Tuesday, July 10, 2018

2 Years of No Drinking

 I have questioned whether or not to share my anniversary this year for fear I would come across as too braggy, or pompous. But when I really sat down to reflect, I remembered how much came from sharing my story last year with anxiety, so I figured...what the hell, let's do this.

Last week, I celebrated 2 years of no drinking. And to tell you the truth, it was a much easier celebration than my first year. The first anniversary, I was still very scared. When I took the time to reflect last year, everything still felt too close. Like not enough time had passed since the darkness of anxiety consumed me. I was constantly scared I was going to "relapse" and not in the drinking sense, but in the sense of allowing the beast that is anxiety to take over again without any say from me.

But this year, things felt and looked much differently than the first anniversary. I felt excited this year, as if it was actually something to celebrate. With me, I don't necessarily feel as if I am celebrating the sobriety part as much as I am celebrating the "holy shit, I came a long way from two years ago of living with my mom, and not being able to sleep or be alone due to fear of panic attacks." Of course, the no drinking thing is quite the accomplishment, but what I am most proud of is how far I have come overall. 

Two years ago I decided to stop drinking because I realized that alcohol was just temporarily calming me down from anxiety, or covering up the fact that I was single and very much alone. I didn't have a problem with drinking, in fact, I was always known as someone who didn't drink that much, however I was trying to use alcohol as a quick fix for a big problem. Then when the buzz would wear off, I was back to square one. Still had anxiety. Still single. Still sad. 

Whenever I decided to take the leap and try anxiety medication, my psychiatrist told me that in order for the medication to work its best, I needed to stop drinking, and stop smoking, especially at the beginning when my body/mind was getting used to everything. Meanwhile, I was still very much struggling with Poly Cystic Ovarian Syndrome (PCOS) symptoms, and one of the many ways to help heal your body naturally from this, is to eliminate drinking. Plus I HATED the feeling of being hung over. I mean I don't know one person who likes the feeling of being hung over, but I would bitch and moan the entire time I was hung over. And to top that off, I didn't like how I would waste my whole next day in bed sleeping everything off. 

Then, I met my fiance, Maxwell. My sobriety, and life guru. Talk about divine intervention here. Never did I ever think I would find someone so intellectual and insightful as him. His approach to sobriety is something like I have never seen before. He is disciplined, humble, and radiantly proud of his lifestyle change. I remember on our first date I was thankful he was sober since I newly was on medication and still kind of embarrassed to not be drinking. (Isn't it funny how alcohol is the only "drug" where you have to have an excuse NOT to do) Anyways, I was thankful he was sober as I wouldn't feel pressured to drink on our first date. His sobriety journey is a little different than mine, but I can't tell you how nice it is to have a teammate who is also on the no-drinking, no-drugs bandwagon. 

When I first stopped drinking, I was so nervous what people would think of me. Thankfully my friends and family were super supportive, especially seeing the transition I underwent from being an anxiety riddled recluse in bed to someone who smiles again, answers phone calls, and appears in social settings from time to time. But as I got more adventurous with who I hung out with, I found myself having to answer to other people outside of my friend group as to why I stopped drinking. 

Still to this day, I am sometimes unsure how to answer this question, simply because there are a handful of reasons. 

No, I am not drinking due to religion. 
No, I am not drinking simply because my fiance is sober. 
No, I don't judge others who drink. 
No, I don't mind when people drink in front of me. 

I stopped drinking because I have crazy anxiety. 
I stopped drinking because my health was declining due to PCOS.
 I stopped drinking because alcohol wasn't serving me anymore. 
I stopped drinking because I wanted to learn how to handle my anxiety head on rather than with a temporary fix. 
I stopped drinking because my fiance gave me the confidence to realize that I don't need alcohol to be or have fun. 

Yes, I still worry about not being "fun", but then I look back to the wedding I just attended last week, and my wicked dance moves, and I realize that no wet blanket would dance like that. (I don't know why, but when I get on the dance floor something takes over me. My friends call it DDS (dirty dancing syndrome) All I need to hear is Toxic by Britney Spears, or Pony by Ginuwine...GAME OVER PEOPLE)

Now I know this is a long post, but I think it's important to talk about mental health and connect with others who are struggling or who have struggled in the past. I also think it's important to talk about sobriety as there tends to be a lot of shame that come with both addiction and mental health.

 I remember my one friend, who is also a wonderful, smart and beautiful therapist (I'm talking about you Whitney), told me in the beginning of my anxiety journey, that it's crucial to "normalize anxiety". Hallelujah, and amen. If only we normalized anxiety, depression, or mental health maybe people wouldn't feel so alone or ashamed. I don't know about you, but hearing about Anthony Bourdain's death absolutely crushed me. Someone who "had it all" yet still struggled. Might I mention, he also struggled with addiction in the past.

So here it is, my reflection of my two years of no drinking. 

No, I don't have it all figured out. 
Yes, I still have anxiety. 
Yes, I still worry what others think about me. 

But when I sit down a realize how far I have come, all those fears and negative self-talk fall to the side. 

