I just flew sober for the first time in my adult life. Maybe that doesn’t sound like a big deal, but after 26 years of associating air travel with airport bars and the cocktail cart, I was afraid that I couldn’t handle flying alcohol-free. Rather than checking in and numbing out I was awake and aware on that plane and could see my home and the trails I love to hike from the sky for the first time. I realized in that plane on the way to New York for my first sober vacation, that I am in love with my silly little life for the first time since I was a very young child. At almost 7 months sober I am seeing a future for how I want to build my nest. I am seeing a future surrounding how I want to express myself and what I want my life to look like. I was seriously afraid that sober, I would become a joyless curmudgeon but I am still creative and silly…and can laugh really hard…shocking I know!
Very few things have aligned with what I had envisioned when I stopped drinking. Most of the expectations I had around how I would suffer sober and how I would grow were off. I am pleasantly surprised.
7 months ago I quit drinking because in spite of drinking hard, fast, and furiously from morning to night, I honestly could not get drunk anymore. I guess you could say I was pickled. Saturated. Full up. I’m only 37 but my decision to finally stop drinking was a long time coming. It was something that I prepared for and it has not been easy. In the online community where I’ve been working through these first 7 months sober, I am happy for the folks who saw the beauty all through the process, but that was not my lived experience. It really took me a long time to heal and start to see myself again.
Learning how to be kind to myself AT ALL used to feel impossible. It used to make me cry and it used to hurt me on some level to let me love myself. I was afraid it was selfish. But I was suffering so much and it felt like no one cared at all. And at some point I thought, no one seems to notice me until they need something from me and they don’t care if I am tired, or struggling, or suffering terribly. I deserve all the care I give others.
And that was when I realized I was giving away the care I desperately needed for myself and I was living out a very common codependent scenario in a multitude of relationships.
I recently had a conversation with my therapist, who recommended I learn to “reparent” myself by talking to younger versions of myself when traumas come up. Now, suggestions like this come and go with varying degrees of success, in both me properly grasping the technique and remembering when the moment presents itself to actually execute it.
With that in mind.
I had a strong desire to revisit some 90s grunge/alternative I grew up listening to and make a mix on YouTube of some “fun” nostalgic favorites. After revisiting some pretty heavy/mellow-dramatic indie rock kinds of tunes I realized I felt SICK because it hit this very soft spot where the grunge, alternative, melancholy just perfectly eclipsed my parents very painful pretty fucked up divorce and for the first time I was able to name it.
I was able to see myself as a budding preteen seeing my family fall apart and I was able to introduce her to who I have become and we had a really beautiful conversation. She thinks I’m pretty cool and I think she is the bravest most beautiful person I have ever met…or been. I told her I understood now why we acted the way we did and told her that it was all perfectly natural considering all that was going on and how much of our survival depended on it. We cried together and I held her close. For the first time, I heard the music differently. It felt like that preteen was with me and a part of me but I didn’t feel like I was reliving the entire experience like I did before, it freed me.
I know this all happened because I could look at it all more honestly and more compassionately and more presently than I could when I was deep in drinking.
I am finally feeling relief and feeling that this sober effort is really really worth it and I FINALLY feel better, and more stable in a solid way. I have been wondering if this sense of calm would ever come while dealing with depression, anxiety, and self-doubt during these first 7 months sober but it seems to be sticking. I’m still dealing with hard life stuff but I am coping better…and ummm… coping at all rather than just drinking and pretending things are fine when in reality I’m struggling. I have been talking about things that I would have never addressed before, things that if I did address, I would have been a hot mess about. This time I have been able to remain relatively calm. I was able to compose a logical email that invited conversation rather than attacking and escalating. I had a very productive positive conversation with my dad about life and goals. I am discovering I have a lot of pent-up anger surrounding trauma and unexpressed boundaries…the list goes on and on, but I am finding myself loving more deeply and seeing things more clearly now. I have a long way left to go but I am finally seeing a positive lasting change. It feels really good.
I do realize that I am just at the beginning of this alcohol-free adventure, but sober for 7 months once seemed impossible to me. Before I ever gave stopping drinking a real chance, I took in a lot of content that has helped me as I finally undertake a real commitment to living alcohol-free long-term. I wanted to share some of these tools and I hope they resonate with people who are considering quitting drinking but can’t figure out how to do it. These tools have helped me understand how and why I got myself into this mess with alcohol in the first place and that understanding, has helped me a LOT. All but one of these resources was found and consumed regularly, well before I finally launched into my sober journey, forward from what I hope was my last day one.
