NORTH FORT MYERS, Fla. — Tuesday is National Sober Day, which is meant to celebrate sobriety and bring awareness to addiction. A local substance abuse center said addiction impacts more people in our country than all cancers combined.
Steven Hill, the Director of the residential treatment program at SalusCare, said on this National Sober Day, he hopes everyone recognizes addiction as a real disease.
"A lot of times, addiction gets just labeled as this disease of character, or disease of morality, and we know through the science that it's not. It does change the structure and function of the brain, and it's really hard for people to to find that sobriety once they've gotten very far into that substance abuse disorder," he said.
To break the stigma and show that sobriety doesn't always start at rock-bottom, Fox 4 interviewed Kelly Anderson.
Anderson, 32, said her decision to become sober is a complex one. She wasn't waking up every morning needing a drink. In fact, she could go weeks at a time without have a drop of alcohol. She said she needed to drink to be social, and in those situation, she couldn't stop at just one.
"I was blacking out every time I went out and every time I was drinking, and that’s not normal. And then I would spend the next couple of days after drinking filled with regret and anxiety," Anderson said.
Her last straw was in January.
"I got blackout drunk at my best friend's baby shower. It was really unfair to her, and I was actually up for 24 hours after that. My husband finally woke up and came out, and I was like, 'I can't do this anymore,'" she said.
Anderson stopped drinking after that and at first, she was private about it.
"I didn't really want to tell anyone because I was ashamed," she said.
But then, something changed.
"I don't want anyone to feel alone like I do," she said.
Anderson turned to her Instagram account to document her sober journey.
"So originally it started as my fitness weight loss journey," she said. "But now, it's really a record of my personal growth and really just putting myself out there, so other people don't feel so alone in their struggles.”
She's been sober for more than seven months, and is enjoying her first National Sober Day by trying to help kill the stigma of sobriety and raise awareness.
She said her sobriety has been life changing: her relationships with her husband, family and friends, have only gotten better. She's set healthy boundaries, and shares when she's struggling.
"Sharing is very nerve wracking. But if someone walks away from this knowing that they have an issue and that they're ready to deal with it, and that they're not alone, then I feel like I've accomplished something,” Anderson said.
If you or someone you love is dealing with addiction and needs help, the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration hotline is free, confidential, and open 24/7, at 1-800-662-HELP.