National Recovery Month: Mira's Story

September 22, 2023

National Recovery Month: Mira's Story

Nearly Ten
by Mira Cohen

September is National Recovery Month. For me, every month is recovery month because each month I continue to recover from alcoholism. On September 30th, I’ll be celebrating my 120th month of recovery (or rather, ten years). I moved to Atlanta in 2018. I wouldn’t cross paths with HAMSA until nearly 2021, and at that point, I had been in recovery for over seven years. HAMSA did not help me get sober, but that doesn’t mean HAMSA didn’t help me.

I am also fortunate enough to be helping HAMSA. I’m the Senior Manager of Creative Strategy at JF&CS, and I’ve had the honor of working with Joel Dworkin and his team for two years now. I’ve been given a sober network in my professional life, a stronger connection with my local Jewish community, and the ability to help those struggling with addiction. In recovery, I’ve been taught that you must ‘give it away to keep it,’ and HAMSA helps me do that.

The Beginning
I’m just a nice Jewish girl from Bethesda, MD. I’m the youngest of three, my parents loved me (they still do, last time I checked), and I went to Jewish sleep-away camp for eight summers. I played sports, took piano and vocal lessons, went to theater camp, sports camps, was on the swim team, volunteered, and I completed Hebrew school through confirmation. I grew up practicing conservative Judaism, had a bat mitzvah with a hot pink and black theme, and I lit the candles with my father every Friday night. The point is, I was busy. Busy kids have structure. Busy kids can’t get into trouble. Busy kids grow up to be busy teens, and they become…busier, with more extracurriculars, and those get you into university!

I’m deeply grateful to my parents for investing in my future and encouraging me to pursue my passions; however, no matter how busy I was, nothing was busier than my mind. I experience emotions deeply, like a walking nerve, and I’m generally very uncomfortable in my own skin. We all feel uncomfortable at times though, right? Of course (oh, the humanity). The problem was that I felt exempt from experiencing pain or discomfort. I felt like life was happening at me…on purpose. I took it personally, and I rarely had peace of mind. I needed a break from myself and everything around me. One middle school evening, alcohol and I found each other, and I immediately experienced a new freedom.

The Freedom
The first sip of alcohol flipped a switch within me. It was an instant feeling of hope, a free ticket to oblivion. I had been gifted a break from my own mind. I was granted the solace and respite I had been craving my entire childhood. Suddenly, I didn’t care. I wasn’t scared. I wasn’t analyzing. I wasn’t concerned with others, what they thought, or what tomorrow might bring. Drinking was my escape route, and it was perfect until it wasn’t. I am addicted to effect produced by alcohol, and in later years, I would become physically addicted to alcohol itself.

The Decision

One drink was never enough. I put my insatiable need to escape above and beyond anything or anyone. I lost control of myself and became divorced from reality. After countless times of escaping death, corroding the trust of my loved ones, and feeling like I may not want a place in this world, I knew it was time to make a decision. The idea of living a sober life felt like trying to describe a color I had never seen before. I couldn’t imagine a life without alcohol, but I also knew I couldn’t continue drinking. I can’t fully explain what possessed me to throw in the towel, but I know it was nothing short of a miracle. The beauty of deciding to get sober is that you only have to do it once, so that’s what I did. In 2013, at the age of 22, I put the drink down and committed to a 12-step program. There are many paths to sobriety, and that’s the one that has worked for me.

Sobriety & Recovery
Getting sober felt like seeing sunlight after being in the dark for years. Lovely and bright, but also irritating, overwhelming, and terrifying. I had used alcohol to avoid all the universal human experiences – love, loss, grief, fear, discomfort, embarrassment, frustration, resentment, motivation, relaxation, stress, humility, etc. I now had to learn how to live in this world and endure discomfort. It felt like a punishment, but it turned out to be the greatest gift I have ever allowed myself to receive. Sobriety is a choice, and the realization that I had one at all is what led me to the other side of active addiction. The next step was deciding to make that choice, and once I did, I had a chance.

Getting sober only meant that I removed the drink from the equation. Initially helpful, but then I was left with a remainder: the same person whose way of thinking led them to a drink in the first place. Staying sober meant my thinking had to change. My responses had to change. The way I viewed the world and my role in it had to change. I had to create new habits to replace the old ones. It was a rocky road of trial and error, confusion, humility, and pain. I had to grow up. For me, staying sober is a commitment to consistently changing, forever, one day at a time.

What does that look like today? Imperfection, acceptance, accountability to myself and others, consistent self-reflection, honesty, reliability, sharing my experience with others, and of course – not drinking. I don’t have the luxury of avoidance. I have better options now. I process my emotions and I experience life as it’s happening. I choose character building over comfort, every time, even when I don’t want to. The reward? A deeper sense of self, a profound connection to others, more patience, the privilege of helping others, an unshakable faith that I can walk through anything, and an intrinsic knowledge that nothing is ever worth drinking about.

As I reflect on nearly ten years of sobriety, I feel the need to thank everyone in the JF&CS community. You’re playing a role in the story of someone who shouldn’t even be here. I can’t believe I almost missed this, and I’m so grateful I didn’t.

a note from Mira to her future self

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