Addiction Help Podcast – Episode 9 – Recovery Isn’t Linear: A Conversation with Leah

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Episode 9 – Recovery Isn’t Linear: A Conversation with Leah

This week, we have something special for our listeners on The Addiction Help Podcast with Dan Hauser & Jessica Miller. We delve deep into a single, inspiring story of recovery featuring our esteemed guest, Leah Numbers. Leah’s journey from addiction to sobriety offers a strikingly raw and real perspective on the challenges and triumphs those grappling with addiction face.

Episode 9 – Recovery Isn’t Linear: A Conversation with Leah Video Thumbnail

In this week's episode of the Addiction Help Podcast with Dan & Jess, we feature an incredibly moving and insightful conversation with Leah Numbers. Leah shares her personal struggle with alcohol addiction, beginning from her teenage years, and its complex link with her mental health, specifically Bipolar Disorder. She underlines the vital role of resilience and the power of finding your own path to recovery, speaking from her own experiences with Alcoholics Anonymous and the electronic music scene. Leah's inspiring story serves as a beacon of hope, demonstrating that sobriety and joyous living are not mutually exclusive, but rather, deeply interconnected.

Duration: 1 hrs 25 min 22 sec

Dan Hauser:
Hello, everyone, and welcome to episode nine of the Addiction Help Podcast, where we discuss the latest in news, sports and entertainment as it pertains to addiction, addiction recovery, and mental health. I am your host, Dan Hauser, and with me as always is my partner in crime on the show, Jessica Miller, Editorial Director of addictionhelp.com. Jess, how’s it going?

Jessica Miller:
Pretty good. As we know, we are recording from the past, and so it’s Friday for me. I’m pretty stoked.

Dan Hauser:
You going to play your fun nerdy games this weekend?

Jessica Miller:
1,000%, Dan. I was actually looking last night, because Nintendo, it shows you your hours played.

Dan Hauser:
Oh, no.

Jessica Miller:
[inaudible 00:00:52] hundred hours, but bills are paid. Animals are taken care of. Husband is not neglected.

Dan Hauser:
Listen, you don’t have to justify it for me. The Heat and the Panthers both started their respective championship series.

Jessica Miller:
Yes.

Dan Hauser:
Since we record on Friday, last night for Heat game one. So for the next anywhere from 10 to 16 days, my sleep is going to be all sorts of out of whack, and I couldn’t be more excited about it. So I’m right there with you, same nerdy things, just different genre of nerdiness.

Jessica Miller:
I love that for you. Yeah, yeah. Heck yeah.

Dan Hauser:
But anyway, we have a very exciting and interesting and different type of episode today. My sister-in-law, Leah Numbers, who is a fantastic and wonderful person, who has been a listener of ours, a dedicated listener of ours from day one … She does not miss a single episode. The day it comes out, as soon as it drops, she’s immediately listening to it, and she reached out to both of us, actually, recently and offered to come on this podcast and tell her story about her journey through addiction, mental health issues, and most importantly sobriety. So that is going to be the-

Jessica Miller:
So rad.

Dan Hauser:
Basically, not the meat of. That is going to be today’s show. We are going to go ahead and talk to Leah, and she’s going to share her truly amazing and inspiring story with us about everything from where her addiction started to her sobriety today and everything in between. So we’re not going to bog you guys down with too much here on the front end, because the interview is quite a long one. So we’re just going to get right to it, and we hope you guys enjoy this interview that we did with Leah.
So with us this week is a very, very special guest of ours that is joining the show, Leah Numbers. Full disclosure off the front end of this, Leah is actually my sister-in-law. So she was one of the first ones to reach out after our pilot episode, saying how thrilled she was that we were doing this and how excited she was that this was a thing that was happening and offered basically immediately to come on with us whenever we wanted and share her story with us. So we took her up on that offer this week, and she is here to share her story with us. So Leah, thank you for coming on.

Leah Numbers:
Thank you.

Jessica Miller:
Seriously.

Leah Numbers:
Thank you for asking me to be here. Honestly, what you guys are doing is really incredible, and I’ve said to Dan before as well … I’ll make this part short so we can get into it. But I’m just really appreciative of the insight that you both give and especially Dan. Being in the same position that I’m in with addiction, it’s really incredible to hear the insight and direction that’s given in such a way that anybody can understand. So thank you guys for what you’re doing.

Jessica Miller:
It’s a pleasure. Like we say often, even if this podcast only gets to one person and helps one person, done. Anything beyond that is a bonus.

Dan Hauser:
Exactly. Exactly. So just to jump right in, Leah, if you want to just share a little bit of your story for the audience, and then we’ll go from there. But at least tell me a little bit about yourself, your background, just your story overall.

Jessica Miller:
Who are you, Leah?

Dan Hauser:
Exactly.

Jessica Miller:
Because you two know each other, but we have just met.

Leah Numbers:
Yeah. But honestly, I feel, though, like Dan knows me through my sister and even us being around one another, but I don’t know before you guys launched this podcast if he had a clue about me to the degree of who I am and who I am now, especially with [inaudible 00:04:35]. So yeah, so where do I begin?
I will start by saying addiction has infiltrated my life pretty heavily numerous times in various different ways, seeds growing in my family, then the way it personally affected me. This is actually my third time being sober and for the long haul. I can say to that the difference this time is being that it was a genuine choice that I made, as opposed to being backed into a corner or even hitting the proverbial rock bottom, which I think it’s easier for people on the outside to see what somebody else’s rock bottom is, not necessarily the person going through it. So I just passed two and a half years being sober, which was super exciting.

Jessica Miller:
That’s awesome. Congratulations.

Leah Numbers:
Yeah, thank you so much. The other two times I got sober, I made it to two years. So even when I hit my two years, it was a big deal, or two years, one month, I should say. It was a pretty big deal.

Jessica Miller:
Let’s start at the beginning.

Leah Numbers:
Yes.

Jessica Miller:
I know we briefly talked about this pre-meeting, and you were like, “I’m an open book.” If anything changes and you’re like, “I don’t really feel like getting into that,” just say so. We’ll move on. It’s not a big deal, because I don’t want to ask anything that’s triggering or inappropriate or anything like that as well.

Leah Numbers:
I appreciate that.

Jessica Miller:
So when did you first start really using any substance?

Leah Numbers:
So I started drinking when I was 15 years old. PBR was the beginning. Yeah, living in the sticks … Where we live isn’t exactly the sticks, but everything around is. In a small town, it was bonfires and the parties and drinking like that. Looking back now, I see that I was destined for demise up until I got sober, only because it was so secretive. For me, what’s crazy to look back on when I began drinking and why I was so secretive was because I was able to drink around my parents. My parents always entertained, and it was just normal. But then there was also-

Jessica Miller:
So very culturally acceptable.

Leah Numbers:
Yeah.

Jessica Miller:
Right. Okay.

Leah Numbers:
But also, they definitely said, “You shouldn’t drink. Don’t drink, because you’re underage. It’s the law.” But being that I was around them, I understand it. I don’t [inaudible 00:07:18].

Jessica Miller:
Sure.

Leah Numbers:
Yeah, that’s when it began.

Jessica Miller:
Then because I’ve heard this from different people, did you notice there was an ongoing slippery slope then, or was it just very casual for a while?

Leah Numbers:
So it felt casual at the time. I can honestly remember that far back. It felt casual at the time. But it was absolutely a slippery slope, because not only was I drinking, but it was absolutely intertwined with my mental health. They both hit the same time. So I was diagnosed at 15 years old with bipolar disorder, and then on top of drinking, that was a horrible mix, and then on top of being a 15-year-old girl dealing with body image issues. So it was just everything all at once, and it didn’t feel like I got hit by a ton of bricks at the time. It was definitely a slow lead into everything bad that would have to-

Dan Hauser:
Because it’s a common thing in the addiction world or addiction space as far as addiction and mental health and the correlation there, did you find yourself early on turning to substances as a way of self-medicating or because you were confused and were like, “This just makes me feel better,” or was it just a perfect storm of just a coincidence of it happening at the same time?

