What three years of sobriety has given me
We often forget to take the time to reflect on what we have accomplished, what we have learned and how we have grown. We are so focussed on moving forward, that we neglect looking back and honouring how far we have come. As I sit here today, writing this blog, I suddenly feel like I am overflowing with gratitude for just how much has come from deciding to remove alcohol from my life.
The woman I was three years ago has changed in so many ways. Drinking alcohol kept me small, it disconnected me from my intuition, it fueled my anxiety and inner critic, and held me back in almost all areas of my life. I was so tired, bloated and overweight, and trapped in the cycle of really not wanting to drink, but unable to say no. I rarely felt naturally happy, truly alive and excited about life. Instead I would worry and spend hours ruminating about the past, worrying about the future, about money, my relationship, my health, my friendships, my job and just anything else I could cling to to avoid facing reality. I had dreams and ambitions but they kept getting pushed aside with every drinking session. I wrote more about this last year, when I was reflecting on my two year sober anniversary.
I was stuck in a low-vibe cycle, feeling negative, anxious, depressed and lonely, knowing that the moment a wine hit my lips, I would feel free, expansive and abundant again. Only until I drank too much and the alcohol started to shut down parts of my brain, my behaviour turned destructive and I passed out, only to wake up back in the low-vibe cycle.
There was not one particular moment that led me to stop, more a series of shameful events (I shared these in my Mamamia article) and signs from the universe. The evening before I stopped, on New Years Eve 2018, I was sitting outside at my parents farm, drinking my last glass of wine ever and smoking cigarettes. I prayed to the universe for help and guidance, knowing that I would forever be stuck in this place unless something changed. I needed to find this within myself. I have never really shared what happened next out of fear people would think I was completely nuts! But I saw a ball of bright light, which I originally thought was a car with one headlight, driving towards me. The light came rushing towards me then just vanished. I was slightly tipsy, so perhaps not as inquisitive as I should have been, but this moment has always stuck with me. I wonder if this was an angel, or something along those lines, to help give me the strength I needed?
The very next morning, I began chipping away at my sober path, brick by brick, day by day. And it makes me so excited to think about the future based on the growth I have experienced over the past three years.
Sobriety is just the tip of the iceberg. Underneath lies layers of work & masses of growth opportunities
I will never ever downplay the role that sobriety has played and continues to play in my life. By not drinking, I have given myself the opportunity to work on myself in ways that I never thought possible. Jen shared her experience in a recent blog here about how sobriety gave her an opportunity to heal her life. If I kept drinking the way that I was, I would have never been able to learn, grow and change in the way that I have. It just wouldn’t be possible. When we stop problem drinking, a veil is lifted from over our heads where we can see things more clearly, and perhaps like I did, realise we are not living aligned with our values. The proverbial band aid is also ripped off our wounds, so we are forced to support ourselves in healthy ways, rather than numbing with booze.
Since getting sober, I have worked with a therapist and several life coaches to really dig deep, addressing ‘little traumas’ from childhood. I’ve learned how to take care of and love myself, set boundaries with relationships and friendships, express my needs clearly, work hard to become the most authentic version of myself, recognising when I am acting from a place of attachment rather than authenticity. I embarked on a huge career change, leaving behind a career filled with many toxic corporate environments, riddled with people who had completely clashing values to mine and then trained to become a Life Coach. It is here that I met my beautiful business partner Jen Clements, and we Co-Founded Thrivalist – which has been such an incredible ride!
I left an unhealthy marriage and then found a beautiful home for my children. I cultivated a healthier relationship with money, leaving behind debt and growing my savings account instead. I learned how to feel more harmonious and happy in life, and the importance of routine and daily practice. I am the fittest and healthiest I have been in my whole life. And I have a wonderful, healthy relationship with a fellow sober man who brings me so much happiness (thank you Universe!).
And there is so much more that I do not have space to write nor want to bore your socks off with!! WHOA! I still have A LOT of work to do; this work seems to never stop or end, but instead evolve and deepen. It does get easier and more joyful as time goes on, as opposed to challenging and overwhelming.
Even when it feels raw and hurts a little, it is so important to do ‘the work’ to heal the wounds, once and for all. Numbing with alcohol, or any other addictive substance or behaviour, just holds you back from this important work and becoming the healthiest and happiest version of yourself.
