Every year on Christmas, my family & I partake in the usual festivities, exchanging gifts in the morning and spending the evening making our rounds to all of the relatives’ houses. This year was no different save for one large detail. This December the 25th marked my one year anniversary of being alcohol free. For those of you reading this that knew me in the past, perhaps this is coming as a surprise. For those of you reading this who have only recently met me, welcome to my journey. I’ve spent the past two years working really hard to become the best version of myself possible. While I still have a long way to go, abstaining from alcohol has taught me a number of things that I would like to share with you all. Please keep in mind that this is just my own personal experience with & without alcohol. I am not speaking for anyone, but myself.
1. F.O.M.O Is A Joke
Don’t get me wrong, I know first hand that F.O.M.O is a real beotch. For anyone that doesn’t know the acronym, it’s Fear Of Missing Out and boy, was that fear strong for me. I essentially lived at the bar throughout my last few years in college as well as the year after I graduated. I was so afraid of missing some social opportunity or not being a part of something fun that happened. As a result, I ended up wasting a lot of my nights and often getting into trouble. When I first made the decision to stop drinking, I had a lot of anxiety about what I would be missing out on. I worried about how I would meet people if not in a bar or some other place where alcohol was prevalent. I wondered what would happen if I ran into my “drinking buddies” & had to explain why I wasn’t drinking anymore. However, there’s another acronym that I found to be very useful when navigating these emotions and that is F.E.A.R- False Evidence Appearing Real. The idea that I was missing out on anything at all was just something that I had made up. F.O.M.O is what you make of it.
2. I Got To Know Myself
Throughout my journey, even before I gave up the booze, I began to get to know Alex. During my partying days, I always knew that I drank because I hated the person that I was. Drinking, for me, was a way of hurting myself. Once I gave up alcohol though, I realized that I was not the person that I thought I was. In fact, I am a lot different. For anyone reading this that experienced drunk Alex in the past, first, I’d like to offer my sincerest of apologies for any behavior you may have witnessed and secondly, perhaps you noticed that I was a loud, boisterous and often obnoxious person. I’m not here to try to justify my character or try to convince you that I’ve changed, but what I did learn was that all of those characteristics were not true to who I am. I was not being my authentic self. I realized that in many situations, without alcohol, I am quite shy. Shy is a term that I have never in my life associated with myself until recently. I realized that without alcohol, I don’t like being in big crowds of people; it’s too much energy for me to handle. Alcohol numbed my anxiety. Without alcohol, I realized that I have trouble looking people in the eyes when I speak to them, something I never even noticed before! Something that I have finally been able to work on. Without alcohol, I have a clearer state of mind and most importantly, without alcohol, I realized that I do in fact like myself. The person that I thought I was, that I hated so much, was never really me. I am so grateful to have finally learned that.
3. You Realize Who Your Real Friends Are
I feel like this one goes without saying. However, it’s pretty amazing to see just how little you have in common with some people once the alcohol is gone. It’s bittersweet to be honest. It’s sad to think that you bonded over a substance and that without it, there is no real friendship, but it is also a wonderful lesson to learn.
4. Self-love & Forgiveness
It is rather incredible to realize that in order to receive love, one must first love thyself. We are told this all the time, yes, but to actually experience it is quite intense. I only just became aware of how many times I sabotaged myself when it came to relationships, both friendly and romantic. It was when I started to love myself that I realized that I am in fact worthy of being loved by someone else. Self-love is so important and it is crazy to me that for all of those years of pain, sadness and anger, it was what I was missing and what I needed the most. In the beginning of my journey, that recognition was pretty heartbreaking for me. I felt bad for myself and I was angry with myself. I felt like I had wasted so much time. However, somehow, I have learned to forgive myself and that has become a daily practice. Forgiveness has never been easy for me. In fact, forgiving other people is something that I still struggle with a lot (working on it!). I am hoping that if I start with myself though, that eventually I will be able to extend that same forgiveness to others. When I think back to the person I was two years ago, it truly feels like a different lifetime. I don’t think I ever knew who that girl was. I’ve only just begun to understand myself and truthfully, I feel as though I’ve only just started living. All of the changes that I made, the little steps I took to better myself, enabled me to get to know who I am, which turned into me actually liking myself, which grew into this powerful self-love I now possess. There are days when I wake up and don’t feel comfortable in my own skin or I’m just not in a good mood and can’t seem to snap out of it. There are days when I feel like my yoga practice sucks or I’m lacking inspiration in the kitchen, but that’s when forgiving myself and being gentle with myself come into play. I must continue to love who I am and to practice maîtri, “loving-kindness” towards myself every day.