I have a life again. A life that's fuller than I ever could've imagined. 
I have grown, challenged myself, and healed along the way. 
Something I will forever be proud of.


So, Maxwell mentioned it may be nice to write a little list of things, activities, or books that have helped me on days when I'm on the struggle bus. Because what's a blog post bragging about how good I feel, without sharing a few tips and tricks I have used along the way on days where I feel like shit?

Feel free to also check out this older post I wrote last year with info on self-help books, and meditation apps.

1. TALK TO SOMEONE - I know it's scary to admit you're not feeling "normal" - Whether that means you struggle with alcohol, addiction, anxiety or other mental health issues. But guess what, the more you keep it a secret the more you will struggle. I tried so hard to white knuckle my way through anxiety, and guess what..it didn't work. I felt totally out of control, and keeping it a secret made me feel even MORE out of control. First step to recovery, admitting something's up, talking to someone about it, and potentially asking for help.

Even if you have received help, and are just having an off day - talk to someone. Talking to someone takes the power out of your fears and helps the healing process. Call up your friend after work, talk to your partner, or even your Mom. If one doesn't answer, keep on trying. Talking to someone gets you out of your own head.

2. It's okay to ask for help - After months of seeing a therapist, there was a day where I was just so tired of fighting, I finally accepted the idea of asking for help. Help getting my life back. Help feeling happy again. Help gaining my independence. So guess what...I got some help and got on anxiety medication. But before that, I asked for help from my Mom and asked if I could move into her house so she could take care of me.

I still ask for help. Asking for help doesn't mean you're weak. In fact, it's the total opposite. To me asking for help is STRONG AF, and shows a sense of confidence. It means you're wanting to grow, and expand in a way, and you're unsure how to start on your own. So in some cases help may mean treatment, or therapy, or even asking for support from your friends. But just because you're asking for help, in no way is a sign of weakness. Your friends and family WANT to help you. Imagine if your best friend was going through what you are going through, and they asked for your help. What would you do?...If you're anything like me, you would do whatever you could in order to get your friend back to his/her best self.

3. Therapy - Man oh man, I can't ever say enough wonderful things about therapy. I freakin' love it, and seriously wish it was affordable for everyone to attend. It's my one time a week where I am forced to sit down, be present and take care of myself.

4. Journaling - Now if therapy isn't your cup of tea (which I truly think it's everyone's cup of tea they just need to find the right therapist) journaling is a great alternative. I love to journal about my fears, about my dreams, what I've accomplished in a day, what I'm grateful for, etc. Whenever I'm having a moment of panic, or feeling uncomfortable about something, I sit and journal. Something about getting out your thoughts on paper (or saying them out loud to a friend) takes the power away from them.

5. Be active! - I am a big fan of physical activity and the power it can do to heal your body and mind. That doesn't mean I am working out every single day, or even 1x a week, but guess what, it's a good tool to have in your tool belt for days you're in a funk. Even if it's just a 10 minute walk outside, do it! It'll help. And that vitamin D doesn't hurt either.

(picture pulled from Pinterest)

As for the no drinking part of this all - that's the easy part for me. Anxiety is the hard part, which is why my tips are focused on healing from that. However, the no drinking part wasn't easy at first. And I think the fact my doctor told me "DO NOT DRINK" made me follow those rules that much more.

 So my tips for if you are sober curious, and need a little assistance.

-Find fun drinks that don't have alcohol and stock your fridge. I have been on multiple bachelorette parties where I just bring my own Kombucha or LaCroix and I am good to go. Because let's be real, sometimes drinking water is boring.

-Substitute drinking alcohol at bars/restaurants with a nice club soda and lime. No one can tell the difference.

-Tell your friends about your sober journey. If they give you a hard time, it's most likely because they themselves aren't happy with their own drinking habits and now they don't have you to get kray kray with.

-Just because you're sober, doesn't mean you have to stay home and miss out on the fun. Instead of meeting your friends for drinks, meet them for coffee, or ice cream or for a nice evening/morning walk. Schedule time for an activity such as rock climbing, or swimming, instead of heading to a happy hour.

-Find your tribe - Having Maxwell as my partner in sobriety has made things a lot easier. I have had my ups and downs with worrying whether or not I was still fun, and in a sense grieving that old part of me that did party. But having a friend that is also on your same journey, or a similar one, makes it so much easier. Yes, there will be a time where you miss your old self, but guess what having a friend that has also gone through the same thing makes you feel understood and comfortable.

-Plus I have found that when I miss my old self, I am usually glorifying the past, and in complete denial. When I am wanting to drink/or smoke, I sit and think - why do I really want to drink? It's usually because I am so stressed out in that moment that I just want a quick fix to de-stress, relax and have no responsibilities. And that's what I used drinking and smoking for. A way to escape my current reality. Instead, refer back to some of my tips above and find another healthier way to relax.


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(picture found on Pinterest)

As always, this post is very raw and straight from the heart. Please be kind when reading, and commenting. As for anyone who is also on the struggle bus, or sober curious, send me a message! I would love to connect and learn more about you.