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ally reeves The Globe and Mail

This is part of a series that looks at extraordinary experiences in personal health. Share yours at health@globeandmail.com.

I woke up in the late morning on a Saturday in February, 2010. At the time, my kids were four and six years old. I lay in bed with my eyes closed, and my husband came in and sat down on the bed.

That's when he told me I had written a suicide note. I didn't remember writing it.

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For a long time, I could justify my behaviour and so it allowed me to ignore the obvious fact that I had an unhealthy relationship with alcohol. I was pretty successful. I was a wife and a mother, and I held a job. When I got pregnant with my kids, I stopped drinking. When I was breastfeeding, I stopped drinking. And yet, every time, I'd go back to binge-drinking on the weekends. But the slope got steeper. Instead of just drinking on Friday and Saturday nights, it started to be Thursday and Sunday nights as well.

That February morning, I couldn't deal with the shame any more. So my husband and I actually talked and prayed together. Later that day, I texted my sister about the situation and she responded with a list of Alcoholic Anonymous meetings for me – and lots of love and support.

That same night, I went to a 40th birthday party at a local bar. The bartender happened to know me and offered me my favourite drink. I said, "You got any coffee? I really think I just feel like a coffee." She was excited to brew me a pot and my husband ordered me a Red Bull and 7 Up.

On the dance floor, all these ladies were dancing. And one of them said, "Come dance, Julie, come dance!"

This person came over with a gaggle of girls, and I said, "No, no. I'm just hanging out tonight. I'm taking it easy."

They'd obviously had a few and they said, "Are you sober?"

I said, "Yep."

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And this person said to me: "I don't like this sober Julie. I like drunk Julie."

That name, "Sober Julie," stuck with me. It kind of fortified me, believe it or not, because this wasn't how I wanted to be seen, as "Drunk Julie."

What's funny is when you first go to events and you're not drinking, you often feel like the lone unicorn in the room that everyone's staring at, when, in fact, you're not the focus of their attention.

Over time, as I began to accept myself, I replaced my old behaviours with new, more positive ones. The repetition of doing that is exhausting and I'm completely imperfect at it. But the more you do it, the easier it gets.

My father had a health scare in January and we thought we were going to lose him. At one point as I was leaving the hospital, in a millisecond I had planned out my route to the nearest liquor store and how I could drink a bottle and nobody would ever know. That thought process just took over for me. It startled and scared the crap out of me and so I texted my sponsor. So being in recovery means I still have a problem. I still have the desire.

But recovery is so much more beautiful than anybody could imagine until you're on this side of it.

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Julie Elsdon-Height lives in Orangeville, Ont., and writes the blog, SoberJulie.com.

Read more stories in this series here.

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