I WANTED TO BREAK MY SOBRIETY BUT I WROTE A LETTER TO MY BEST FRIEND INSTEAD

Here’s the bad news: no matter how long you’ve been sober for, you’re still going to end up in situations where you want to reach for a bottle.

Here’s the good news: you can walk away. These moments don’t have to end with drinking away your discomfort.

Every time I’ve ever wanted to break my 21-month streak of sobriety, it’s never once been about ‘just wanting a drink’. Thank god for Ruby Warrington for teaching me to get interested, instead of judgemental, when an urge hits me like a bolt of lightning (in her bestseller Sober Curious). I have always managed to investigate where the urge came from, and every time I’ve found that the origin isn’t innocent at all.

In my first year of sobriety, I was hit with an all-consuming desire to drink several times while travelling the East Coast of Australia. I was constantly surrounded by backpackers enhancing their adventures with drinking and drugs. I was only about a month into my travels on Frasier Island, which is known for dingos, amazing views of the stars, 4x4s driving down the beach and insane parties. I was on a group tour with a bunch of other backpackers, and the island doesn’t have almost any phone reception.

So we arrived and the first night something inside me was triggered. The avalanche of urges I had been dismissing at every stop along the coast so far slid into me all at once, and it was all of a sudden UN fucking BEARABLE. I panicked. I walked off from the party happening at the main camp to go find a shred of privacy and a place to sit to try to sort my shit out.

What I Instagrammed (above) vs. what I was feeling (this blog post)

My phone was a useless brick and I couldn’t reach out to anyone. I was so embarassed and felt so isolated. I found a hammock, opened a note on my iPhone and started writing a letter to my best friend while crying uncontrollably.

This is it. It’s ugly. It’s raw. It’s one of the most honest things I think I’ve ever put on the internet.

As my friend Sarah says, this letter is me trying to “ride the wave.”

Dear Sarah,

I’m having a fucking breakdown for the first time on this trip on Fraser Island where I have no cell reception and basically have to walk into the bush to get some privacy. 

I don’t know what triggered this but I guess I’m writing you because I hope it helps me figure it out. 

I think the thing that really made me burst into tears, and the straw that broke the camels back, is that I want a drink. I want a drink so fucking badly I could scream. It’s almost been a year and I still have these moments and it feels hard to believe, but I do. I want to run down to the beach and scream into the waves but we’re not allowed to travel alone because of the fucking dingos attacking people at night (typing that almost made me laugh). I hate that this is the only time I want alcohol – when I’m so uncomfortable in my own head I want OUT. I just want to turn down the volume on my thoughts for like, one day. But I can’t and I feel so trapped. 

It started with feeling ugly compared to the other girls in my group. Then the girl I was supposed to share a tent with didn’t want to sleep with me anymore, then the fact that on top of all of this I need to drag myself to this group social outing and act like the ducking life of the party, sober, and I don’t want to talk to anyone. 

I’m being a drama queen and I know right now I’m having a really shit attitude because they people in my car on this tour really are lovely but I just am having a day where being around alcohol feels unbearable. And I hate that. I hate that I can’t be like everyone else and just drink to ease the discomfort. 

I miss home. I miss having people who understand me. I miss not having to explain myself constantly, and dealing with everyone’s assumptions about me (both that they say to my face and don’t).

I also can’t blame the alcohol. I’m being a bit of a sop. 

I should be having the time of my life and today I just can’t help but be so negative. I don’t know when it happened in the day, but it makes me want to roll over and hide. Run away. 

I was going to go take a shower to rinse the sand off and I saw some gorgeous girl putting makeup on in the bathroom and I literally just turned around and walked out thinking ‘what’s the point of trying to clean myself up?’

And what is the point? Of me coming here? I wanted to grow and I wanted to learn to take myself less seriously so I guess this is where I’m being tested. 

What I need right now, more than anything, and I think you’d maybe say this to me too…is to a) breathe and b) realize that what’s happening in my head has turned hostile and it’s time to get outta there.

Which is why I’m writing you, right now. 

Because sometimes you only realize how shitty you’re being to yourself once you write it down. 

I’m gonna give myself a pep talk, wipe my tears and imagine you’re here with me looking me in the face and telling me I’ve got this. 

Reggie

All of the above was hiding under the urge to drink.

Looking back at the East Coast, I was trying to prove myself when I never needed to. I was trying to avoid being the black sheep. I wasn’t asking myself if these were even a parties I wanted to attend anymore or people I really wanted to please.

I like to learn lessons the hard way (apparently) so I can write about them on here for strangers on the internet to read. In fact, I wrote another blog post along the same lines if you want a bit more of about how powerful personal beliefs are.

So if you can manage to turn down the drink you really wanna down, maybe you’ll find what’s really festering below.

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HERE’S WHAT MY FIRST YEAR WITHOUT ALCOHOL WAS ACTUALLY LIKE

Grey’s Anatomy. Being a hermit. Crying. Being horizontal and listen to sad playlists. Therapy. It’s all part of the sober glow up.

Today I celebrate one year living alcohol-free.

You won’t find a single mention of AA in this blog post because I never went (not knocking the program, just didn’t apply to someone like me). I also won’t throw around the word ‘willpower,’ or even try to sell you on the idea that you should explore your relationship with alcohol. You’ll know, in your gut, if you need to. Trust me.

