Tristan Sophia is 25 years Sober, has a Doctorate in Psychology and is board certified in Life Coaching. Below is her incredible account with Recovery.
I was born a girl and an alcoholic.
By the time I was 5, I was full of self-doubt and thought I didn’t fit in with the human race.
I learned to escape my insecure feelings by eating sugar – cookies and candy – “the more, the better” became my mantra.
By the time I was 13, I replaced sugar with any alcohol I could get my hands on.
I started drinking in the morning at 14 and became adept at living a double life. I was a dancer in a ballet company and a cheerleader; I also got straight A’s, but I was drinking to the point of blacking out and passing out almost every single day. For 13 years.
Over those years, I repeatedly compromised my integrity and missed learning those essential social skills that non-alcoholic teens were acquiring. I regularly put myself in high-risk situations (although never had anything super seriously – physically – harmful happen to me).
I drank so much at times my body hurt the next day. Like on the inside. It felt like my bones had been poisoned. There were times I had to crawl to the bathroom in the morning – not because I was nauseous but because my entire body screamed in pain from the inside out.
At 15, I realized something was deeply wrong with me after seeing a TV show on teenage suicide. I literally didn’t know until then that I felt exactly like the two actors who killed themselves.
I felt ashamed for feeling that way, but I didn’t know what to do…so I kept powering on.
That was my motto – present a façade of success to the world, but still get drunk every day. (whaat?)
Power On Through: No matter what, do not stop and try and figure out what the hell is going on and don’t ask for help because you can’t trust anyone.
My drinking wasn’t pretty (although I’ve heard much worse). I got in fist fights with best friends, acquaintances, and strangers – male and female. I had sex with guys I thought liked me (ugh). I drank and drove thousands of times; I got a couple tickets for minor in possession but never got a DUI (came close several times).
(To any non-alcoholics reading this – yes, I know, drinking and driving is horrible. I was an idiot. While I’m not proud of anything I did while drinking, I’m also not ashamed. I know the venom people feel towards drunk drivers – I feel it myself! Even though I’m in recovery I can feel intense hatred toward people who hurt or kill others when driving drunk. There but for the grace of God go I. I contemplated leaving out my drinking and driving in here, but it’s part of my story and maybe it’ll encourage someone reading this to get help.)
I didn’t know who I was when I started drinking and became an empty shell of a person over the 13 years that I drank. I didn’t want to be who I was.
I wanted to be a good person, and I had dreams of being incredibly successful.
But life was painful for me, and I thought I couldn’t survive without alcohol.
After graduating college with a B- GPA – worse than my straight A’s in high school – I worked at a group home for emotionally disturbed adolescent girls for a few years. The only difference between me and them was our chronological age. I hated myself.
My drinking intensified after I started graduate school for a master’s in psychology. I was living alone by that time and would return home from school at about 10 pm and drink til I passed out at 4 am. I tried hard to not drink on Sunday nights to let my body recover a little bit but usually failed at that goal.
I got straight A’s in my master’s program. I loved what I was learning and wanted to do well. But drinking remained my main priority. There’s a joke that goes “If I could drink normally, I’d drink all the time.” Yep, that’s me.
I always knew I drank more than everyone I knew, including my guy friends, but I didn’t know I was an alcoholic. To me, an alcoholic was a homeless man, wearing a trench coat, drinking out of a bottle in a paper bag, and lying on the sidewalk begging for change.
I hit my bottom on September 4, 1993. I can’t explain what happened because I was in a black out, but apparently, I physically attacked my boyfriend, whom I adored.
The next day I was dangerously suicidal. My boyfriend was fed up with me and my drinking. I knew he was going to leave me.
My entire life changed over the span of 8 hours – I came to see I was an alcoholic. By the afternoon, I’d poured out all my bottles – I’d never done that before! I’d never said I was going to quit drinking; alcohol was my savior.
But I felt differently now…I knew I was done drinking. I was sick and tired of being sick and tired.
That would have been the perfect day to drink, right? Depressed, suicidal, my boyfriend hated me, his friends hated me…but, curiously, I didn’t want to drink.
In fact, I never wanted to drink again. I learned later that God had removed my desire to drink. Crazy, right? Not so much.
While I was amazed that I wasn’t opening up a bottle, I also couldn’t stop thinking about wanting to die. I didn’t know if I should shoot myself in my mouth or my temple.
I reached out for real help for the first time in my life.
Without thinking, I rose from my bed, walked downstairs, and opened the phonebook. (I now know that was my guardian angel – it was my “crucial day”).
Literally, the first page I opened to said, “Turning Point Crisis Center.” I dialed the number. They had an opening tomorrow. I called my boyfriend and asked him to drive me there, and he dropped me off the next morning.
I was given the gift of seeing reality and realized I needed to save not only my life but my sanity.
My blinders were removed. The way I describe it now is that I became ready, so my teacher appeared.
Because of my drinking amounts and frequency, the counselors told me I needed a recovery home, but I desperately wanted to be in the real world and experience life sober for once.
It had “only” been 13 years, but my drinking years felt like forever to me.
I stayed at the crisis center 8 days then went back to the apartment I shared with a friend. The next day, a fellow crisis center resident who left the day I did took me to a 12-step meeting. That meeting became my home group and those people became my lifelines.
The meeting leader that day was an Irish man, and he called on me to speak (thank you, God). I’d already removed my mask and was willing to be open and honest.
I admitted that I was newly sober and was scared. That’s it. At the end of the meeting there was a line of women going out the door waiting to talk to me, hug me, and give me their phone number. They said, “Welcome home.” I knew I’d arrived home.
I got a sponsor and worked the steps as if my life depended on it, which it did of course. I immersed myself in that 12-step program, and it not only gave me a whole new life, I also came to believe in a higher power.
I was struck sober like Bill W. I’ve never faltered. I know if I drink again, I will die. I grabbed onto my 12-step program and the people in it and never looked back.
I returned to school and got my doctorate in psychology. I’ve been in therapy on five separate occasions and submerged myself in a sister 12-step program over the last several years, enhancing my sobriety.
I’ve met the most incredible people on my recovery journey – people who would do anything for me and people who love me for who I am. I’m beyond grateful God saved my life and then offered me a new one.
Emotional sobriety has never been a cakewalk for me but living as a drunk who pretended she wasn’t was hell on earth. “My worst sober day is better than my best day drunk.”
Even with its ups and downs, my life continues to get better and better. And the miracles keep occurring.
If you’ve made it this far in my story, I’ll assume you don’t mind some unsolicited advice (whether or not you’re in recovery) ~ these are my life lessons: give up thinking your struggles are unique, find your home peeps, and find a power greater than yourself you can believe in. Simple but not easy.
What saved me all these years (I celebrated 25 years in recovery in 2018) was being honest, open-minded, and willing.
Be open to changing everything you think you know.
I love the definition of a miracle – nothing has changed but everything is different. This has happened to me regularly since 1993.
It can happen for you too.
To connect with Tristan