Skip to content

My Relapse Years, by Sarah Hepola

After months of trying to quit, I knew I’d be a drunk for life. Then I discovered how useful failing can be.

“I can remember the day I knew I would never quit drinking. I was sitting in my closet, contemplating the bottle of Cabernet I had just picked up at the liquor store and realizing I was absolutely, positively going to open it.”

“I had been trying to quit for months at that point. No wait: I’d been trying to quit for years. I would wake up on a Sunday, all cringes and stabbing pain, and I’d swear off the stuff only to crawl back on my belly in three days, maybe four. This time I’d made a formal effort, though. I was Quitting. Done. Finito. At some point, you must accept that the universe has granted you enough epic nights and drunken ragers, and I drew the line at roughly five bazillion.”

“My mind and my heart were at odds on this issue, however. I knew I had to stop drinking – the evidence was unambiguous – but I would find myself on a date, nervous and fidgety, or I would find myself walking from the subway to the Brooklyn brownstone I shared at the time, pulled as if by centrifugal force into the liquor store with the bulletproof glass, where the clientele bought Malibu Rum and lottery tickets, and wondering: Well, what would happen if I picked up that bottle of Cabernet?”

“And I would walk home feeling the weight of that bottle in my hands, a grenade not yet launched, and I would wave to my nice roommate as I walked past her on the couch, curled under a blanket watching TV, and I would step into my bedroom at the top of the stairs, close the door behind me, and think: You don’t have to drink this. You could actually NOT drink this.”

“But then I would go into the closet, and sit there for a while, and pour the wine into a small juice glass I stored there for such occasions, enjoying the glug-glug of the liquid as it poured, enjoying the sharp fumes of the Cabernet — drinking it before I was even drinking it, feeling my body hum back to life…” Click here to continue reading: My relapse years.

I could relate to so much of this article, I felt like she was telling my story! I relapsed for 4 years, on and on, and on, without the end in sight. I thought I was doomed! “I was never going to stop drinking. I was going to be a drunk for the rest of my life.”- yep, that’s exactly how I felt!

Then I get to this next to the last paragraphs and I am overwhelmed! Again, so very true for me too! Just love, love this paragraph!

But change is not a bolt of lightning that arrives with a zap. It is a bridge built brick by brick, every day, with sweat and humility and slips. It is hard work, and slow work, but it can be thrilling to watch it take shape. I believed I could not quit drinking, that people would not like me sober, that life would be drained of its color — but every ounce of that was untrue. Which made me wonder what else I believed that was untrue. What other impossible feats were within my grasp.

Sarah Hepola is the personal essays editor at, where she reads people’s secrets for a living. She has written many stories about drinking and crying too much… as well as a memoir, called “Blackout,” released by Grand Central Publishing in June 2015.  For more information on Sarah Hepola, please check out her blog at

What do you think about this article, and Sarah’s amazing journey to sobriety!? Can you relate?

If you, or anyone you know, is struggling with alcohol addiction, please click the Find Support link for an extensive list of support groups. Also please check out the links to many useful resources in the sidebar, and always feel free to contact me anytime at

You may also find some great inspiration and support from all the awesome sober bloggers listed in the side bar under POSTS I LIKE and RECOVERY BLOGGERS, as well as Sober Courage page on Facebook and Sober Courage on Twitter.



  1. What an amazing article, thank you for reblogging it. I, too, went from denial of a problem to the other side of the logic coin: well, I have a problem, therefore of course I drink too much when I’m not supposed to. I can’t help it!


    • Right!? I kept asking, why the hell do I continue to drink knowing how destructive it is, it’s so crazy, what gives!? Someone once said to me, that’s what we do, that’s why it’s called alcoholism, we have the ism!


  2. Oh I love this article. I have not only read it but come back to it many times. And it’s a great reminder for me to read right now as the jungle drums of “Was I really that bad” have been pounding again so thanks for re-posting. I’m also super excited to learn Sarah is publishing a memoir. I love her writing.


    • Hi Lilly!

      I love that quote, the “jungle drums!” I didn’t really have the 5’o clock hour, but evey Friday night that’s exactly how it felt for me! I could feel it in my bones!

      I too thought I wasn’t that bad, I mean I didn’t live under the bridge, so not that bad at all! But you know, it’s those damn feelings inside of me that just were so hard to deal with. I was just so broken. But sober, is the easier, softer way, it really is.


    • Oh, me too! This article was just perfect for me. This was my story, and I am sure, many others too. I have to keep reminding myself how it was, because life in sobriety gets good, then you forget how it was, and all if the sudden a drink is starting to look good again! But I don’t want to go back to drinking in my closet for sure!


    • Yep met too! In the end I was thinking that I should just stop wasting time trying to quit! But then my drinking would get out of control and I would start the sober thing again… of this went on for so long!


  3. Sums up a lot about how we feel during our drinking days. Self-loathing and resignation. But that notion that we need to unlearn a lot of what we think is true and right…well, that’s the key, isn’t it? Surrendering, letting old ideas go, etc…that’s what we do, so that we don’t need to get to that grenade unlaunched (love that one)

    Awesome 🙂



    • Hi Paul! Oh yes, surrendering and letting go of the old ideas! I love what Sandy B. says about most of our ideas come from when we were drunk! lol! And we don’t let them go easy because they are our ideas! That was so huge for me too, realizing that maybe, just maybe, the way I see things is really not the way they really are. Such a revelation! Thanks Paul! Hugs.


  4. Wow, just wow. That really took me back, and, at the same time, that last paragraph, takes me right to the present, with my struggles for a healthier lifestyle. Maggie, thank you so much for passing this author along to me, I can’t wait to read more!


    • Hi Josie! So nice to see you stop by! I know you were on vaca and it takes a bit to get back into the swing of things, but to have you back!

      I don’t know how I haven’t read any of her stuff before, I read alot out there! Maybe it was the right timing to find it now. Things get good and I forget how it was, I really do, so it’s a good reminder – brick by brick! And you know living a healthier lifestyle with kids is hard! And it will take some time, be kind to yourself! It will happen, just keep working at it. Hugs.


    • Hi Annie,

      Thanks for stopping by! Thank you for the kind words! Congrats on six months again!

      I Iove the line ” And it’s not that I would die, exactly; it’s that I would die inside. ” Yep that death is even more painful I think!


  5. Thanks for the link. This is so me right now, right down to the age and the closet thing. I as well black out and think of it has a a savoir from not having to remember. Now I’m to the point guilty from what, why and how. I will definitely be bying the book

    Liked by 1 person

Share your Sober Courage here!

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: