friends toasting glasses of wine

Three years ago, I stopped drinking. Yesterday, I spoke to my dad, who is also in recovery, about the upcoming anniversary. He wanted to share something someone once told him. “When you stop drinking, it won’t solve your problems,” he said. “But you’ll be able to know your real problems, and not just the ones you’re creating for yourself.”

I couldn’t agree more. Three years ago, when I stopped drinking, I knew I had to. If I didn’t, I was certain I was going to die. For nearly a decade, my life had, in many ways, been defined by my tumultuous relationship with alcohol. There were hospitalizations and rehabilitations. There were relationships ruined and dreams depleted. There were increasingly frightening and common blackouts and days spent in bed, miserably recovering from the night before.

Yet, throughout this, I convinced myself alcohol was what made me happy, what made my life a little less meaningless. I really believed the intoxicated version of myself was my true being. The sober person I left behind felt so sad and deflated, so cautious and needy. I didn’t believe I was truly happy, but I believed with alcohol, I was the happiest I could possibly be. I was more than willing to accept the side effects that came with consumption.

Of course, none of it makes any sense. As a drunken person, I was verbally aggressive. I said mean things to get my way, and in the moment, I didn’t care who I hurt. I was insecure, and I sought emotional and sexual validation. I cried, often and woke up each morning having done or said at least one thing I regretted.

If someone was mad at me or when something bad happened, I always blamed it on the alcohol. I didn’t mean the nasty thing I said, I was drunk. I didn’t actually want to hurt myself. I just had too much to drink. I know I could have died, but I didn’t, and moving forward I’ll drink less.

Those excuses (mostly) worked, and I was able to keep drinking to excess. However, I didn’t “get away with it” because I was so much smarter than everyone else (like I thought) or because my drinking habits were more normal than people were acknowledging (like I truly believed.) I got away with it because, at a certain point, people didn’t really know what else they could do.

You can’t help someone who doesn’t want to help himself. So they were stuck watching a car crash. Some looked away. Others ran away and still more watched, holding their breath, hoping I might come out alive. At the end of my drinking career, when I realized I’d lost everything that mattered to me, joy for life, honest relationships, compassion and self-love, I gave up alcohol.

After more failed attempts at quitting than I can event count, this time it worked. I don’t think it was because I hit “‘rock bottom.” I think I finally opened my eyes and saw how much more darkness lay beneath me and that perhaps there wasn’t a true rock bottom. I realized for a person with such a streak of self-destruction, I would always be able to find a way to hurt myself a little more.

I didn’t want that, I realized. I wanted to be happy, or at least to try to be. I wanted to be functional, reliable and kind. I hadn’t been any of things for many years.

In early sobriety, what I found out quickly was another piece of wisdom my dad had tried to impart onto me a year and a half before when he visited me while I studied abroad in India. At the time, I had a full-blown addiction to my anxiety medication, and I was trying to wean myself off. For days, I could not stop crying. I was blaming my emotional state on being in India and out of my comfort zone. With a blend of sympathy and tough love, he turned to me and gently said, “I think you’re finding out the hard way wherever you go, there you’ll be.”

Early sobriety in many ways felt much like my time in India. I was navigating terrain that was so far beyond my comfort zone, where all of my preconceived notions were constantly being proven wrong. I was in a place where the only constant was what I wanted to most escape — myself.

The initial exhilaration of sobriety and making such a powerful decision made the first week easy. Then, the novelty faded. I was no longer preoccupied with the announcements I was making to all of my friends and family. They already knew. My coronation was over, and now, it was time to do the hard work. It was time to actually be sober and not just to be told how strong I was or how proud people were of me. It was time to not drink for myself.

Like my dad pointed out, sobriety did not mean my problems went away. It meant they were no longer moving targets darting around as blurs in front of me. They were now perceivable and imminent, issues I had to actually face.

Without alcohol, I no longer felt like my bottom had fallen out, but I still felt quite close to, if not on, the bottom. I thought sobriety would be gleeful. I thought I would now be “happy” and more easily fulfilled.

