Recently we asked members of the BuzzFeed Community to share their addiction recovery stories with us along with any advice they might have for someone trying to get sober. Here’s what they had to say.
Warning: This post has detailed descriptions of living with addiction.
Do everything you can to the best of your abilities.
“It’s been two and a half years since I stopped using meth. What’s kept me sober is knowing that if I do everything I can to the best of my abilities, I will end up where I need to be. I’ve worked my way up to a manager position at a retail store, bought my first car, reestablished broken relationships, and even though life can be hard even today, I love myself and what I’ve accomplished.”
“I’m just leaving a rehab facility. I graduated today after using drugs for seven years! The greatest lesson I’ve learned is that you have to forgive yourself. Forgive yourself for the guilt you carry for hurting your family and friends. Forgive yourself of the guilt you carry for hurting yourself. Once you forgive and let go, you can start to heal.” —janined400b5fa8b
Lean on your family for support.
“I dropped out of school in ninth grade and did nothing with my life. But then at 21, I had what I guess you could call an epiphany. I took a hammer to my paraphernalia and never looked back. I’ve been clean for over three years now. I’m not perfect and I’ve slipped up a couple times, but I will never put myself or my family through that again. I went back to school, got a good job, my own place and finally started my life. If it wasn’t for my family, I wouldn’t still be here today.”
Create a calendar of things to do for yourself and others every day.
“During my senior year of college, I began experiencing the severity of my alcoholism while trying to cope with my anxiety. One morning after a blackout, I called my mother and told her I needed to come home. She and my family began to think of ways to help me change my habits and get me clean. We created a calendar for every day of the year detailing four different things I would do. Like this:
1.) Write one thing to do every day to help someone else: Go feed the homeless, pay for a stranger’s coffee, bake cookies for the neighbors, or volunteer.
2.) Do one thing for yourself: Take a bath, write positive notes on your bathroom wall, get your nails done, or meditate.
3.) Remind yourself what you’re grateful for: Your home, your family, your pets, everything.
4.) Remind yourself of the nastiness your addiction brought upon your life: Don’t push away the times you spent drinking/using, but acknowledge them as they did happen, but they’re a part of the past now.
This may not seem like much, but writing down these four things and changing them daily kept me on track and taught me to love myself. I could rip off that day at the end of the night proud. I got myself out of my hole, and not only helped myself, but helped other people. I’ve been doing this for 498 days now and have never once wanted another drink.” —amandam488bc54b9
Get sober for yourself.
“I finally realized that I had to get sober for myself. Not for my boyfriend. Not for my parents. Not for my job. Not for anyone else. But for me. I had to love myself just enough to believe that I was worth getting clean, and that life was worth living. Lots of 12-step meetings and yoga got me through the toughest parts, and today I have managed to string together almost five years of continuous sobriety.” —susiem49e791239
“When I finally got put on medication for my depression and anxiety, my doctor told me I needed to quit drinking that day. I quit cold turkey and I haven’t looked back. I used to use alcohol as a crutch in social or stressful situations, but now I feel like I can actually be present.” —amandas4b7419ec2
Get involved on your campus and/or in your community.
“When I was a freshman in college, the stress and anxiety was beyond anything I’d ever felt before. I drank everyday for a couple weeks, went out on weekends, and did a lot of stupid things. I was done throwing up every weekend and blacking out. Finally, I went to my friends for help and support. I started going to one of the Christian organizations on campus and I’m about to start counseling for all the underlying issues. God is good, y’all!” —kaitlinp43a502972
Listen to other recovering addicts’ stories and advice.
“I started drinking heavily after I left a very toxic and abusive relationship. At first, I rationalized my drinking because it stopped the nightmares. I surrounded myself with people who were horrible enablers who reasoned that ‘you always had a reason to drink.’
Over the course of nearly a decade, I was an alcoholic, adrift in a sea of self-loathing and in yet another toxic relationship. I felt like this was my life, and it wouldn’t matter if I didn’t wake up the next morning after another binge. I tried therapy, I tried quitting, but nothing worked and I inevitably found myself with another bottle and more problems. Then my family staged an intervention.
