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Getting Sober in Seattle

I never thought sobriety would be an issue when I moved to Seattle in November of 2013. I came to work my dream job at an amazing marketing agency, but what I didn’t realize was how stressful moving across the country alone would be. I left all my friends behind in North Carolina, but the thought of moving to a new place to start a new job was so enticing.

What Should Have Been an Exciting Time Turns into Something Darker

The first few months in Seattle were fine. I got settled into my apartment and my job – both of which were just that: fine. I had never had depression before, so I didn’t notice my world slowly transitioning to gray. Nothing brought me happiness, but I wasn’t angry or upset either. I worked with lot of young writers and designers at the marketing company, but due to our heavy workloads, it was popular to “unwind” by going to the bar after work. At first, this tradition was a relief. By drinking, it became easier to talk to my coworkers and make friends. Eventually, our work watering hole became my everyday place to hang out instead of going home alone to my apartment. As a regular, I felt like I had a place to call home, and what became a one-beer tab grew. At the time, I didn’t realize how bad it had become, but when I looked at my bank statements, I realized I was spending upwards of fifty dollars a night on a combination of beer and hard alcohol. Still, I didn’t stop. This had become my routine, and even though I woke up every morning vowing not to go out drinking at night, every day I found myself sitting in the bar.

Making Friends in Seattle That I Really Didn’t Need in My Life

What I longed for was emotional support and true friendship, but what I got instead was friends who drank like me. Eventually, I was drinking even too much for my coworkers. They came to the bar less and less, and soon I stopped socializing with them entirely. The more I hung out, drinking, the more drinking friends I made. Soon, I had plenty of friends, but all of them liked to party. I would invite my new friends over to my home, and they’d sleep over for days at a time. I’d come home, they’d be there. Sometimes I’d come home and strangers would be there too. My home was no longer my own, and drugs started creeping into my environment. I didn’t know who to go to, and I found myself sleeping through my weekends and dreading going to work.

The Day My Life Changed Forever

One Saturday, I decided to rent a car and take it to the coast for a drive. I took a couple of my drinking buddies with me and a cooler full of beer. We got to the beach and drank together into the night. Since I thought I felt fine, I decided to drive home. About halfway back to Seattle, I was pulled over by police because I was swerving. I was so afraid. This was a nightmare. Not only was I drinking every day, but this choice also led me to be arrested for driving under the influence, and my blood alcohol at the time was .18 percent. My so-called friends were no help as they had also been drinking. I spent three nights in jail and was eventually fined $1,200 for my crime. [callout: You can be convicted of a DUI in Washington state for getting behind the wheel while:

  • impaired by drugs or alcohol to an extent that your “ability to drive a motor vehicle is lessened in any appreciable degree” (an “impairment” DUI)
  • having a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) of .08% or greater (a “per se” DUI), or
  • having a concentration of five nanograms or more of THC (the primary psychoactive ingredient in marijuana) per milliliter of blood (a “per se marijuana” DUI).]

Unrealized Consequences of My Drinking Due to unexpected missed work, when I returned, my boss pulled me into his office to talk about me being away. I was completely nervous. I hadn’t considered what I was going to say, nor did I realize how much my presence would be missed at work. In the days I was in jail, I had missed an important deadline. Not only that, since I lived alone in a new city, I had to call a coworker to get me home and borrow bail money. My boss sat me down and tried to be nice. She asked, “How are you doing?” “Not great,” I replied. And before I knew it, I was pouring everything out. I finally had someone to listen to me, and she did so without judgment. “Stephanie,” she said. “You’re not the only one who struggles with addiction.” She reached into her pocket and pulled out a bronze coin. She placed the heavy coin in my hand and I flipped it around. I read, “10” inside of a triangle. “I’m ten years sober this year.” I was in awe. I never thought a woman so well put-together and in such a prominent position could understand. “How did you get better?” I asked desperately. “Well, I joined a local Alcoholics Anonymous support group. How about tonight, I drop you off at a meeting?” I couldn’t answer through my tears. I was angry at myself for not asking for help sooner, and at the same time, I was so grateful to finally feel hope.

My First AA Meeting – What to Expect

I wasn’t sure what to expect when going to my first AA meeting. I didn’t feel comfortable talking at first, but I found everyone to be really nice. Once the meeting was over, everyone came up to introduce themselves. We hugged, we laughed and lots of people gave me their phone numbers. They said I can call them at any time. I didn’t know at the time how much I would start to rely on their support when it got hard to say “no” to alcohol. After a few weeks, I realized I had finally found the friends I had so desperately been searching for when I came to Seattle. Drinking made it easy to socialize, but now, not drinking is what bonded me to this new group. Instead of going to the bar, we went out for juice or coffee. Instead of doing risky things, we went to the beach and played frisbee. It was a complete lifestyle change, and I felt amazing.

Rehabilitation: Group and Individual Therapy & Help for My Depression

Thankfully, deciding to get help was the smartest thing I’ve ever done. Not only was it a responsible choice, I felt so amazing to finally be working toward something. First, I checked into a rehabilitation center. Drinking a lot of alcohol daily required a medically-supervised detox. By staying in a facility, I felt safer and more focused than I would have felt at home. Almost immediately, we started group and individual therapy. I met with my group five days a week, and I attended individual therapy six times per week. About halfway through my stay, I was diagnosed with depression. By the end of my 30-day detox and rehab period, I was free to go home and attend work again and continue my AA meetings with the help of a sponsor. Thankfully, after talking to my company’s human resources department, I found out that my leave of absence was allowed, and although I would not be paid for that period, my job was secure while I got better. People at work eventually found out where I was, but what surprised me was how supportive they were. Sure, there are a few that still see alcoholics as weak individuals, but I hope to change their minds by being honest about my addiction and mental health. My family back home was supportive too, and when I told my mom what I had been going through, she confided in me that she struggled with alcoholism when she was my age. It began making sense why I reverted to alcohol use when I became depressed.

Four Years After Making the Choice to be Sober

I’m four years sober now. I keep in contact with my sponsor and attend AA meetings a couple of times a week. I put my focus on two things: work and being healthy. I started working out regularly and making a point to learn more about cooking nutritious food. By keeping my mind and body healthy, I have the power to say “no” whenever I get the urge to drink. Some days are harder than others, but the support group I’ve built is how I’m able to continue being strong.