This wasn’t the case. Day after day, I had to wake up and just be sober. I had to accept I didn’t like where my life was, and it was at this point because of decisions I had made. There were some relationships that weren’t salvageable. There were some dreams that would take years to fulfill because I’d spent so long trying to find the easiest way out.

I had to get used to the sound of my own voice. I had to think about what I wanted to say and how I said it because I could no longer use the excuse “because I was drunk.” I had to accept there was still a persistent sadness and self-hatred that had not only been there because I’d been an alcoholic.

I thought back to years earlier, when I’d been at a concert. I’d taken drugs with a group of friends. As it set in, I just kept wanting more. I took another pill, and though most people I was with felt sufficiently high and wanted to avoid drinking, I was seeking it out. The combination made me feel like I was floating, numb and dulled. I felt so close to death, yet present. In that moment, I felt bliss.

In sobriety, thinking back to that moment terrified me. What was it inside of me that sought to destroy my own essence? Why did I feel joy in a moment of danger, when I now felt apathetic and flat in this period of self-nurturing?

Answering questions like this has been the hardest part of sobriety. Hell, I still don’t have all the answers. I’m not even close. Becoming sober wasn’t like removing the exterior layer of paint on a wrecked car and finding there was a perfect, brand new car beneath. Everything I struggled with was still there. The only difference was it was now just much more visible without the mask of alcoholism.

Without alcohol, I still found I had mean thoughts, I sought validation and I sometimes still woke up shrouded in darkness. I realized I could still do all of the same sh*ty things. I could still spend days in bed. I could still have mindless sex to remind myself I was wanted. I could still punish myself. I could still eat too little or too much. I could deprive myself of sleep or not do the things I love.

I could still keep secrets. I could still be guarded and emotionally opaque. I could still be scared. I could still be dishonest about the things I wanted and devastated when they didn’t happen how I’d hoped.

I don’t want that. I want to dig in. I want to push myself to feel joy and to feel whole. Whether that comes through antidepressants and therapy, yoga and meditation, writing and conversation, I am willing to try it all. Not all of my questions are answered and not all of my problems are solved. My urge to self-destruct has dwindled, but it still chirps in, on occasion. My voice of reason is louder and stronger.

No, you shouldn’t drink until you’re physically there but mentally gone. In fact, you shouldn’t drink at all. No, the world is not ending because something went wrong. Sure, you can sleep with that person, but do you actually want to? He isn’t going to magically add meaning to your life. No, life is not just a river you blindly hurl yourself into and see where you end up.

I know each morning, when I wake up, there is only going to be one person who will never go away from me. That person is myself. Three years ago, the fastest way to deny that reality was to get sh*tfaced.

Today, I am OK with waking up and sometimes feeling uncertain. I am OK with not always feeling content, whole, brave or sure. Three years ago, I was scared. Today, I am not. Today, I can see my problems, and I’m ready to fight.

Image via Thinkstock.


Donald Trump doesn’t seem to know how addiction works, at least not according to a speech he gave at his campaign’s New Hampshire rally on Thursday.

“You know what really amazed me when I came here?” Donald Trump asked as he began his portion of the rally. “[T]hey said the biggest single problem they have up here is heroin. And I said ‘how does heroin work with these beautiful lakes, and trees and all of the beautiful…?’ It doesn’t.”

Unfortunately for Trump, living somewhere as idyllic as New Hampshire’s countryside doesn’t lower your chances of being exposed to or becoming addicted to heroin. According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, 23 percent of Americans who try heroin become addicted. They become addicted not because they live in places less scenic than New Hampshire, but because heroin is an opioid that affects their brain chemistry, and some people are genetically more likely to become addicted than others.

Similar to the platform he built his campaign on, Trump has a plan to stop the rising rates of heroin use and addiction. “I win, I get the nomination and I win, we’re gonna build that wall and we’re gonna stop that heroin from pouring in and we’re going to stop the poison of the youth,” he said. “We’re going to build the wall, believe me. We are going to build the wall, but we’re going to stop the poison from pouring in and destroying our youth and plenty of other people and we’re gonna work on those people that got addicted and are addicted and I’ll tell you what, we’re gonna do a real job for the state of New Hampshire.”

