"I have kept my tools of sobriety always at hand and try to pass along my experience, strength, and hope to the next person in need."

I was raised in a loving home, with two parents, and with Christian values. We never had alcohol in our house, but addiction doesn’t care how you were raised; alcoholism does not discriminate. I knew I was an alcoholic when I blacked out after my first drink at fourteen. I took my first drink immediately after I was sexually assaulted. I remembered my grandfather saying he drank to relax. I desperately wanted to escape the flood of emotions that accompanied the trauma, so I kept my secret and drank. I blacked out every time I drank and that was what I wanted – to not think or feel.

One day even being numb became unbearable; I sought counseling, but that was ineffective because I still drank. One wise counselor advised me that I would never be able to work through my pain until I stopped masking it with alcohol. I started a twelve-step recovery program at nineteen. While in the program a man told me, I was too young to be in the program, that he “spilled more on his tie” than I ever drank, and that I could not have suffered enough to be there. I wondered if he was right; I didn’t have a job or material things to lose.

I ignored my arrests for underage drinking, and the countless times I woke up in unfamiliar surroundings.  When I turned twenty-one I knew I couldn’t continue living like this; I wanted off the “ride,” it just wasn’t fun anymore. A woman with kind eyes told me I never had to drink again, I just had to decide to abstain one day at a time.

This is why I am sharing my story. Putting down the bottle was just the first step on the journey of my recovery. I dug deep into working a program of recovery and discovered that my past did not decide my future. I learned that I was worth so much more than the way I treated myself. I’ve gained so many things that I once thought were unattainable; I received college and graduate degrees, a job, a loving husband, and a son who has never seen me drunk. I have been happily sober for twenty-six years. I have kept my tools of sobriety always at hand and try to pass along my experience, strength, and hope to the next person in need. I want my outstretched hand to always be there for the next struggling alcoholic to grasp.

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