Leah Numbers:
I think it was definitely a conscious decision that I was making to drink, because the way I looked at myself, the way I felt about myself, I drank to make it all go away, to really genuinely numb myself any chance I could. I didn’t understand my emotions at the time. I think that definitely had to do with being bipolar, and even though I was in therapy … My parents especially supported me taking all the necessary steps to not have as hard of a time as I did. But I don’t think any of us had a clue. I don’t even think that the professionals that I was getting help from had a clue, which also is attributed 95% to the fact that I was such a liar to everybody, even in therapy, because I thought that they would sell me out to my parents. So there just was a whole lot of dishonesty also intertwined and all that. So essentially, it was the perfect storm, but I think I was very conscious of the reason that I was drinking.

Jessica Miller:
That’s interesting. Just to share a little bit of myself to relate, I was diagnosed in my early twenties with generalized anxiety disorder. Obviously different, but some of the same symptoms. For a lot of us, especially young girls, our symptoms don’t start showing up until we’re teenagers, which is so difficult, because that’s already just such a very hard age with everything going on, like you mentioned, like body image issues and all kinds of stuff. Then your brain is doing things that you just … I remember my senior year of high school, and I genuinely thought I was losing it. Looking back, I can now see that it was … That’s when a lot of times our symptoms really start to ramp up, but as you’re a kid, you’re trying to navigate this space. Then you add a substance to it that is … At the time, it seems like it makes you look cool, and it’s helping you think. So I can see for sure how easy it is to get seduced by that whole process.

Leah Numbers:
Yeah, absolutely.

Jessica Miller:
So then how did things progress for you? Because I don’t really know much about your story at all.

Leah Numbers:
So things progressed. At that same time, being that I was diagnosed, I was also put on antidepressants. I will say I got pretty lucky. I’ve never really felt like a guinea pig throughout my life when it comes to medications. So I’m very grateful for that. We happened to find a good combination of pharmaceutical drugs to help me at the time, but it probably would’ve worked had I not been drinking. I really just thought I was the smartest person in every room and I had it all figured out, because it was like, “Well, I’m going to therapy. Oh, I’m on medication,” and I’m checking all the boxes on the outside to everybody. But inside, it was like I just kept fumbling the ball. So for me-

Jessica Miller:
So you knew, in a way. Do you think you were in denial at all, or do you think you were just-

Leah Numbers:
Absolutely,

Jessica Miller:
… recklessly like, “Screw it. Who cares?”

Leah Numbers:
I think I was absolutely in denial, because something that I’ve recognized about myself as I’ve gotten older, and no matter what I’m going through, I’ve always been a very self-aware person. But the difference between who I am now and who I was back then was I just disregarded my self-awareness back then. It was like this little voice, essentially the devil on your shoulder. I’m just, “Okay, that’s great that you’re saying all that. I don’t care.” Now it’s like, “Wait. Let’s listen. Let’s figure it out. Let’s make sure I’m making good choices, moving forward.”
But I think back at the time, when I was that young and I was drinking, so much of it was I was embarrassed for having mental health issues, let alone having to be on medication for it at such a young age. So for me, it became then, “How do I live my life feeling good?”, which in my head was from alcohol, and let’s push all this other stuff. So the number of times I started and stopped medication … I know one of the other podcasts, Dan, when you shared your story about starting and stopping, I was like, “Thank you so much for saying, ‘Don’t do that,'” because I think it’s a genuine miracle that I’m able to sit here and even tell any of this, because the combination of drugs that I was on mixed with the alcohol and then just starting and stopping and starting and stopping, I could have killed myself. So yeah, don’t do that, anybody who’s listening.

Jessica Miller:
Especially, too, [inaudible 00:13:43].

Dan Hauser:
Yeah. Not only did I do that-

Jessica Miller:
… alcohol and … Wow. Yeah.

Dan Hauser:
Yeah. Not only did I do that, I didn’t bother to tell anyone I was doing it, too. So that was just even …

Leah Numbers:
Surprise.

Jessica Miller:
Surprise.

Leah Numbers:
Yeah. I didn’t secretively a few times. I would actually flush my meds, but then my parents, whether or not they picked up on it or if I was honest about it, because they had gotten … I don’t know if they were strategic about it. I look back and think that they were doing the right thing as far as my mom would make us breakfast in the morning, and she’d give me my pills. So she had some control over it. I don’t think it was for the control of it, probably routine, maybe.

Jessica Miller:
It was smart.

Leah Numbers:
Yeah. Yeah, and then after that, I think I didn’t put as much emphasis on the fact that I actually had a drinking problem, for one because I was underage. So it’s like, “Well, it’s not even legal for me to be doing this. Therefore, I don’t have a problem.”

Jessica Miller:
You think it’s your wild years.

Leah Numbers:
Oh, yeah.

Jessica Miller:
Mine were more in college, if you could even call it that. As evidenced by the stuffed animals I have in the background, I’m a very soft, squishy person. So my wild ears were not that wild. But you know what I mean, when you’re just chalking it up to whatever. It’s not good, but you think you’re in control of it.

Leah Numbers:
Honestly, and this sucks. I think it’s an age thing. “Everybody’s doing it” was the mentality, and it’s like, “Well, my friends are doing it.” Of course, at that age, like you said, you don’t know yourself. You’re trying to find yourself, so you’re going to gravitate to the things that feel good as opposed to the things you know are good, which usually are what your parents are telling you. They’re the most uncool people on earth. So run from that.
I think it really started to hit me when my mental health tanked, and I actually was hospitalized the first time before I was even 21. I think I was 20 years old, and I was hospitalized for mental health issues for a suicide attempt. That’s when it was like, “Okay, well, maybe drinking is a problem.” But I was so hesitant to even admit that, to myself especially. I know I admitted it to the people around me, because I backed myself into a corner by getting a handle on my mental health. So then I realized, which I think is something that addicts do and never get rid of, is the ability to manipulate. It’s just a matter of now that I’m sober, I manipulate in a very positive way, so it produces positive results for myself and the people around me. But back then, it was like, ‘Ooh, I’m seeing all this go on, and how do I get what I want without changing?” So that first hospitalization was when I was like, “Okay, maybe drinking is a problem.”

Jessica Miller:
Were you actually checked into a facility where you had to stay?

Leah Numbers:
Yes. Yeah, I think-

Jessica Miller:
Was that very scary for you? Because it was very scary for me.

Leah Numbers:
I’ve been hospitalized four times. Thankfully, each time was a little bit better than the last, which I think had to do with the facility and my willingness to be there. The first place that I was at was terrifying, and I somehow have gotten by ever having legal issues or being arrested or anything. But I imagine that’s what prison feels like. It was terrifying because of seeing how they were treating everybody. I instantly had to become smarter than everybody around me.
Thankfully, even though I was not in a position to have anybody listen to me, my parents were very receptive when I would have my phone calls. I remember saying, because my mom one time said, “Are you okay?,” because all my phone calls, I was so happy. It seemed like everything was fine. I remember whispering to her on the phone. I said, “I have to act okay. Otherwise they’ll drug me.” Looking back, I still was in the mentality, “I’m the smartest person in the room.” But the sad part about that experience and that hospitalization was I had to just survive it, and that took away the focus on why I actually needed to be there. So needless to say-

Jessica Miller:
That is so relatable. Yeah.

Leah Numbers:
… that stay didn’t do much.

Dan Hauser:
You mentioned off the top this is now your third time being sober, and this is also the first time that you chose to do it on your own. So that first time when you got sober, was it because you didn’t have any other choice because you were hospitalized, or what was the reasoning the first time around?

Leah Numbers:
It definitely was because I didn’t have any other choice, because I was hospitalized. I don’t remember craving alcohol when I was hospitalized. I didn’t really realize that I was missing out on anything. I had outwardly addressed that I knew I shouldn’t be drinking. But I think it was a manipulation tactic to try to ease myself back into my life as quickly as possible upon getting … So I had to convince my parents I was okay, my sister, my friends, and my family, like, “It’s all good. I’m fine.”
But yeah, honestly, I think I just went through the motions back then, because I remember going to AA with my uncle a couple times. In my head, I was like, “This is a cult, and I want nothing to do with it.” I didn’t do anything to stay sober. I just think I [inaudible 00:19:36] lucky, getting sober for two years, and then near the tail end of that, I think that’s when my brain really started to work a little bit better and say, “Well, I want drinking back in my life. I need to figure out why it was a problem before. If I do that and I beat it, I can drink.” That didn’t work. Surprise. So yeah, so then I chose to relapse. It wasn’t like in a bad environment or anything like that. It was a conscious decision, and I drank for ten months. Go ahead.

