I remember the first time I tried alcohol. I wanted to play grown up. I was nine years old…

I remember drinking alcohol the very first time. Me and my cousin stole some beer from our parents and we drank it. We didn’t know what we were doing, we just wanted to see what it was all about and to play grown up. I remember getting an uncomfortable feeling in my stomach and head. That incident happened New Years Eve when I was nine years old. The next day, I learned what it felt like to have a hangover.

I didn’t drink again until I was about 12 years old. It was springtime, a friend and I were just hanging out together one evening and I am not even sure how the subject came up but we decided we wanted to drink so we got a bottle of wine. We drank the whole bottle. My friend got sick but I had a completely different experience; I was feeling wonderful. All of my worries and cares vanished with every drop. The next day, I didn’t even have a hangover. I remember thinking to myself that I wanted to do it again.

Fast forward to when I was sixteen, I started using alcohol weekly, seeking that carefree feeling that I couldn’t find elsewhere. I was slowly learning to alter my mood with alcohol. I was determined to make this a normal occurrence and as often as possible, always on the weekend and then seeking it also during the week.

By the time I reached 18 years old, I was drinking almost daily. I didn’t realize it at the time but I needed alcohol in order to cope with school, work, relationships…everything. My drinking became my only source of fun and happiness, or so I thought.

One night at a party, everyone was leaving, I wanted the party to go on into the night, I didn’t want to stop. At this point, I could drink excessive amounts of alcohol, yet felt less effect. I had to consume more and more to reach that state of euphoria. Looking back, that was the first of many warning signs that using mind-altering substances was different for me in comparison with others.

I continued drinking and around my early-20’s, I began trying to cut back. I would try to limit the amount of alcohol or limit how many days of the week I would allow myself to drink. I would start out with honest intentions but I always returned to drinking, more and more as time went by, and with regular frequency. This went on for several years, then a friend introduced me to the Palmer Drug Abuse Program (PDAP, now called Rise Recovery).

At first I was skeptical, but I held on due to the optimism, love and understanding that welcomed me at every group meeting, every weekly get together. Surrounding myself with a group of peers who had previously struggled with substance use themselves and now were on their own path to recovery, showed me that life without the ball and chain of substance use is true freedom. I finally found my road to recovery, living a new way by finding authentic happiness in me and those I chose to surround myself with, who understood and respected me. Today, I am 32 years sober. – Signed, a PDAP’er.