Q: At which facility did you receive treatment? A: Hazelden in Chicago Q: What is your sobriety date? A: July 23, 2015 Q: Please tell us what it was like, what happened, and what is it like now. A: "What it was like" was terrible. I had the spiritual malady long before I ever took my first drink. As a child, I remember wishing for happiness while blowing out the candles on my birthday cake. Sugar was my "fix" decades before I ever drank. When I discovered liquor around the age of 16, I found the effect produced by alcohol was bigger, faster and stronger than anything I ever used to soothe myself before. The first time I ever drank, I gave myself alcohol poisoning and needed to be rushed to the hospital. The doctors told me the next day that I had enough in my system to intoxicate myself as well as three grown men. Even though my hangover lasted more than two days, I couldn't wait to drink again. I tried to control my drinking for the first time when I was 21. I attended Twelve Step meetings and worked with a sponsor for 30 days before deciding I was not really an alcoholic and returned to drinking. Many years later, after becoming a parent and knowing I needed to stop drinking, the seed that had been planted took root, and I returned to meetings. I had stayed dry during my pregnancy and for a year after during breastfeeding, but once the phenomenon of craving was introduced, I was horrified to see how my disease had progressed. I joined Twelve Step meetings once again, started working with a sponsor and threw myself into fellowship. After many years passed, I found myself in the danger zone of apathy. My life was too busy for my program. I stopped calling my sponsor, stopped going to meetings and stopped reaching out to other alcoholics. When a terrible life event happened, I had no tools to cope—so I drank. It took more courage than I had left in me to go back to meetings. I was too ashamed, too broken and utterly hopeless. Through a psychologist, I was referred to Hazelden in Chicago. After one day in treatment, it was recommended I utilize the sober living. Leaving my child was heartbreaking. I told her I was "going to a summer camp for feelings so Mommy wouldn't yell so much anymore." I was crying constantly my first 30 days, convinced I was the worst mother in the world. But Hazelden saved my life: physically, spiritually and emotionally. Sober living is the best decision I have ever made. "What it is like now" is not perfect. I have a sponsor, work with sponsees, and work the Steps to the best of my ability. It tells us in the Big Book, "Don't give up until the miracle happens." That is different for everyone; my miracle is that I have lost the soul-crushing despair that ruled my life while drinking. No, I have not yet been rocketed into the fourth dimension, nor have all the Ninth Step promises come true. But I have something you cannot buy in the store: I have hope. I can live a life filled with purpose and joy. Q: When did you realize you needed help? What led you to treatment? A: I realized I needed help after speaking with a psychologist. I had multiple years of sobriety in the past through a Twelve Step program and a sponsor, but after drinking again, I knew I needed more support. Q: What was the toughest aspect of quitting for you? A: The toughest aspect of quitting for me was the need to handle overwhelming feelings in a new way. Before, I had put down the bottle and picked up the fork—whenever I could not handle life on life's terms, I comforted myself with food. Now I have the tools to ease the overwhelming feelings as they come up. My tools take longer to work, and I need to keep in mind that instant gratification is not something that helps in the long run. Q: What is the best thing about being sober? A: The best part of being sober is the fact that I can now live life in the present moment. Some moments are up and some are down, but I don't need to "numb out" anymore. Hazelden taught me I can ask for help when I need it. I have a fellowship of people around me who care about my recovery. I don't have to be scared to be human anymore. I can make mistakes and be my authentic self. My recovery is still a work in progress, but the hope is there for me to take. Q: Do you have a favorite recovery phrase or slogan? A: My favorite slogan is, "Don't drink, don't think, call your sponsor." Q: What do you find inspiring in recovery? A: The last thing I would like to include is the importance of being involved in a Twelve Step program, following the Big Book and working the Steps. Meetings and fellowship are what motivate me to stay on the path. I build fellowship into my week because I need to have people around me who not only understand what I am going through, but who can help me change my perception. I have a thinking problem, and the people in meetings help me to see when I am falling back into old behavior—and when I can use the program principles in all my affairs. My friends save my life every day by helping me, and I save my own life by helping others. Any time I spend talking or working with someone else is time I am not thinking about my own problems. If you are new, please know that when people tell you to stick with the winners, they are encouraging you to find people who have the type of sobriety you want and do the things they do (meetings, service work, fellowship) to get the results they have. Q: Does physical fitness play a part in your recovery today? If so, in what way? A: Physical fitness is an important part of recovery. I believe my body can distract my mind when I have overwhelming urges. Walking is my favorite exercise, and I even tell my sponsees to walk during crisis. I call it, "getting the ants out of your pants." When I mindfully connect my feet to the ground and focus on my breathing, it helps me ground my emotions.