Jessica Miller:
No, I was going to say you hear that, though, a lot, especially with something like alcohol that’s legal, that’s socially acceptable, that is even considered a celebratory thing to imbibe, that people get this-

Dan Hauser:
Super easy to get.

Jessica Miller:
Right. People get this sense, especially when it comes to alcohol addiction, too, that if they’re not fainting for it or having to put it in their morning coffee that they are not a real alcoholic, and then maybe they can incorporate it back in their lives again. I think that’s interesting, because with so many other things, there’s this idea that abstinence … because the thing itself is bad, but when we live in a culture … Would you say that you felt influenced because it was also all around, or was there any sense of missing out, or do you think this was all just more of a personal desire because you missed what you had?

Leah Numbers:
So I will say up until this past time that I got sober, I was the poster child for FOMO, fear of missing out. I’ve never been a scheduler. I just fly by the seat of my pants in everything. I don’t plan for much. But I thought it was a personality trait to have FOMO. I would schedule my drinking so meticulously. It’s insane to look back, and I’m like, “If I would’ve applied that energy into things that were beneficial to my health and wellbeing, I’d be in a different place, but I wouldn’t have as cool of stories.”

Jessica Miller:
You learned, right?

Leah Numbers:
Yeah, absolutely. That’s the biggest part, of course.

Jessica Miller:
Not to skip ahead to the end. So is alcohol, is that your “drug of choice,” or were there other substances that started to eat in?

Leah Numbers:
So I will say something that I’ve always stood against is the assumption that if you’re addicted to one thing, you’re addicted to everything. For me in particular, which I had medical proof, my body metabolizes drugs faster than alcohol. I don’t know the science behind it, but found out when I had my son, and it was devastating news when my epidural ran out.
But yeah, so alcohol for me was … That would be my demise, because it was a coverup. It was a coping mechanism. I think early, maybe even before I turned 20 or 21, I had done cocaine before. Then it came in waves. It was a habit for sure. I don’t really think I even acknowledged that until relatively recently in my life, because I never sold things in order to get drugs. It was if it was around or if I had the money. But also, when I look back and I’m real with myself, I’m like, “The amount of money I spent on drugs is” … I don’t know, and I don’t ever want to know. I don’t ever want to look back on my bank records. I’m just real glad that green juice is my splurge these days.

Jessica Miller:
Me, it’s fizzy water. [inaudible 00:23:42] fizzy water.

Dan Hauser:
So quickly, second time around, you said you chose to relapse. You went right back into drinking again. You experimented with some other stuff. Obviously, we talked about in the beginning the second time wasn’t really by choice, either. So why the second time? Was it basically hospitalization required again?

Leah Numbers:
I was on the cusp of taking full responsibility for myself, but I wasn’t there yet. The second time when I got sober, I put myself into a corner again. I actually remember I was supposed to sing at church, and the night before, I went out., It was a wild night and my phone died. I didn’t wake up for church. I was at a stranger’s house. I remember once I got my phone charged, I called my friend, best friend from college, and I said, “You need to meet at my apartment, because I know my mom’s going to be there. I’m ready to be honest,” which was a lot. But I thought, once again, I was very strategic about it, and as long as I had backup and somebody there to protect me from my mother, I could talk my way out of it.
So once again, I admitted that alcohol was a problem and got sober. I hear so much, people in recovery, that you surrender, and I think it has to be a full surrender of your entire self to every single thing in your life and that exists around you. At the time, I thought I could be strategic with my surrendering. That once again proved to not be how it works, at least for me, because the one thing I want to say, too, I think it’s really important to take the time to understand and recognize people’s journeys, especially when it comes to addiction and sobriety, because everybody’s life is different. Everybody’s journey is different. What works for one person doesn’t necessarily work for another person. I know that second time I got sober, it was still in this mentality of FOMO.
I’m a very social person. I love music. I love being around people. So I put things in place to help me stay sober, and one of them was the bar that I always went to. I was close with the owners and the staff, and I said, “Listen, if I’m here, don’t let any of your bartenders serve me.” It was weird to find community in that, considering drinking was a problem. But my real problem was me drinking alone, because it’s like if I’m at my apartment, I can run to the liquor store and grab a fifth and go sit on my couch and drink the whole thing, and nobody knows. So for me, it became, “Well, I want to be a social person still, but I don’t want to drink.” So really, the place for me in times of trouble was being at a bar. Really messed up mentality, but it worked for a while.

Jessica Miller:
But I get it, too, because, again, it goes back to that it’s socially acceptable. As somebody who also has pretty intense FOMO, I understand that desire, where your addiction or your habit, it’s so intertwined with these other things. So it’s easy to either ignore or justify.

Leah Numbers:
I think for me, too, being that I started so young and knowing from my own experience and also my education, learning about human development, there are some smart kids out there, but we do not know ourselves in our teenage years. So for me to literally [inaudible 00:27:36] any potential growth as a human being in those very formative years, it was like I also was clinging to alcohol, because it was an identity. Being that I didn’t have an identity established prior to drinking, it was like, “Well, if I lose this, I lose who I am,” and plus also seeing it around and worrying that, “Well, look, everybody else can have a glass of wine with dinner or even go out to the bar and have a few drinks and get a buzz. I don’t want to be somebody who isn’t able to do so.” Not only did I have FOMO of outside situations, like, “Oh, I want to go to this party” or “I want to go to that bar,” but internally, it was like, “Well, who would I be if I didn’t have this?”

Dan Hauser:
I was going to say really quick, because-

Jessica Miller:
Go, Dan.

Dan Hauser:
… just tying back to what Leah said about the comment about how the bar was your safe space, and that was super messed-up when you think about it, breaking the fourth wall here for a minute, so when my wife and I were first … Before we even married, when we first got together, the first time I ever went and visited Leah and her family, my wife had given me a little bit of a backstory of Leah’s situation and how she was a sober person now and whatnot. I was still relatively new to the industry as far as my time working in it. So at the time, I had a very I guess you could say closed-minded brain as far as, “There’s only one right way to do things.”
So literally the first night we were all there and we were all hanging out, Leah was like, “Let’s go to the bar.” In my head, I’m thinking to myself, I’m like, “We can’t go do this. It doesn’t work like that.” Then I very, very quickly learned and realized, “No, actually, it can work like this. You can actually still go do those things.” So it’s just funny. When you said messed-up it is, that was my initial thought, because we’re talking five, six years ago at this point. I was like, “No, there’s only one way, and you basically have to avoid these. You can’t just go to a bar as a sober person. You can’t just do this.” But you very, very much can, and I know that Jess and I have talked in previous episodes about it. Whatever makes you happy and whatever works for you, and no one should judge that. At the time, I was very judge-y about it. I’m like, “This isn’t something you can do.” Yeah, so you very much can.

Leah Numbers:
Well, I didn’t feel [inaudible 00:29:51], so thank you. You’re like, “What are you doing?”

Dan Hauser:
Yes, no, “We’re going to a bar, and you’re driving us there? No, no, you can’t go to a bar.”

Leah Numbers:
I think for me, too, part of it, once I was sober, I tried to begin to change my mentality, because I started to realize these things about myself that I look at as not being good, our mentality usually is, “I want to get rid [inaudible 00:30:18].” But what I’ve learned to realize is we don’t get rid of any of it. We just have to learn how to switch it to work in our favor, really. I think also with me wanting to stay in that scene, in the bar scene [inaudible 00:30:34] was feeling in control of something. So it’s like, “Okay, well, I know that my friends are going to get places safely.” With addiction, it’s so rooted in control. You don’t have control over the things around you, so you grab a bottle or you buy drugs or whatever, or you have sex or whatever it may be. That’s what feels comfortable. So I began at that time to start to tweak my mentality and say, “Okay, well, I can still have control. It just can be in ways that aren’t a detriment to my existence.”

