Life After Rehab… Nine Years Later

Happy family
Photo by A&J Fotos/

This time nine years ago, my entire life was a complete mess. I was drinking every night and smoking weed every morning on my way to work. I had an interlock device in my car due to a DUI I had received a few years back. I worked at a dead-end job and lived at home with my parents. I was working on paying off $12,000 in restitution from a criminal charge I caught while I was blackout drunk. To say things were horrible would be an understatement.

I kept trying to control my drinking but was never able to do so. The practice of moderation just wasn’t something I could seem to get my head around. I tried and tried and failed over and over again. I surrounded myself with other people who drank too much to feel better about my drinking problem. It’s a lot easier to keep living the life of an alcoholic when other alcoholics surround you. It isn’t healthy by any means; it’s just another destructive coping mechanism of living the addiction lifestyle.

I’ll never forget the day I walked into an intervention after another horrifying night of drinking. This particular drunken experience left me with a black eye from a bar fight and a terrible hangover that lasted the entire day. After yet another blackout with a dangerous end, my family had had enough. They asked me to get help, and I agreed to do so because, honestly, I didn’t see any other choice. I was afraid to stop drinking, and I knew I couldn’t do it on my own because I had tried before and failed miserably. I could see where my life was going if I continued living the life of an alcoholic, and I knew deep down I didn’t want to end up that way.

The next day I toured a Narconon center with my family and checked in the day after. I arrived with a suitcase primarily full of things I didn’t need because I had packed drunk, which wasn’t my most fabulous idea but also wasn’t the worst one I’ve ever had either. That night I was filled with a mix of challenging emotions to describe, excitement and dread all mixed into one. The following day I woke up with what would be my last hangover. I reluctantly got onto the difficult task of putting the pieces of my life together after I had been actively destroying it for several years. It was a daunting prospect.

I wasn’t sure what I was in for when I began the process of my addiction recovery. Working through the Narconon program taught me to confront and deal with the problems I had been avoiding. One of the hardest things about the early days of my recovery was feeling the guilt and shame I carried around from my drinking. I later had the opportunity to sort through all of the negative things I had done because of my drinking and finally take responsibility for them and learn from them so that I could stop making the same mistakes over and over.

Returning Home
Photo by Petri Oeschger/

Three months later, I finished up my program. The first year of my recovery contained a lot of ups and downs. I was still adjusting to a life unadulterated by the use of drugs and alcohol. It took a while to get used to living a life of sobriety. I focused on working and helping other people; I kept myself busy and had little downtime. It was a little overwhelming at times, but I did what I had to do to make it through that first year. I have often heard it said that the first year is the hardest, and in my own experience, I found that to be true. It wasn’t all difficult, but there were many times where it was. However, the more time that went by, the easier it was for me to stay sober.

With time I was slowly able to repair the relationships with my family damaged due to my drinking. The unfortunate thing about addiction is that It hurts everyone involved, not just the person dealing with the addiction. I had done a lot of things that hurt my family because of my drinking problem. It took a lot of time and effort, but I could finally rebuild the trust that I had broken with my family. It wasn’t an easy process, but it was one of the best things about getting sober, knowing that they were proud of me again and that they could trust me.

During my time in rehab, I made a list of short-term and long-term goals. I slowly started to chip away at them. I began to prioritize my health by exercising and eating healthy. I started to read more books instead of watching too much TV. I slowly paid off my student loan debt, court fines, and restitution. I eventually quit smoking cigarettes, and I sort of cut back on coffee. I later met my future husband, got married, bought a house, and had two beautiful children. I traveled, and I put down roots. I began to live how I used to be, too afraid even to dream possible.

This time of year is always a time of reflection for me because it is this time that I made that difficult decision to consider the idea of accepting help for my addiction. At times I had no idea where it would lead me to, and I wasn’t even sure if I wanted to get sober or not. All I knew was that I would give it a try. Looking back on who I was then, I remember how scary it was to walk through those doors and stop drinking. I wish I could go back in time, hug myself, and let that girl know how grateful I am for her courage.

Successful woman
Photo by South_agency/

These days I hardly ever think about drinking unless I am reflecting on my past life. I have gained so much because of sobriety I never want to do anything to lose it. I used to think that it was unfair that I couldn’t “drink in moderation like a normal person.” Now I know that I am truly free because I never have to drink again. It’s hard to explain how scary it is when an addiction gets to the point that you can’t imagine living without it. I no longer have to try to “control my drinking” because it is so much easier for me not to drink.

When it comes to life-changing decisions, we have the option of someday or day one. The longer we put things off, the harder they are to deal with later on. When it comes to getting sober, the best time to do so is now. I don’t like to think about where I might be now had I kept putting my recovery off. If I kept telling myself “someday,” I don’t know if “day one” would have ever happened. Nine years later, I can say without a doubt that I wouldn’t be where I am today if I hadn’t decided to start on “day one.”



After overcoming her own addiction in 2012 Julie went on to become certified as an addiction counselor in order to help others achieve a life of recovery. She worked in the addiction field for 8 years and now uses both her personal and professional experiences with addiction as an influence for her writing.