The Sober Professor

My Sober Story

Alcohol runs deep in my Irish veins on both sides of the family. From day one, I knew I drank differently than my peers. I had several near-death experiences, all related to drinking. That knowledge didn’t stop me. I loved alcohol. I dedicated 15 years of my life trying to figure out how to safely control and enjoy my drug of choice.

Over the years, stopping completely was never part of the plan, but I tried everything to “control” my drinking. I tried all the classic tactics, swearing off hard liquor, switching from wine to beer, drinking water in between drinks, only drinking at home, only drinking with my husband, only drinking socially, you name it. My bookshelves were stacked with addiction memoirs. I had three therapists, prayed and meditated, started attending church, took prescription medication. Nothing worked. As soon as one drink entered in my system, all bets were off.

I thought my shocking 2011 diagnosis of Type One Diabetes (T1D) would finally be the antidote to my alcoholism. I was told by my endocrinologist that my body could no longer tolerate my usual amounts of alcohol, that it would kill me. Unfortunately, addiction doesn’t work that way. It defies all logic.

I had my last drunk on my 32nd birthday. By this point, I was officially leading a double life that was getting more difficult to manage. By day, I was a wife, PhD student, responsible homeowner, dog mom, writer, and sessional instructor. By night, I was a raging, out-of-control drunk. What was supposed to be a couple of beers out with friends and my husband, turned into a 16-hour black out followed by an emergency room visit. I remember being at the hospital, looking in the mirror, and not recognizing myself. I was terrified. I couldn’t understand how this happened again. Full of shame, remorse, and self-loathing, I knew I could no longer live this way. I was emotionally, physically and spiritually bankrupt. A hollow shell. I knew in that moment I was completely powerless over alcohol and that something had to change, or I would die.

Since November 23, 2013, I have not picked up a drink. I finished my PhD, a post-doctorate and moved across the country for a full-time tenure-track professor position. I am still happily married and a proud dog mom. I will not pretend that sobriety has been a cake walk. The beginning was particularly brutal. It took me at least 2 years to shift from “I can’t drink” to “I don’t want to drink.” A cornerstone of my recovery has been accepting who I am, warts and all. I am coming up on 7 years sober and am finally letting go of my shame. Coming out of the “addiction shame closet” has been a gradual, non-linear process but today I can honestly say that I am grateful to be sober.

By Victoria F. Burns, PhD

Instagram: @betesandbites

aka The Sober Professor


I  know there’s a huge debate in the recovery community today about Medically Assisted Treatment. And for those of you who don’t know what MAT is, it is when someone is taking any medication like Suboxone, Subutex, Buprenorphine, Naloxone, Vivitrol, or even Methadone.

These medications were designed to help recovering addicts with symptoms of withdrawal, cravings, energy, and the healing of our brains. The argument presented about these medications is that we are “substituting one drug for another”. And while it does mean we are on a medication, it does not mean we are trading one high for another.

These medications (although slightly different) have one main purpose. They either block or fill the opiate receptors in our brain. Those of us who are opiate addicts have drastically changed the chemistry of our brains. For the sake of understanding, let’s just say a healthy brain has 3 opiate receptors. Every time we put more opiates into our system, we multiply those receptors. This is what is responsible for both our sickness and our tolerance. Instead of having 3 opiate receptors we now have 6. And then 12. And then 24. And then 36. They multiply to accommodate how much we’re putting into our body. So now that we have 36 receptors, our tolerance is way higher. It takes much more to get us high than it did when we still had 3.

So when we decide to detox and get clean, instead of feeling the withdrawal of those empty 3 receptors, we’re feeling the withdrawal of 36 empty receptors. Our sickness (just like our tolerance) has gotten worse because of this.

This is where MAT medications come in. As I said earlier, these medications either fill those empty receptors, block them, or sometimes both. This means that the symptoms we feel from the lack of opiates are almost completely diminished. It helps us get through our detox and into the first stages of recovery.

Sometimes we decide to stay on our medication for longer than a detox. And that’s ok. All of those empty receptors mean that we feel uncomfortable and have no energy. It means that we crave a lot and that our cravings are more powerful. Being on MAT is incredibly helpful because it works to get rid of those cravings. And when you’re not obsessing over them, you can actually begin to recover and build your life back.

To those of you saying that someone isn’t clean because they’re on MAT, that can potentially kill someone. The medication they’re on may be helping them drastically. But if you make them feel bad about the fact that they are on it… Well that’s just not fair.

Not everyone wants or needs MAT. But some people do. And for those of you who are on it, I want you to know that you ARE clean. Look at how far you’ve come and think about how far you will go! There’s nothing wrong with helping your brain heal. Nothing wrong with getting a little help from medication as long as you aren’t abusing it.

There are many different paths of recovery. It is not anyone’s job to judge another for the path they choose. And to those who do I’m asking you to think about this.

I may be on an MAT medication but I don’t hustle on the streets anymore.

I may be on an MAT medication but I don’t prostitute my body anymore.

I may be on an MAT medication but I don’t steal and beg anymore.

I may be on an MAT medication but I don’t lie to everyone anymore.

I may be on an MAT medication but I don’t stick needles into my arms anymore.

I may be on an MAT medication but I’m not homeless anymore.

I may be on an MAT medication but I don’t get arrested anymore.

I may be on an MAT medication but I don’t feel hopeless or unworthy anymore.

So even though some of you may judge the fact that some of us use MAT, that still doesn’t change the fact that we can and do recover.




Heroin to Heroine

Kassie Sullins

The Void

May 20th, 2019

The Void

As addicts and alcoholics we have this void inside of us. Almost like a piece of our soul is missing on the inside. It makes us feel as if we are not whole, because we aren’t. It’s the reason why we need validation from others, why we have no idea who we are, why we are so lost. It’s why we run from pain, why we have learned no coping skills, and why we constantly seek to feel better.

Most of us realized that when we used drugs or when we drank, we didn’t feel that void so much anymore. So we kept using and we kept drinking. We did everything we could to make that void within us disappear. We filled it every day with Heroin, with Meth, with Crack, with Alcohol, with shopping, with gambling, with another person (codependency), with food (overeating), with anything that made us forget about the fact that we weren’t whole.

We filled it with substances for so long that after a while, those substances didn’t work anymore. We kept trying to run from this void but it wasn’t going away… It was growing larger. We were trying to fill ourselves with harmful and negative things. And in turn, these things made it worse.

When we came to the realization that drugs weren’t working anymore, we had no idea what to do. Some of us made it to sobriety and some of us continued to try and fill it with drugs and alcohol. Those of us who came into recovery realized that without drugs and alcohol, we felt the entirety of the void in our chest.

In order to patch up this void inside of us, we must learn about spirituality. We must nourish our spirit. Learning about principles likes love, faith, hope, open-mindedness, willingness, courage, acceptance, understanding, patience, service, and learning how to live by them is a great place to start.

When we begin to live our lives by these principles we start to learn who we are. We begin to fill that void with those principles. Every time we act on one of these principles, we patch up another piece of that hole. Until one day, we realize that we don’t feel the void as we did before. We realize that we are whole.

Fill your void with those principles. Fill your void with positivity, love, and hope. Fill your void with kindness and forgiveness. Fill your void with serenity and understanding. Fill your void so you may become whole.

-Kassie Sullins

Heroin to Heroine