Jessica Miller:
So would you say throughout your addiction, and this is getting a little personal, were you the kind of drinker that there were situations you were putting yourself into that were unsafe, or were you just getting too drunk and causing social issues? At what point would you say there was that line where it was getting problematic in your behavior? What were the flags?

Leah Numbers:
I feel like there were phases for me, especially because I’ve gotten sober and then relapsed, and also being different ages and around different groups of friends and things like that. For me, there was a period of time where alcohol made me just violent and angry. I’ve been dragged out of bars, and there was other times where I was so that girl that was crying in the corner at a party. Cute. Then I was just overly dramatic. That was another phase.
Then the last phase before I got sober, which was during the pandemic, the beginning of the pandemic, that was just outrageous party phase, out of control from the moment I woke up to the time I went to bed, if I went to bed, for days. Really, when I look back, that period of time was definitely the worst of my drinking, but it wasn’t rooted in drinking my feelings. It was literally like, “I have all the time on my hands, because I’m not working. The world is shut down, and what better to do than all the drugs and all the alcohol?” I was surrounded. All of my friends were off work. So it was that, especially. I honestly feel it was more suffocating. When I started drinking early on, even though I had a lot of people around me then that were drinking, too, it was just zero to a hundred real quick.

Jessica Miller:
Because I don’t like to call it rock bottom, because exactly to your point earlier, it’s going to look different for different people, and it’s not necessarily a rock bottom that creates that aha moment for people. So what was the moment when the sky parted and you’re like, “Wait a minute”?

Leah Numbers:
So it was four days before Thanksgiving 2020. So I got sober on November 14th of 2020. The night before, I was not sober in the slightest.d I woke up and was like, “If you keep doing this, you’re not going to be here.” At that point, it was not even about alcohol. It was more so everything else that came with it, because drinking, it is a miracle, and I am so grateful that I woke up when I did, because I’ve driven drunk way too many times. I mean blackout. I would get calls from my friends the next morning and say, “Oh, did you make it home last night?” I thought somebody else drove me home.
So I was a danger to myself and to so many others, and it got to the point when I looked at myself and was just like, “You’re going to die if you keep this up, and it probably won’t even be from alcohol. It’ll just be because you’re so mentally ill and you’re not doing anything at all to help yourself.” So at that point, I was honest with my parents about getting sober, but more so really wanting to get my mental health back on track. On top of my excessive drinking and drug use in 2020, I also had six or eight surgeries, I think, my foot surgery. So all the anesthetic, in and out of surgery, painkillers, everything like that, saying it out loud, I’m like, “Holy crap.” Yeah, it was all just too much.

Jessica Miller:
It was your chaos era, essentially.

Leah Numbers:
Yeah, and for me, it just came down to one thing, that, “I need to get my mental health stable. Otherwise, I’m not going to be here.” Honestly, I have a seven-year-old son, and he’s absolutely the light of my life. But me knowing what I had to do for myself was the driving force. He was secondary to that, because it was like, “He’s been around for this many years, and I still haven’t gotten it together. I can’t look to my child to save me. I literally have to save myself.”
So I had called my doctor and asked to get back on medication. I really familiarized myself with pharmaceuticals and how they help or hurt different mental illnesses and things like that. So I said, “This is what I need.” He says, “I want to try something different.” I know how that goes. Even though I know what’s best for me, you’ve got to do what the doctors say. He prescribed a medication. I had looked it up beforehand, and when I took it, I instantaneously became a zombie. I didn’t leave the couch for seven days. Thankfully, I was being so honest with my parents. So they were scared. But there was communication at least, and it got to the point where I said, “Listen.”
I remember actually when my mom was in the kitchen, cooking, and I was sitting on the couch. I was in zombie mode, and I just started crying uncontrollably. She came over to me, and she said, “What’s wrong?” I said, “I just feel like throwing myself off of a bridge and laughing on the way down.” I realized obviously, that’s not normal. So I got back on the phone with my doctor, and I said, “If you don’t prescribe the medication that I know will work for me, I don’t think I’m going to be here tomorrow.” He did, thankfully. I wasn’t back to normal by any means, but I felt okay.
So that was the starting point for me to really just truly take everything a day at a time. I couldn’t even get ahead of myself and be like, “Oh, now I’m better,” because that’s what I thought every other time. It really forced me, like, “I’ve got to take this truly a day at a time and figure it out as I go, because I’ve done this before, and those times didn’t work. So now I have an opportunity to do something different that will actually work for me.”

Jessica Miller:
What else has been different about this time? Have there been new coping mechanisms or even hobbies or anything that you’ve incorporated or anything like that?

Leah Numbers:
So in recent months, yes. I will backtrack a little bit to when I was sober this last time, two and a half years ago. I found myself in a relationship of sorts, and I now understand why it is widely known when you get sober that you should not be in a relationship. I thought that I could find a loophole in that, because, “Well, this is my third time getting sober, so I’m smarter, and I can skip the steps.” That, I think in a way, I used as a coping mechanism to not address certain things with myself, because even though I got sober, there was still a lot that I wasn’t ready to uncover and really deal with.
But working out, honestly, that was something I threw myself into right away. So the gym has helped immensely. So I will say about me going back on medication, I think I was only on it for about six months after I got sober, because I just had such an awareness of how it made me feel, got to the point that I was like, “Okay, I know basic science. For one, as we age, our hormones change, and obviously I’m sober. I’ve been sober six months, so there’s going to be some things in me that change.” It just got to the point where I was noticing that the medication was starting to make me feel [inaudible 00:39:47]. So I talked with my doctor. I talked with my family, and I [inaudible 00:39:52] off of it. I haven’t been on any pharmaceutical medication for about two years. With that, also, I was in school, so I was working on my degree in psychology. So that definitely took up a lot of my time. Working. Obviously, my son.

Jessica Miller:
So keeping busy a lot was really helpful.

Leah Numbers:
Yeah. Yeah.

Jessica Miller:
Gave you other things to throw yourself into. Then would you say also that the knowledge of, “These are my commitment” also helped you stay on the right track kind of thing?

Leah Numbers:
I honestly don’t think so. The reason I say that is because the relationship that I was in, it actually ended last August or September. That really made me look at myself the deepest I’ve ever looked at myself, and I don’t mean it rudely towards that person as a coping mechanism, because he was not that for me. It was meaningful. But looking back, I see that I did use that in a way to face things within myself. So once that was gone, it was like, “Okay, now I just have to stand in front of myself in the mirror and stop thinking I’m smarter and just truly surrender to everything.”
It’s wild to me, because even though I was sober prior to then, I started a 12-step program when that relationship ended. I threw myself into it, because, yeah, once again, it was just like, “Stop running. Stop trying to cover anything.” I had some tough talks with myself, and it’s like, “You used alcohol as your excuse, because you haven’t had that in your life. Now look at what’s going on.” It was definitely a test, obviously, because looking back at how that relationship ending affected me, I don’t know how I stayed sober. I do. I can explain it, but just glimpsing at it, I’m like, “Holy crap, man. How did I do that?”

Jessica Miller:
Right. I think it’s A-okay to be impressed with yourself when you look and you’re like, “I did that. I got through that.” Logically, we know how we did it. But yeah, there are times where I’ve looked back, too, that you’re like, “I’m honestly stunned that I was able to do that.”

Leah Numbers:
Yeah. I do it a lot. I honestly try to be frequent about giving myself pats on the back, not outwardly, but like the other day, I had a moment with something, and I looked myself in the mirror. I said, “Don’t forget who you are.” I said it a few times out loud, and sometimes I get a little nasty with myself. Sometimes when I flip back in my journaling, I’m like, “Wow. You were really mean to you that day,” because it’s necessary.

Jessica Miller:
That’s totally fair. So you’re a journaler, too?

