3 Things I’d Tell Myself Before I Stopped Drinking
Today, 22nd March 2023, I celebrate nine whole years alcohol-free, which still seems all kinds of mind-blowingly incredible to me.
I certainly never set out to quit drinking for good when I embarked on this experiment all those years ago. I sure as hell wasn’t ready to stop drinking forever.
But I was oh-so-desperately ready to try something different. My old, broken record just wasn’t working anymore. As much as I tried to cling to the belief that booze made me happy, deep down I knew it wasn’t true.
Something had to give.
Embracing sobriety is never easy. It takes courage, strength, and tenacity. It’s a bold act of rebellion in a society that celebrates alcohol; a commitment to growth and evolution, and all the incredible magic and beauty wrapped up with that.
In other words, it’s a long and bumpy ride; both terrifying and exhilarating in equal measures!
It’s also by far one of the most rewarding and life-changing things I’ve ever done.
So on this day of soberversary celebration, what words of wisdom can I offer you as you embark on (or contemplate) the same journey?
If I could go back in time, there are 3 things I’d tell myself before I stopped drinking:
1. This marks a beginning (even if it feels like the end).
It’s sometimes hard to fathom just how different life is now. Nine years ago, I felt utterly lost, beyond broken, and just so freakin’ exhausted by the sick cycle I couldn’t seem to claw my way out of. I was terrified – of socialising sober, of never having fun (ever again!), but most of all, of myself.
I didn’t know if sobriety was the answer. All I knew was that my heart was broken, and I was the one breaking it, over and over again.
I was scared of what would happen if I stopped drinking, but I was more scared of what would happen if I didn’t.
So I made a promise. I’d embark on 100 days of sobriety – no drinking, no matter what – just to see what happened.
I knew this experiment would challenge me beyond belief; what I didn’t know is that it had the power to change everything. That I’d finally figure out who I really am, what makes me tick, and what lights me up. That I’d experience the kind of authentic confidence that comes from keeping promises and being able to rely on and trust myself.
And best of all, that I’d experience true clarity around the type of life that fills me with joy — and have no hesitations in going after it.
It’s filled my heart to bursting to realise dreams I never thought I’d achieve – embracing deeper intimacy in my relationships, creating Sexy Sobriety and welcoming and supporting thousands of members from around the world; writing and publishing three real live books!; a ton of speaking opportunities, podcast, video and editorial interviews (heck, even a television story!) sharing the message of wellness and empowerment.
I’ve socialised and vacationed alcohol-free; climbed mountains, cycled through valleys, expanded my creativity, and explored new healing modalities.
But what’s changed most is my very soul. I’ve never felt more clear, balanced, confident, peaceful, joyful, or at home in my own skin.
And I just want to reach back and hug that terrified, lost soul from nine years ago and tell her it’s all going to be okay. That she isn’t broken.
And that far from being the ending she thinks it is, this is actually just the beginning.
2. Your authentic self is beautifully imperfect, just as you are.
As my soberversary approaches each year, it always gets me thinking about where my love affair with alcohol first began.
A little while back, I watched ‘The Carrie Diaries’ (I know, I know, you guys, but it was a tough year, ok? ????).
Now, logically, I know this show is fiction and that every word that comes out of a teenage character’s mouth is written by grown-ass adults, and therefore wise beyond a normal sixteen-year-old’s years – but still…
It got me thinking about the most confident kids in my high school and how relaxed they’d always seemed around new people. How they had zero problem speaking their mind or being completely themselves, in any situation (without the assistance of alcohol).
God, how I wanted that.
That was precisely the thing that made alcohol so seductive to me in the first place – it’s perceived ability to magically transport me from my shy, insecure and goofy self to the confident, outgoing social butterfly I’d always longed to be. It was the reason I romanticised and glamorised it. That was the thing underneath it all.
It wasn’t that I loved alcohol so much – it was that I didn’t feel confident without it, whether I was sixteen or thirty-six. The over-drinking was merely a symptom of the real problem. The problem was that I didn’t know how to be in the world as myself.
For me, this is the deep work and biggest gift of sobriety: accepting and embracing our true selves, and building a new life that supports who we truly are. A life we don’t want to escape from.
The past two years have been hard on all of us, for a ton of different reasons, so wherever you’re at in your journey (whether that’s nine months, or nine hours), I just wanted to let you know: I see you. I believe in you.
And that you are beautifully imperfect and amazing and flawed and unique and goofy and loved, just the way you are.
3. We don’t know what we’re truly capable of until we try.
Deep, unshakeable confidence comes from taking action. It comes from trying, and failing, and trying again.
You don’t have to have the entire journey mapped out. You only have to take that very next step, and then the next one, and so on.
My initial 100 days of sobriety experiment became 180 days, which became one year, then two, then five…
Honestly, if I’d said I’d be sober for 9 years in the beginning, it would’ve seriously freaked me out.
I had no clue what that could even look like for me (or for anyone!).
Instead, I focused on taking better care of myself and learning new skills and strategies for navigating all the ups and downs of life. I focused on what I could gain by living alcohol-free, rather than what I believed I’d be missing out on.
I focused on really getting to know myself again and building a deep level of trust and self-worth.
Each step helped me to amass a wealth of evidence that I could do hard things and prevail – that I was capable of so much more than I’d ever believed possible.
Because, ultimately, that’s what we’re all here for: to experience deeper love and understanding with everyone in our lives, but most especially – and starting with – ourselves.
You are limitless. Go ahead and try, angel. I wish you everything you dream of and more.
Throughout my early days of my sobriety, I wrote several articles sharing what I’d learnt. I hope they help you too:
:: 2014 with the decision that started it all: 100 Days Without a Drink.
:: 2015 for MindBodyGreen: One Year Sober: How Life Has Changed.
:: 2016 for The Huffington Post: Is It Worth It? Reflections from Two Years of Sobriety.
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