the first 365.
So there I was... 26 years old and waking up in the emergency room. I was so out of it still at the point when I opened my eyes that I was trying to rip the IV out of my arm and the EKG sensors off of my chest. I saw one of my best friends sitting next to my bed, with tear-filled eyes. A doctor told me "you shouldn't be alive right now, but somehow you are". The first few days that followed were a blur of tears and a literal emotional breakdown. How had I let myself get to this point? I was so ashamed, so embarrassed, and I felt terrible for what I had put the people that cared about me through. The sad part is, I had to wake up in a hospital to realize I needed to rid my life of alcohol. In the beginning, I was so optimistic about how easy quitting drinking would be. I was lost, I was naive, and I had no idea what was about to happen in my life. I had recently met a guy who coincidentially was several years sober (funny how God sends certain people exactly when you need them, huh?), and it was a huge wake up call to hear a recovering addict say to me "I can't be around someone like you." I got angry, and I felt like a piece of shit... but could you blame him? I posted on Facebook that I was ridding my life of alcohol, because that's what your normal, lost, confused 26 year old trying to convince everyone that they are ok does, right? It was flooded with likes and comments, which was temporarily and abstractly encouraging.
At this point, everyone joked about my "always being the DD" and thought it was awesome that I was still going out with my friends sober. Being the stubborn girl I am, I forced myself to be around alcohol still to prove to myself that I could still be the life of the party without it. My weekend routine would consist of still picking out my perfect little outfit, dancing at the bar, and reassuring every guy that offered to buy me a drink that I was "really drinking water" when they looked at me confused. I almost enjoyed the shock on their faces when i told them I was sober. But what they didn't know was what happened every time I drove home at 2 am after I dropped off all my drunk friends. My heart began to race, and I started breathing heavy. I would take deep breathes and drive myself home as the tears began to roll down my face. I was so uncomfortable in my own skin, in my own life. I would drive myself home in a full blown anxiety attack trying to pull it together. I had been this person for so long and I was at the crossroads of trying to manage my old life and my new journey. I was literally struggling my way through an internal tug of war between the drunk party girl of my past and the young adult trying to make sense of everything and move on.
I got into a relationship in the beginning of my sobriety, which I firmly believe was for the purpose of breaking the cycle. He kept me from trying to go out, and gave me a somewhat normal lifestyle. Things were better for a while, and I was starting to realize that I could still have fun without being at a crowded bar watching everyone slam shot after shot. Once I was nearing 6 months sober, things unexpectedly began to wear on me emotionally more than I ever imagined they would. Around this point, the nightmares began. I would have such vivid dreams about being drunk, that I would wake up literally feeling like I had the spins and run to the bathroom to throw up. I would get in bed and cry for absolutely no reason at the drop of a hat. I needed help and it was starting to become clear to me that the head strong, young woman I was couldn't do this one alone. You can see in my 6 months sober Youtube video how uneasy and anxious I was during this time even talking about it.
And then he blindsided me, broke my heart, and left. I was so incredibly numb. Alcohol had been the remedy for all of the emotions I hadn't wanted to feel in the past. Rather than dealing with what had happened, I went out in my cute little outfit to the bar with my friends. I shoveled the emotional baggage I hadn't dealt with into a new rebound relationship, which ultimately ending up leading to the lowest point I'd ever hit. I was a secret, he cheated on me multiple times, manipulated me into giving him another chance, and was emotionally abusive to say the least. I had always been the strong, take-no-shit girl when it came to dating, but this time I was allowing someone to break me down to nothing. I had gotten to a low point in life where I was questioning everything about who I was now, and I was looking for other people to give me the answers. Once I realized I had to get out, all of the emotions I hadn't been dealing with rushed in and hit me right in the face. Typically this is when alcohol would come into play again, but I told myself no. I had come this far and I wasn't going to let a few idiots ruin that for me. I had been looking for others to fill the empty spaces in my life that drinking once filled. I didn't know how to be alone and how to be myself. I found myself uncomfortable with the act of sitting at home watching a movie by myself on a weekend night, so I'd mindlessly swipe through Tinder instead to find someone else to fill the empty parts of my life.
