Three years ago I made a decision that changed my life. Since then I’ve never felt more free. The decision to quit drinking didn’t happen over night. It was something I thought about for a long time. But there were excuses, reasons not to, and the fear of what life would be like without drinking.
I remember a few nights having an almost out-of-body experience observing myself while drinking. A voice inside said, “this isn’t going to end well – your story won’t end well if you keep this up. Stop while you’re ahead.” I didn’t listen and I kept drinking.
I spent more days beating myself up than I did not. I used to hate myself for the time, money, and energy I committed to something that never resulted in anything more than suffering. Nights lost because I couldn’t remember. And the guilt. The guilt was something heavy and thick. It was the number one reason I kept numbing out. Back then I didn’t have a healthy way of dealing with the guilt and shame I carried, so finding temporary relief in drugs and alcohol became my way of anesthetizing the pain.
My journey to sobriety happened in phases. The first phase was coming to terms with it myself. When I made the decision to quit drinking three years ago, I knew it was for life. Friends would ask me how long was I going to not drink for and I would say, “I don’t know, just the month.” The fear of what they would think kept me from telling the complete truth. Would they think I was an addict and imagine my life a wreck? Or would they laugh and try to talk me out of it? I wasn’t strong enough in my sobriety to handle judgement, so I chose to keep it to myself.
Telling my close friends and family was the second phase. Letting the people in my life know I decided to give up drinking and why was the most challenging phase. I saw my relationships change. I had to reconcile the loss of friendships and I found myself having to come up with new ways to fill my time. I also had to develop a new relationship with myself and take a deeper exploration of my life. What did I get out of drinking and why was I so invested in something that never brought me real joy?
The third phase is where I’m at now — feeling completely proud of and grateful for my sobriety. It’s also the phase from which I feel the most comfortable, confident, and inspired to share. Seeing the negative effects of drugs and alcohol within my own family used to keep me at a distance from the story of sobriety. However, I believe the grace we experience in our lives is a gift to be shared. Not something to withhold.
A good friend of mine recently got sober and I asked him what makes now feel different from before. He said something someone told him completely revolutionized the language in his heart. Feeling hungover and morally at his bottom, someone told him, “you can continue drinking if you want, but just know you don’t ever have to feel like this again.” Something shifted for him in that moment. To hear he doesn’t ever have to feel miserable again because of his drinking was like a huge weight being lifted off of his chest. Those words set him free and gave him renewed hope for his life.
I believe we are the creators of our lives. Our choices create feelings and feelings are energy. The energy we put out into the world comes back to us as our life experience. When we consciously or unconsciously feel guilt or shame we will knowingly or unknowingly seek punishment. That could look like many things, but for me it was a sick cycle of not feeling good about myself and staying a victim in my own life. My level of self-worth was enough to get me by and maintain, but never enough to thrive.
In order to thrive in life we have to learn how to truly love and accept ourselves. Connecting with our spirituality, loving ourselves, and taking full responsibility for our lives and our choices is where our strength lies at the deepest level.
A lot of people reach out to me seeking guidance on how to give up drinking or quit making self-destructive choices. What I always offer them is, “cultivate a spiritual practice and make a commitment to your personal development.”
Sometimes someone will ask whether or not I miss drinking. I’ll respond, “Sure I miss the taste of a cold Corona, but I love sobriety much more. Knowing I won’t ever have to wake up hungover again has been the biggest gift being sober has brought my life.” No longer feeling the void from a previous night of drugs and alcohol is what true freedom has meant for me.
Wherever you’re at in your journey and whether it involves sobriety or not, know that we create our lives with each and every choice we make. Our lives are meant to be celebrated and feel free and they’re also meant to be remembered with reverence. Each of us deserves to feel good about ourselves and our lives always.
May you find your own version of personal freedom and be willing to set yourself free.