Neither Trump nor his campaign provided any additional details during the rally as to what that “real job” entails or how Trump plans to help those already addicted to heroin. The campaign’s website does not mention addiction services or rehabilitation as part of their health care reform either.

I can’t believe National Recovery Month 2016 is already coming to an end, but what a wonderful journey it’s been. Individuals from around the nation have shared so many impactful stories. These people come from all walks of life and have been touched by addiction in a myriad of different ways.

What have we learned about addiction recovery over these last four weeks?

Defining Recovery and the Value of Support

We found out that the term “recovery” means something different to each and every one of us. For some, recovery simply means greeting each day without being shackled to drugs or alcohol. For others, it means being a trustworthy friend and family member or mending fences broken by the weight of addiction.

We also learned what it’s really like loving someone who struggles with addiction. With so much focus placed on the person who’s struggling with chemical dependency, their friends and loved ones often feel lost in the shuffle. We found out how a solid support system can make or break someone’s recovery and how much it means to them to know they are unconditionally loved.

There was one overwhelming message that people in recovery wanted to convey to those who supported them through the darkest times of their lives, “Thank You for Never Giving Up!

Check out a few of these heartfelt messages we gathered at Recovery Brands, through our site,, in the video below:

Getting and Staying Clean

We heard from people who recently completed rehab and received some powerful insight into the hard work that’s required to stay clean once home. Leaving the safety and structure of treatment is an exciting and scary time, but with the right support systems in place and the will to change your life for the better, it can be done.

We also received some unique insight from Candace Plattor, M.A., R.C.C, addictions therapist, award-winning author and expert writer for Pro Corner on

“I believe that it really does take a village. We are still at a place in our recovery communities where the bulk of the attention and available treatment goes to those with addiction. I am never against people receiving help and support – but we still don’t have anywhere near enough resources available to assist and support the people who love them – and they desperately struggle right alongside those who struggle with addiction, often not having any clue about what to do.

For every one person with an addiction there are generally about 10-20 people who are negatively affected by that person’s addiction. We need to be offering a lot more help to the loved ones than we’ve been doing.

We need to be working with families as a whole, not just with those who are addicted if we want to stop addiction in its tracks.”

We’d love to hear more about what you learned during National Recovery Month 2016! Share your story with us by using #RBRecoveryMonth on social media or leaving a comment below!

I’m an addict. There. I said it. I’m saying it to the world. Not only am I an addict, but I have bipolar disorder as well.

Why am I telling you this?

I’m telling you this to give you hope. I was once a trainwreck. I hit rock bottom. I was homeless. I was selling myself on the street to get by. I had no real friends, no one to turn to for advice, comfort, support. All I had were my drugs.

Oh, I denied being an addict for a long time. I couldn’t possible be one, I rationalized. My medicine was prescribed by a doctor. I didn’t get them from a dealer off the streets. I got them from a pharmacy. Legally.

But the drugs were ruining my life. I managed to claw myself up from rock bottom, even with the drugs as my support. I went back to college, I got a job, I won back custody of my daughter. I got married. I had more kids. But I was only a shell of my former self.

I denied there was a problem so well I even believed it myself. I totally rationalized needing more meds than prescribed. I rationalized the burning desire for 8 p.m. to hit every night so I could take my Ambien. I rationalized everything away.

I explained away my odd behavior to everyone. The falling asleep at inappropriate times. The slurred speech. The glazed over eyes. It was all a side effect of perfectly legal substances. Legal substances I was abusing. I struggled. My bipolar disorder didn’t help me at all to get over my addiction. In fact, the two disorders competed with each other for my attention. I was having an anxiety attack? Pop a few Xanax. My back was hurting? Pop a couple Roxicodone. I couldn’t win for losing.

With each drug of choice, there was tipping point for me to quit it. My pain specialist prescribed me something for my pain, and the package it came in read, “to be taken for opioid addiction.” What the hell? How dare they accuse me of being an addict! F*ck them. I quit the Suboxone and Roxicodone right then and there. I’d show them. I could manage just fine with Motrin from there on out. And I did.