Leah Numbers:
Yeah. That was something else that I picked up, so really dove right into journaling. I did a 40-day self-love program, because I’ve realized, especially with being sober, we have these things that we did when we weren’t sober, and it became habit. Then it became comfortable. To go from, for me, drinking excess in every day and drugs and partying to literally just cutting that off, you can’t just cut it off and then think that that’s going to work. So I had to implement these things and just do a 180 with myself. So it was like I reached out to friends that I knew that meditated, and I did research. I started reading a lot and just immersing myself in knowledge, because it’s great to have a support system.
But the one thing I’ve definitely realized with my sobriety and when I wasn’t sober is you can have people around you that love you, that would take a bullet for you, but it’s really hard to relate to people living their lives in a way that is so drastically different than your own. You cannot sit there and expect somebody else to live the life you’re living. You may have their problems, and yeah, maybe they should be sober. Maybe they shouldn’t do what they’re doing, but they definitely should not be doing what you’re doing. Accepting that and realizing [inaudible 00:44:17] my own, but not in a rude to other people way, because I don’t want to discount any of the support that I’ve received. People have supported me to the best of their ability, and I’m always going to be grateful for that. I think that that’s also helped me stay sober, is breaking down that barrier of, well, resentment, huge, and understanding that no matter who I resent, what I resent, I guarantee it’s all going to come back to me in one way or another. So that’s really helped me as well.

Jessica Miller:
I love that. Because drinking is such a social thing, did you find that you lost friends or gained friends outside of that scope that you became closer with because of that? What did that look like for you?

Leah Numbers:
So that has been, honestly, one of the most mind-blowing things to me, is my group of friends. On top of my bipolar diagnosis, I also have borderline personality disorder, which just basically has a lot to do with being able to maintain healthy relationships. So I have had so many different friends over the years, but with this last time that I got sober, I was scared of losing my friends, but at that point, I didn’t care, because I couldn’t lose myself.

Jessica Miller:
Got it. If you have to choose, “Sorry. It’s going to be me.” Yeah.

Leah Numbers:
I think I didn’t see the majority of my group of friends for about two years. I kept in touch with certain ones. I especially thought I was going to lose them all, because they were all on that party scene. They’re adults. They take care of their responsibilities. They didn’t have the problem that I had. But I didn’t lose them. When I came back, I think the first time I saw a majority of them was just back in February. Granted, they didn’t recognize me. They were stunned to see me. But the best part is that these people have accepted me. They accepted me back then, when I was a train wreck, and they were genuinely there for me.
Even though some people could say, “Oh, well, they were enabling you,” well, I’m 30-something years old. I’m responsible for myself. But they have all lived their lives the way they do, and they accept me now where I’m at. They’re supportive. It’s not just like, “Oh, we accept that Leah’s sober.” They’re just the most genuinely supportive people I’ve ever had in my life. We can go weeks without talking. We can go months without talking. But they’re there for me, and I’m there for them.
I think that’s something that definitely comes with age on top of being sober. It’s just the acceptance of everybody that comes into your life or even walked out, because I’m just in a really good place now where I understand even the people that had to walk out had nothing to do with me. It wasn’t against me. Looking at myself and doing the work to get myself to where I am has helped me be a lot more compassionate towards the people that are no longer in my life and that [inaudible 00:47:37] I felt like, “You’re doing this against me. You’re doing this to hurt me.” Well, no, Leah, look at yourself. Look what you did. You left a trail of disaster.

Jessica Miller:
If you had to choose, besides just getting sober, what is something that you would say is one of your proudest accomplishments throughout this process?

Leah Numbers:
So this is a very specific one. I might cry. I’m thinking about this.

Jessica Miller:
Okay. We like tears.

Leah Numbers:
Oh my gosh. I’m surprised I haven’t cried yet. This is record time for me. So I think my proudest accomplishment specific to my sobriety and mental health, a class that I was taking actually began the week that I got broken up with. I can’t remember exactly what the class was, but my classes are eight weeks, and they introduced the final project in the first week. Oh, it had to do with counseling theories. So there was counseling theories that you’d learned throughout the course. The final project was create a hypothetical case study and choose one of the counseling techniques to come up with a counseling plan and explain how this is going to help this person. So one thing I noticed about myself is I no longer think I’m the smartest person in the room. I prefer [inaudible 00:49:02]. I do-

Jessica Miller:
That’s a lot of pressure to put on yourself, first of all.

Leah Numbers:
Yeah. I love being wrong now. Somebody prove me wrong, because then I get to learn. But I still have the tendency of wanting to challenge myself, just to see how smart I am. This probably sounds really cocky, saying it out-

Jessica Miller:
I don’t think so, because it comes down to, again, a self-challenge. To me, that’s a question mark, not an exclamation point.

Leah Numbers:
Yeah. So I told myself, being that I was already immersing myself in the self-love journey and really challenging myself to grow, I decided that I was going to do the hypothetical case study on myself, change the names, and then I was going to choose a therapy technique that I have never done in therapy, that I know nothing about, but try to come up with a treatment plan for myself and present this as my final project.

Jessica Miller:
What therapy did you choose? Sorry to cut you off. What therapy?

Leah Numbers:
What therapy did I choose? Well, spoiler alert, I didn’t do the project.

Jessica Miller:
Oh, sorry. Okay. Okay.

Leah Numbers:
Existential therapy. That’s what it was. Even though I’d never done that therapy technique with a professional before, I was exploring through meditation, through reading different types of psychotherapy techniques and things like that on my own. So I was dealing with the breakup, and then my uncle passed away suddenly two days after Thanksgiving. I had times previously in school where I fell behind, and I didn’t do the right thing by going to my professor and saying, “Hey, listen, life happened. Can I get an extension?” So I wanted to [inaudible 00:50:57] the same mistake. So I asked for an extension on the assignment.
The following week, we had our [inaudible 00:51:04] who passed away, so asked for an extension then. Then just both of those deaths in the family suddenly on top of what I was going through with a breakup, it was like the entire world was just crumbling on me. But I wasn’t going to give, and I was really going to try my hardest to get through that. But I didn’t want to ask for any more extensions, because I was like, “She’s not going to believe me. Too many people are dying. She’s at some point going to be like, ‘Get it together and make up more original requests for extensions.'”
So it got to the night before the project was due, and I had been working on it, just because the way the class is set up, you do a little each week. But I just got to the point that I’m like, “I can’t do this.” So I turned in what I had come completed, and I wrote my professor a letter and explained, for one, that I was not lying, asking for extensions, but also just presented what I was going through in my life, not as a sob story, because it’s not a sob story. Everybody has stuff that they’re going through that’s difficult. But I just wanted to be honest with the fact that I put some effort forth, but appreciated her understanding throughout the course. I also appreciated her commitment to me as her student and that I understood that I probably wouldn’t pass the class and that I’d have to re-enroll. I was accepting of it all. She gave me 100%, and she wrote me a letter back and said that what I presented as the takeaway was far more valuable than any of the coursework that had been presented.

Jessica Miller:
That’s making me emotional. That’s beautiful.

Leah Numbers:
Yeah. Honestly, I was hysterical. I remember I was up in my room, and my mom was out, but my dad was home. I come barreling down the stairs, bawling my eyes out, and he of course thinks the world is ending again, because Leah’s been having a rough go. I read it to him, and he’s like, “Why are you crying?” I’m like, “Because that was the biggest hug that I received from a complete stranger.” It was just validation that I can trust myself, because that’s something I think we lose, too, with addiction, is the ability to trust ourselves. The longer it goes on, you have to realize that even if you stop, if you’ve been an addict for 20 years, you can’t just reverse all that. So no matter what, it’s going to take time. That for me was the moment I could say to myself, “You know what you’re doing. You can trust yourself. You don’t need all these voices around you. You know exactly what’s meant for you and how to get it.” So that was-

Jessica Miller:
To be so seen in that way, that’s just really incredible. Do you still have that email? Are you going to keep it?

Leah Numbers:
Oh, yeah. I even told her, because that class fell right before Christmas break. So Christmas break, you get two weeks off. I told her, I was like, “I will finish this paper and submit it to you.” She says, “The only thing you need to do is [inaudible 00:54:26]. You just need to be with yourself, be with your family, take care of yourself, please.” So that was monumental.

