I am 8 months sober today and could not be happier with my decision. I started a new job and am having trouble learning how to balance a 40 hour work week with being a mom. Still, I am so thankful. I know if I were still drinking I would have never applied to this job. Alcohol was keeping me small. I had no idea. I didn’t blame the alcohol for my gut issues, sleep issues, malnutrition problems, massive anxiety, and disconnection from myself. I should have known but I didn’t. Alcohol blinded me.
In celebration of 8 months without the demon, I wrote a list. It’s a list of what I gave up, and what I replaced it with. 25 things for each of the 25 years I drank. It’s a list that makes me very happy to read. I hope it’s helpful to someone else.
- I gave up having a social crutch, and replaced it with a strong centered feeling within myself.
- I gave up a tool for bonding, and replaced it with the ability to be fully present for others.
- I gave up my nightly entertainment, and replaced it with activities that make me feel relaxed and happy.
- I gave up my go-to drink order, and replaced it with a variety of hydrating options that make my body feel great.
- I gave up my constant debilitating anxiety, and replaced it with an easy calm.
- I gave up talking to myself like I was worthless, and replaced it with forgiveness and encouragement.
- I gave up passing out every night, and replaced it with a relaxing bedtime routine followed by a luxurious night of uninterrupted sleep.
- I gave up putting things off because I was too worn out and tired, and replaced it with doing what I can each day and leaving the rest for later with no guilt.
- I gave up dreading maintaining my own boundaries, and replaced it with being honest and open about what I need and want.
- I gave up looking outside of myself for answers, reassurance and support, and replaced it with giving myself answers, reassurance and support.
- I gave up waking up with a pounding head and a nauseous stomach, and replaced it with endless mornings of waking up with no regrets.
- I gave up rushing through things to get to the drinking part, and replaced it with experiencing the moment I’m in.
- I gave up skipping eating so I’d have more calories for alcohol, and replaced it with delicious, glorious snacks. So many snacks!!
- I gave up timing out drinking so I wouldn’t have to drive my car, and replaced it with the freedom to drive whenever and I want.
- I gave up the embarrassing feeling of not knowing how obnoxious I was or who I made mad, and replaced it with remembering every joke, every laugh, every beautiful moment.
- I gave up stifling my own creativity and voice, and replaced it with rediscovering my love for writing and art for fun.
- I gave up relying on a substance to be so much of my life, and replaced it with new exciting goals, healthy habits, presence for the people I love and a refreshed outlook on life.
- I gave up my instant mood changer, and replaced it with honesty with myself about how I’m feeling and the deep satisfaction that comes with facing my shadows head-on.
- I gave up trying to hide my flaws, and replaced it with self-acceptance and self-love.
- I gave up one of the loves of my life, and replaced it with a fire for living that makes alcohol look like a bottle of toilet water in comparison.
- I gave up living the same boring existence, and replaced it with a hunt for what makes me happy and excited again.
- I gave up telling myself why I couldn’t do things that others could, and replaced it with the confidence to try.
- I gave up blaming other people for what I thought I couldn’t do, and replaced it with taking responsibility for my part and forgiving others for their mistakes.
- I gave up my instant fun, and replaced it with freeing myself from going to places I had to drink to have a good time.
- I gave up the belief that alcohol is stronger than me, and replaced it with a faith in myself built on promises kept, care taken, and a growing confidence that I am much much stronger than alcohol. Still…..I know I barely got out alive. I hope if you’re reading this that you get out too.
It’s so strange how many of us walk around and do all sorts of things when we all have this deep layer of experience and trauma right under the surface. We can tap into it at any time, but we can also willfully ignore it and pretend it’s not there. We don’t usually HAVE to tap into it, so it’s easy to ignore for long periods of time especially with the help of alcohol. It’s still there though, bubbling lightly at times and at others clunking around sloshing memories out like toxic foam.
I was terrified of this dungeon of mine for years and did everything I could to pretend it wasn’t there. I LIVED through all of my family problems: the mental illness, addiction, neglect, and humiliation, so I know what it is.
No point in thinking about it.
Keep that lid on.
But the lid doesn’t stay on of course and eventually, I ended up in therapy desperate for some help. In therapy, we opened the lid, and I quickly shut it. We opened it again, stirred it up, and I quickly shut it each time. I could only take so much of that toxic foam. I kept working up the courage to open it and went back knowing I’d end up feeling like I got in a car accident. I did it again and again. Thank God for therapists who walk people through that. I never could have done it on my own.