That same day, I found myself at an Alcoholics Anonymous meeting and heard the same story — my story — just with little twists here and there. I sobered up, broke off from that other toxic relationship and surrounded myself with support. Now, I’m engaged to a wonderful man who supports my continued recovery, healthier and happier than I ever was when I was drinking, and I’ll have three years of sobriety in June.” —hordeoralliancewtf
Consider medication and therapy.
“I abused opiates for over ten years. I had tried, unsuccessfully, to get clean on my own, and so I eventually ended up in an outpatient treatment program where I got prescribed suboxone. It saved my life. The suboxone is only about 10% of the reason I got clean though, as the groups and individual therapy are what really helped me. I know medication-assisted treatment isn’t very popular socially, but it worked for me. I will have five years clean in August.” —jennas424e3aed1
Find a support system within the recovery community.
“I started drinking and using drugs when I was 12. By the time I was18, I had people offering to take me to 12-step meetings. Then at 20, I woke up in an ER having nearly lost my life. Two cops stood over me and told me that I’d be facing felony possession charges. I really didn’t want to serve time and I knew that if I kept going the way I was going, I’d die.
Instead, I walked into a 12-step meeting. I jumped into recovery with both feet and did everything people told me: I got a sponsor, completed my steps, and found ways to serve in the recovery community. I had honestly never felt so at home as I did when I was around other people in recovery.
Now 17 years sober, I work as a drug and alcohol counselor in the homeless community. I’m so grateful that I was willing to seek and accept the help I needed. I love my life today, and I’m glad I didn’t have to die young and become a statistic.” —nanoregi
Find hobbies and activities that are fun to do sober.
“I have been in recovery for almost seven years. I first got sober at 23 after a black out led me to crash my parents’ car. I knew someone else who was also in recovery, and they took me to my first Alcoholics Anonymous meeting. I also started going to a therapist who told me that I needed to go to their outpatient program. It really saved my life. It gave me structure, introduced me to meetings, drug-tested me, and gave me a counselor who met with me every Friday.
However, I relapsed after about ten months and went back two days before my 24th birthday. After my second stay, I have stuck with AA and now have almost six years sober! It was hard getting sober so young — especially since it’s hard to stay away from the temptation of bars and clubs — but a lot of AA areas have young people’s groups. I got in with the people my age, started doing fun sober things, and made long lasting connections with real people. Getting sober is a struggle, but you’re worth it. My name is Caitlin and I’m an alcoholic.” —cjamarillas
Get rid of negative influences.
“Two pink lines on a dollar store test. Obviously I wouldn’t recommend getting pregnant just to get sober, but you have to be willing to change your entire life. You have to get rid of negative influences — whether they’re people, places, what have you — and be prepared to analyze some difficult parts of yourself. My daughters are definitely the greatest motivation I have.” —courtneyadamstaft
Attend meetings and bond with your sponsor.
“I got sober a little over 18 years ago. Friends and family had attempted interventions, but those had no effect. I would ‘try’ to only have three drinks, but that never worked. Then when I was 24, I totaled my car after drinking myself into a blackout. I was arrested and eventually put on probation. In that moment, I decided I had two options: I could end my life, or get sober.
I started going to AA meetings. Attending meetings, getting a sponsor, and doing the steps have helped keep me sober for over 18 years now. While I don’t go to meetings anymore, my sobriety is still incredibly important to me. I know I am powerless over alcohol and my addiction, but I’m open about my recovery with friends and colleagues and I share my experience, strength, and hope.” —saraaurentzd
Take up a new physical activity.
“Competitive outrigger canoe paddling saved my life. I’d tried getting sober at 25 through three different stints in inpatient and countless hours in AA meetings. While I did learn things in those programs, my biggest change actually happened when I struck up a conversation with a woman who had just joined an outrigger paddling team. I contacted the team the following day and was out on the water that evening. I was in love immediately.
I wasn’t good at it at all, but I wanted to be good. I knew I couldn’t do it drunk or hungover with the sport being so physically demanding and having a crew of people relying on you to give your best. So, all that spring and summer I paddled and stayed sober. I did get pretty okay at it. I made a lot of friends and learned a lot about myself. It was a wonderful feeling to not be sick, frequently embarrassed, or constantly irate. I liked those feelings more than I ever liked being drunk.