Jessica Miller:
That’s incredible. Wow. How do you follow that up, honestly? Well, I would say the only other thing I really was wanting to ask you is you really seem like someone that … You mentioned that you’re very self-aware. But if you could go back and tell younger you something at any version or any period, which Leah would it be, and what would you tell her?

Leah Numbers:
It’s going to sound cliche. I’m going to preface it by saying I read this in so many books. I’ve heard so many other people in recovery say this, and not even recovery, but just people who struggle with mental health. They always refer back to their younger self, their childlike self. Well, I take that back. I love cliches now, because I can’t avoid them, and they’re very true. But for a while, I was digging my heels. It just sounds so unoriginal, but taking up journaling and meditation, I remember specifically a few weeks after my breakup, I wrote myself a letter. I have it in my pink notebook, and I could probably find the page real easily.
But I wrote myself a letter to young Leah. It basically said two things. It said, “I’ve got good news and bad news. Life is going to be really tough, but you are absolutely 1,000,000% going to make it through. The best way to make it through is to just accept and understand that you’re going to make it through and not need to know how and not need to know every occurrence that’s going to happen that’s going to get you to where you want to go.”
Really, yeah, I think by writing that letter to myself and talking to myself as a young child, as far back as I can remember, because there’s a lot of things that have happened in my life that I used to look at as, “That wasn’t fair,” and it wasn’t. There were so many things that were completely not fair and that I should have never had to go through. But if I’m sitting here as an adult, saying, “I shouldn’t have had to go through that,” it does not change that I went through it.
So I’ve really catapulted myself into being a kid again, because it’s one thing to talk to my younger self. But I think for me, what’s helped is really being a kid again, understanding you’ve got to be an adult, because you have responsibilities, but because you take care of your responsibilities, you can actually give yourself that life you felt you missed out. The really beautiful thing in thinking that way is it relieves everybody else around me of their responsibility to do anything to make me feel better, because I think, too, with addiction and recovery, we look at the people that have wronged us. There’s always a sense of comfort in placing some sort of blame on somebody else. So it’s like, “Oh, well my parents. Oh, well, my boyfriend. Oh, well, this friend.” It’s like, “No, relieve everybody of that, because they’re hurting, too.” Maybe it’s not projected outwardly, like a drunk [inaudible 00:58:02] the way I did, but they’re dealing with stuff, too. Yeah. So that’s really helped me in that way.

Jessica Miller:
It’s a cliche, but like you, I also enjoy cliches. Hurt people hurt people. Realizing that I just think is phenomenally helpful, wherever you’re at in your life or whoever you are, just that acknowledgement that it’s not necessarily about you. It’s just people are out here. Being a human is hard. People are out here, doing their best.

Leah Numbers:
It is. I have recognized, though, that as I find that compassion in myself for others, it also makes me see that life doesn’t have to be hard, and it’s actually quite simple. Once we unpack all of our stuff to show ourselves, it’s like, “We’re all messed up. So let’s just all hang and talk about it, figure it out, and discuss it.” I don’t need to point my finger at you and say, “Well, you’re messed up.”

Jessica Miller:
We’re all messed up. Yep. For sure. So if you’re listening to this, we get you.

Leah Numbers:
You’re messed up, too. [inaudible 00:59:22].

Jessica Miller:
Well, thank you, first of all, so much for being willing to be so open. I feel like this has just been a really incredible conversation. I’ve learned a lot.

Dan Hauser:
I’ve got a couple questions on the way out here. I was sitting back, taking some notes of everything, so a couple callbacks to some things you touched on.

Jessica Miller:
Love that.

Dan Hauser:
So first off, I know on this show, Jess and I try to make a point to … Misconceptions, stigmas, we try to get rid of those and set the record straight. So unfortunately, a big one that is still out there is a lot of people hear or think of relapse, and they say, “That’s a failure.” It’s not a failure. Relapse is not a failure. So as someone who has relapsed twice now, what would you say to set the record straight to somebody who still might say to themselves or say about somebody else that they know, “Well, you relapsed. That means you failed”?

Leah Numbers:
So I have a three-part answer. First of all, to anybody who is listening that either is in [inaudible 01:00:27] addiction or long recovery or short recovery, the time doesn’t matter. If you’re sober for a [inaudible 01:00:38], that’s a day more than you’re not. If you’re sober for three months … I see a lot, especially on social media, with people who talk about their sobriety. “Well, I’m only three months in.” It’s like, “No. It’s only? You have woken up for 90 days in a row and made the conscious decision to stay sober. That’s huge.” I don’t even care if it’s three days and then say you have a drink or you use. It’s building blocks. So I would say to people, “Look at it as building blocks.”
I actually just heard an analogy recently. When you’re learning to ride a bike, once you learn, nobody comes back and says, “Well, how many times did you fall?” You’re riding the bike. So it’s like, “Today I’m sober.” That is an accomplishment.

Jessica Miller:
That’s a great analogy.

Leah Numbers:
It really doesn’t matter how many days I have behind me. Another thing, too, I will add. So there was one point in time … I think it was last year. So the relationship that I was in, we had always gone to the same restaurant. We usually sat at the bar. The bartender knew us. It was a really busy night. He ordered a drink. I ordered a Red Bull, and she gave it to me in a glass. I honestly just thought that it was a nice gesture to put it in a glass. I took a sip, and there was vodka in it. I remember in that moment, this wave came over me, and I was really grateful for it, honestly, because it was like … Okay, for one, I was with somebody that I could trust, that I felt safe with.
He looked at me at that moment, and he’s like, “That has vodka in it, doesn’t it?” I didn’t know what to do, so I spit it back. But I’m getting ahead of myself. I didn’t have a breakdown. Also didn’t feel like I relapsed. I didn’t feel overwhelmed with sadness, because it was like, for one, it wasn’t a conscious decision. Well, let’s say even if it was, I think in those conscious decisions, that’s when we need to be the most gentle with ourselves, because we are human beings. Whether it’s a drink or even if you are on a diet, but then you caved and had 16 Oreos, whatever. Once again, you’re not going to get hung up on how many times you fell off the bike. It’s just the fact that you’re riding it. So that, I think, is the biggest thing to break the stigma, that time doesn’t really matter. It’s the effort you put forth, and it’s the choice that you consciously make every single day.

Jessica Miller:
That’s amazing. I love that.

Dan Hauser:
So that’s actually interesting, because that almost ties into my next question. So with all the work that you’ve done for yourself over the years, the introspection, the learning about yourself, the evolving that you’ve done, do you ever sometimes … not necessarily literally wake up one day, but do you ever just wake up sometimes and just say to yourself, “I wonder if I could just have a drink and just have that one now and move on and everything will be fine,” or do you think to yourself, “I can never, ever go back”?

Leah Numbers:
So I definitely thought that a lot after the first two times I got sober. I haven’t thought that exact thought at all this last time, because I just really accepted that for me, I’m a very determined person. I’m very stubborn, and I know that I could use that stubbornness in a way that would allow me to, say, have a glass of wine with dinner or have a drink. I know that I could do it, but I look at what would be the purpose? There’s a small part of me that is like, “I have all this time under my belt. Why would I throw that away, essentially?”
But honesty is more like there’s nothing beneficial for my life to justify having … I’m not a wine connoisseur. I can’t even eat red meat. For me with my life, if I was to try to drink again, it would be such a blatant disregard for everything I stand for, honestly. But I think that everybody’s journey is their own. If somebody else ever was sober and then chose not to, my only interest would be getting to know them and understand them, to see how they work, because it’s really interesting to me to understand how other people’s brains work and their behavior and things like that. So I wouldn’t look down upon another person for doing it. But for me, it’s a lifelong thing. It’s gotten to the point where I’m like, “I’m so proud of myself.” Yeah, I’m just like, “I’m really proud of myself,” and I don’t know if I would not be proud of myself if I drink again. But it’s too risky to chance.

Jessica Miller:
Because I don’t ever want to seem like I’m trying to talk about me or whatever, but just-

Leah Numbers:
Oh, no, you’re fine.

