“I didn’t realize I had a problem until I tried to stop.”Leszek-Czerwonka/Shutterstock
Joe Schrank began to struggle with alcohol in his late teens. At age 25, Schrank was diagnosed with depression, and that’s when he realized how dependent on drinking he had become: His antidepressant medication stipulated that he couldn’t drink while taking the pills. “I didn’t realize I had a problem until I tried to stop,” he says. “Alcohol was playing a huge role in my life, and I had run out of reasons to deny it was an issue.”
Schrank has now been sober for more than 20 years and recently founded High Sobriety, an alcohol rehabilitation facility in Los Angeles. To beat his addiction, Schrank turned to exercise and local Alcoholic Awareness meetings. “Overcoming alcoholism is like weeding, you have to stay on top of it or you’ll have a yard full of weeds in a second,” he says. “Working out is key for me; in spite of my dad bod, I do love the gym. The team approach of AA has also been critical. The men in the program offer consistent and reliable support, and that really helps.” Above all, he says his two sons are his greatest motivator. “As a kid, I loathed my father’s drinking and self-destructive behaviors. Neither of my boys have seen me drink, and I want to keep that streak going.” Find out what safe drinking looks like.
“Recovery is not a life problem I could fix by just working harder.”Phovoir/Shutterstock
Recently, 63-year-old Traylor Johnson marked 22 years and nine months of sobriety. Recovering from addiction is worth celebrating every month, says Johnson, but he’s quick to add that it isn’t the years that matter, but each and every day. “Long-term sobriety is only achievable one day at a time,” he said. “Recovery was not a life problem I could fix by working harder. It took time for me to heal mentally and emotionally.”
Over the years, he’s learned to take a holistic approach to repairing his life and important relationships. “I needed a complete staff of physicians, counselors, therapists, plus an exercise regimen and a strong plan to get through the difficult days,” he shared. “I never could have envisioned what a lifetime of sobriety would look and feel like, until I got there.”
“I wish I’d been taught to embrace my imperfections, and to understand the importance of self-care.”DedMityay/Shutterstock
With Laura Ward’s first taste of alcohol as a teenager came the awareness that she couldn’t have just one drink. But Ward, who now blogs about sobriety, didn’t face her weakness until her children reached school age. “I couldn’t admit it to myself,” she says. “I became so dependent on alcohol that it threatened to take everything from me. In 2013, she began drinking daily, from the moment her kids went to school until she passed out at night. “I realized I didn’t know how to function without alcohol. I knew it was only a matter of time before I killed myself or crashed my car or killed someone else. I was terrified of drinking. I was terrified of not drinking. I had forgotten how to function sober and was convinced I couldn’t do it.”
Then came a morning in March 2014, when Ward was so sick from not drinking that she couldn’t stand upright in the shower; she grabbed a beer to steady her hand, and that was the moment she made the choice to stop. By working with a wellness coach, Ward was able to eventually break her addiction. “She helped me identify bad habits and replace them with healthy ones. I learned to love, value, and respect myself.” Ward also realized there is no shame in admitting you need help. “Alcoholics are not broken or flawed: We’re ill. And when we’re sick, we need to take care of ourselves. There are so many different ways to recover. It doesn’t matter what path you choose as long as you find a way to become and remain sober,” she said.