Today, I celebrate the 5 year anniversary of my last drink.
(Trigger warning: if you don’t want to read about alcoholism, this post might not be for you)
Here’s my story:
The short version: I drank consistently for the better part of 20 years. I am an alcoholic.
I started drinking in my teens, like most of the teens of my generation… but for me, it was specifically to “fit in” and “be cool”. I was that kid that did not heed the warning and did it anyway, literally hoping that boys would notice me and that I would be part of a group somewhere. (Sadly, I only realized this fact two decades later HAHA). I wasn’t a “cool” kid and, at the time, this bothered me. So I started to drink, smoke and partake in other party favors, but those didn’t stick with me like the booze did. I was 16 years old. And it worked – I found a great boyfriend (that would last 2.5 years) and fit right in with him and his friends. I had a big group of friends, I had a boy that loved me, it was all happening.
Sadly, it would be years before I realized that I was genetically predisposed to alcoholism and opening that first drink would lead me down a path that I did not expect or want. And one that would make me anything but “cool”.
I had ups and downs with my use of alcohol as a teenager, but I didn’t really hit into it hard until my mid-20s when I realized that I was “really good at drinking”. I would do shots at the bar that other girls didn’t, some that even involved fire (true story), and this impressed both boys, girls and bartenders. YES! I was building a fanbase and I loved it. I had always wanted to “fit in” and to receive the admiration of others. (Again, I would only realize this destructive behavior about 20 years later). While I wish I could talk to my 10 year old self, now, and tell her all the things I have since learned about life, self-esteem and happiness, these were steps of my path that I was meant go to through as it happened.
Alcohol became my crutch. A comfortable, delicious cruth.
As I dealt with severe anxiety for a long time, I had myself convinced that alcohol “relaxed” me and that it was a solution to my day’s ailments. For a long time, I thought to myself that it was okay ’cause I only had 2-3 glasses a night, that’s not a big deal. But it was a big deal — ’cause I held onto the “can’t wait to have a drink” all day. Then once the weekend hit, it was 20 glasses, a mixture of all alcohols and often times, either throwing up or blacking out. #Classy.
I still worked my job successfully. I never really day-drank (except for Sunday Ceasars to cure the aftereffects of previous night’s decisions) and all my bills were paid. I was what’s called a functioning alcoholic. I was good at it.
During all of this, I started really hitting new lows with my anxiety, so the drinking happened a bit more often, again, having myself convinced that one actually helped the other, not realizing that one actually triggered the other. The drinking would allow the anxious feelings to disappear for a while, not realizing that within my body’s chemistry, the alcohol would later cause a far worse anxious reaction. The biggest lie I told myself was that alcohol “relaxes”. That is one of the many lies the anxious, addict brain will tell the body and mind to allow more intake of a substance.
At 33 years old, I hit my rock bottom.
I was going through a divorce, and went out to drink with friends, celebrating my new self. This new recently single self was going through a hard time as the divorce was not my decision and I was trying to piece together what the f-ck I would do next with my life. Again, thinking that the drinking would help relax me and allow me better perspective, I drank. Alone. A lot. After a few months of self-pitty, I started to go out again. That’s when the bottom got really close….
Rock bottom looks different for a lot of people, but you get this moment or momentS where you know there’s a problem and something needs to change. It’s just a matter of what you do with that or those moments.
One night, it all came to a crash for me.
I remember doing more shots than most, and then I remember waking up in my bed the next day wondering how I had gotten there. Once I pieced the story together, turns out that an amazing friend of mine made sure I got home safe. Once he saw that I had lost all sense of logic, him and his girlfriend took care of my safety. That afternoon, as I woke up VERY late, I found myself CRAWLING to the bathroom so I could throw up. CRAWLING. I couldn’t walk. I was probably still drunk, but I was in a rough shape. I found myself at 33 years old, years into a great job, lots of creative talent, new life ahead, great parents who raised me right ( had I only listened better ) and yet I found myself a grown-ass woman craaaaaaawling on the floor of my rental cottage to get to the bathroom to deal with all my regrets. That day was the day I realized I had caught the family curse. I’m an alcoholic and this was not my truest, best life.
I would have many more similar evenings or events in my life from that moment but the seed of wanting to heal had been planted. I just didn’t know how to deal with my anxiety and my brain so I drank, not realizing that the drinking was making the anxiety all that much worse. It’s a poison entering the body – scientifically, it does NOT relax it. The broken heart from my divorce didn’t help either, as I didn’t know who I was or where I would end up from there. Waking up at 32 single, after being married for several years, really gives you a wake up call to figure out your life… especially when you find yourself crawling on the floor. Though unrelated, these were two good wake up calls!!!
