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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