Hi, my name is Nikki, and I’m an alcoholic and drug addict. My sobriety date is October 11, 2011. I have a sponsor who has a sponsor, and we have all been through the 12-step process.
What It Was Like
I grew up in an upper middle class Greek family in the suburbs of Boston. If you ever saw the movie My Big Fat Greek Wedding, well, that was my family. My parents adored my sister and I. They gave us everything we could dream of. My youth was ﬁlled traveling to Greece, playing soccer and going to Greek camp (don’t ask) and church on Sundays. I should have been ecstatic. I had more than the majority of people I knew, but deep down within my soul, I knew something wasn’t right.
Since I was a little kid, it was ingrained in me to grow up and marry a Greek man, have Greek kids and go to a Greek church. My plans didn’t really go accordingly. Around sixth grade I realized I was a lesbian. I would take my prayer book and pray to God that I wasn’t gay. I grew up in a church that claimed homosexuality is a sin. Ever since the day I prayed to be straight, I felt different than everybody else. One day in high school, the priest had all the adults sign a paper to ban gay marriage. This is when my hate for the church and God started. I felt I wasn’t worthy of love, that I was less than, and boy, I was one angry little girl because of it.
I played soccer every day. I loved it, and I was great at it. Since I was a little kid, I dreamed of playing division I soccer in college before going to the Olympics. My team traveled so much I missed church and school. I was getting all this attention in the newspaper and at the same time was taking out all my anger on the soccer ﬁeld.
It worked for me until I found alcohol. I can’t remember the ﬁrst time I tried alcohol, but I remember the ﬁrst time I got drunk. I stole gin from my parents’ liquor cabinet in the eighth grade. I took the bottle and ran down the street to the neighborhood park and met my two friends. I took shot after shot after shot. By the end of the night, I couldn’t stand up, and I was projectile vomiting. I was sick for the next two days. Any healthy person would have learned their lesson and wouldn’t have done that again, but I felt hardcore and couldn’t wait to do it again. Alcohol made me forget about all my problems. It stopped me from having feelings. It stopped me from thinking. It made me feel like the prettiest, the toughest, the coolest. I had arrived.
Around the time I started drinking, I also started smoking weed. I was drinking and smoking on the weekends, and as time went by, it turned into an everyday thing. Around this time I also started experimenting with ecstasy, painkillers, acid and ‘shrooms. By my junior year of high school, I was high morning, noon and night. I failed the majority of my classes, I decided I didn’t want to play soccer anymore, and my parents didn’t know what to do with me. My parents had me in and out of psychiatrists’ and therapists’ ofﬁces. Over the years the doctors diagnosed me with depression, ADHD, anxiety disorder, bipolar disorder and mood disorders and gave me a plethora of medications to match. I didn’t know it then, but I know it now: I was running from myself. I was still in the closet and was terriﬁed people would ﬁnd out and judge me. I was a perfectionist, and being gay was putting a damper on my plans.
Things were bad but they turned into a nightmare at the age of 19 when I said I would just try cocaine once. If you have this disease of alcoholism or addiction, there is no such thing as once. The next ten years were what I like to call a bipolar roller-coaster ride from my alcoholism and cocaine addiction. This is where I started to cross the invisible line you say you will never cross. I did things I never thought I would ever do. I completely lost myself in my addiction. Vodka and cocaine were calling all the shots. In my 20s I managed to ruin the majority of my relationships, I couldn’t hold a job, my hands wouldn’t stop shaking and I had severe paranoia and anxiety. I did what any healthy person would do and moved to Los Angeles to start over and get my life together.
I came out of the closet at the age of 22. Honestly, nobody even cared except my mother, but eventually she warmed up to the idea because she loved me. However the damage was already done. I was 27 years old, full blown in my addiction and living in Los Angeles. I lived there for two years and basically drank my life away. Drinking wasn’t as fun as it was in high school. I didn’t even recognize myself anymore. I was crippled by fear and anxiety, and the only way to free myself from that was to drink or get high. I ended up tearing my stomach lining, crashing my car and losing job after job. I was exhausted. I had been trying to control my drinking for about 15 years, and I threw in the towel. I needed help.
I moved back to Massachusetts and my parents’ house. I told them to put me anywhere where I couldn’t make a decision for myself. I had no idea that this was the start of a new chapter in my life. All I could see was that my life was over. I didn’t know how to interact with other people sober. I didn’t know how to do anything sober. I had barely drawn a sober breath in over 15 years. I was full of fear and in so much emotional pain. I wanted to die.
What I Did
I started going to an intensive outpatient program (IOP) outside of Boston. I went for three hours a day for about 30 days. Once I was there, they told me to start going to support group meetings. I didn’t know anything about support groups except what I saw on TV, and I knew they prayed to God so I refused to go. I was still angry at God. I was angry for all the obstacles He put in my life. I was sober about a month, but I was crazier and angrier than ever. I had two options: Kill myself, or go to meetings.
I chose meetings.
I went to meetings and listened to the women share their stories. I identiﬁed with all their crazy stories. I kept hearing, over and over, “Get a sponsor and go through the 12 steps.” I had no idea what the 12 steps were, but everyone kept saying how they changed their lives. These people were sober and smiling and laughing. I was confused and intrigued at the same time. After the meeting I walked up to a lady and mumbled, “Will you sponsor me?” She was all smiles and said, “Of course I will,” and then hugged me. I was completely freaked out. I hated talking to strangers and deﬁnitely didn’t like people hugging me, but I was willing to go to any lengths to get sober and live a happy normal life.
I started going through the 12 steps with my sponsor. My ﬁrst year of sobriety was one of the hardest things I’ve ever had to do. It was by far the most awkward, painful and uncomfortable year of my life. I needed a complete personality change. I didn’t think it was possible, but I had a tiny bit of hope and willingness and kept going. At that point if my sponsor told me to jump off a bridge, I was jumping. I wanted this. I had to get down to the root of all my problems, and little by little things started to change. Over time my anger and anxiety was disappearing. My resentments toward people and God were healing. I was laughing in meetings and building a fellowship. It took a lot of work, but the miracle had happened. I was now one of those sober people smiling and laughing in the meetings.
What It’s Like Now
I’m 31 years old, and I’ve been sober for 2.5 years now. I still have a sponsor, and I have my own sponsees. I have a home group and still have a job in my home group. I’m a graphic designer, and I’ve had this job for as long as I’ve been sober. This is the longest I’ve had any job ever. I’ve mended the majority of the relationships I’ve ruined in my past. My family is proud of me and no longer stays up worrying about me. I ﬁnally have peace in my life, and I don’t wake up sick and full of anxiety. All those diagnoses the doctors gave me back in the day disappeared once I stopped drinking. I wasn’t mentally unstable; it was untreated alcoholism. I show up to life now instead of running from uncomfortable situations. There are still ups and downs, that’s just life, but I don’t drink over them. I’m learning to love myself more and more as the days go on and to accept life on life’s terms. This program will make miracles happen as long as you’re willing to do the work.
Keep coming. It gets better.