No, I’m Not On A Diet

Over the past eight years I haven’t quite accepted the identity of being a “sober person.”

Yet.  So, that’s why I’m writing about it.

My thoughts about it have wavered; at times, I was accepting of myself, and at others, I threw the idea of recovery out the window simply to “fit in.”

I couldn’t stand explaining myself to people about why I don’t drink.

As I mentioned before, some people assume you’re defective, problematic, or trouble if you say you’re in recovery.  However, most of the time people are supportive and understand.

So, if people have been supportive, why have I held on so tightly to the ignorant responses of “are you pregnant?” “are you on a diet?” or worse, “are you a mean drunk?”

I simply can’t put mind altering substances into my body.

But why would I want to?  This world is beautiful.  It’s a gift to be present.

A lot of people have questioned why I can’t just have one drink.  “Why can’t you have a glass of wine?”  These people don’t understand that the one drink sets off a switch that isn’t shut off until I’m passed out on the couch of a stranger’s apartment in Brooklyn (true story).  I could write novels about all of my mishaps while drinking- and I’m lucky to be alive to tell the tales.

Glamorizing the good old days isn’t helpful, though.  Today, I can look back and smile at the good times, but remember that the very best days are the ones where I am living in the moment, not looking forward to the next- with a clear mind and open heart.

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Learning to Live Mindfully

I was never mindful when I was drinking.

There have been endless examples of my inability to simply sit and enjoy the moment over the years, but one memory sticks out in my mind.  I can vividly remember sitting at a wine bar with a group of girl friends during the Traverse City Film Festival several years ago.  We were on our way to catch the Conan O’Brien movie and started the evening by sharing a bottle of champagne.  As the server filled each glass, I stared at each pour, making sure I got as much as everyone else.  I remember a ping in my stomach; an unsettled feeling, knowing that the glass of champagne wouldn’t fill the emptiness I felt inside.  I felt anxious, out of place, and uncomfortable- but if, and only if, I could numb out my discomfort, maybe I would be okay.

We left the bar after those glasses, and the only thing on my mind was getting another drink.  That “on and off” switch is very real for an alcoholic- one drink is too much and a thousand are never enough.  I didn’t simply enjoy the champagne like the others did, nor did I enjoy the moment.

I wanted more.

That was also the first year I tried to get sober.

My life has been a variation of this experience, from shopping to dreaming about my future.  What was right in front of me was never sufficient; I was always fixated on what was next.

My life started to fall apart three years ago when I was living in New York.  My drinking was getting out of control, my roommate had enough of my shenanigans, and I begrudgingly went to my Fifth Avenue marketing job with the shakes.  My dating life was a mess, my finances were out of control, and I was unhappy within my own skin.

From the outside, it appeared everything was wonderful.  On the inside, I wanted to be anywhere but where I was- within myself.

I bought the greatest outfits and spent my spare time with friends who would commiserate with my sadness over a vodka cocktail and 2016 election news.  I dreaded when the nights would end, for I had to face the day ahead of me.  Plagued with uncertainty and fear, I knew I had to make a change.

I left New York on July 25th, 2016, and moved back to Michigan for the summer.  I may not have stayed sober that time, but I did learn an important lesson: there is beauty in simplicity.  There is comfort in enjoying the moment.  All of the achievements and things on the “outside” may be nice, but those things won’t give you peace.

Only you can do that.

It’s been almost three years since I left New York and eight since that day at the Traverse City wine bar, but today I’m reminiscing on how hard I was on myself over the years, and how I failed to notice the most important thing of all: that if I can find contentment in the moment, the future will unfold on its own.

Each and every day takes practice.  It’s in our nature to think ahead, but today I know that there is nothing a drink or quick fix will remedy- sometimes, you just have to sit by the river, look up at the clouds, and enjoy the beauty around you.

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Strong Enough To Love The Flaws

While living in New York I broke up with a filmmaker who lived in the East Village.  After a few months of dating, he told me I was “nothing but trouble and problems,” only to proceed to say how lucky he was that I graced his presence, and that he was undeserving of my company.

This left me stumped.  After the alcohol-infused argument, we never spoke again.

Today I realize he did me a favor on that December night of 2015.

I was pretty distraught with the breakup despite how he treated me.  I thought it was all my fault.  Then, knowing me all too well, my college friend Nessie sent me an article with a title so true, yet so hard to fathom, that I was finally able to move forward:

You Don’t Need A Man, You Need a Goddamn Warrior.

A warrior?  This never phased me.  I had just thought I was “too much.”

For the past few years I’ve been absolutely, completely, and unapologetically uninterested in commitment.  I’ve seen what is out there, and I’ve worn my own shield of protection to fend off unwanted attention.

However, not everyone is going to try to go to war with me- maybe, just maybe, there’s someone out there who’s strong enough to love my quirks and see the beauty in my imperfections.

For a long time I was scared to share my truth with others- so I tried to act or be a chameleon.  This never failed to backfire, leaving me in a worse position than if I would have been honest upfront.  Yes, I have been wounded, but my struggles have brought me strength.

I am still healing, but when I am ready, I won’t settle for anything but a warrior.

Thanks to Kate Rose for writing the amazing article, and to The Fix for publishing my own story

There’s power in vulnerability!

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Shattering the Shame: Why I Haven’t Openly Talked About My Sobriety

“The truth will set you free, but not until it is finished with you.”

-David Foster Wallace

For the past ten years I’ve known I had a problem with alcohol.  Time and time again, my drinking caused me to be unpredictable, irresponsible, and downright destructive.  Despite knowing all of this, I spent the better part of the decade trying to “drink like a normal person.”

I grew up glamorizing a glass of wine, going to Sunday brunch, and dressing up to sip champagne.  Over the years I’ve proved to myself that there was nothing romantic about it, yet over and over I tried to take control of something that was out of my hands.

There have been many reasons I’ve held back from sharing my truth.  I’ve been worried I would be judged, ridiculed, or rejected.  I’ve romanticized the “good old days” and avoided sharing that I don’t drink; sometimes it just seemed easier for me have a drink than to explain myself.

I was afraid of being seen as broken or a burden.

I recently had a conversation with a woman I respect and look up to about the shame I carry about being an alcoholic.  For as long as I can remember, I’ve worn a mask of “having it all together” to avoid facing the problems that lie underneath.  I never realized it, but she recognized how my facade of looking and acting a certain way has blocked my ability to truly heal and accept myself for who I am.

I’ve held onto the shame so tightly that I didn’t even realize I had it.

Since I hadn’t been completely honest with myself and others, I went back to drinking more times and I can count- and it never, ever got any better.  I know this today, and I need to continue to remember it in the future.

Instead of continuing to pretend, I decided it was finally time to openly share my struggles- and my strength. From Brené Brown to Glennon Doyle, I’m in good recovery company- and hopefully my own journey will help someone else one day, too.

We only grow when we do something that makes us uncomfortable.

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