Jessica Miller:
… that’s how I relate. Obviously, my story is very different, but I’ve found, and maybe you find this, too, that at this stage, I am of the mindset that I know that I can drink if I want to. I don’t have that same struggle, necessarily, but there’s a part of me that’s like I am enjoying so much the fact that I stopped and that I don’t feel like I need alcohol anymore that I almost stubbornly don’t want it, where even if I know I could have it, I’m just like, “You know what? I just don’t want it, though,” because I think the feeling of what I’ve accomplished from quitting and moving on and being able to not feel like I need alcohol, to me, that is almost more intoxicating than how I used to feel when I drank. It’s just a better feeling now, and I don’t know if that’s similar for you.

Leah Numbers:
Absolutely. It really is. Another thing, too, to add to that is with my mental health diagnosis, specifically borderline personality disorder and the fact that I have these really huge parts of my life that they all compete with each other, between alcoholism and then mental illness and eating disorders and all these different things. But for me, upon getting sober, I really address my BPD diagnosis and recognize I don’t have any healthy relationships in my life. That is the one thing I desire most, is a connection with people, not just one person, but to have the ability to connect with people. That’s a huge thing for me with alcohol and drugs, is I cannot connect with people in the way that’s fulfilling to me and in a way that’s going to be positive for others if I have drugs and alcohol in my system.
So I think honestly, in some ways, that’s been more of a driving force and then just being able to have a daily visualization of what’s important in my life that keeps going in a positive direction, which at the top of the list is always going to be my sobriety, is going to be my son. As long as I have sobriety top of that list, I am seeing in real time in my life everything is working. It is intoxicating, like you said, but for me, it’s a very calm excitement. That’s how I know for me it’s different, because in the past, excitement meant giddy and party.

Jessica Miller:
It’s like chaos excitement.

Leah Numbers:
Yeah, and now I’m so calmly excited. I see the puzzle pieces falling where they need to, and especially now, the relationships that I have in my life … So the relationship I have with my son is improving. The relationship that I have with his dad and his girlfriend is improving. The relationship I have with my parents and my sister and every single person around me, and having somebody wonderful come into my life recently that is also sober that I get to learn new things with. So I know that it’s a combination of choices that I’ve made, but I absolutely 1,000,000% attribute where I’m at now in life and where I will continue to go to being sober.

Dan Hauser:
So I’ve got one last thing that we’ll get out on a fun, lighthearted note here. So in a previous episode, Jess and I spent a lot of time talking about music festivals and the sober experience at music festivals. So Jess and I aren’t actively in that scene. We spend a lot of time talking about it, but neither of us actually do it. You are somebody that is very active in the music festival scene. You are also somebody that is very much sober. So I thought maybe you could share with us your personal experiences of being a sober person in the music festival scene.

Leah Numbers:
So I love all music, but I think that there is something to be said for the electronic music scene and the community, because it is every single different type of person on Earth all coming together as one. It doesn’t matter what state you’re in. I’ve been to Electric Forest, is the festival I’ve gone to a few times. I went to Breakaway a couple years ago. But I spent so much time in the nightclubs, after hours, even, and granted, that environment, would not recommend. But the community, would absolutely. I think that that’s why I still gravitate toward that. I’m tired now, so I don’t go as much. If there was afternoon raves, I’d be there.

Jessica Miller:
Yes. Same. With snacks instead of drugs and alcohol.

Leah Numbers:
Oh, absolutely.

Jessica Miller:
Oh my God. Mozzarella sticks. Yeah.

Leah Numbers:
Island noodles. But going to a music festival, for me, the first time I ever went, I actually was drinking, but might’ve been three, four times after that. I’ve been sober, and each time, it’s been more life-changing. I think it’s just the acceptance. It’s a weird thing to promote, because there’s also the drug culture with it. But I personally see that it’s going towards a direction of being able to be sober and realize you can be your true, authentic self, whoever you are, whatever your job is, whatever your life has looked like, and you can find community with people and stay sober and be supported, too.
That’s a big thing for me, because I think with sobriety, we look to our close circle. So we think our friends, our family, that those are going to be the people that are going to support us in our sobriety. There’s a lot of people that don’t have that. The electronic music scene and festivals, I know with Electric Forest, they have sober camping. They have a lot of things having to do with being only around sober people, which is really great.
I know Movement just happened here in Detroit this past weekend. I’ve never been to Movement, but I’m on some of the Facebook groups, so I see the commentation. So people are so sober, and I don’t know. I wonder if I’m biased, because I’m in it, but it’s just really beautiful to me to see that type of acceptance among such a huge group of people, because when I first worked Forest, I was partying, IDing people the first day. The first couple that walked up to me were a couple from Australia, and they were there celebrating their 40th wedding anniversary. That shocked me, because my knowledge of festivals was party, drugs, alcohol, all the things you shouldn’t be doing, and it’s an excuse, because you’re enjoying music.
Honestly, it’s been the farthest thing from that for me. The second year that I went, I actually got sober six days before I went to Electric Forest, and I remember sitting with myself and being like, “Do you really think that this is the best idea? You’re going to justify this. You know you’re going. But is this the best idea?” Thankfully, that was actually one of the better ideas I’ve had when not being that [inaudible 01:13:00].

Jessica Miller:
I’ve never been to a festival or anything, but my sister and I are really into electronic music. Back even when it was techno and everyone hated it, we still liked it, when it was not cool. Now all these kids are doing these festivals, like, “Excuse me.”
Anyway, she and I have gone to a bunch of shows, and I wish I could remember which DJ it is. But there is one that we knew of that he was very big on wanting people to enjoy his music sober, because he was saying the experience that you supposedly have, this transcendental experience you supposedly have while on drugs or alcohol, he’s like, “I’m creating that with my music. You shouldn’t need those things. I want you to enjoy it just for what it is and be with yourself.” I just remember thinking even back then, “Oh, that’s so cool that even one of these big-name DJs is supporting sober culture.” That was years before I even had issues with alcohol or anything. So I just even then thought that was very cool, and I think to your point now, that’s even becoming more and more common and popular, is people just being like, “You don’t have to come and do drugs and stuff. You’re here for the experience, and that’s it.”

Leah Numbers:
Yeah. The other part of that, too, with what you said, the DJ who was promoting sobriety, basically, I see so many of them, especially because there’s been a few DJs that have gotten sober. You never knew that they weren’t. But then when they announced, “Hey, this is how it was affecting my life,” I think, for one, it takes such strength to be able to do that and to be on that platform. People are looking up to you, and they didn’t even know who you were. Now you’re saying, “This is who I am.” That’s taking a big chance. People in the limelight can lose fans because of something like that. But I think that’s why I love electronic music culture, too, because it’s not just people like us who are enjoying it, but it’s the people putting it out there that are also saying, “You can enjoy life. You can enjoy all the creativity that it has to offer without numbing yourself in one way or another.”
The other thing, too, which I think is a byproduct of that conversation going on is the fact that people aren’t shaming as much for those who are still using drugs. When I went to Electric Forest last year, every corner of every street, there was signs with the number to text if you needed a test kit. As you’re walking, you’re not hearing anybody making negative comments, “Oh, well, people just shouldn’t do drugs,” because no offense, but people are going to do.

Jessica Miller:
People are going to [inaudible 01:15:50].

Leah Numbers:
We’re never going to live in a world where something is going to be completely eradicated. So we need to educate ourselves and also be accepting towards reality so that we can help people. So each year, as I’ve gone, I’ve seen it become more talked about and more of a comfortable conversation piece. I think that people are doing less drugs because of it, because they realize what they can get out of it.
Honestly, other thing, too, with having those moments, I have ugly cried at so many sets sober, and it’s been some of the most incredible times of my life. I actually was just telling my boyfriend the other day that after my second Forest, I gained this incredible Forest family. We had our group chat, and there was one day I was driving home. The sunset was beautiful, and on my playlist just randomly came on Seven Lions’ “First Times.” You should definitely listen to it, because it’s emotional. But the sunset and then thinking about these incredible people that I just truly took on as family, I texted them. I was like, “I am ugly crying to this. I’m driving. I should honestly pull over,” because I was ridiculous. But yeah, and I’m definitely partial to music in the way it makes you feel. So yeah.

Jessica Miller:
Sure. One last thing. You had started to mention that this whole thing was really timely for you. Why?