But the addiction was still there, and I was still in denial over having it. So I continued to take the Xanax. I mean, it was prescribed, right? There was finally a day when I was super late picking up my son from the bus stop because I’d popped a few too many. This is when I realized things were out of hand. I still couldn’t quit though. It took a hospital stay after an overdose before I was finally able to stop.

But the addiction was still there. And I still had my beloved Ambien. Oh Ambien, what a nightmare you are. I would have never quit the Ambien, until my husband left me over it. He had begged for years for me to quit taking it, but I couldn’t. It wasn’t until he finally left that I woke up from the foggy haze.

I quit right then and there again. Cold turkey, never again. It took a few months for my husband and I to work through the dysfunction in our marriage, but we did it. I can now say I’ve been clean from everything for 18 months. I don’t even have a desire to take anything addictive. I refuse to have it in the house.

So what’s happened in the last 18 months? I’ve gotten my life back. I’m in tune with what my children need. I’m able to enjoy my children more fully. We’re close as a family unit. My husband and I are closer than ever. We’ve been married 8 years, and this past year has been our best year ever, even with the dysfunction we had to work through. I got into treatment for my bipolar disorder, and yes, the addiction as well. I thrived there. I graduated with a good handle on myself, and had everything in check.

Life is amazing now. I would have never realized just how wonderful life can be without struggling in the depths of hell beforehand. I just want people to know there is hope. You can rise above the addiction and be more than your addiction. You can be a writer. A mother. An aunt. An advocate. A person with worth and value. I know this is true because that’s me now. I’m all of those things and more.

I’m not saying it’s easy. It’s harder than hell to rise above the shame and guilt over being an addict. It took me a lot of intensive therapy and the support of a loving family to do it. And you’ll need support. I definitely did. It takes a village to help an addict recover. But it can be done. I know this is true because I did it. And I know others can, too.

Dear addiction,

There you are, back again, pulling the rug right out from under me. You invade my thoughts, my dreams, even my life when I am awake.

You are always there. Watching. Waiting. Trying to get me to slip up and take solace in the sweet words you whisper as I sit there staring, trying to fight it with all my heart.

I hate you. This is not who I am anymore. You may have had a hold on me, always pulling me down till I thought only pills and getting high was the answer. But guess what? No more.

I played into your hands for years. You almost destroyed everything I care the most about in the world. My family. My marriage. My friendships.

I almost lost everything because of you.

Oh, it’s my fault, you say? You are partially right. But you are also wrong. Yes, I chose to do the things I did, but you were the one whispering the “sweet nothings” into my ears late at night.

You do not have a hold on me anymore. Yes, you will always be there, but now I know that I do not have to listen to you. I am stronger than this. I can beat you.

You laugh at me, the sound echoing in my head. Saying I will never be free of you. That I will always be back.

But I won’t.

I have something here that you can never match. I have a wonderful family. I have a amazing understanding husband. I have the strongest support system I could ever ask for.

So, my dear addiction, you and I are done. For good this time. And the best part? When I feel you trying to pull me back into the darkness I used to consider my friend, I will have 1,000 friends and family pulling for me here.

I am not alone. But you are now. Enjoy the darkness, my old friend.


The hard work begins after leaving the safety of rehab and returning home.

Rehabilitation for a substance addiction
is life-saving. However, leaving rehab and re-entering society after completing treatment leaves individuals incredibly vulnerable. This is especially true for when people receive short-term treatment, which is 30 days or less. The transition from rehab to home can be a shaky and fragile time.

Many people enter rehab reluctantly. As the days roll by, their facility becomes their sanctuary. It’s their safe environment, where every move is structured and planned. They make friends in group therapy and trust in their doctors. Rehabilitation surrounds people with others who understand the addiction struggle on an intimate level. There are no grudges held or disdain in the eyes of people within this place. In a matter of weeks, rehab can become a new home, where people in treatment feel welcomed and wanted.

