On January 7, 2013, life threw me a curve ball.
Even with private schools, athletics, a good upbringing, straight As and attending a good college, I found myself coming to the realization I had a horrendous drinking problem.
It truly was one of those “How did I get here?” moments.
Nothing growing up could have led me to that point, yet I found myself at rock bottom.
Blackouts from drinking haunted me on a regular basis.
I was drinking at least three or four times a week, and every time I did, it didn’t go well.
I had lost all control, and once I started drinking, I could not stop until I passed out.
I was falling down at bars, waking up in the hospital, getting serious injuries I didn’t remember getting and completely losing any sense of self-worth I had left.
So, on January 7, 2013, I said enough was enough.
I didn’t know what that change was going to look like, but I knew I needed to do something different.
Three years later, I am reporting back as a completely different person after not having one drink or drug since that day.
Here are four lessons I’ve learned from putting a plug in the jug:
1. Feelings don’t just go away.
Once I started drinking at 15, I no longer needed to actually process my feelings.
I would get angry and just keep my feelings bottled up.
Then one night during a blackout, I would yell, cry uncontrollably or just numb myself until I didn’t feel anymore.
Once I got sober, I really started to feel my emotions.
At first, I had to work on identifying my feelings.
I feel bad, so does that mean I’m sad, hurt, angry or maybe just hungry?
I had to learn that feelings wouldn’t kill me, even though they could physically hurt.
I started doing things differently, like writing down how I felt, calling a friend, going on a run or just taking a nap instead of reaching for a glass of wine.
What also came with that were feelings of utter joy that I hadn’t felt in a long time.
They were real feelings of happiness that you couldn’t get in a little baggie or bottle.
2. Fun still exists without alcohol.
An initial concern I had was, “What am I going to do for fun now?”
Luckily, I was at a point of such desperation that I didn’t care if my weekends would just consist of Netflix.
I just needed to change.
To my surprise, I still have fun.
In fact, I have way more fun than I ever had drinking.
Not only do I remember everything that happened, but I can also actually be present.
When I was drinking, all I wanted was the next thing.
I wanted the next shot, the next bar or the next man, and I was never content with where I was.
In my three years of sobriety, I’ve done everything a normal 24-year-old does.
I’ve stayed out all night in Vegas, I went to Coachella, I go dancing at bars and I can still be a loud, obnoxious, wild woman on the dance floor.
I slowly learned that I don’t need alcohol to be outgoing and to let go of my inhibitions.
3. It’s a lot easier to like myself.
It was really hard to like someone who falls down, pukes, passes out and can’t even put a sentence together every time she drinks.
My friends were dropping like flies, and I could barely even put up with myself anymore.
I once heard the saying that alcoholics are egomaniacs with an inferiority complex, and I knew exactly what that looked like.
I could barely stand looking in the mirror, yet I thought the world owed me something.
I never did things for other people.
I was flakey with plans, and if you weren’t giving me something I wanted, I didn’t really want to be friends with you.
Essentially, my world revolved around alcohol.
I wanted to be with people who knew the bartenders, and if you didn’t want to party like I did, I'd bail on our commitment.
After I got sober, I still had awful self-esteem.
I honestly expected that one day, maybe when I was 30 or so, I would get struck with self-esteem.
Then I learned this crazy concept that self-esteem comes from doing things that create it for you.
If I did things I was proud of, I might like myself better.
So sticking on my path of sobriety for three years is a great start.
With alcohol now out of the way, I can actually see other human beings.
I can do the dishes at a family party, I can give my friends a ride to the airport and I can actually show up to volunteer at an early morning weekend event without smelling like a brewery.
Being able to do all of these things since I got sober has given me the self-esteem to look in the mirror and like the person I am.
4. I have much more faith and hope for a good future.
I feel this way for a few reasons.
The first is that I actually have control over my actions.
I don’t have massive regrets anymore like crashing my car, drunk dialing my ex or waking up next to what’s-his-name.
I can lay my head down at night and usually be okay with the actions I took that day.
The second reason for this feeling is sobriety has given me the ability to finish what I start.
I have always been an ambitious person, but I was the kind of girl who bought all the cutest planners to make to-do lists and then never crossed a single thing off.
I started building my business before I got sober, and I wasn’t able to actually get it launched until after I hit one year sober.
Without alcohol, I have so much more energy.
My head is clear, and I can come up with much better ideas and execute them.
The last reason is when I was drinking, I wasn’t great at learning lessons.
By any measure, I should have gotten sober when I woke up in the hospital at 17 after almost overdosing on alcohol, but I didn’t.
I had to have my ass handed to me by alcohol for another four years until I learned the lesson.
That happened in every area of my life.
I kept dating the same kind of person, I couldn’t get my career started, I continued to run into the same problems with friends and the list went on.
Don’t get me wrong; I still make mistakes in sobriety, but I am able to learn and not make the same mistake over and over again.
That gives me hope that adulthood won’t be all that bad.
So in the end, I’m not trying to sell sobriety.
If I could still drink like a normal person and just have one glass of wine, I would be doing it.
But that’s not my story.
Sobriety has been the single biggest gift I have ever received, and I guard it as such.
At first, I was nervous to share my truth, but now, I’d rather help others get out of the pain I know a drinking problem can bring.