My Tool Box to Get Ready to Stop Drinking :
For folks earlier on in their journey than I am, I think sometimes it is nice to be handed some directions for how to make some next steps. Even if they don’t end up working well for you or they don’t resonate with you. It can be a place to start. For me, these were places where a little light came in. I think I listened to Eckhart Tolle 1000 times and Tara Brach 600 times and Abraham Hicks 100 times before I ever considered being AF in a real way. These things have all helped a lot. We often expect quick fixes… and what we are often sold is quick fixes …. but It takes repeated abuse for us to learn to accept abuse and I have found that it takes repeated saturation in enlightened ideas, to turn around that self-destructive way of thinking.
Every time I listened to these tools over the years I could hear more and more as I better understood the message on a personal and embodied way.
Practicing the Power of Now By Eckhart Tolle on Audible
Many people reference Eckhart Tolle, whether they are trying to stop drinking or simply working away from anxiety and depression. There is another edition called The Power of Now, but I recommend this exact version Practicing the Power of Now. He hits some really deep truths about depression and just has a way of framing the human condition that I find personally and deeply relatable.
Tolle talks about aspects of rising from depression in a way that I had never heard. He answered questions that I had had for years, after being told by a mother who was sick of my depression, that my state of mind was a choice and that I needed to find a way to be happy. She never figured it out for herself but she hoped I could…which is a terrifying thing for an adult to tell a depressed 16-year-old. Tolle showed me there is a toxic side to that that can make one feel like they are “doing it to themself”. He woke my ass up so to speak. But I had to listen to him a LOT so I recommend getting this on Audible. I have ADHD and reading is relaxing but novel and not a sustainable practice for me to absorb content…but that is MY BRAIN
A LOT of folks out there with untreated or undiagnosed ADHD are 5 to 10 times more likely to abuse alcohol and the more I am learning about this the more I am seeing all of the things that made me the “weird kid” (and adult) are actually SUPER common in folks with ADHD. This is a link for the woman who has a YouTube channel I highly recommend to help manage ADHD called “How to ADHD” this is her story and it is really touching even if you don’t have ADHD!
“To be yourself in a world that is constantly trying to make you something else is the greatest accomplishment.”
― Ralph Waldo Emerson
Tara Brach The Realm of Hungry Ghosts
“Follow your inner moonlight; don’t hide the madness.”
Abraham Hicks – The Real Life Law of Attraction 30-day Intensive Rx Plan
This is to some extent Woo but there is actual psychological legitimacy to this process too. Making commitments and writing it down and speaking differently about what you are launching yourself into, has an impact on your psyche. It is also one more way to open things up, have some fun and start to dream.
I am not a psychologist I am not here to tell you this IS THE WAY. I just want to put some tools out here that worked for me and my particular psyche.
“Any action is often better than no action, especially if you have been stuck in an unhappy situation for a long time. If it is a mistake, at least you learn something, in which case it’s no longer a mistake. If you remain stuck, you learn nothing.”
I suppose the message that I want to convey to people even earlier on in their AF ( alcohol-free) journey is that it is going to be personal and unexpected, and in letting go of a substance that had, by all means, become a close companion, I am starting to learn about me and befriend me and care for the parts of me I had abandoned. I am learning to listen to me even when it is hard. I have to remind myself I’m healing and this is a process. And when I forget I come to BOOM and am reminded and supported and even loved.
This is worth it.
At 7 months sober I feel like I am coming home. I feel like I care about myself and my well-being for the first time in a meaningful way. Everyone has to live through healing time and the healing happens in its own time at its own pace. Hang in there if you are struggling today even if you are much further along.
It is time for you to take care of yourself and treat yourself the way you are so desperately hoping others will take care of you.
You deserve it!
We all do!
I don’t want to see my life as a series of blurs and rough patches. I want to see my life through the eyes of a bird who can see its home from the sky and discover who this person is under the booze blanket. So far she is a scared child who is learning to trust a life she has never seen before and that is okay. I am going to keep going. Will you join me AF today?
I am in love with my silly little life for the first time.
It feels good to be coming home to myself.
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