My Sobriety Story with Nancy

“I needed the pain of recovery to break through the denial.”

Dana Leigh Lyons
Sober.com Newsletter
8 min readJun 3, 2024

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This series showcases personal stories of addiction recovery and sobriety. Today’s edition is by Nancy Boyd, Soul Mechanic. Nancy is a Leadership Development Coach, the 2009 International Coach of the Year, and an award-winning writer, healer, and change-maker serving people who are creating the kind of world no one needs to recover from. Her company, Bright Wings Inc., leads people to the highest and best of themselves through the Soul Path Academy and other programs focused on self mastery and transformation. You can find more of Nancy’s writing at: Soul Mastery Dispatch: Nurturing The Spirit of Change.

When and how did you get sober?

My Higher Power has a sense of humor. When I got to L.A., the only job I could find was as a vocational counselor at a women’s alcohol recovery center. Little did I know that I would soon become one of their clients.

I’d moved to L.A. because it was one of the last places I hadn’t been yet — and I figured it would be a good place to die. I felt like I was slowly dying — and I was. I just didn’t know then that the death I was anticipating was as an alcoholic, and that I would become a very different person — someone I could truly love and respect.

I started working at the recovery center in late 1975. My moment of clarity came at the dentist’s office. I was sitting in the chair, getting numb from Novocaine, when I suddenly heard a clear voice in my head.

It said: “You’re allergic to drugs.”

My inner thought: “Hell yes, I know I am.”

Next voice: “Alcohol is a drug.”

Stunned silence in my brain. The light went on.

“Oh my god, I have a problem! I’m addicted to alcohol and I don’t know how to stop. I need help!”

That was April 12, 1976. That’s how long it took for the message to reach me and for Spirit to intervene.

That afternoon I walked back to work, white as a sheet of paper. I walked slowly to the front desk and said quietly to the receptionist, “I need help.”

She took one look at me and sent for one of the counselors, who lovingly sat me down, listened to what had happened, and told me that everything was going to be alright. All I had to do was to get to a meeting. She told me where to find the next one, and I went, shaking and scared.

By Grace, I’ve not had a drink of alcohol since that moment.

In meetings, I’ve often heard people say, “It hasn’t been necessary for me to take a drink since (some amount of time).” I can’t say that. What I will say is that there have been many, many times in my life when it has felt necessary to take a drink — but I just didn’t do it. And each time, I think it was only through Divine intervention that I didn’t.

On April 12, 1976, I did not know I was an alcoholic. All I knew at that moment was that I had a problem with alcohol and that I needed help. That was enough. The door opened, and I walked through it.

My Higher Power had already seen to it that I was in a safe place — a place where I could get help if I wanted it. And boy, on April 12, 1976, I sure did.

What surprised you about getting sober?

What surprised me the most after my moment of clarity and getting sober was how awful my recovery was. In retrospect, that is one of the reasons I have never taken another drink; I don’t think I could go through that again.

I’ve often wondered if it would have been better for me to have gone through detox instead of stopping cold the way I did, but I know that the horrors I went through during my first year of sobriety were the very thing I needed to really understand the damage alcohol had done to my life and to come to accept that I have a disease called alcoholism. I needed the pain of recovery to break through the denial and to convince me that yes, I belong to this fellowship of sober people.

Let me explain a few things that convinced me I was doing the right thing by staying sober.

When I was on the way to a meeting to take my 30-day chip, my car broke down on the freeway. I left it on the roadside and walked to the nearest phone booth (they still had those back in the day, and cell phones had not yet been invented) so I could call my sponsor.

The nearest phone booth was right outside a liquor store. I went inside to get change so I could place the call, but suddenly was so angry about the car dying (which wasn’t fair! I was doing everything the program told me to do!) that I decided to calm myself with a drink.

I walked back to the cooler section and pulled out a Schlitz beer can. I know it was a Schlitz; I can still remember the label. I walked back to the counter and set it down. I reached into my pocket to pay for it and, when I glanced down, was shocked to see that the can on the counter that I was about to pay for was not a beer but a Coke.

At this point, I recognized the hand of Spirit working in my life. I had every intention to drink. I had chosen a beer. But somehow (I have NO idea how) what was on the counter was a Coke.

All I could do was laugh and surrender. I paid for the Coke, went outside, and called my sponsor, who told me to wait right there and not drink and she would come and get me and take me to the meeting. I broke into tears, realizing how close I had come to relapse — and how, once again, Divine intervention saved me.

What’s the biggest challenge you’ve encountered on your recovery journey?

When I was 7 months sober, I was driving down the highway and I didn’t like the music that was playing on the radio. I went to change the channel and realized with a shock that the car had no radio! I was hallucinating. Again.

It was more than 10 months before I could stop sitting on my hands to keep them from shaking from DT tremors.

It was more than 12 months before I stopped smelling alcohol coming from my skin and hair. That was really annoying but told me something important: alcohol was still leaving my body even after that much sobriety.

These and similar events gave me important, personal verification that I was in fact an alcoholic, even though my drinking patterns were not like anyone else’s stories I’d heard in AA meetings.

That was one of the biggest challenges: I didn’t identify for a long time.

I was not a binge drinker. I didn’t drink every day. As far as I knew, I only had two beers when I drank; what I learned later was that I blacked out after two beers and became what’s known as a blackout drinker. (That was why I didn’t believe people when they told me stories about what I supposedly did the night before; I thought they were lying and trying to hurt me. Now I know the stories were probably true.)

What I learned after I got sober was that once I had alcohol in me, I could NEVER predict what happened next. One time I might be jolly and laughing and having a good time. Another time I might be throwing up. Another time I might be angry or depressed or completely out of it. One time (that scared me the most) was when I felt stone-cold sober no matter how much I drank — and I was drinking a LOT that night.

The one thing that was true for me about drinking was that once I had a drink in me, I could NEVER predict what would happen. And that is the one thing I could finally identify with. That was 1000 percent true for me.

Before I got sober, I didn’t know what blackout drinking was. I didn’t know about the disease of alcoholism and its symptoms. It was many months after my last drink that all the pieces started falling into place.

I sure as hell did not walk into my first AA meeting identifying as an alcoholic. That took some time — and the kind of experiences I related earlier — before I could admit the truth to myself, and before I knew enough about the disease and its progression to be able to identify the ways in which alcohol had become a problem in my life.

What are the biggest benefits or gifts of sobriety?

Today, I have the kind of life I never could have imagined before I got sober. I am an award-winning coach and writer, partner to a beautiful and talented woman, and helping people get their lives back on track.

The biggest gifts sobriety has given me are true humility, a sense of belonging in this world, a sense of purpose, and the power to live full out with dignity and joy. Before sobriety, I never believed any of this was possible for me. Now, I respect myself. I respect others. I show up, stand up, and shine. I could never do any of that when I was drinking.

What words of advice would you give someone who’s considering sobriety or newly sober?

You can have it all, just not all at once. Everything unfolds a day at a time, so that’s how you have to live your life from now on. Untold beauty and magic awaits you — as long as you do the hard work on yourself.

Don’t try to go it alone; you can’t. We’re meant to connect with each other. Ask for help from people you can trust — and look for a way to give something back, even if all you have to give is a smile. It counts. You count. You matter. And we need you to be sober so that your true self can shine as brightly as it was always meant to shine.

Want to share your sobriety story?

Thank you for sharing, Nancy! We look forward to connecting with you in the comments.

Want to be published on Sober.com? If you’re a sober writer, we invite you to contribute! Reach out to hello@danaleighlyons.com for details.

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