Going To College Sober

It all felt so normal, second-nature, and routine—like folding laundry. I had this problem called life, and it was killing me, but I had this solution called inebriation, and it worked.

It worked so well at first, that when it turned on me, I didn’t notice it subtly rob me of all control; I couldn’t see that it was killing me too. Life moved forward, as it does. People and places came and went. Possessions, friends, family, morals, and sanity had long since been lost. Naturally, there was one constant, the alcohol and drugs. There were these moments I would have: moments of resolve, moments of a voluntary tour in treatment, moments of improvement. They were just that though, moments.

At some point, that moment would end. I wouldn’t show. I’d disappear claiming to be sick (oh, how sick I was). The universe was reduced to my next drink, my next hit, and my next line. Then came this one moment, unlike any of the others, shortly before everything changed: I sat there and sobbed. I sobbed until my belly ached, until my face was hot and red, until I could barely breathe — pleading to go home. I cried for help and slid to the ground; I cried until I choked. Curled up, I held my knees close, thinking of all that never was, and all that could have been. Like the first pair of glasses, I saw myself, the situation I was in, with clarity I had not known before. Save for a select few, I saw that I had fashioned all of my problems. You were never the genesis of them, it had always been me. I saw with a painful lucidity the person I had become: the liar, the degenerate, the victim, the shell of a human. I saw that although I had created this mess, I couldn’t solve it, just as much as I couldn’t solve my alcohol and drug problem. I had gained a different perspective, I started to grasp the reality of my situation. Unfortunately, it wasn’t sturdy enough to stay sober on for long; however, it was sturdy enough to prop open my window of opportunity, holding it until my time came to jump through. The 17th of July in 2013 was my first day — and I don’t just mean sober. I gave up on the morning of the 17th. I just let go. I spent that day, and the next twenty-nine in a rehab in the mountains of Santa Cruz. It was an overwhelming, stressful blur. There were countless process groups, therapy sessions, and meetings, but I listened. I listened to what others had to say and I listened when my counsellor told me I needed a sober living. The Last House was the name, as in, the last sober-living house one needs to go to, but that’s not why I found myself there. To be entirely truthful, I was standing on their doorstep that Sunday in mid-August, because my counsellor thought the owner was cute, so she called him. And there I was, bags in hand, on the doorstep, my dad, somewhere behind me, watching—waiting for my next move. I knocked. I knew I couldn’t solve my alcohol and drug problem, and I knew I couldn’t survive long if I turned back, for existing with or without the alcohol and the drugs had become unbearable. I was caught in a conundrum when the door to The Last House swung open and I walked in. I would have been ecstatic with ‘okay’. I would have happy with ‘not miserable’. Anything but this constant wanting to die, it would have been a success. I didn’t think I could set the bar any higher. I didn’t think I deserved it to be any higher. I had given up hope of happiness. Having a dream was a waste of time and an inevitable disappointment. And so it goes…I grew, painfully, that year in the house. Bit by bit, I learned to live. I began to feel, see, and grow fully and I watched with my very eyes the person I was always meant to be materialise in the reflection of that bathroom mirror. Life became bigger as I grew up. With The Last House and the Twelve-Step Recovery process, I was transformed. The person I was no longer resided within me, and with that, it was time to move back into the world, and so I did. I have been brought to me knees, humbled several times, had to reground and recommit myself, changed in even more profound ways, discovered passions, chased dreams and then dreamed bigger. And even in the worst of times, it’s still a miracle that I’m even here, in college sober and breathing. It’s a strange sensation when you wake up in a dream that’s been realised.

I live a world away, an entire person away, a whole way of living away from where my story began. Life brought to me the opportunity to continue my studies in Paris, and I jumped.

I’m far away from the Last House, the Twelve-Step program, and the community in which I got sober. When I was told that the tools I was being given were portable, when I was told that this design for living works and it works anywhere, I was told the truth —

I tested it.


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