No One Can Define My Sobriety (Or Life) But Me

It’s no surprise to most people when I tell them I don’t drink.

Whether they’ve seen me out of control in the past or have read my articles, I am finally open about being sober these days- and that’s a breath of fresh air.

I’ve made mistakes, though.

There have been many relapses (or “slips,” as some may say) since deciding to get sober in 2011, including a full two and a half years where I went back to drinking consistently.  I damaged relationships and racked up many, many new stories during that period of time, yet I learned a lot about myself- and what I do and don’t want out of life.

I went back to drinking several times while living in Boston, racked up even more stories, and learned that a structured recovery program gives me more anxiety than it does comfort and strength.  Although community helps many people, I am more of a one-on-one type of person.  I believe in therapy, working on yourself, and taking responsibility for your actions.

This may be controversial, but this is my truth:

I don’t want or need entities or other people to determine the quality of my sobriety.

I’m the only one who has to determine what is best for my life- and I want people to judge who I am based on my character, not my sobriety date.

I have a serious issue with groups who judge or push others to open up about things to they don’t want to.  There is no “one size fits all” method for anything in life, and putting down the booze is no different.  I have put so much pressure on myself over the years and have had immense anxiety about what other people think of me- but I am done with that.  

I’m honest with my family, good friends, and even strangers online- and that works for me.

There are several friends of mine who aren’t “in recovery” who have told me the same thing- that I don’t have anything to prove to anyone but myself. “You don’t drink now,” two of them said. “That’s all you need to say.”

Below is something my friend of 22 years texted me yesterday:

Amen.

It’s also no one else’s business if I am on a prescription, if someone has Medical Assisted Treatment, or what “date” someone put down the drink.

It’s my life, not theirs.

People have the option to do what works for them.  For me, it’s connecting with people who are healthy and aligned with my spirit.  It’s nature, writing, and self discovery.  It’s mediation and mindfulness.  It’s been open and honest about who I am and what I stand for.  It’s living in my truth, and living a spiritual life of reflection and growth.

I hope my own journey can inspire someone who go on their own journey, no matter what way it may lead.

Never let anyone make you feel bad about choosing your path- you know what’s in your heart and in your soul.

Mental Health Benefits Of Being Alcohol-Free

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It’s a fact: alcohol is everywhere.

No matter where you go, there it is.  Every restaurant you walk into, and at every celebration, you best believe there’s an opportunity to indulge in an alcoholic beverage.  It doesn’t take much thought- drinking is a huge part of everyday culture.  It’s expected, and in fact, it can even be confusing to people when you tell them you don’t drink.

But do you ever stop and think how alcohol affects your brain

On a sunny Saturday, probably not.

As I walked through the Greenway in Boston the other day (one of my favorite urban gems), I passed not one, but two areas designated for outdoor boozing.  Then, a couple of days later, I passed a beer garden in the Charles River Esplanade.

I used to absolutely love these opportunities.

However, as an ex-drinker, my days of beer gardens and brunch always began much happier than they ended- in fact, the mere idea of drinking was always better than the actual consumption.

For over 15 years, little did I know that I was quite literally drinking a depressant.

While drinking, I was snappy, agitated, and impatient.  I was anything but mindful, always awaiting what was next- the next drink, the next bar, the next thrill.

Over the years I’ve realized that my drinking was directly linked to my mental health.  Mental health is just as important as recognizing a physical problem.  Anxiety, depression, and PTSD are serious health conditions that can be just, if not more, crippling as a physical disease.

For me, my anxiety and PTSD are heightened when I consume just one alcoholic drink.  I used to think something was seriously wrong with me.  I would wake up in the morning feeling empty.  I was nervous about the people around me.

Then, when I stopped drinking, those nervous feelings stopped.

I’m not alone.  Millie from Sober Girl Society (one of my favorite Instagram accounts) shared with The Telegraph:

“I knew quite early on that hangovers affected me mentally just as much as they did physically. I’d wake up feeling on edge, like I’d done something wrong or upset someone – even though my friends all told me I’d been perfectly well behaved. Towards my late twenties, even just having a glass of champagne would make me feel uncomfortable and uneasy. Hangover anxiety began to permeate my everyday life. I lost all confidence, motivation, and some hangovers even left me bedridden; not because I was sick or tired but because my mind had gone into overdrive and I was sweating and shaking in panic.”

Our society is quick to provide “quick fixes” for mental health, including medication, material gratification, or even more alcohol to calm the nerves. Having a drink after work or popping a Xanax probably isn’t the answer for long-lasting change, but I can say from experience that meditation, spending time in nature, exercise, and- gasp- abstinence from alcohol- have provided a solace in my soul better than any quick fix.

I’m confident these simple things can work for you, too.

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More Meditation, Less Medication

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In this day and age, there seems to be a pill for everything.  Not only are people running to their doctors for relief, the providers themselves are over-prescribing, patients are misusing their prescriptions, and often times, they become addicted to their medication.

Depression and anxiety are two of the most common disorders, which are treated by a variety of medications- some addictive, some not.  Although antidepressants and anti-anxiety pills can be helpful, they don’t solve the biggest problem- the root cause of the discomfort.

Researchers and a growing number health care professionals are encouraging patients to practice meditation in addition to their medical treatment and therapy.  Although many disorders are a chemical imbalance, most don’t consider how meditation can help re-wire their brain.

What if treatment facilities and doctors prescribed more meditation, and less medication?

I’ve had anxiety throughout my life, which is something I’ve never been treated for.  My social anxiety was so terrible growing up that it caused me to eat lunch in the library when I didn’t know who to sit with, skip classes or school events, and, as soon as I began college, I started drinking heavily to self medicate.  I may not have taken pills to relieve my discomfort, but I drank my worries away so I wasn’t aware of my surroundings.

I eventually went to therapy and tried antidepressants to keep my depression in check.  I didn’t take the medicine long enough to know whether or not it helped me- life situations had improved and I was abstinent from alcohol- but I also added something else to my life:

Mindfulness and meditation.

Between therapy, group support, and meditation, my anxiety and depression have been alleviated. I learned that spending more time inward was the solution to my issues.  If you break down depression and anxiety, it’s quite simple:

Depression is living in the past, and anxiety is living in the future.

Living in the present is being happy.

Whether you choose to medicate or not, consider adding meditation to your daily routine.  There are many apps that can get you started if you’re a newbie to the practice, such as Calm and Headspace, and even a variety of YouTube videos to guide you along your way.  Meditation has changed my life, and I know it can change yours, too.

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