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I got drunk for the first time at age 13 at a teenage drinking party in Avalon, New Jersey. There was a large punch bowl filled with grain alcohol jungle juice, and I was eager to try alcohol, which was a constant in our household growing up. I wanted to be cool and I wanted to fit in. But it was never the taste that made me chase it, it was the alcohol buzz. The effect that it produced was one that I loved and craved. Then, when I tried cocaine at age 16 for the first time, that combination together, it was like BAM! I’ve arrived!

Within a few years I was dating a drug dealer and my usage increased. My 20’s were a bit of a blur and wild, but by 30 I had become a “recreational” weekend cocaine user and a daily drinker. I also had a thriving career so I was considered a high-functioning alcoholic. I was able to make my weekend drug use and daily drinking work within my lifestyle because I only hung out with others that drank and used the way I did. I thought I was a typical “party girl” and weekend warrior. By 32, I had racked up my first DUI. I also moved over 22 times during these years and kept jobs for 3 to 4 years until I knew they’d find me out. I was able to maintain pretty well. But I knew I had a problem and just didn’t really care. Alcohol and cocaine were the two things that made me feel normal and happiest.

In November 2003, I was drunk and typing in my journal about how messed up my life was. I knew I needed help, but I was too scared to ask anyone. A few months later, at age 37, I received my second DUI in San Diego where I had been living for the past few years. Sitting in that jail cell for 11 hours really made me think – and made me think that I needed to do something different.

In May 2004, I walked into an AA meeting. I left that meeting and quicker than you can say alcoholic, I went out and drank for a week. But during that week I had my moment of clarity, my first real “A-HA” moment. I realized that everything bad that had ever happened to me during my life was from drinking and drugging. I thought, I might want to give this sobriety thing a try. So, that’s what I did. I had heard “Hope” in that first meeting, and I clung onto that hope and walked into recovery with complete blind faith. I had no idea what to expect, as I knew nothing about sobriety.

I got sober the AA way – 90 meetings in 90 days. I got a sponsor, I worked the steps, and I did what the woman in recovery told me to do. I didn’t want anyone in my family or corporate life to know what I was doing, so treatment wasn’t an option for me. I’m grateful I got sober the way I did, and I’m so appreciative of the Fellowship where I got sober. I wouldn’t change a thing. AA doesn’t work for everyone, but it’s just what worked for me.

I’ve been able to live life today free from the bondage of alcohol and drugs. I don’t hang out in seedy places, I don’t get DUIs, I don’t wake up in strangers’ beds, and I don’t have to wonder what happened the night before and who I pissed off. I have been able to get married in recovery and share my journey with someone else who gets me and who is also in recovery. I rescued my constant companion and dog, Lucy, and she brings me so much joy. I have been able to maintain and make new friendships – I get to live and participate in my life today.

The freedom I have today is just amazing, and the fact that I get to live my life today without lying, manipulating, cheating and stealing is all just gravy to me. I am so happy that I don’t HAVE to drink today. I am a strong supporter of AA and helping others and being of service. I am grateful I don’t need a drink to manage my life, and that I get to have choices today – healthy choices on who I want to be, not who alcohol and cocaine want me to be. As Sir Elton John once said in an interview, “My biggest accomplishment in my life is getting sober, it’s not the Grammy’s, the money, being Knighted or how many records I’ve sold, it’s my sobriety!”

That drunken journal entry turned into a memoir, “Last Call, A Memoir.” It’s a story of my experience, strength and hope. My hope is that I can help someone – anyone – who may be able to relate to my life as a “social party girl” and realize that they too have a chance at a better life, a life where they will be able to wake up in the morning and have dignity, integrity and self-love – because that’s what living a clean and sober life has given me.

“Last Call, A Memoir” was published in 2015 and is available on Nancy’s Last Call Blog, and on Amazon.