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3 Big Life Lessons Learned in 3 Years of Sobriety

As I sit here, in my own house that we just purchased, gratefully reflecting on the last three years, I am in awe of how different of a person I am today. I had no idea my life would turn out the way it did and it's still unfolding in the most mysterious ways.
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The author during her addiction on the left, and celebrating 3 years of sobriety on the right.

Three years ago I sat in the Punta Cana, Dominican Republic Airport, alone, weeping, sweating, and with my head pounding. I was emotionally, physically, and spiritually drained. I was so tired of what my life had become. I didn't recognize myself or my life. I'll never really know why that day was the day that my life changed forever, but I know that something inside me shifted that day.

Looking back, I know it was the culmination of years of binge drinking and abusing my body. It was the the final straw in years of blackouts, tumultuous relationships, and self-loathing. I knew that it couldn't be all there was. I knew deep down inside drinking wasn't fun for me anymore and that it was the only thing that, year after year, kept making my life more chaotic. I knew there had to be more to life than tequila shots, cocaine bumps, and weaseling my way into the VIP section of the nightclubs in Cancun. I wanted so desperately to have a normal life -- to sleep peacefully, not pass out, to travel without incorporating a hangover into my plans, to be able to spend time with my family without worrying about what time I could get away and go to the bar.

As I sit here, in my own house that we just purchased, gratefully reflecting on the last three years, I am in awe of how different of a person I am today. I had no idea my life would turn out the way it did and it's still unfolding in the most mysterious ways. Three years ago I stopped drinking and using drugs. Three years ago I became free.

I can't run away from who I am

I wanted so badly to get away from everyone and everything my whole life, and yet, I was always the life of the party. I was incapable of coping with life and I could give you every excuse in the book as to why. I created the life I thought I wanted -- a flashy existence, complete with exotic locations and stories, and different drama for every day of the week. I considered my life exciting, until it started to become complicated and tiring. I started to put up with people and situations I never thought I would. That's when I began to try and fix all of the external things around me in an effort to change my chaotic life. It wasn't until I quit drinking that I realized you can't run away from who you really are. Let me be clear, this is one of many paradoxes of recovery. In early sobriety I thought all those crazy things I did made up who I was, but I was wrong. Who I really am has always been a inherently-good spiritual being, and it hasn't gone anywhere, but it's been masked by pain and substance abuse. Luckily, when I stripped that stuff away and shed my negative behavioral patterns, I realized I never wanted to run away from who I am, I only wanted the pain to stop.

Everything I never wanted I have

I could not writer a truer statement. I was the girl who was afraid of commitment. I was the girl afraid of office work and a 9 to 5 job. Buying a house terrified me because it meant that I had to stay in the same place forever. It's amazing how most of these irrational fears shed when I got sober. This last year of sobriety was proof of that. I got engaged, I bought a house, and found a full-time work-from-home job that is in the addiction recovery field. I'm planning a wedding, picking bridesmaids, and a dress. I even stay home on Friday nights and clean. I was horrified by the people who thought this kind of life was "fun" back when I was drinking. I never realized this is what I craved the entire time, stability and purpose. I've become obsessed with a tiny human who is only three months old. I've become one of those women on Facebook who shares photos of their tiny human and all their daily achievements that sound as boring as watching paint dry. He rolled over? He grabbed a rattle and shook it? AMAZING. I find myself scrolling through my camera roll on my iPhone watching videos of him that I have saved. I'm embarrassed about how much I love him. That tiny human is my nephew and I got to see him take his first breath. I 100 percent would not have been doing that if I was still drinking.

It's so much easier to love than hate

In my drinking days, I was a hater. I genuinely wanted others to fail so that I could look better. I wished pain on others so they might feel a crumb of the darkness that I felt. I didn't believe that most people deserved to be happy because I couldn't be. Even well into my sobriety I let my ego guide me. I wanted to look cool, sound good, and say all the right things. I wanted everyone to think I really had this sobriety thing down. I know it seems therapeutic to look at the lives of people who have hurt us, or make us mad and think, "They must be miserable. Look at how crappy their lives are." But it's not. As a sober person I can no longer participate in this kind of behavior. It serves me better to think, "Wow, maybe that person is really happy, just where they are." Two phrases stick out to me that I've heard and digested during this last year of sobriety:

"When I assume people are doing their best, my life is better." -- Brené Brown
"Nothing is ever personal." -- Veronica Valli

When I wish the best for others, I feel better. I know I'm doing the right thing for me, and everyone around me. I got tired of believing I was constantly in competition with others. I realized that everyone is my equal and I have something to learn from, and to teach to, every person I come in contact with. Building others up makes me feel good, so why not do that? And when I become the subject of a negative comment or situation, I know that nothing is ever personal. Every single human being on this Earth is moving through their own set of experiences and tragedies that they are living through at this moment. Their reactions have nothing to do with me. When I assume these human beings who are inherently flawed, are doing the best they can, a weight is lifted off my shoulders.

Making the decision to quit the booze and drugs three years ago has been the absolute defining moment in my life. Sobriety has brought me every good thing I have received in these last 3 years. On some days I wake up and feel like I've been sober for 10 years, on other days I can still taste stale tequila in my mouth. Even on days when I'm feeling sad, or going through something hard, I'm actually still happy deep down inside at my core. That's what real freedom is, having faith that it will all work out and being grateful for every single tiny millisecond of this precious thing we call life.

This post originally appeared on The Adventures of a Sober Señorita.

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