Below are my biggest lessons since getting sober, and tips for how you too can expand in these areas if you feel called to:
1. Your intuition is truly your biggest ally
Does it feel true for you that as a problem drinker, you get really good at shutting away messages and guidance from your intuition? I got so goddamn good at this. I was so afraid that I couldn’t handle what my intuition was telling me – it was too much! I was also confused at times about whether it was really my intuition or my inner critic / ego – because as a heavy drinker, there is a lot of confusion. A very effective practice to strengthen this connection is meditation or just sitting with your eyes closed in a quiet, private place, focusing on your third eye and taking some deep breaths for a few minutes. This is enough to allow you to rebuild that connection with your highest self. As time goes on, you can start to ask your intuition questions and wait for the response. It’s important to get out of your head and into your body for this practice, so really check in with your body to how the response feels for you. Does it make you feel good? Aligned? Safe? Excited? Over time and with practice, you will get better at just ‘knowing’ the right way forward for you, and when you take the path led by your intuition, that’s where the magic unfolds.
Allow yourself to also be OK with not being ready to hear what your intuition is telling you. When I heard the voice first telling me it was time to leave my marriage, I wasn’t ready to hear this, or take action. So I thanked my intuition for sharing this thought with me, but told my highest self it wasn’t time for me. I put the thought in an imaginative box, up on the imaginative shelf, knowing that if or when I was ready to take action, I could open that box.
2. Fear can be a good thing
As an anxious person, I always thought that when I felt fear it meant I was being guided by my intuition to avoid the situation. But this is not always the truth. Fear can be a sign that you are on the cusp of something incredible. It could be your highest self telling you that you really truly want ‘the thing’ for yourself.
The way to determine whether the fear you feel is worth pushing through is determining the outcome you want first. If the outcome is reliant on the action you are fearing, then that’s when you push through the fear and take action. For example, if you’re feeling fearful of a job interview, but you really really want the job, you know it’s important to push forward and know that the fear is just showing you how much you want the job! If you’re feeling fearful about going out to lunch with a group of women, and when you dig deep and your intuition tells you that these women are not actually ‘your people’ and not the type of women you want to surround yourself with, then that fear is protecting you from wasting your time and energy. So always focus on the outcome first, and see if the fear is protecting or motivating you before you take action.
3. The only way you can change your life, is if you make it happen.
And to make it happen, first you need to really want it to happen. You can think you want it, but when it comes to the crunch, if you don’t want it hard enough to go through some pain, sit through the boozy girls lunches without drinking, survive a family Christmas sober, then you won’t change.
The deep desire for change is the fuel behind success. And the action that follows when you push yourself out of your comfort zone, consistently show up for yourself every day, do the hard work to change your habits and behaviours, determines how successful you will be at changing your life.
Initially I was surprised at how quickly I was able to replace old habits with healthy ones. It took a few weeks of not drinking and instead walking around the block in the evening when the cravings hit. After three weeks of doing this, I was on autopilot and the walk turned into gym sessions. Now the gym is a vital part of my life. By repeating certain actions over and over, they become a habit. And when we change our habits, our lifestyle changes.
A handful of other ways that I have implemented new healthy habits to replace the old habits of drinking and smoking are; Waking up early every morning to meditate, then drinking 600mls of warm lemon water to start my day. Replacing refined sugar for healthier options such as berries and yogurt. Exercising daily to get my endorphins flowing and to feel better. Putting my phone on charge in a different room overnight.
4. Community is vital & knowledge is power
These past three years would have been so much harder if I had to do this alone. When I first stopped drinking, I felt so alone. I was filled with shame and everywhere I turned people were drinking. I felt like an outcast. I also hadn’t really thought through what I was up against in regards to my Alcohol Use Disorder. I didn’t realise that just stopping without educating myself, was really not a long term solution to finding happiness and joy in sobriety.
The only community I was aware of was AA, but after months of showing up to meetings and not connecting with anyone in particular, I started to look online. I found a meet up for sober women in Melbourne and I went along. I also discovered several Facebook communities and Instagram accounts plus so many incredible memoirs and self help books that I began to feel less alone and part of a community. I began to educate myself about why I was addicted to alcohol, and how to effectively overcome an Alcohol Use Disorder. I believe this education and building connections with other sober women was paramount to my success in finding happiness without alcohol. Jen and I founded Thrivalist for this exact reason; we knew the power of bringing women together to educate and support one another was the most powerful way to change your relationship with alcohol.
I am still to this day grateful for my sobriety every-single-day. I mean it! Not a day goes by that I don’t thank the universe for guiding me down this path. If you are questioning your relationship with alcohol, I highly recommend that you listen to your intuition, don’t let fear hold you back, find a community like ours, and start to educate and transform your life today! You will never look back.