Three years ago, after taking a long look at what my life was and what I wanted it to be, I made a choice to completely eliminate alcohol. At first, it was a battle, wondering how a sober life could fit into a world where a drink equaled a reward for hard work, connection with friends, a vacation in a glass, an “instagrammable” moment or a fixture in any successful person’s life.
Later, as I began to form a messy, yet solid relationship with myself, I would realize that for me, alcohol never actually made anything more anything. What it did do for me was stand in the way of the development of real coping mechanisms for my anxiety and for life in general. It stood in the way of digging my heels in deep to my work because “I deserved a break.” It softened my social anxiety, but it also kept me from cultivating true relationships. Today, I look at the life I live and see it full of meaningful conversations, true emotions, authentic, grounded success and some amazing benefits that I’m grateful to share with you in this week’s post.
This blog is typically dedicated to helping people care for their professional role in order to help develop their teaching skills, however, since I’ve been open about my journey with sobriety, I’ve had so many Pilates Teachers reach out to me, thanking me for sharing and helping them on their own path to reexamining their relationship with alcohol. So, for today, I share the Top Five Lessons I have learned after three years of living a life without alcohol in the hopes that someone who is struggling might receive encouragement that life can be so sweet when you release what isn’t serving you.
Oh – and btw: I do not judge anyone who drinks. This post looks through the lens of my own personal journey. However, if you do feel that a change is necessary, I’ve included some resources at the bottom of the page.
GREAT SLEEP IS SELF CARE
Anyone who has imbibed to excess knows the feeling of waking up at 3:00 am dehydrated and panicked about the prospect of a new day starting in just a few hours. While this was not my nightly reality, it’s one that happened often enough to understand the blessing that is a full night’s sleep. Today, I wake up at 4:00 am, not in a panic, but with gratitude for the space I have to attend to my personal needs of meditation, movement or sometimes just a good quiet cup of coffee before my son wakes up. It’s glorious and has become a non-negotiable in my world.
TRUE FRIENDSHIPS STAND THE TEST OF SOBRIETY
Typically, when I speak to people who are considering removing alcohol, their main fear is losing friends. I’m not going to lie. I’ve lost friends. But, I also have to ask myself how long those relationships were meant to last in general. What I’ve found is that the relationship I’ve cultivated with myself allows me to be more fully present and authentic with people I meet in the world. It is this gift that has led me to form some of the most supportive relationships in my life. The “Fun Bobby” aspect is real. The friends who loved to drink wine with me weren’t sure what to do with the fullness of who I am without it. The friends that accept my sober life, wouldn’t have me any other way. There are trade-offs when you give up a substance that can provide the veneer of connection, but for me, the benefits far outweigh the losses.
ACCEPTANCE OF SELF FAR OUTWEIGHS THE RUSH OF PEOPLE PLEASING
I used to think “To know me is to roll your eyes at me.” I’m different, wacky, sensitive, driven, weird, impetuous, too much, not enough, quiet, blab-happy, obsessed, non-committal – UGH, I’m exhausted just writing this. The truth is “To know me is to know all of me -“ both the things you like and also those that you don’t. And that is OK. The only person I need to be is me. Period. It’s not about fitting into a mold or making others comfortable. In fact, I’ve been able to help so many people, simply through being myself. We’ve got to get real about owning our stories and showing up unapologetically because when you shine your light (or wave your freak flag) you make the space for others to do the same!
NO DAY BUT TODAY – FUTURE TRIPPING IS FOR MAGIC 8 BALLS
In the beginning of quitting, I used to think “I’ll do it for 30 days.” Or “I’ll try for 6 months and if I really want a drink, I’ll be ok because I know I can do 6 months.” So…..yeah….. A friend once told me that “Toast can’t ever be bread again.” I get it. Once you’ve crossed a line where drinking has begun to interfere with your thoughts, feelings or relationships, it’s near impossible to go back to where you were before. I knew that while I didn’t have a “low bottom,” I had begun to look at alcohol (wine specifically) as a fixture in my day. Every day. I fantasized about the end of the day reward. I didn’t know how to be without it. So, when I decided to stop, I decided that I would stop just for today. And I made that decision every day. In fact, I’m still making it every day and I never regret it – not once. No more future tripping. Only presence.
COMMUNITY IS EVERYTHING
I’ve been in a number of recovery circles and honestly, I did not fit in with most of them. I felt like I didn’t drink enough for some or was too serious in my commitment to quit for others. It took me a while to find my people, but I found them. They are there for me if I hit a rough patch and they are there to celebrate the milestones with me – always. I don’t ever question their loyalty because when you meet on the pretenses of true honesty, authenticity, and vulnerability, there is an unwritten contract that says you’ll be there no matter what. I learned how to be a better friend through the relationships I cultivated in my early journey with sobriety. I consider myself to be one of the luckiest people because of the people I have in my corner.
If you have been thinking about reexamining your relationship with alcohol but aren’t sure if you want to stop drinking, know that the perspective you gain through the inquiry will most likely lead you to beautiful realizations, regardless if you continue to drink or not. Also, the beauty in these realizations can be messy and that’s also OK. Your life is worth you examining what’s working for you and what’s holding you back and you get to chose those things as well as determine when they’ll happen.
Also, if you are ever with me socially, and you don’t want to drink but aren’t “OUT” yet, let me know you read my Top Five blog post and I’ll be there to support you. We can do hard things together.
Lastly, the resource that was the most powerful for me was www.hipsobrietyschool.com. They enroll sessions regularly and give practical tools to help you quit drinking AND make shifts that support your life throughout the process.
We’ll be back to our regularly scheduled Pilates support next week!
Much love to you!