However, you will find a whole lot of honesty about what it took to get to where I am now. Please keep in mind that everyone experiences sobriety and recovery differently, and this is just my account. If you are unsure of the difference between sobriety and recovery, I like how this article on PsychologyToday.com explains it.

With sobriety being a popular ‘trend’ right now, I always clarify that there’s a big difference between choosing sobriety and needing sobriety. I decided to stop drinking when things were going well for me and I know that is a privilege. Addiction exists on a spectrum – it’s not as black and white as we’d like to think it is (hence terms like grey area drinking).

I say all of this with the magic of hindsight.

MONTHS ONE TO THREE

I felt like I was on top of the fucking world. This wasn’t my first rodeo though, I’d been sober for two months straight before in 2018. Funny enough, at the start I thought I was only going to do 30 days dry, then as the first month went on, I read Sober Curious, and decided to *see* if I could stop altogether. Guess I proved myself right!

I was in a phase where I was feeling empowered to shape my life and make it look the way I wanted it to, so I figured “why not now?”

Even though my drinking had been a lot more mindful before I decided to halt things, it felt totally different this time compared to when I knew I’d only be boozeless for a set period of time. It felt like I had closed the book on a significant phase in my life and everything felt new and full of potential.

Cue montage of me reading all the self-help books, listening to motivational podcasts, decluttering my apartment, cooking, starting to watch Grey’s Anatomy, getting up early on the weekends and working out A TON. My on-again-off-again insomnia disappeared and I had orgasmic sleeps. I tried going on my first date since I quit drinking and it was nice, but I was awkward (it was way too early). I didn’t know how much to talk about it.

I kept myself really really really occupied. Grey’s Anatomy has 15 seasons guys.

I wondered a lot why everyone didn’t just stop drinking.

The hope and excitement of this new phase helped me navigate the cravings when they did hit me.

This was all likely possible thanks to my own little pink cloud.

MONTHS FOUR TO SEVEN

This was where my quest to stay sober changed into long-term sustainable change for me.

When the pink cloud drifted away I realized why people don’t quit drinking: because if you really want to glow up you’re forced to confront your own bullshit and address the reasons why you drank in the first place. Guess what? It’s a goddam shit storm.

It felt like I had been hit by a train, but the train was my own emotions. I knew I would never let myself back down from this challenge, but my performance during this time was definitely white-knuckling at its finest.

My insomnia also came back with an evil vengeance and I started masturbating a lot. I literally was on a quest for any serotonin I could….muster? Yeah that’s a good word choice.

I was depressed and wallowing in a lot of self-pity, but also wouldn’t admit I was struggling with my new lifestyle. I felt like the people in my life didn’t understand what I was going through because none of them had done what I was doing. I obsessed over alcohol and drinking when I did go out, and often felt overly self-conscious for no good reason. I started to feel like a burden to the people in my life.

I isolated myself, and when I did see my friends I was generally a bummer to be around. Cue montage of me crying two or three times a week, eating anything that came near me with sugar in it, bingeing Grey’s Anatomy, making a playlist full of sad songs (see below), spending a lot of time horizontal staring at things listening to aforementioned playlist and spending a lot of Saturday nights with my parents.

I had a lot of undirected rage inside me about the fact that I had to go through this while other people bopped along numbing problematically without thinking about it much at all. I was struggling, and there didn’t seem to be an end in sight or a quick and easy solution, so I just held on and plowed forward.

I told some acquaintances – not just the ones in my circle but also people I would grab coffee with and coworkers – with mixed reactions. I tried to date and it didn’t work out because I didn’t know how to make it work (gee, I wonder why).

I finally admitted I wasn’t going to get over this blockade on my own so I broke down, spent the money and went to counselling.

MONTHS EIGHT TO 11

I didn’t vibe with my first counsellor but I didn’t give up. I got another one. I saw her as much as I could. I did the homework she gave me. I realized a lot of the stuff I had to deal with I couldn’t blame on alcohol or other people, and instead had to stop acting like a victim all the time – a classic codependent trait as I learned. I focused a lot of time, practically all of my free time and energy, on healing.

I avoided dating and men as much as humanly possible because I didn’t feel like I could trust myself dating just yet.

I read books written by women about sobriety. I added people to my Twitter and Instagram timelines who don’t drink. I met more and more people like me and realized I wasn’t alone and this journey comes with its own set of unique challenges. I put myself to the test and started applying some of the healthy coping strategies I’d learned. Sometimes I failed, but when I succeeded it felt so so good.

I generally leaned into the idea that it was about time to lighten up. I also finished Grey’s Anatomy.

MONTH 12

I always knew I’d get here, but I was never sure what it would look or feel like. Are the urges gone completely? Nope. They still blindside me sometimes. But I can feel my way through them and understand them a lot better now.

For me, it looks like setting realistic goals for 2020. It looks like getting excited again about writing, giving back and practicing what I preach on Instagram. It looks like knowing what I’m worth in relationships and getting better at setting boundaries.

I feel like I have so much more growing to do, but I’m actually in the part where I feel like I can actually chill the f out and enjoy the journey.

I will tell you, beyond a shadow of a doubt, that this decision has changed my life trajectory completely.

Unsure if you are a social drinker, problem drinker or on a path to alcoholism? Read this.

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