I used to drink to escape my problems. But, I was just creating larger problems for myself. What helped me escape my problems was accomplishing things greater than them.
I was nervous when the season ended. I didn’t have a strategy to avoid drinking. But having enough sober time behind me, I had seen how much easier life was without booze so it made the decision to not drink easier.
A year later, paddle season has started again. I’m still sober. I don’t feel bad it took me nine years of ‘failures’ to get here. I’m stronger, healthier, and happier than I’ve ever been. I still have problems, but they seem easier to face with clear head.” —wilsonklh
Hang on to the friends who are supportive of your recovery.
“After my long-term abusive relationship ended, my drug addition was at its worst. I ended up having a complete mental breakdown and landed in a local mental hospital. There, I detoxed for about a week and was sent home with a referral to an outpatient rehab. This was great, however, what I think really saved me was making the hard decision to cut out toxic friends. I changed my phone number, deleted my contacts, and never looked back. The few friends I’ve kept are an amazing support system. I’ve been clean almost seven years now and don’t regret a thing.” —sarag490d48a6f
Revamp your lifestyle.
“By the time I was 18, I had a full-blown opiate addiction. I started with pills, and within eight short months, I was using heroin. By 20, I was on methadone, drinking daily, and using opiates. I was completely alone, scared, and had no where else to turn.
My parents told me they couldn’t watch me slowly die anymore. They offered me treatment in Southern California. In a moment of desperation, I accepted their offer. This type of treatment gave me the important foundation that a young person like me with zero life skills needed. It also introduced me to Alcoholics Anonymous, where I was able to find a supportive recovery community. Those 12-steps transformed my character. Not only did they keep be abstinent from drugs and alcohol, but they gave me a design for living. Because of AA, I’ve found my greater purpose of service. I know that whatever I have been through in my life has placed me in a position to uniquely help the next person who suffers.
Addiction is a disease. It is not a moral failing. There is already so much shame and secrecy involved with addiction and its ripple effect. Those who are suffering deserve an empathetic society who will reach out their hand, instead of punishing. We deserve treatment, not incarceration. We need help, not dishonor. I will not continue to watch people dying from this disease.” —ebarbour
Take it one day at a time.
“About three years ago, I became addicted to crystal meth. I was in my last year of college, and I was struggling with accepting the fact that I was gay and had recently been diagnosed as HIV. Using crystal meth made me feel accepted up until I hit rock bottom. At that point, I had lost a lot of my friends, had no communication with my family, I was about to be evicted from my apartment, I was in tons of debt, and had no money left. That’s when made the call to my parents and admitted that I needed to get help. I ended up going to rehab.
I’m currently a little more than six months sober. I attend Crystal Meth Anonymous meetings several times a week, I have a sponsor I work with and a support group that understands ME. In my recovery process, I’ve been able to truly rediscover myself, how to love myself, and that life is amazing once you live it right. As the cliché as it sounds, ‘one day at a time’ really is best motto for any addict.“
Remember that you’re not alone.
“I attended my very first AA meeting last night, not as a member, but at the invitation of one of my best friends who is celebrating her two-year ‘birthday.’ In our 20-year friendship, this is the happiest I have ever seen her.
Since we’ve known each other, she’s battled mental illness, self-medicating with sex, alcohol, drugs, anorexia, and things like shoplifting to feel powerful and in control. Somehow, she still managed to hide her addictions from everyone until she hit bottom and decided to go to rehab.
She joined AA with a vengeance, and I haven’t a single doubt that working those steps saved her life. Listening to her speak last night, I cried like a baby. I’m so proud of her and so thankful to the AA and recovery community for convincing my friend she needed help when no one else could. The support from her community has been unwavering. It’s incredible. I even saw someone pick up their very first medallion last night, the one that says you have a desire to quit.
To everyone out there struggling, you are not alone. Find your people, love yourself, you are worth it!” —maggiem45481cd39
If you or someone you love is struggling with an addiction, here are some resources that might be of help:
Find an Alcoholics Anonymous meeting group near you here.
Talk to a representative from the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) on their free, confidential, 24/7 national helpline by calling 1-800-662-HELP.
Or if you or someone you love is having suicidal thoughts, call or visit the Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255.