Madeline’s Decade Of Gray Area Drinking

If you asked Madeline Forrest to describe her recovery journey in one word, she’d say “happy.” Happy, not because sobriety and the journey to getting sober are all sunshine and rainbows, but because, despite the tough times and difficult emotions, when Madeline is happy, she is truly happy.

Without having to rely on alcohol to help her feel happiness, excitement, or fun, Madeline says that when she feels these emotions now, she knows that they’re real, authentic emotions and experiences.

“Knowing that when I’m happy, it’s actually real, and it’s not just coming from alcohol, even if that means not numbing the bad feelings too, is priceless.”

For about 10 years, Madeline struggled with what she described as a gray area drinking. Growing up with two parents who were sober through alcoholics anonymous (AA), Madeline had a very black-and-white outlook on what alcoholism was.

“Because of my upbringing, my understanding of alcoholism was: either you’re an alcoholic or you’re not.”

This complicated relationship was what took Madeline’s recovery journey nearly a decade until she finally was able to confront her addiction and turn her life around.

Putting Out The Fire

Madeline got sober in November of 2020, but her real “day 1” actually came months before that, when she first made the decision to get sober once and for all. Throughout her storied past with alcohol, Madeline had several instances where she questioned her drinking habits. One of the first she can recall was after living in Australia for a year.

During her year abroad, Madeline was drinking and partying nearly every day, but it wasn’t until she returned home that she began to reflect on her alcohol consumption.

“Ever since I first got drunk, I always struggled with intense anxiety the day after drinking. Towards the end of my trip, I was really concerned. For the first time ever, I was evaluating my drinking and mental health.”

After the Australia trip, Madeline, who was feeling a bit more “sober curious,” tried Dry January. While she made it through the month without drinking, she found it incredibly difficult and told herself that because of this, she could never truly quit drinking. Only about a month or two after finishing Dry January, the COVID-19 pandemic hit, and lockdowns sent her back into a spiral of drinking nearly every day.

“I was drinking every day, but so was a lot of the world, so I felt justified in doing it. I thought, ‘What else is there to do? I’m in lockdown.'”

During that summer, Madeline was listening to a podcast when a guest, who just happened to be sober, talked about sobriety in a way she had never thought about before. The guest talked about how problematic drinking was a spectrum and said something that stuck with her to this day.

“She said if there was a small fire in your kitchen, you wouldn’t wait until your whole house is in flames to put it out.”

For Madeline, that quote was a realization she desperately needed and helped her realize that she didn’t need to wait until her life was falling apart to get sober.

“If this [alcohol] is a problem for me internally, then that’s something I should deal with now.”

Getting Sober, Once And For All

The night Madeline got sober wasn’t exactly a memorable one that you’d think about when you picture rock bottom. That night, she was out drinking with friends and, per usual, got too drunk. She woke up the next morning to a text from her friend saying, “Thank you so much. I had such a fun time!” Meanwhile, she felt lower than she had ever had before.

“It was this emotional breaking point where this switch in my brain went off, and I thought, ‘I can’t stand this feeling anymore. I can’t do this anymore.'”

Madeline was sick of feeling the way she was morning after morning. She was sick of feeling anxious, sick of feeling ashamed, sick of worrying if she’d made a fool of herself the night before. For Madeline, this was her rock bottom and the day she decided to get sober once and for all.

Only about a month later, in November 2020, Madeline said goodbye to alcohol and hello to her newfound sobriety.

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Finding True Happiness

For Madeline, getting sober was a process of getting a few weeks under her belt, then drinking, then getting a couple more weeks sober, then drinking again. She was very fortunate to have her mother, who has been sober for nearly 40 years, as her main support system throughout her recovery journey.

“I called my mom regularly for support, especially in the early days of my first year.”

Madeline says she also joined a virtual sober support group called the Luckiest Club, a support group founded by Laura McKowen, author of the book We Are the Luckiest. She also read a lot of “QuitLit,” a genre of literature dedicated to helping others get sober, to help her through her early days of sobriety.

“When you can see your own story represented, it’s so powerful.”

What made sobriety “click” for Madeline was a realization that being sober means staying sober for good.

“If I’m going to let myself drink every time I really want to drink, then I’m going to be stuck in this cycle forever. Getting sober and staying sober requires sitting with our uncomfortable feelings, especially the ones that make us want to drink.”

One of the things that Madeline credits with helping her get sober and stay sober to this day is a tactic called “playing the tape forward.”

“My main reason for getting sober wasn’t because I was getting drunk and getting into trouble. It was because I would wake up and feel awful about myself. I would wake up and feel anxious and ashamed, wondering if I humiliated myself the night before.”

Even to this day, any time she felt tempted to drink, she would ask, ‘How am I going to feel tomorrow?’

“It’s easy to romanticize how fun drinking will be and all the good feelings you think you’re going to feel, but that’s not the full picture.”

Madeline also kept a note on her phone of all the reasons why she shouldn’t drink. These included detailed notes about how bad her hangovers were, embarrassing things she’d done while drunk, and some of the worst morning-after events she’d had. Whenever she felt like drinking, she would read through her notes and remind herself that the trade-off wasn’t worth it.

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Happiest Sober

In her early days of sobriety, even before starting her social media account, she found comfort in sober influencers like Milly Gooch, founder of the Sober Girl Society. Madeline says a big reason behind her social media account was to help others in situations similar to her own.

Today, Madeline is approaching nearly 4 years sober, and has become a beacon of inspiration to those looking to better their lives and get sober. Only a few months after getting sober, Madeline started sharing her story on instagram, which has quickly grown into nearly 60,000 followers, which she happily refers to as her “own little corner of the internet.”

“It [social media] was an outlet for me to have a place to talk about my journey and connect with people who were doing the same thing.”

Madeline currently does it all. From a sober content creator to writer to podcast host, she has made it her mission to help inspire others to start their sobriety journeys. She also runs a virtual sober community called Happiest Sober, a safe, inclusive, judgment-free space where members can share their experiences and be heard and supported. To learn more about the community, you can visit her website HappiestSober.com.

For those who are ready to take the first step in living a life without alcohol, receiving support from a licensed treatment professional will make the journey safer and more effective. Call a treatment provider for free to learn about the rehab intake process, or explore our rehab directory to find a treatment center near you.

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Zachary Pottle

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  • Zachary Pottle earned his B.A. in Professional Writing from Saint Leo University and has over three years of journalistic experience. His passion for writing has led him to a career in journalism, where he specializes in writing about stories in the pain management and healthcare industry. His main goal as a writer is to bring readers accurate, trustworthy content that serve as useful resources for bettering their lives or the lives of those around them.

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