And then the day comes when they must leave their cozy new nest, bound for the old, chaotic home left behind in a substance-fueled haze. Who wouldn’t be scared? People, places and events associated with drug use are often the cues and triggers to relapse.

Welcome Home

While individuals may be free from drugs and alcohol for the first time in months or even years, they are now responsible for their own choices. Temptation and triggers lurk around every corner. They might live with a spouse or family member who drinks or keeps painkillers in the house. Perhaps their family isn’t supportive of their efforts and doubts their sobriety.

In public and social settings, many of the same dangers await. Individuals may run into old friends who expect them to start using again now that they are out of rehab. Coworkers may expect individuals to nonchalantly attend office parties, where alcohol is served. Stressful people or events can throw people for a loop and trigger intense urges to escape. According to research from Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology, stress has been long implicated in relapse to drug abuse. Even driving by liquor stores or corner markets where individuals used to meet drug dealers can send their heads spinning. It’s certainly a fair statement to say that the hard work begins after leaving rehab.

The time spent in rehab is all about preparation. The preparation for the life that awaits once home and how to navigate that world without drugs or alcohol. At Recovery Brands, we’re highlighting individuals as they fight to remain clean post-treatment through our site, We sat down with four people in the early stages of recovery, and though their journeys are each uniquely different, they’re all determined to beat the odds and not fall victim to the horrors of sobriety. Here’s a look at their stories:

Amy Jo

“I was 14 when I started drinking, which quickly led to things like smoking pot and dabbling in cocaine. Once I tried crack, I was instantly hooked and in love. How strange is that? I was in love with a drug. I hate even thinking about those days, to be honest with you.

Individuals who are more nervous about falling back into similar environments and old friends are more likely to relapse during recovery. My life spiraled out of control until one day I found myself in jail for stealing cars with my then-boyfriend. Since I’d never been in trouble, the judge ordered that I go to a 90-day rehab program and remain on probation for five years.



After I stopped fighting the process, rehab was a great place for me. I learned a lot about why I started using drugs in the first place and I learned how to utilize coping skills in the “real world.” When my time in rehab was almost up, I really started to panic. I didn’t know what I would do to make money, where I’d live or if my daughter would remember me. My anxiety levels were through the roof.

Right now I’m living with my ex-husband’s parents – strange situation to say the least, but I get to see my daughter three times a week and every other weekend. I’m having a hard time finding a job because I’m officially a convicted felon, so that’s though. I’ve had to cut out all those old ‘friends’ I used crack with – I already know I’m not strong enough to be in that kind of environment. None of them were ever really my friends, anyway.

The one thing I’m struggling with is feeling isolated. My family members don’t really talk to me anymore – I don’t think any of them believe I’m actually clean and sober. I’ve started going to meetings once a week and that really seems to help. It’s nice to talk openly about what I’m going through without the fear of being judged. I’m taking things one day at a time.”


“I made my way to rehab thanks to two major injuries I got while serving in Iraq. The pain medication I was taking round-the-clock morphed into one hell of an addiction. I nearly lost my life when I overdosed.

I did three months in an intensive rehab program. The facility was nicer than any house I’d ever been in and the people were amazing. I made some life-long friends in that place – most of them were vets like me. I don’t think any of us wanted to leave when our time was up.

Once I got home, reality hit me like a ton of bricks. I had a stack of overdue bills like you wouldn’t believe, my house was a wreck and littered with empty pill bottles, there were blackened spoons and needles on my kitchen table – everything was exactly the way I left it the night I overdosed. Seeing how I’d been living was too much for me to handle; I could feel my depression coming on like a freight train.

Instead of staying there, calling my old dealer and getting high, I picked up the phone and called my mom. She told me to come stay with her – that we’d figure it out together. That woman’s a saint and she’s never given up on me, even though I’ve given her plenty of reasons to. Together, we decided it’d be best if I went to live in a transitional facility – I call it a halfway house [laughs] – where I could get some more help with learning to live on my own. I already had the tools to navigate life outside rehab, I was just scared and confused about how to put turn those tools into actions. Best decision I ever made.

