How I got Sober the First Time

The Author’s Mugshot

At nineteen years old, I was a full-fledged alcoholic.

I drank from the moment I woke up until I went to bed. It was common for me to consume twenty to thirty drinks a day.

I remember I had a vague sense of dread and that my life was out of control, but I was so caught up in drinking that I had no intention of ever quitting. I was like a zombie; I was technically alive, but my consciousness was blotted out.

Legal consequences saved my life and gave me a taste of sobriety.

How I got Arrested

It was a hot Texas summer afternoon. My friends and I all packed into my Buick to get some beer from the store.

We were all underage, but one of us had a fake ID so he could buy beer for us.

As we pulled into the gas station, we noticed a police officer on the feeder road nearby. However, his lights were on, and he had someone pulled over, so we stupidly decided it was safe because he was busy.

My friend took way too long buying the beer. He even came out once to ask if he could buy a burrito with the money before going back in.

Finally, he got back in the car with the beers. I began driving away, and I heard a knock on the back of my car. I looked behind and noticed it was a police officer who had followed my friend out of the store! He must have entered the store as my friend was leaving it, and I’m guessing my friend looked nervous or underage.

As I pulled around the gas pump, the officer shouted, “Pull over!”. I responded, “Why?” and he yelled back, “Because I said so!”. Terrified, I made a split-second decision and yelled back, “I have somewhere to be!” as I peeled out and drove away quickly. I can still remember seeing the cop shaking his fist in the air in my rearview mirror as I sped away.

I was terrified. I was shaking so much I could barely control the car. Because the officer was on foot and not in his patrol car, we got away easily.

I got back to my friend’s apartment, and right as I was starting to calm down, my cell phone rang.

It was my mom, and she sounded hysterical. Having noted my license plate, the police officer got my address and went directly to my parents’ house.

My mom demanded that I tell her where I was. Fearfully I refused. I didn’t want to go to jail; all I wanted to was drink the beer we had just acquired.

What I didn’t realize at that moment was that I had just committed a felony, evading arrest in a vehicle.

I Got A Good Deal

My parents helped me get an expensive lawyer, and I had no previous charges besides a couple of minor in possession of alcohol tickets.

I received one-year deferred adjudication probation. If I completed the year probation, the charge would not be on my record, and I wouldn’t have to start my adult life as a felon.

But, as a stipulation of probation, I had to attend an outpatient treatment program and abstain from drugs and alcohol for the whole year.

I made it maybe two weeks before I started drinking on the weekends.

For nine months, I was going to treatment and AA meetings and lying about staying sober. It started messing with my head a little bit.

Eventually, I couldn’t keep up the façade, and I stopped reporting to my probation officer.

A warrant was issued for my arrest, and I turned myself in, planning to spend a year or two in jail or prison.

Jail Was A Wake-up Call

Things got real in county jail. I was in a cell with over thirty other guys. The reality that I wasn’t going anywhere for a long time set in. I realized I couldn’t blame anyone else, that if I had just stayed sober, I wouldn’t have been there.

On the second day, I called my parents from jail. They asked if I wanted a second chance. For the first time in two days, I felt a twinge of joy. On the third day, I was released from jail.

I was able to get my probation reinstated with the same deal plus a few extra stipulations. I had to attend night jail for a month, and I had to go to inpatient treatment. The inpatient then had me go to a halfway house for three months.

I didn’t care; anything was better than jail. Jail terrified me, and it sucked. The food sucked, the entertainment options sucked, the clothes sucked, there were no women, and some of the inmates scared me.

Don’t get me wrong; I wasn’t happy being sober. I still wanted to drink. But the fear of jail made it relatively easy to get sober.

My Life Got A Whole Lot Better

When I got back from the halfway house, I had four months sober. It was the beginning of the summer session, and I enrolled in the local community college.

I took two summer school classes, attended outpatient treatment four nights a week, and did night jail four nights a week. I’ve never been busier in my life.

I did well in community college. I was pretty rusty in school; I was a terrible high school student. But I was able to maintain a 3.5 GPA. So, after the fall semester, I decided to apply to Texas A&M, and I got in!

I was active in clubs in community college. I was in the Psychology Club and Phi Theta Kappa, the honor society for two-year colleges. It was through these clubs that I met my first serious girlfriend.

Once I got to A&M, things continued to go well. I managed to achieve a 4.0 in my first year! I applied for and obtained an undergraduate research fellowship, and I was getting paid to read books!

When Probation Ended So Did My Sobriety

A few months after my probation ended, I choose to drink again with some college friends.

For a while, I was able to keep it under control to some extent.

I convinced my girlfriend I wasn’t an alcoholic, so it was okay to drink with me. She would get a buzz and be done, and I would want to keep drinking. Eventually, I started going out without her and hanging out with other drinkers. Our relationship suffered.

After almost two years of dating, my relationship was over. I started drinking even more. When my second year of A&M began, I was too drunk to be successful. I ended up withdrawing and not returning for several years. It ended up taking me five more years of going back and withdrawing again to get my degree finally. I whittled my 4.0 GPA down to a 3.2.

Can’t Change the Past

It’s easy for me to have regrets and wish I would have stayed sober back then. Who knows where I’d be now.

But I also had a lot of fun in my twenties drinking and playing heavy metal in bands, so it wasn’t all bad.

And, what I’ve learned is that sobriety isn’t going to last until you’re ready to change. Fear can get you sober, but there must be some higher motivation once the fear is gone. Addiction is a powerful thing. This is why the majority of people with addiction issues fail at maintaining sobriety.

Although it didn’t last, this period of sobriety got my life on a different path. I wouldn’t have a Master’s degree today if I weren’t forced to get sober at nineteen.

Rather than spend time regretting the past, I choose to put my focus on the present. I can learn from my past mistakes without dwelling on them.

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MA in Sociology, guitarist, person in recovery

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David Pate

David Pate

MA in Sociology, guitarist, person in recovery

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