I Was A High-Functioning Alcoholic. Here's What No One Tells You About Giving Up Booze

I have been sober for three years but it feels more like a hundred.

Three years ago, I was lying on the floor in savasana when all of a sudden every cell of my body received the cosmic message: STOP. I sobbed uncontrollably in the yoga studio, finally accepting that I was done drinking. I wasn't even hungover that morning. I was just tired.

When I drank, I had some scary, embarrassing and dangerous experiences. Once I was arrested in Canada for public drunkenness. Many mornings I couldn’t tell you what had happened the night before. I'd been cut off in all kinds of bars, and some nights I threw up from drinking — only to continue to drink.

For 10 years, I had used alcohol to cope with uncomfortable feelings. I used to look forward to the weekend so I could drink to excess — it gave me a reason to work five days a week in a dead end job. When I was out, I drank and made conversation until the alcohol took effect and carried me out of consciousness.

I had tried for years to get clean, sometimes moderating my intake or only drinking on the weekends, but as time went by, it got worse. I had less and less control, until one day I just stopped.

Quitting drinking was the easy part. Living a healthy, balanced sober life is what's freakin' hard!

During my first few months of sobriety, I became a hermit, which caused me to lose some friendships. Once I stopped drinking, I realized I had nothing in common with many of my "friends" aside from partying.

I had spent so many years neglecting my emotional, spiritual and physical health that once alcohol was out of the picture, I was left with a mess of my life. Without booze, I didn’t know how to behave in social situations. I was scared of people, terrified that I wasn’t an interesting person and that I was — gasp — boring!

The thing is, people think sobriety fixes everything, but in reality it's just the beginning of a long road of self-help books, crying for no reason, going to meetings, and dealing with confusion and fear. But it’s also the start to living in an honest and truthful way that’s better than my best drunk day.

Quitting drinking was the easy part. Living a healthy, balanced sober life is what's freakin' hard!

And even now after 1,095 days of sobriety, it’s still hard to be the only one at a party drinking tea, having to try so hard socially to just have fun while surrounded by people letting loose. It's not easy when the waiter takes away my unused wine glass when I say “just water, thanks,” and I don't love dancing at weddings completely sober.

I won't lie — these moments suck. But if I imagine myself giving in and drinking that glass of wine, I know it would taste good, but I wouldn’t really enjoy it because I’d be thinking about the next.

Three years in, I am still living “alcoholically.” I still sometimes restrict myself with little food or too much exercise in order to show myself that I am healthy, normal and “on top of things.”

All goes well when I am restricting. I actually feel pretty good about myself and my self-control. This typically lasts for a few weeks, until my emotions erupt and I go into “binge mode.”

About a year ago, I was talking to another young female alcoholic in recovery. She was telling me how important it was that we take care of ourselves and feed ourselves properly. I nodded, but I remember thinking, I feed myself. That’s her problem and not mine.

But now I can see that I was barely eating, or I was just drinking juice for a period of time and then all of a sudden binging on chocolate, candy or chips. I was a sober alcoholic, as they say. I tried, unsuccessfully, to control my feelings and emotions until they bubbled over.

I always wondered what people did if they didn't drink. I remember one time, many years ago, someone asked me what my hobbies were and surprisingly (at the time) I couldn’t think of One. Single. Thing. That’s how small my life had become.

Since giving up alcohol, I have developed myself and started doing things I really love, such as establishing a yoga and meditation practice, writing and even running marathons.

I have come so far, yet there is still so much more to go. I will never feel totally safe because this is something that doesn’t go away. I just need to keep taking care of myself and checking in, honoring my physical and emotional needs.

I have developed compassion, understanding and nurturing for myself. If I am hungry, I eat. If I am tired I sleep. Instead of looking to cover up my emotions, I feel them. I have learned to take it one day at a time and to trust that I am taken care of.

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Graphic by Chloe Bulpin, mbg Creative

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