one and only AA meeting during this time. I wrote journal entry after journal entry about knowing I needed to quit but not able to stop. This went on for years. I could stay sober for a few days at a time but could never piece together a solid chunk of sober time.
In my early thirties I quit drinking when I found out I was pregnant with my oldest son. I started drinking again the night we brought him home from the hospital. Three years later I quit drinking again while I was pregnant with my second son, and then started drinking again right away after he was born. His first year I was a total mess- drinking too much, training for a marathon, smoking again, staying out with work friends and not coming home. I couldn’t even think about what I was doing because it hurt too much, so I would just drink again. I was drinking heavily two to five times a week.
Three years after that we moved to a different state. I slowed down. Then things got rough at work and I was drinking more than ever. Blacking out on most every night I drank. Subsisting on misery in the days after. I didn’t know what to do- I felt like I couldn’t fit AA into my schedule and I didn’t know how to get help. I told myself I would quit tomorrow, or next week, or after the holidays. I told myself I just didn’t have enough willpower to do it, but when things got better I’d be able to handle quitting and that’s when I would finally do it.
Sober Bloggers to the Rescue
I’d Googled “how to quit drinking” so many times before. But I’d never looked for actual sober people online.
Then I did.
And it changed my life.
I found a woman called Belle. Her blog is Tired of Thinking About Drinking. I got really brave on my fourth day sober and wrote her this letter on the 11th of December, 2012:
I have been reading your blog on and off for a lot of today and wanted to say thank you. I am 41 years old and have struggled with the way I drink since my mid teens. It has been a great relief to read about your success and to hear the same thoughts I’ve had over and over come from someone else’s head. I have been struggling to reach a final drink date and decided that Friday, Dec. 7 was it. Thank you for opening yourself up and being honest about your problems with alcohol. It helps me not feel so crazy!
She wrote me back. She said nice things like I wasn’t crazy. That she would be my pen pal. She asked me to write her back. And so I did- I wrote to her every day for about nine months. And every day I knew I couldn’t drink because I didn’t want to tell her I had. We wrote about drinking. About not drinking. Some emails were long, some short. I devoured her blog, reading some posts over and over again. It helped me not drink. It helped me feel OK.
“Blogging Means We Have to Be Brave”
By reading her blog I found other blogs- other people who drank like me, who were sober, or trying to be sober. I immediately started my own blog- another way for me to be accountable. I couldn’t quit for myself, but I could quit for them because I didn’t want to fail my virtual support community. I was reliable to them. I was trustworthy. I did not want to let them down. Having my own blog meant I could put my thoughts out into the world whenever I wanted to. It helped me process things by slowing down to think so I could write. It meant I could do my sobriety my way. Five months in I wrote this to Belle:
“Blogging means we have to be brave, and believe in ourselves and what we write no matter what the neighbors say. Getting sober is getting brave enough to throw yourself out into the crowd and go “look world! Here’s ME!” and then stand and take all the gawking.”
Writing my own blog meant that I could be the me I’d never been able to be. It meant that I could do what I’d never done: put my real self out into the world and I could be the person I was, sober me, and I didn’t have to wreck it. Reading other blogs gave me a sense of belonging that I hadn’t had- ever.
I formed more friendships with other bloggers. One of them actually lives near enough to me that we met halfway between our towns and spent a whole day at Starbucks. I walked up to Sherry and immediately felt right at home. It seemed like I was looking in a mirror mentally: she got me. We spoke the same “I’m sober, I’ve been there” kind of language. It made me feel like there was good company in the world. It made me feel less alone.
The online sober community is a close knit group with open arms. In all the posts I’ve written no one has ever been rude, or mean. Everyone is very supportive and generous with their advice. There are so many of us out there, so many pieces of wisdom gathered in this virtual library of sobriety. There are blogs to read, comments on those blogs to read, and almost everyone will email you back if you reach out to them personally.
Getting sober online has not only been my saving grace, it has given me the opportunity to support other people wherever they are in their path to sobriety. It has made me a pen pal to people who have reached out to me. It has given me a chance to give back what I was given. It has given me a chance to see things from many different ways- world wide ways.
Now, over a year and a half later, I still rely on blogs and emails to keep me steady. Help is everywhere whenever I need it. Whether it’s emailing a pen pal, reading blog posts, or writing about my own experiences I feel safe and secure in the online sober community. It has been the foundation and reinforcement of my success, and an endless source of gratitude.