25 Years, One Lesson with Andrea Dye

Andrea Dye is a directionally challenged expat who no longer has to huff shoe polish to feel alive. She focuses on cultivating the positive impact of living a balanced life and collaborates on non-commercial interests with cool folks around the world. She is the author of 25 Years 1 Lesson and has a hell of a story for you today.

Andrea became a raging alcoholic at the age of 14, and eventually graduated to other drugs. She was rebellious and selfish, with no intention of ever getting clean. She hated being sober so intensely that while in rehab she tried to break open an conditioner so she could huff the freon.

Andrea’s road to recovery was gradual, with her fighting tooth and nail all the way. Listen to how she finally surrendered to recovery and how she developed coping mechanisms that keep her emotionally and physically sober to this day.

CLEAN DATE: SEPT. 22, 1991

Listen to Andrea’s story!

Here are a few highlights from our interview. To get the full story please join us on the podcast now!

Andrea says she didn’t have a problem until she was fourteen years old. For most of us, that sounds incredibly young to have developed alcoholism. She grew up in a small town in upstate New York and spent a lot of time in the forest. Her imagination was wild, and she dreamed big. Alcohol made her feel as though she was living those dreams without ever having to leave her tree house.

It made me feel like some door to an alternate universe was opened.

Unfortunately, alcohol also zapped her motivation to do anything in actual real life. Friendships were destroyed.

Andrea transformed into a toxic combo of a selfish, devious teenager who was also a raging alcoholic. She worked multiple jobs, so she always had an excuse to be away with cash on hand. She was mature for her age and surrounded herself with older people who were willing to help her get alcohol.

Andrea had the standard American suburban upbringing. She can’t blame her addiction on family problems or some other trauma. She says she simply had very poor coping skills. Her way of dealing with things was to be overdramatic. She felt ill-equipped to face even the smallest problems with classmates and teachers.

By 9th grade she got high daily and was blackout drinking every weekend. She’d pee on friends’ parents’ furniture and be abandoned in parking lots. One of her worst blackouts ever was when she woke up in a snowbank without pants or shoes or a clue of how she got there. This night began as her party to herself on her 16th birthday.

I don’t remember probably an entire year of my life.

Andrea’s teenage memories are vague. She remembers going to an outpatient treatment and thinking that all the adults in there for DUIs were losers—not because they were alcoholics, but because they got caught.

The only thing Andrea looked forward to turning 21 so she could party legally all the time. At home, she decided there were too many rules. She got a job as a pizza cook that offered a room above a hotel. She ended up living there. The staff knew she was underage, but everyone else living there were older versions of herself. They became her drinking buddies.

The only thing I cared about was making it through my shift so I could get f*cked up, so I could make it through my shift to get fu*cked up.

Andrea thought she had a sick kind of romantic life. She didn’t suffer any dire consequences until the inaugural Lollapalooza. She took her friends’ money and promised to bring back drugs. She ended up coming back empty handed.

At the same time, her parents and brother planned an intervention. Her brother picked her up to hang out, and she didn’t care where he took her because she had people after her. It turned out the family arranged for him to take her to a cabin in the woods. They all read letters to her, but the pain her addiction caused still did not sink in. She agreed to get help. She had burned all her bridges and she went to a 30-day in-house treatment only because she had nowhere else to go. She had no intention of being sober. Andrea took drugs with her sewn into her clothes. When she ran out, she convinced a younger girl to break into the cleaning closet to steal some chemicals she could huff. Her options were running out.

I didn’t mean to get sober. I ran out of stuff I had taken with me.

Andrea feels remorse when she looks back on the care and kindness of the counselors, remembering the whole time she just wanted to spit in their faces and tell them they were idiots. It was pretty obvious she wasn’t going to stay sober, so she was sent directly to long-term treatment. She didn’t agree to it because she wanted to get clean, but once again, she didn’t have anywhere else to go.

I kept getting corralled into help.

It turned out to be an amazing program where she did not have a minute to think for herself. This method was very effective, and 4 months into her treatment, something began to change. Andrea had always been the quiet, judgmental one in her groups, but she realized that many of people who were there with her wasted more years of their lives than she had even lived. If she didn’t change, she’d end up like them.

Her breakthrough occurred when she first raised her hand to share at a fire pit meeting. When she finished talking she felt a weird feeling inside. It was a tiny bit of peace, and she liked it. She thought maybe there was hope after all.

After staying sober for 15 months at the treatment facility, Andrea had her dreams back again. She felt she could do anything. The freedom of sobriety combined with a foundation of coping skills and recovery tools gave her hope and determination. She knew if she overcame addiction, she could find a solution to every problem she faced in life.

By 1997 at 5 years clean, she started to catch up with others her age. As she became more skilled, she got better jobs. She worked in horseracing and was socially tested in sobriety, but she was an adult. She could pay bills, maintain insurance, and own a cell phone. She could call someone to talk instead of lashing out at people.

Her sobriety wasn’t perfect, but she stuck with the most important thing: not to pick up. Then at the age of 33, a chronic illness took over her body. She experienced dark days where she easily could have told herself that she had an excuse to use again. But underneath all the pain and fear, she maintained the belief in the peace and serenity. She felt the breath of God.

What kept Andrea from getting clean?

Andrea thought her life was under control. She really thought she had a handle on herself. Also, she had gotten taken to AA when she was 14 and she couldn’t identify with the adults there. It was only later she could relate to other addicts.

That aha moment

Andrea’s aha moment was that first time she shared her story at the fire pit meeting. She had had enough sober time to see how crazy the new people were. She started to notice she was no longer in that group who cracked jokes about recovery or thought about escaping. It was a subtle transition.

God, instead of kicking me in the ass, said, “Hey come this way.”

Best suggestion

To stop thinking. You can’t outthink everything.

And…

Ask for help. You need help, just f*cking ask!

Suggestion for the Newcomers

Garbage in garbage out. If I take in garbage, I’m going to live garbage.

 

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Disclaimer – The opinions shared on this show reflect those of the individual speaker and not of any 12 step fellowship as a whole and though we discuss 12 step recovery and the impact it has had in our lives we do not promote or endorse any 12 step anonymous program.