Sober Story - EJ Arroyo
Can you introduce yourself and tell us where you’re from and what you are sober from?
My name is Emmanuel Joseph Arroyo but my pals and relatives call me EJ. I’m 32 years old. I was born and raised in Saint Louis, MO. My parents came to the US from the Philippines in 1976. I have no siblings, but both of my parents come from large families, so I do have an enormous amount of cousins. I am sober from alcohol. I don’t smoke or do any drugs, with the exception of caffeine in the form of a delicious mug of piping hot coffee.
What motivated you to get sober, and how did you do it?
I was motivated to get sober after I consumed 2 bottles of wine on my couch alone. I had just gotten home from a long trail run with my running partner. I got home and had a bottle waiting for me as a reward for my hard training day. I drank it straight from the bottle. After that bottle was empty, I still wanted more. So, I walked down to the drug store and bought another bottle of red wine. Bottle to lips, no glass. 2 wine bottles down and I was feeling great, until the next morning came. I went on my morning run hungover, hoping to sweat it out. It was a suffer fest, but I got through it. Then, I went to work. After a physically draining day of work I rewarded myself with wine. That night, I repeated what I did the day before but this time I felt disappointed in myself. “What am I doing?” I thought. I’m supposed to be an example of health, fitness and wellness. Here I am getting loaded every night. There was about 6 to 8 ounces of wine left in the bottle which I proudly poured into the toilet. I actually remember purchasing that last bottle of wine and thinking to myself “Why?” but I did it anyway. I wanted to destroy the cycle and start anew. I wanted to become someone that I myself would look up to.
What have you had to sacrifice by being sober?
By being sober I’ve sacrificed my social life, which mostly consisted of getting drunk with my friends at our favorite dive bars. I didn’t go to one of my best friend’s birthday party because I just wasn’t ready to be around people that were drinking. A couple weeks later, it was my favorite local bar’s 9 year anniversary. I went to the party, but I left at 9 pm. Most nights I’d be closing out the bar chatting up a storm of slurred nonsense. I wanted to see my friends at the anniversary which I did and it was great. All of them have been super supportive and understanding about my choice to be sober. I’m grateful.
Do you have any strategies or tactics that have helped you along the way?
One of my strategies to stay sober is to keep in mind what lead me to sobriety in the first place. It was a long time coming. I did have a blood pressure scare in March of 2016 when I was drinking about 1 to 2 bottles of wine a night. On my days off work, I would start drinking as early as noon sometimes. When that happened, I stopped drinking for 22 days to get my blood pressure back to 120/80. It did finally go back to normal without any medication. From then on I would continuously check my blood pressure to make sure it never hit 140/90 again. It would get close to high, but when it did, I would cut back again. I was tired of playing this game. Another thing that keeps me from drinking is being around people that drink. I recently was in line to order some food and a young lady in front of me had a margarita in her hand. I could smell the alcohol on her. She struck up a conversation with me. She was friendly and kind but her words were jumbled and her voice was unnecessarily loud. I thought to myself “Damn, I hope I never came off as this way to other people.” I’m sure I did unfortunately, as I used to go to places drunk all the time.
What was you biggest milestone or victory so far, and how did you celebrate?
My biggest milestone was hitting 31 days sober. I remember being 3 or 4 days sober and thinking, “I can do this, but it is REALLY difficult. I need a drink. NO! Don’t. Just be present. Relax.” I didn’t celebrate in any big way. My thirtieth day sober I did PR on a training run. 20:58 time for a 5K. I guess that was my celebration.
What are some advantages or disadvantages you have that others might not, and how did they help or hurt you?
One thing I have is a strong desire to do things with my whole heart and soul, which I find to be a great advantage. If I really want to do something, I throw everything I have into it. Whether it be writing a song or running a race. I give it everything I have. I am doing whatever it takes to stay sober. If I keep reminding myself that alcohol is poison and it’s only going to be detrimental to my well-being, then it makes me not want to have anything to do with it.
