First and foremost, I am SO grateful for my life. I am grateful for the ups and downs because it means that I am LIVING.
What I have today is because of work that I have done over the last decade, and I have learned so much in this time. I did not know any of this when I first started. I tell you this because if you are at the beginning of your journey and feeling like you will never be where I am, that is not the case.
10 years ago, I'd had enough
I was sick and tired of being sick and tired and I had an epiphany that I was the common denominator in all of my misery. I had NO idea what to do or where to turn and I wasn't too keen on asking for help… because if I did, then you would see that it was all a house of cards and I wasn't too sure I was ready for it to all come crashing down. It became clear to me that my drinking was no longer offering me the love and support I felt it once had, so I decided to give it up all together. I am a whole decade on, and I wanted to share a few things I have learned in that time.
The best lessons from going alcohol-free:
Lesson 1: Self Worth
I loathed myself. My inner critic was HORRIBLE. After some time and effort, the things that I say to myself have become kinder, more compassionate and understanding. This did NOT happen over night. But I am grateful for the awareness and the power of the two words “I AM”. What follows those two words colours the lens in which I see myself and others.
Lesson 2: Love
For myself and others. True love. Unconditional love. Not the grasping, clinging, needing kind. The kind that fills one's soul. The kind that is so beautiful that sometimes words cannot do it justice. The kind that is forgiving, gentle and flexible.
Lesson 3: Respect
For my body. For my heart. For my mental wellness. I abused ALL of these while I was drinking to excess. And the more it continued, the more I drank so I didn't have to look at the destructive behaviour. It was a cyclical shame storm.
Lesson 4: Boundaries
I am not sure I even knew this word 10 years ago. Boundaries are BEAUTIFUL. They assure my body, heart and mind that I care about them and their well being. It also means that I care about yours, too. Because not only did I not have personal boundaries but I certainly did not care about nor pay attention to yours.
Lesson 5: Money
I think I would vomit if I thought about how much money I spent on booze and outfits to go out in to drink the booze. Additionally, the amount of money I spent on buying other people drinks so that I would be liked. UGH. It's gross just thinking about it. Additionally, I was just plain financially irresponsible.
Lesson 6: Brains
Yes! I couldn't sit down and read a book for the life of me. My mind was SPINNING all the time and I couldn't just be still and read. If I went on a vacation, I would drink and read…kind of. And then not remember what I read and then beat myself up for not being able to read. (I was a voracious reader as a kid and so this was something I shamed myself for.). The reading and being still did NOT come back right away. It was years. It wasn't until I had been living an alcohol-free lifestyle for around three years that I started meditating and reading a bit more. It wasn't until my 4th year that I could read text books without having to stop every three pages.
Lesson 7: Sleep
THANK GOODNESS! I really do NOT know how I survived lack of sleep. I always prided myself on only needing 5 hours of sleep. I am sure that I wasn't even sleeping that much. It took a while for me to get back to homeostasis. I would wake up in a panic, sweating, toss and turn, grind my teeth. It was not fun. Today, I need 7 hours and most nights I get that and if not, I have healthier techniques to get rest.
Lesson 8: Skills
Emotional regulation and coping skills, to be specific. I somehow missed out on these concepts when I was growing up. Mostly, because I spent a lot of time pretending that I knew stuff, pretending that I was ok. pretending that being chased home everyday in 7th grade was fine. Pretending that being called names and picked on everyday in 8th grade was no big deal. Pretending that not fitting in didn't bother me. Pretending that I didn't realise that I didn't fit in. It was exhausting and soul crushing. I have learned how emotional regulation, awareness and other coping skills are things we need as humans and integral to our mental wellness.
Lesson 9: My voice
I wasn't silent for 39 years but most of the time I was trying to fit in. I desperately wanted to be liked. So, if you were a democrat, so was I. If you were outraged by Cindy Whosit, I had your back. Again, exhausting. I still remember the day I realised I had no idea who I was, what I liked, what I valued and what I believed in. It was a difficult realisation. Today, I have a firm grasp on who I am, my values, beliefs, what is sacred, what I need…I also know that nothing is fixed nor finite. I will continue to evolve and that is no longer scary but rather, exciting.
Lesson 10: My life
I put myself at risk so many times… especially that last two years before going alcohol-free I am grateful for my marriage and my beautiful son. I am grateful for the beautiful, honest and authentic relationships that I have. I am grateful for a career for which I can give back and be of service. I accept and acknowledge who I am today. I don't have a need to “fit in” or “get along”. The challenges, joys, highs, lows, loss, gains, pain, pleasure…all of it lets me know that I am LIVING.