That’s when I met him – my partner, my current partner (almost 8 years later).
While he never once asked me to stop drinking, he was the first “sober” person I had hung out with in years. He didn’t drink, and while the reason for his choice isn’t part of this story, it was refreshing to me to discover how to have fun without adding booze. I didn’t remember the last time I truly felt “joy” without adding a drink to the mix. He always says “you are only as good as who you surround yourself with” and he was right. While I dearly love the people I hung out with and went out with, we were encouraging a self-destructive pattern for each other and I needed to experience something new, fresh and alcohol free. For the first time in years, I was hanging out with someone who didn’t plan everything around booze and/or doing things that weren’t entirely planned around how much booze we had to bring, how we would get home, etc. For the first time in a long time, if not since I was a kid, we were making plans around simply experiencing joy. Sober, alcohol-free, amazing joy. For the first time, I was hanging out with another human and not feeling the need to use alcohol to “fit in”. With him, I just fit in naturally and this was a whole new feeling for me. I still had some drinks at home, from time to time, but the more time I spent having sober fun with him, the more I realized that I felt better, more relaxed, less anxious and more like myself. I was reversing the curse, one day at a time.
Sadly, as the drink as a grasp on you when you are that far deep, my brain still wanted to convince me that I needed more… I was on the fence between two worlds. While I didn’t want to leave my drinking friends behind, I knew that I had to do for myself something that I knew would change my entire life. I was scared. I had to quit and lean in entirely into a life without alcohol, something I knew I wanted and strived for since I had had my first drink. I always knew drinking wasn’t for me, but I was an awkward kid that became “addicted” to fitting in and having lots of “friends” around and that was my normal. I also knew that once I gave up the bottle, I would need to deal with my shit – my anxiety, my divorce, my broken heart, my issues, my bad habits and everything else that came along with it. Yikes.
Luckily, I was already taking steps towards sober living without even realizing it. There was no more booze in the house, and I had more fun making plans to see a show drinking RootBeer than having booze. I was LOVING my new alcohol-less living, so my intakes were far and few between, though the cravings were still strong. All of this were steps in my recovery and the healing of addiction. I had to CREATE NEW HABITS for myself, in order to disconnect from it.
You can’t change your life, unless you change your life. Friends, living space, habits… it all needs a revamp!
In January 2016, I found a bump on my neck.
You can read about this in previous posts, but you will know that it turned out to be cancer. If that wasn’t the final wake up call to my need for change in my life, am’i’right? Suddenly, my invincible body was not invincible anymore and the tons of booze and cigarettes that I plowed into it had finally caused my body to say “STOP, I don’t like this at all”. My diagnosis was the last straw I needed to make the scariest decision of my life: leave alcohol in my past for good!!!!!
This was a crossroad: deal with my illness and do what’s best for me, or jump back into the comfort of booze.
In June of 2016, a couple weeks before what would become two surgeries and 33 treatments of radiation, I was visiting my dad (who lives in the next province) and we were having a glass of wine with dinner. I loved a good glass of wine with dinner and always wished I could have been one of those people that could enjoy just that. One glass and walk away. Sadly, I had trained my brain over the years, with all of the choices that I had made in my life, to be the person who loved the entire bottle, not just the one glass. I knew that in order to heal this part of myself, I had to quit it all!!!
Having that amazing glass of white wine with dinner with my dad, with whom I am very close, I knew it would be my last drink. I had decided. This was make or break. We were discussing my cancer treatment over dinner, so I knew that there was only one logical step from there. I could not heal my body from cancer if I kept putting poison into it; bad enough I had to get radiation to eradicate this tumor and all of it’s little cancerous cells. I didn’t tell anyone that this was my last drink – I strongly feel that big life decisions should be kept to ourselves, to avoid outside pressure or opinions. I knew once I put down that last glass, I would go to bed, wake up the next morning on my birthday… sober.
For my 36th birthday, I gave myself the gift of sobriety.
I hate to think I was lucky to get cancer, but I think my path would have gone differently if I hadn’t, as my body and brain needed a good slap in the face to wake up! My body was giving me no choice – if you want to live, you have to heal. This was the result of years of asking the universe for a “break” from my anxiety, my drinking, my sadness, and all the bad stuff in my life. Well, I got the break. I had 6 months off for surgery and radiation for cancer at 36 years old, a cancer that could have very well killed me if I didn’t take action. I was lucky in that moment ’cause I had NO choice. This was the break I had asked for, and a chance for me to heal my body, heal my mind and heal my addiction to booze. (I also quit smoking at the same time, which added to the major changes but I was aiming for an overhaul!!!!)