Leah Numbers:
The biggest obstacle I think I’ve ever came up against in my life was surprisingly not any issues with addiction, but more so my relationships. I have never been single for a period of time. I’ve been engaged four times, married twice from 18 to … well, up until my last relationship ended at the end of last year. When I completely immersed myself into myself, I started to see things come together. Then I ended up having an emergency back surgery in March, which completely made me feel like every ounce of energy I put towards getting myself to a better place went down the drain. Then I started to get better again, started implementing all those techniques that I was before with journaling and meditating and things like that.
In recent weeks, I’d probably say at the beginning of May was when I really just accepted everything that has happened in my life for exactly what it was, nothing more, nothing less, honestly detached myself from everything, not in a bad way, but in a very therapeutic way to say, “I don’t have to be defined by anything. I don’t have to be attached to anything.”

Jessica Miller:
Very zen. Very zen philosophy.

Leah Numbers:
Yeah. Yeah. So I know that I reached out to Dan immediately when you guys started this podcast, and this is the eighth episode. So it’s been a minute since you guys started.

Dan Hauser:
Nine.

Leah Numbers:
Oh, yeah. So I’ve been anxiously awaiting the opportunity, but also not bugging the crap out of him, because literally every day I just feel more at peace with everything happening the way it needs to happen.
So for me, when he texts me and I was like, “I am in the best head space that I’m in,” actually, before my last therapy session … I had picked up therapy for about three sessions, and then I reminded myself who I was. My therapist, she’s known me for six years. She has seen a lot. She said, “I have never seen more clarity in you than I do now.” She said really wonderful things to me throughout the years that definitely I was like, “Well, thank you.” But this was the first time that she said something where I was like, “Yeah, I know.” So for that, the timing of it all, this is such a privilege for me and an opportunity for me to be able to share anything about myself with you guys or with anybody else listening.
In order to help people, I truly believe we have to detach ourselves from things, and especially when you have such a monumental story of ups and downs, you have to be able to tell it in a way that isn’t a victimization thing. I’m not feeling sorry for myself. Where I’m at in life, nothing has happened to me. I’ve been through things. I’m not a victim to my circumstances. I’m not a victim to life. I get this opportunity to live. So the timing of this was just like, “Wow. I really get an opportunity to live by doing this.” So thank you guys.

Jessica Miller:
Thank you. It honestly has been such a pleasure, truly.
Okay. Well, I love her.

Dan Hauser:
Yeah. No, that was amazing, powerful, remarkable, any adjective you’d like, you want to use.

Jessica Miller:
Honestly.

Dan Hauser:
Yeah, just honesty. I know on these episodes, we tend to try to keep it short, sweet, to the point. That obviously was a lot longer than a normal episode. I don’t even mind. Hopefully all of you are still listening up to this point, because that was amazing.

Jessica Miller:
Yeah, I know, For me, time blew past. I looked at the clock at one point, and I went, “Oh, no, what happened?” But she’s so easy to listen to also.

Dan Hauser:
Just her story. Everyone’s story is unique, and everyone’s story is great. Any story of sobriety is remarkable and powerful. But hers particularly, just the fact that this is now her third go of it, obviously, I would think she would even agree with that this has been her most successful one. But the fact that she’s tried two times previously, she decided to give it a try a third time. She’s doing really well with it this time. I think that it takes a lot of strength to try to get sober even one time, let alone to try two more times after the first one didn’t work out.

Jessica Miller:
Right, to keep going. I think that’s so important and so valuable to talk about, because when we hear these stories of sobriety, like she said, we don’t ask when somebody has learned how to ride a bike, “Well, how many times did you fall?” But we just don’t acknowledge with sobriety that sometimes, oftentimes, people do fall, and relapse is a very common part of the process. It doesn’t mean that the person has failed, it doesn’t mean that treatment has failed, and it doesn’t mean that it’s hopeless, either. Leah is a perfect example of that.

Dan Hauser:
I thought it was interesting, too, that she mentioned the first time her relapse was essentially by choice, which is interesting, too, because it reminds people as well that, once again, we try to eliminate stigmas and misconceptions here. Most people hear relapse, and they think, “Oh, well, you screwed up. You failed,” or whatever. But in her case, she made a conscious decision to relapse. So it wasn’t like her saying, “Oh, no, I screwed up.” It was, “I want to try again” or “I don’t want to” … So relapse doesn’t necessarily mean you screwed up or it was an accidental thing.

Jessica Miller:
Yeah, it was with a good intention. Right. It was with good intention. She was making a conscious choice that, in her mind, looking back, she knows that wasn’t 100% of the case, but sometimes people, they’re able to convince themselves, “Well, I want to be a responsible drinker. Let me try to do that again,” and then the process of realizing, “Okay, well, that’s obviously not in the cards for me, so let me adjust.” So yeah, to your point, it’s not just people being up against a wall or in a hard time, and it’s just this cliff moment where you just fall off the wagon and you start using or drinking again. Yeah, it looks very different for people.

Dan Hauser:
Absolutely. On that note, we have gone very, very long today. So thank you all for tuning in. Make sure to like, subscribe, rate, review, all the good things that we always tell you to do every time. Of course, we cannot end a show without reminding you that if you or a loved one is struggling with substance abuse, addiction, or mental health, help is always available. If you want to help yourself, people are there that want to help you. I think Leah’s story today definitely, definitely reiterates that for everyone out there that did listen.
findtreatment.gov is a great place to find treatment options in your area. The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration also has a toll-free helpline where you can speak to someone and they can help you out as well, and that number is 1-800-662-4357. That is 1-800-662-4357, and of course addictionhelp.com, where you can find all the great work that Jess is doing over there, all the technical terms, all the resource pages, all the help that she is providing, all the valuable information that she is offering to anyone who is interested. But on that note, that will do it for today’s show, and I truly, truly thank everyone for listening today. I really hope you all enjoyed it, and we will talk to you guys next week. Have a great week, everybody.

 

 

Leah Numbers graciously opened up about her personal experiences, sharing intimate details about her past, beginning with her history with alcohol as a teenager. She described her path, intertwining the struggles of alcohol abuse with her mental health condition, Bipolar Disorder. Our conversation with Leah provides insight into the intricate ties between mental health and addiction, illuminating the complexities often hidden beneath the surface.

One of the most poignant aspects of Leah’s story is her unyielding persistence. She emphasizes the importance of resilience, reminding us that relapses are not signs of failure but stepping stones on the path to recovery. Leah’s journey to sobriety was not a straight line. She got sober twice before, lasting approximately two years, but she admits she wasn’t fully committed to recovery. This time, however, she feels more prepared, having truly surrendered to the process of healing and recovery.

Moreover, Leah’s story underscores the significance of finding a recovery method that works best for the individual. She initially had reservations about Alcoholics Anonymous (AA), but her uncle’s successful experience motivated her to try it. This highlights the importance of having an open mind and staying receptive to different avenues of help when walking the road to recovery.

Interestingly, Leah found an unlikely source of support and community in the electronic music scene, an environment often associated with drug use. In her case, it was an incredibly supportive community, reminding her of the joys of experiencing the world through a sober lens. This part of her story is a powerful reminder that support can come from the most unexpected places, and the world can be experienced in vibrant, fulfilling ways while sober.

We are incredibly grateful to Leah for her openness and willingness to share her journey with us and our listeners. This week’s episode of the Addiction Help Podcast is a testament to the power of resilience and the importance of finding personal pathways to recovery. We hope Leah’s story inspires, educates, and supports those dealing with addiction and their loved ones.

Stay tuned for more insightful conversations on the Addiction Help Podcast with Dan & Jess.

Remember, every story matters, and every recovery journey is important.

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Chris Carberg is the Founder of Addiction HelpWritten by:

AddictionHelp.com Founder & Mental Health Advocate

Chris Carberg is the founder of AddictionHelp.com, and a long-time recovering addict from prescription opioids, sedatives, and alcohol.  Over the past 15 years, Chris has worked as a tireless advocate for addicts and their loved ones while becoming a sought-after digital entrepreneur. Chris is a storyteller and aims to share his story with others in the hopes of helping them achieve their own recovery.