5. You Must Let Go Of The Old In Order To Make Room For The New
This lesson was huge for me. As I had mentioned before, I was so worried about where I was going to meet new people or if I even would. What is so wonderfully magical though is how things start to fall into place. Even just energetically speaking, you first have to let go of the bad in order for good things to come your way and that is exactly what happened. As soon as I ditched the alcohol and my old habits, so many inspiring and wonderful people started to enter my life. People from my past that I thought I had burned bridges with and even people I never really knew started to reach out to me. I met people at the gym, I met people through social media, I met people through other people; it was amazing. I truly believe that the universe takes care of those that take care of themselves.
Getting sober is a humbling process. Following a twelve-step program or not, you begin to do the work of undoing all of the damage you have done to yourself and your life. As challenging as it may be, the beauty in it is that it allows you to have compassion not only for yourself, but also for those that are still finding their way. A wise woman recently told me that our purpose in life is to be a reflection for others to learn about themselves. I whole-heartedly believe that we are all one, that we are all vibrating together for the greater good of this planet. Our thoughts, our words, our actions all affect those around us. Compassion is imperative.
7. How To Heal
They (whomever they really are), they say that the age in which you start using is the age that you stay (maturity wise) until you stop. I started drinking alcohol when I was fourteen. Now, at twenty-four years old, I know that there are certain situations in which I still feel like my fourteen-year-old self. There are things that I never learned because alcohol blocked me from the real experience. There are times when I feel embarrassed and get down on myself because I recognize that alcohol stole so much from me and I allowed that to happen. I feel silly that at twenty-four, I still don’t know how to act in certain situations or I don’t know the answer to something I feel that I should. However, once I put my ego aside and have a little more compassion for myself, it’s then that the healing process can begin. To be able to now work on those things and work towards completing the missing pieces is something that I am so grateful for.
8. I Can Give Back To My Body
From the very first squat challenge I started back in 2013 until now, many things in my life have fallen into place, almost as if it was orchestrated that way. That being said, the last big change I made in my life was transitioning to a vegan diet. Initially, it was a two-week challenge that a friend had invited me to be apart of. I had cleaned up my diet quite a bit and had been experimenting with many new recipes so I was all in for the challenge. During those two weeks, I had more energy than ever before, life was so much more vibrant, I felt connected to the Earth and I knew there was no going back for me. Over time, I educated myself on the ethical reasons behind a vegan diet, which I’m happy to have an impact on and that definitely affects my decision to remain a vegan, but what I’ve learned is that being a vegan, for me, is really just my way of apologizing to my body for all the harm I’ve done to it over the years. Nourishing myself with a plant-based diet is the biggest act of self-love I can think of. I have worked so hard to get myself where I am at physically, mentally, emotionally and spiritually. I don’t know if I’ll ever drink again and I don’t know if I’ll ever go back to eating animal products, but I do know that I’m not willing to do anything that may jeopardize how good I feel. Which leads me to number 9…
9. I Never Knew How Good I Could Feel
I’ve struggled with depression for most of my life and I honestly never thought that I would be a happy person. I just didn’t think that it was something that I was capable of. To know how I once felt compared to how I feel now… is exactly why I decided to make this blog post. Because if there is anyone reading this that has felt or does feel like that, I promise you those feelings can change. I am so happy with my life right now and the path that I am on. I have so much faith in the universe and more importantly, so much faith in myself. For all the harm we do to our bodies, it’s absolutely mind-blowing to see how well they can recover and then some. I tried so many new things this past summer, some things I never even thought I’d be good at, but when you treat the body right, it treats you well in return.