I don’t want to compromise myself and all I’ve accomplished for one silly sip of alcohol.
A disadvantage that I have is that I haven’t set out to find other people that are sober in my community that enjoy doing the things that I love to do. I love running on single track trails and I am hoping to meet other sober people that would be down to kick some dirt around. I used to play in bands, but I can’t remember the last time I played in a band sober. I’ve been feeling musically creative a lot lately and I owe that to having a clear mind again. I used to use booze as a means of opening up lyrically and musically, but that has faded over the years. After drinking, my creative juices would dry up leaving me null and void.
Have you had to deal with any relapses, and if so can you talk about how you overcame them?
In the past I have dealt with relapses. I would tell myself that I was done drinking. I would download the I Am Sober App and look forward to the increasing number of sober days. Then, I would get bored with nothing to do. I wouldn’t want to read or write. I didn’t want to watch anything because all I would think was “This would be so much cooler if I was drinking.” Those times I didn’t overcome them. I am overcoming them now by staying in the present moment. Living in the here and now. Realizing that life is too short to hide from feeling every emotion whole heartedly. Be alive! Live!
During recovery, what kind of support system did you use and how did you deal with loneliness and isolation?
My support system is my social network. I started a blog on wordpress to make myself accountable for my alcohol abuse. I opened up about my sobriety on social media and received nothing but accolades. That made me want to keep fighting. The comments of encouragement keep me going. I love how supportive everyone is being. It truly means a lot to me that people care about recovery. I learned that some of my friends and followers are sober as well or want to be sober. I’m happy to be a source of encouragement for them. We support each other. Dealing with loneliness and isolation hasn’t really been an issue for me. I’m an only child and an introvert. I actually prefer to go about things alone. Those times when I would normally go out to a party or hit up a dive bar, I stay in and keep myself busy by playing/writing music, reading, walking my dog Ziggy (named after the late and great David Bowie), or listening to Recovery Elevator podcasts while getting things done around the house.
What is your favorite thing about being sober?
I love waking up and feeling rested. I mean truly rested!
I don’t wake up feeling like I’m ready to take on the world or anything, but I’m not as groggy and I’m definitely not hungover. My days feel more fulfilled. I’ve wasted so many hours getting drunk that I skipped out on many of the things that truly make me feel alive. Things like playing guitar, ukulele and singing. I’m enjoying this resurgence of creativity going on in my life right now. It’s been years since I’ve felt this encouraged to play music.
What’s your advice for someone just starting out in recovery?
You have to be willing and ready to quit. Some people go through a traumatic experience which encourages them to quit. In my case it was a build up of self disappointment that led to me wanting to quit drinking. Be proud of sobriety. If you know in your heart that it’s what you need to be in order to get your life together then I say do it. I was honestly surprised at how well my sobriety was received by my friends. No one talked down on me. If anyone was to say something negative to me, I would immediately kick them out of my life. I’m only one month and 14 days sober while I answer these questions, but I can truthfully say that I really don’t crave any booze right now and it’s a Friday night. It gets easier. You get to know yourself a little more which is fantastic. Love yourself!
What are your goals for the future?
My goals for the future are to meet more sober people! I know you’re out there. Hit me up! Let’s go bowling. Let’s go running. Let’s go indoor rock climbing. Let’s go for a hike. Let’s have some fun!
As soon as I became sober I started running more often. I can’t say I traded one addiction for another since I was already running before I became sober. I’m just not missing days of running since I’m no longer too hungover to get my butt out of bed. I did trade in booze for La Croix though. That stuff is delicious! I’m currently training for a road marathon that’s on 1st of October. Then, I’m running my first trail marathon in on the 3rd of December. I noticed that I no longer get sever cramps in my calves after running like I used to. I must have been more dehydrated than I thought on all those runs I ran hungover. My main goal before I’m 40 years old is to run the Western States 100 race in California.
Where can people find out more about you or get in touch?
If you relate to my story or want to know more about me and sobriety don’t hesitate to contact me on many of my social media accounts.