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My Journey From Alcoholism to 1 Year Into Sobriety and Better Mental Health

“Being sober or being ‘okay’ isn’t about becoming perfect. A lot of people expect to look better or earn more or fall in love and so on. Sure, it can happen – but those are not pillars to build yourself on, because they can fade. You need to do an inventory with yourself or a therapist, look into who you are that brings you such shame or guilt, and start confronting that.”

Hello! Who are you?

My name is Jonathan. I currently live in Israel. I am unemployed, but constantly look for a job that I might be able to maintain despite my difficulties.

I have a dog and a cat. Both weren’t really mine initially, but I have a tendency to take in animals.

I’m very passionate about creativity – as a consumer of music, films, books, visual art, and also as a creator. For most of my life, I didn’t allow myself the title of ‘creator’ as I deemed myself not good enough, but I try to shift that stiff perspective.

I wouldn’t consider myself happy, but I do have moments of happiness, and I try to allow myself to immerse as much as I can in them, instead of rejecting the feeling when it comes.

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What is your struggle and when did it start?

Clinical depression, anxiety, CPTSD, and Binge Eating Disorder. I coped by self-medicating with alcohol and pills, and so for a few years, the problem was alcoholism. When I got sober, I became obsessed with food.

Food was always an underlying issue, though. I only found my fondness for alcohol when I was looking for alternatives to eating in my teenage years. 

The obsession over death and dying was always there. The need to disappear, to be forgotten, was always present. Food was a way to have some sense of control inside that chaos, and over the years that struggle presented itself as anorexia, binge eating, purging with exercise, self-harm, and then alcohol and pills (mostly Xanax).

It has been a daily struggle for me and for any person who was around me, who is around me. I was sucking the air out of every room I walked into, and treated others unfairly out of being so blindly obsessed with my own issues.

I lied, cheated, stole, and lied again. To others, to myself. Even people who were taking care of me – therapists, carers at rehabs, other addicts. Lies upon lies, to escape the shame.

How did this struggle make you feel at your worst moments?

I would fantasize about dying and vanishing off the face of the earth. The only problem I could think of was that the memory of my existence would remain after my death – and I couldn’t handle that. 

Happiness wasn’t even in my vocabulary other than a cruel word to describe the opposite of the sheer misery I felt. The misery I still feel, most days.

It was apparent to everyone that I came across. I hated their concern. The pity. Which just drove me further into shame and more using and more shame and so on. 

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Was there a moment when you started to turn things around?

I was drunk on the bathroom floor in a motel in Venice. It was a few weeks after a breakup, I sobered up in those few weeks as I tried to make believe that I can change and that I’m in control.

My mother saw what state I was in, and booked a flight for us to Venice. Just to get me out of that house, for some miracle to happen. 

The second night there, I relapsed and I couldn’t handle it – laying there in a foreign country, wasted and hungry, with my poor mother in the next room who paid the money she didn’t have just to try and make me feel better.

To prevent me from going through with that fantasy of dying in my room. Something broke and I asked for help, for the first time I ASKED instead of being forced into receiving help.

What steps did you take to overcome your struggle?

I’m still very far from overcoming anything, but I have almost a year of sobriety, and I feel proud of that.

I went to rehab, I failed  – and went again. I tried going to groups afterward, wasn’t my thing, so I reached out to specific people that I felt like I could trust, or at least trust enough to be able to share with them and listen when they had something to say. 

I had to stop working out and try to manage my eating for a while. I felt shittier, I looked worse – but I feel like from that came an ability I didn’t have before, which is the ability to have some wiggle room. 

Being sober or being ‘okay’ isn’t about becoming perfect. 

A lot of people expect to look better or earn more or fall in love and so on. Sure, it can happen – but those are not pillars to build yourself on, because they can fade.

You need to do an inventory with yourself or a therapist, look into who you are that brings you such shame or guilt, and start confronting that.

For me, I have to keep reminding myself that things aren’t as big as they seem in the moment. If something goes wrong, my tendency is to balloon it up to enormous proportions and then I get so anxious that I HAVE to use it. 

I think I got lucky in a twisted sense, on that bathroom floor in Venice. I’ve been drunk on floors more times than I can remember  – but that time I felt so crushingly alone that I HAD to try something else.

So it’s 50% luck, 40% determination to not go through withdrawals ever again, and 10% a realization that I never wanted drugs or alcohol or even to look good or eat yummy things. I just wanted to feel at peace.

Now I know where the peace isn’t, so I keep looking, finding glimpses, and then it’s gone again. You have to keep looking, knowing you’ll probably never find it for more than a few moments, and that it’s enough.

Have you shared any of this with people around you in real life?

A bit, some parts.

Honestly, I don’t feel able to share everything with anyone, as I’m still carrying shame around it. I did share some things in rehab, with a close friend, with my current girlfriend. 

I’ve found that it’s easier for me to open up about my alcoholism and pill abuse and not about my eating disorder. Maybe because there’s a weird romanticization of being an alcoholic, whereas food problems lack the glamor. I need to work on that.

I do not feel comfortable sharing with most of my family or people who were my friends, some of them are very religious and some would just not understand and would see it as if I’m saying they are flawed for not being able to understand, which is obviously not my intention when I share.

It’s hard if I try to do it for myself, but for some strange reason, it comes much more easily if I feel it would be for someone else’s benefit. 

It’s a cliff I’ve been living on my whole life, so if I see someone else standing there I feel compelled to share, even if my experiences are embarrassing or painful to me in a bad light (which is fair. I’ve been an arse for a long time).

If you could give a single piece of advice to someone else that struggles, what would that be?

Nothing remains the same. It might look the same or feel the same – but it’s not. We are constantly shifting, inside and out, taking from and giving back to the feedback loop around us.

If you can do something that you deem helpful even just once – it’s a step that already changed you a bit. Every sip you didn’t take counts, every hobby you’ve tried gave you something.

When you fall, embrace it and try to move forward again, as impossible or pointless as it seems. I know I’d hate reading these words, but I had to write them. I hope someday you’ll be able to read them and understand why.

What have been the most influential books, podcasts, YouTube channels, or other resources for you?

I read and listened to whatever I could find, from Gabor Mate to I’m Glad My Mom Died.

But honestly, it’s not about anything that anyone else can say or how much you understand about the mechanisms that move you, It’s about sitting with yourself and trying to be.

Where can we go to learn more about you?

No social media for me.

๐Ÿ’ก By the way: If you want to start feeling better and more productive, I’ve condensed the information of 100’s of our articles into a 10-step mental health cheat sheet here. ๐Ÿ‘‡

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This Cheat Sheet Will Help You Be Happier and More Productive

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Hugo Huijer AuthorLinkedIn Logo

Founder of Tracking Happiness, with over 100 interviews and a focus on practical advice, our content extends beyond happiness tracking. Hailing from the Netherlands, I’m a skateboarding enthusiast, marathon runner, and a dedicated data junkie, tracking my happiness for over a decade.

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