This was 5 years ago.
I cannot tell you that it’s been easy, as it wasn’t. I lost track of a lot of people I had once considered friends, as I had to remain away from temptation and hoped that the ones that truly loved me would understand. I was going through some hard emotional healing and was doing regular therapy and journaling. I was no longer running away from my brain and anxiety, and instead, started reading every book under the sun that could help me find my joy. I was going through cancer treatment which is not as fun as it sounds, and even that scared friends away! My life was receiving an overhaul and it was time. It had been what I was asking for – a way out of the cycle of destruction, into a life of gratitude, health and joy. I was only 36 years old, with an entire life left to live ahead of me. It was up to me to do it.
Through the last 5 years, I have gone through a lot of inner healing, dealing with every emotion that comes up to learn to understand my brain and help myself heal my anxieties instead of suppressing them. That’s a hard one, but it’s possible. I discovered meditation, journaling and the joy of going to a concert with only a can of Root beer and being able to drive home with happiness and the comfort that I would feel amazing the next morning. And I always do! 🙂 I discovered who I really am, and while some aspects took a while to get use to, I started to actually love myself for the first time since I was a little kid, pre-booze. I started to gain self-esteem and feel actual joy, without any external boosts. I was healing my insides, which was the issue the entire time. My brain, anxiety and stress had created a cancer in my body to wake me up from the nightmare and push me to create a new, better and more magical life! And I did.
Today, I sit here 5 years sober.
I could write a book about this, but I won’t… it’s my story but it’s only one of a million stories as each of us have our own. The moral to take away here is simply to do what’s best for your body and mind, and to face your issues in heal them instead of running away or drowning them in a cheap glass of beer. The human body doesn’t actually enjoy alcohol. And while I respect those that still drink, as everyone makes their own choices, I’m writing this for all those of you who struggle with putting the glass down, and for people to know there’s a happier, healthier option on the other side. You just have to jump into it. It’s not easy, but I cannot begin to explain how worth it the decision has been!
Colors are brighter, food tastes better ( it really does ), and I am now experiencing actual joy in my life. I had a moment a few nights ago when it hit me ” I’m currently experiencing all the joy I was chasing for so long ” as joy can only come from within, so the healing has to start there to allow joy to have space within you. While this might sound like a self-help book, let it – ’cause I know what has worked for me and what I discovered from this experience and if I can inspire just one other person to go after their best selves for a happiest life, then I was able to use my story as a good deed!
Tomorrow, I turn 41 years old. I’m 5 years sober and 5 years cancer free.
I now know without a doubt that I will be able to live at least another 41 years enjoying this life I have created for myself, surrounded by amazing and supportive family and friends. (Don’t worry, the real friends always stick around the hard times… there might just be a few less than you expected, but the ones that do stay are amazing! Cherish them!)
I feel happy for the first time in a long time. Truly happy. Where sometimes I just sit and smile for no other reason than the fact that the joy I’m feeling is my favorite feeling. And I’m feeling is sober. The feeling I was chasing with 20 years of drinking is the feeling I found when I finally put down the bottle and dealt with my inner shit! I still experience anxiety at times, but now I know how to use it as a tool and a guide and move through it in a healthy way. I still crave a drink from time to time, but I know that it would never bring me what I think it would and going there would not be worth it. Life is a series of decisions – some easy, some hard – but at the end of the day, they are YOU decisions!! You can literally be or do anything you want in this life, as long as you take actions that support your best and happy self! 🙂
I am not someone who runs around telling everyone to get sober, you do you. I hold no judgement. But if anyone is struggling with alcohol, reach out. I’m here. Let’s talk. It’s not an easy road, but with the right support, it’s possible.
5 years ago, I made the best decision of my entire life.
And I sit here today, turning 41 tomorrow, feeling younger and happier than in my 20s. That’s the life I want for me. If I had not chosen this life of sobriety, I would not be where I am today… and the cancer might have taken me out.
If you take anything from this write-up, just go and do what’s BEST for you! : )
Friends will come and go, but YOU will always be with yourself. Shouldn’t you make the best of that gift?! It’s a short life. Anything – literally – can happen. Go out and do what fuels your joy, and walk away from what doesn’t.
I wish you a life of peace, love, and compassion for yourself and others.
Thank you to my family, my friends and my amazing partner who have all made it possible for me to get sober, beat cancer, heal my anxieties and allow me to be alive today to write this post and pass it on. I love you all dearly.
A Sober Marion : )