Today, I’m managing my chronic pain with a couple different non-narcotic medications and acupuncture. Don’t get me wrong; I’m still in a lot of pain, but I can’t go back to taking OxyContin again. If I did that, I know exactly where it would lead me. With my injuries, I can’t work… so they consider me disabled, I guess. My depression is getting better, but I still have to manage it with therapy and medication. This road will be a long one, but it’s better than having no road to travel at all.”


“My sister, Kelli, and I spent two years shooting heroin into each other’s veins. When I lost my scholarship to play soccer — along with the respect of all my teammates — I knew I had to get some help. I checked myself into a rehab center that took my health insurance and just hoped for the best.

I spent three months working on my issues and thought I had a good grasp of how to navigate the world without heroin. I felt like I could conquer the world in the days leading up to my graduation from the program. If I’d only known…

When I moved back in with my family, I quickly realized Kelli was still using. And once I learned she’d added meth to her regimen, I told my parents. They just ignored the situation, like they’ve always done. I hate them for standing by, watching both of their daughters kill themselves all these years. They’ve never bothered to step in or try to save us…not once.

I’ve tried my best to either avoid Kelli or encourage her to get help. With so much of my time focused on her, I’ve neglected to take care of myself. I haven’t been to a meeting in two months now and I don’t feel like I have anyone who supports my sobriety. The really sad thing is that I’ve started drinking a glass of wine at night just to calm my nerves — a really big glass of wine. This is the road I prepared to avoid and I know I have to take action before things get worse.

I’ve made up my mind to move in with my grandparents. They live six hours away and they totally support my recovery. I’ve already found a new therapist and have a list of all the AA/NA meetings in the area. I’m scared, but I’m ready. It’ll be hard starting all over again in a strange city, but it’s my best hope for survival. I can’t depend on anyone else to do this for me; I have to do it myself…and I’ll be damned if I let anything stop me.”


“My drug use began with my mom. We started drinking together when I was 16; that led to us smoking pot by the time I was 17 and snorting coke before I got out of high school. When I turned 23, my mom died from an overdose — I’m the one who found her body.

Losing my mom only made me worse. I escaped my pain by crawling into the bottom of a whiskey bottle every night and topped it off with a handful of Xanax. This went on for months…until I overdosed and my son found me unconscious, lying on the living room floor covered in vomit and barely breathing. I was repeating the cycle with a vengeance.



I didn’t want to turn my son’s life into the life I’d experienced when I was younger, so I went into a short-term rehab program. Looking back, the only reason I went was to relive my own guilt. I did what I had to do to complete the program, told everyone how much better I felt, spoke the “rehab” terminology I thought they wanted to hear…fake it until you make it, right?

I got home and everyone thought I was cured — like the month I’d been “away” somehow magically erased all my problems. I didn’t want to let anyone down, so I hid my demons well. I played ‘sober Deenie’ and muddled through life. 

Six months ago, I fixed lunch for my son and, when he sat down at the kitchen table, he looked at me real serious all the sudden. Out of the blue, he said, “Mom, I’m so proud of you,” and immediately went back to eating his sandwich, happy and innocent like the sweet angel he is. In that moment, I couldn’t do it anymore — I couldn’t keep up the façade.

My old rehab therapist had kept in touch with me since my time in treatment and she always said, “We’re here if you ever need anything.” I put that statement to the test. I called her up and spilled my guts…told her everything. I decided long-term treatment was what I needed, and this time, I was ready.

I spent a total of five months in treatment and rebuilt myself — from the bottom up. I see a therapist three times a week and attend daily online 12-step meetings — sometimes, when I really need it, I get greedy and attend two or three online meetings a day. It really hurt my family when I admitted I’d been hiding my alcohol and pill use; we’re working to mend those fences and establish trust again. I’ve got a lot of fence-mending to do, to tell you the truth…but this time, I’m doing the mending with a clear head and a sober heart.

Have you or a loved one been battling the horrors of sobriety? Share your story with us by using #RBRecoveryMonth on social media or by leaving a comment below.

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