Now that underground pit is not so frightening but I still resist checking in there. I have this place where I can go, and legitimately heal just a little piece at a time, but it’s hard work even if it’s no longer scary. I’m also bored with myself and my past problems. What is the point?
I started writing this article you’re reading now because I sat down to journal a question my therapist asked me. I had to force myself to do it. I thought I had nothing to say and the next thing I know I’m realizing a key piece of my alcohol puzzle. It’s not important to go into too much detail here, but basically I had no one to rely on as a kid and I had to parent myself. As I wrote my eyes started stinging with emotion and tears. When that happens to me I know I’m revisiting a memory that I am still affected by, and that means it’s coming out in my energy and behavior without me realizing it. It’s a sore spot that needs some care. I never would have known it was there if I just stayed busy and let my day swallow up my time. Instead, I sat down, picked up a pen, and healed.
I’ve heard people compare what I call my dungeon to compost. Take all of the garbage and scraps and use them to grow new life. I can now use it for creative projects, connecting with other people, loving myself more deeply, and healing myself and others. An important part of this process is forgiving myself for my part in it all.
I’m coming to terms with how I have chosen to cope with hard things. Without the right tools and the right conditions, I made choices that weren’t kind to myself and others. I put up so many fronts. It’s embarrassing to admit these things, but I want to now.
I want peace.
So here is my list. It’s my forgive-myself list. I’m sure I will add to it over time as I dip back into my dungeon for more healing, but for now, a start.
- I forgive myself for hiding my flaws and trying to act like nothing was wrong with me when there were many things wrong.
- I forgive myself for blaming other people for how I chose to deal with my issues.
- I forgive myself for acting like positive thinking could solve anything and people who couldn’t fix their own problems were weak.
- I forgive myself for being a terrible older sister; for giving my sister the awful example of using substances to deal with life and watching her end up in the hospital with alcohol poisoning at 14 years old.
- I forgive myself for lying to cover up my bad behavior.
- I forgive myself for stealing money from my mom when she was sick.
- I forgive myself for saying horrible things to both of my parents so that they hurt like I did.
- I forgive myself for being a hypocrite and judging people for the same things I was doing.
- I forgive myself for indulging in so much self-pity every time things didn’t go my way.
- I forgive myself for every morning I woke up and said I would never drink again.
- I forgive myself for making really inappropriate jokes while drunk that I thought were funny, but the person I was teasing did not.
- I forgive myself for pulling over to throw up on the way to work in the morning because I drank too much the night before.
- I forgive myself for putting alcohol use in front of so many important people and events in my life; for shutting down relationships with cool people because they didn’t drink.
- I forgive myself for ditching friends so that I could keep drinking with people they were uncomfortable around.
- I forgive myself for putting myself in abusive situations and relationships.
- I forgive myself for so many years of drinking at functions in front of my kids and making them uneasy.
- I forgive myself for counting the minutes until I could drink at night, so I wasn’t present for my kids during the time I should have been.
- I forgive myself for getting drunk at home, the place that is supposed to be my children’s safe space.
- I forgive myself for setting a bad example for my kids when I know addiction runs strong for them on both sides of their family.
- I forgive myself for lying to me and breaking promises to me. For not honoring my own commitments and values for so long.
- I forgive myself for abusing my body, mind and spirit.
- I forgive myself for being so self-indulgent I was of no help to myself or anyone else.
- I forgive myself for abandoning me when I needed care the most.
- I forgive myself for giving money and power to an industry that is destroying lives.
- I forgive myself for promoting a lifestyle of alcohol abuse.
- I forgive myself for thinking I wasn’t that bad or separate from people who abused alcohol.
- I forgive myself for wasting SO much money, a precious resource that many people need, on alcohol. So much money.
- I forgive myself for wasting my own potential.
- I forgive myself for precious memories lost.
- I forgive myself for time I will never get back.
When I gave up drinking, 8 months seemed like an eternity, but each day you collect starts to add up, and then you have a bunch of days strung together. If you focus on one day at a time you’ll be surprised how they suddenly add up.
Are you ready to stop drinking?
Really marinate in all the things you hate about alcohol. Write it all down and keep it where you can see it. Read it over to yourself. Craft a poem out of it. Spend time obsessing over how much you hate it and how much better your life will be without it. Then hang on tight through the craving waves ♥️
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