I didn't know how to deal with the mess of emotions I'd never allowed myself to feel before. I withdrew from my family, my friends, and everyone else. I had never felt what depression felt like, but I knew what I was feeling wasn't a good thing. I would get home and look at the clock reading 4pm and wish it was later so I could just go to sleep. Anyone that knows me knows I am the most optimistic, go-getter of a girl you could ever meet... so feeling this way really started to scare me. I knew I had to get help. I had never felt these types of lows and I wouldn't be able to pull myself out of them on my own. This was when I turned to finding my faith again. Church became my safe place, and my first form of therapy. I had dreams that were so vividly representing what I was going through directly related to biblical references that when I told a pastor about them he sat back in his chair and just said "Wow". If you do not believe in God, a higher power, or any form of religion, this part might not make sense or have relevance to you, but I began to talk to God more and he sent me signs when I needed them most. Church was a huge help in my journey at this point, but I knew I still needed some sort of formal therapy.
This was where the healing began. I had been crushed to rock bottom and was just starting to pick up the pieces to rebuild them in a way that would make me stronger than ever before. I continued attending Church, and finally found a therapist that I loved. I began to understand more about my relationship with alcohol in the past. I had gone back and forth with the idea of how long I would be sober for. I also threw around the idea of when I would drink again. I had told myself I would go for a year, but then what? What would happen after a year? Did I really need alcohol back in my life at all? These questions were ones that I went over and over often. I didn't know yet how I would continue after I hit the one year mark. Would I be a failure if I tried to drink in a "healthy" or "normal" way? Would I live the rest of my life without it completely?
The last few months of my first year sober were so empowering and inspiring. I had kicked alcohol for almost 365 days. If you had told me that a year before, I would have laughed at the idea of it. Throughout this year I was also able to discover who I really was in friendships, family, work, & relationships. I felt a purpose for being on this Earth. I survived something I shouldn't have, and that was reason enough to believe that I was meant to share this with people (hence the Youtube videos and the creation of soberAF.com). I finally was more comfortable in my own skin than I had ever been before. I didn't need the alcohol-fueled attention I used to receive from guys at a bar. Now I could go on a date and have an actual conversation with someone who was genuinely interested in who I was and what I was doing in my life. I no longer needed to go out partying to spend time with friends. Now I could have a girls night in, meet for dinner, or go see a movie with people who showed that they were still around when the party wasn't. I lost friendships, but the ones I have now carry so much more meaning than any of the people I used to take shots with every weekend. I no longer tried to make plans any time I had a day off or an evening free. Now I could enjoy cooking myself a nice dinner and binge watching Netflix on a weekend night and enjoy it.
The night before my one year sober date, I was alone. I had said multiple times that I wanted someone with me on that day. I had also said that I wanted to leave and go on a trip so that I wouldn't be here when that day came. I was terrified of how emotional it would be for me. That night I realized I didn't need friends, a man, or anyone else there to finish those 365 days. I didn't need to be somewhere else to avoid thinking about those 365 days. The night before my one year date at around the time I had been rushed to the emergency room 365 days prior, I dropped to my knees next to my bed and buried my face in my hands. I broke down that night just as I had 365 days before. I cried because I was not in a hospital, but in the beautiful place I am fortunate enough to call my home. I cried because of the people that are no longer in my life, but so grateful for the people that came into it or had stayed a part of it. I cried because of how I had hurt my family, but also because those relationships have been rebuilt because of it. I cried because I had been so hurt by people I put my love into, but grateful for them for making me stronger. I cried because of the faith I had once lost, but in awe of the place my faith had led me back to. I cried and I thanked God for saving me, for making me strong enough to get through this, for slamming on the brakes and giving me the opportunity to rewrite my life.
I had always been very hesitant to call myself an alcoholic because I wasn't that person that woke up and had to have a drink. I was young, building my own business, had a lot of friends, and surely wasn't like how I pictured an alcoholic to be in my mind. But there is no cookie cutter definition for an alcoholic. You may be a daily alcoholic. You may be a weekend binger (like I was). You may be a secret drinker. You may finish every workday with a bottle of wine. Alcohol can affect you in more ways physically, emotionally, and mentally than you can even fathom. And if you are someone out there reading this that has a healthy relationship with alcohol, none of this may apply to you. There are many of us that never had that relationship with it, and some of us will be unable to ever be that way. There is an alarming amount of people in the world that have this issue. They may be white, black, asian, gay, straight, successful, struggling, and so on and so on. It needs to be addressed, and we need to talk about it.
As someone told me in an email, they found hope watching my videos of my first year sober. And that is why I invited everyone into my struggle so publicly. To inspire, to support, and to show others that they are not alone. I welcome you to watch my journey, share this with someone who may need it, and to listen to my words. I hope they give you support, comfort, & hope.
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