As a Health Coach who discovered she had a destructive relationship with alcohol, I receive a lot of questions about sobriety. The most common one being: "Is it hard?" Quickly followed by, "Is it worth it?" Which makes sense, right? Change is tough. In a big drinking culture, sobriety is an adventure into the unknown.
It's been two years since my last drink. Two years since I last woke up at 3 a.m., staring at the ceiling with my head pounding, wondering why I kept doing this to myself.
If you'd told me then that life would be better sober, I wouldn't have believed a word you said. How would I have fun? How would I relax? How would I socialize, without wine?
But as much as I loved drinking, my relationship with alcohol was becoming increasingly dysfunctional, and I knew it had to stop. So on a morning filled with regret and tears, I decided to conduct the sobriety experiment that would transform my life. It challenged me beyond belief, but changed everything. Here are just some of the reasons why it was oh-so worth it.
My relationships are richer.
I'm not going to lie. Social events felt uncomfortable at first. I'd always been the life of the party, and without my bottle of faux confidence, I felt awkward and unsure of myself. But slowly, it became easier. Like any new lifestyle, with enough time, it becomes normal.
I'd always believed that drinking helped me connect with people. But if I'm honest, back when I socialized with a drink in my hand, part of my mind was always preoccupied with thoughts of where the next drink was coming from, or whether anyone would notice if I refilled my glass.
It's a new kind of bliss to feel in control of myself, and to be completely present in my conversations with people. Better yet, I remember everything we talk about!
I'm reliable and honest now. I'm exactly where I say I'll be. People can count on me, and most importantly, I can count on myself. No broken promises. No 'oh I'll just have one drink' that turns into 10.
The truth is that when you trust yourself, other people can feel it and they trust you more too. Which means your relationships can reach a much deeper level than ever before.
See this very article you're reading? Speaking my truth was something I only ever did after seven vodkas. My desperate need to be liked kept me playing a much smaller game, with a much smaller voice.
Last year I accepted a speaking engagement at the very same nightclub I'd gotten incredibly drunk in when I was 19. As I leaned into the microphone to begin my talk on wellness and empowerment to a fully packed crowd, the irony wasn't lost on me. Public speaking had always been one of my biggest fears, and there's no way I would have found the courage to even accept the invitation if I'd still been drinking. The high I felt as I conquered that fear and walked off the stage was infinitely better than any artificial high I ever experienced after a few glasses of wine.
I'm now writing my first book and fulfilling my lifelong dream of being a published author. These are the kind of milestones I only ever talked about -- never taking inspired action, and hating myself for it. Not only do I now have the clarity to recognize these opportunities when they come along, I also have the gumption to seize them.
I feel more alive.
No-one wants to feel like their bad habits run their life. When I decided to stop drinking, I was terrified. I thought sobriety equalled a prison of misery and boredom. It was a revelation to discover that it was exactly the opposite.
When we've been drinking for a long time, we can forget what on earth it is that we even enjoy that doesn't involve alcohol. We disconnect from ourselves. My only idea of 'fun' involved drinking. Whether it was disguised as lunch with family, dinner with friends, a picnic, or a live concert -- make no mistake -- my true desire was to drink.
Sobriety has pushed me to be creative. To do and see things differently. It's helped me to discover new activities that light me up, and to unearth beautiful new connections. I've since created a rich tapestry of a life -- one far more fulfilling and rewarding than I ever imagined. Sobriety to me now, is not about living without alcohol, it's about truly living.
I'm happier and healthier.
I look after myself more. With every month of sobriety came an increasing sense of self-worth, and of being more protective of my energy. I've learned to skip events that don't feel right for me, and am less of a people-pleaser. I see what's real, and avoid drama.
I also understand that self-care is non-negotiable if I want to feel happy. I eat well, exercise, take vitamins, and get enough sleep. I declutter often and stay organized to avoid feeling overwhelmed. I gift myself time for play and fun.
It feels amazing to wake up fresh every morning with clarity, a feeling of connection, and a sense of purpose. I feel more myself than I have in a very long time.
I grew up.
When I was drinking, I wasn't the best me. I was brash, impulsive and self-involved. I didn't know how to handle emotions in a healthy way.
A lifestyle change of this magnitude challenged me to do a ton of internal work. It shone a light on beliefs that no longer served me, and forced me to heal and release destructive patterns. It cracked my heart wide open and pushed me to be truly open and vulnerable. I learned how to rely on myself, to self-soothe, and to take responsibility for my decisions. With this came a higher level of emotional maturity, leaving me better able to handle all of life's ups and downs. I'm more self-aware now and a much kinder and more considerate person to be around.
I finally feel like the confident, empowered woman I always hoped I'd be.
Need help with substance abuse or mental health issues? In the U.S., call 800-662-HELP (4357) for the SAMHSA National Helpline.