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December 12, 2014

As a shy and introverted teenager, alcohol held me spellbound. It seemed so glamorous, so exciting. That first sip was oh-so seductive, and as it magically transformed me into the confident and outgoing girl I longed to be, I fell deeply in love with it.

Never mind that it regularly messed with my emotions, made me do and say stupid things, and stole my self-worth. Most of the time (OK, at least half of the time), it made me feel like the belle of the ball. Before I'd even turned 18 I couldn't imagine a social life without it.

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There was just one teensy little problem. My off switch doesn't work. I've never felt ill while drinking, so there was never a point in the night that signaled I should stop. Well, besides slurred speech and errors in judgment, of course, but nothing that was awful enough to make me immediately put down the glass. While I was drinking I always felt like I was having the time of my life, so I did what any party girl would do — I kept going.

Really this whole nonsense should've stopped in my 20s. But no. It carried on way too far into my 30s.

Deep down I knew it was a problem, but I was scared to think about what that might mean. There's no way I could break up with booze forever. It was my partner in crime. I loved it too much. I'd never have any fun. I'd be forever missing out. No one would ever invite me anywhere. How would I live?

So I tried the set-number-of-drinks rule. I tried the drinking-water-every-other-drink rule. I tried the only-drinking-on-Fridays rule. And they all worked. For a while. But every few weeks or so, I'd still end up drinking that one wine too many and not remember the trip home. And the more I tried to focus on not drinking, the more it happened.

I'd spend the next day in a downward spiral of anxiety, shame, and nausea. I'd argue with my love. I'd feel cranky and frustrated that I couldn't drink like "normal" people in their 30s. And then I'd sob. Heartbreaking, racking tears of sadness for getting myself stuck in this mess. I was supposed to be a Health Coach! Why couldn't I control this thing? I felt sick with fear at what it would mean if I had to stop drinking completely. I was afraid that I'd never have — or be — fun, ever again.

Alcohol had become such a crutch for me that I couldn't even imagine a joy-filled existence without it.

The breaking point came when one of my beautiful coaching clients confided that she drank to make herself feel less lonely, and to my sheer horror, I heard myself say, "That's OK."

I felt sick the second the words left my lips, because I know in my heart that it's not OK. It's never OK to use alcohol (or food or drugs) to numb ourselves or avoid what's really going on in our lives. I owed my clients more than that, and most of all, I owed it to myself.

In that moment, I realized I needed to heal my relationship with myself and alcohol before I'd be able to fully connect with life and my loved ones.

That was eight months ago.

Like any breakup, the first couple of months involved a flood of tears and gorging on chocolate. But then I set about creating a new life. A much better life. A life where I feel authentically confident and grounded in who I am and what I have to offer the world.

I feel more myself now than I have in a very long time. That cheeky sense of humor I thought only came out to play at wine o'clock? Turns out it wanted to play all the time — I was just pigeonholing it. The anxiety I thought I was drinking to soothe? Turns out drinking only delayed it and invited it back double-strength the next day.

But best of all, I feel so incredibly peaceful without all that internal angst and drama. I see what's real now. I trust myself more. My personal relationships are so much deeper and calmer, and that sense of connection fills me with unbridled joy.

I know that a lot of people have healthy relationships with alcohol. I'm just not one of them. Knowing and accepting that fact has been a huge part of my journey. There's so much strength that comes in standing up for myself and walking away from a dysfunctional relationship that doesn't serve me or my higher good. And so much soulful, delicious freedom.

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