Life before addiction. Were you always a runner or fitness enthusiast?
My life before addiction was the life of what I would say a normal child. I come from a very close family with two loving parents and three younger sisters. I caught the running bug around the age of 11, which I believe was passed to me by my father who was an avid marathon runner.
Early signs of addiction.
I started experimenting with alcohol at the age of 19. I was in college and drinking appeared to be the normal extracurricular activity amongst the college students. I didn’t see my drinking as a problem because in my eyes everyone around me was doing the same. I thought this was part of the college experience. When I made my transition from college to my first job in my career my drinking followed right along. My peers introduced me to happy hours which eventually led to noon liquid lunches. Still I didn’t see an issue with my drinking. I was a 25-year-old woman with a great career, a serious boyfriend, and family and friends who loved me. Little did I know that everyone was seeing the signs. Everyone except me.
How did your addiction manifest?
I didn’t have a life. I lost three jobs indirectly due to my drinking. My drinking had progressed to drinking in the mornings in an attempt to function. I found myself drinking around the clock, and when I would try to stop the withdrawal was apparent. Cold sweats, jitters, and an anxiety that I can find no other word to describe other then hell. I began to isolate from family and friends. I stopped eating because I was unable to hold any solid food down. I was bruised from head to toe from the alcohol thinning my blood. My hair was falling out and my skin was becoming brittle and yellow. I couldn’t sleep and I was scared all the time. I didn’t want to drink but I had no choice.
When you knew it was time to seek help.
Honestly, the only way I can describe the moment I asked for help is God doing for me what I couldn’t do for myself. I was living in a darkness that I felt no one understood. I had made up my mind that I would rather die than to continue living the way I was living. Nothing out of the ordinary happened that day. I woke up and took my usual three shots of vodka so I could walk my dog and after walking my dog something inside me told me that if I didn’t pick up the phone and call someone that I was going to die. I called my dad that morning.
Relapse is part of my story and the most I can say about that is if it wasn’t for those relapses there would have been lessons left untaught. Every time I relapsed my drinking proved to be worse. All three relapses resulted in my hospitalization.
What type of treatment worked for you and what did it teach you about yourself?
I started working a recovery program and also attended an intensive outpatient treatment at CMC First Step in Union County, NC. Seeking help taught me that I wasn’t a bad person. I was a sick person who needed to get well.
When did running become part of your treatment?
Within the first few weeks of me getting sober I knew I had to lace up my kicks. I knew that somewhere in me there was that girl I remembered still. I wanted to find her even if it meant fighting for her one mile at a time.
Life after treatment.
In a few words…better than I could have ever imagined. Thank God for the people he placed in my life that never let me quit and encouraged me to keep getting back up and pushing forward!
Life as a recovering addict. Everyday struggles.
Life as a recovering addict is amazing but that doesn’t mean my life is perfect. Do I still think about a drink? Of course but not as often and today I have tools that use to keep me away from the first drink.
How do you stay sober?
I work a program of recovery and do my best to work with other alcholics and addicts sharing my experiences as both an active alcoholic as well as one in recovery. amongst many other things, I meditate and rely on a power that is greater than me, which I choose to call God and most importantly I stay in today. Just for today I choose not to drink.
About the Author
Taiza Rivera has been sober since January 23, 2013, and ran her first marathon in November of the same year. After being introduced to a Runwell ambassador, Taiza was eager to learn more about the organization and became an ambassador herself, as she is passionate about recovery and feels her voice can make a difference.
Taiza is running her first event with Runwell this year, raising funds to help provide quality treatment to those struggling with addiction. Click her to donate and support Taiza in her journey to make a difference.