Our culture is riddled with alcohol, particularly when it comes to social situations with friends and when we’re dating. Sometimes this normalization of drinking becomes problematic very quickly and it did for me—that’s why I decided to get sober at 21. It’s the best decision I’ve ever made.
I had a serious problem. My drinking was never pretty; I was a blackout drinker from the very start. I consumed in large quantities and I pretty much always drank to get drunk. I didn’t know that there was another reason to drink because I never just enjoyed just one or a few. It was always more, more, more. It was truly unhealthy and resulted in all sorts of negative consequences like arrests, a car accident, and making a fool of myself.
My problem didn’t look like the stereotypical alcoholic. One barrier to realizing the depth of my problem was that I thought that my drinking didn’t seem like that of an alcoholic. I was never a daily drinker and I didn’t need booze to function. Nonetheless, I had alcoholism. All I need to qualify as an alcoholic is the mental obsession and physical compulsion. I thought about alcohol all the time, especially once I started drinking, and once I had the first drink there was no stopping me from having more.
My drinking had the biggest impact on my romantic relationships. Talk about consequences. I cheated on partners all the time when I was drunk. I was completely inconsiderate of their feelings while I just pursued whoever tickled my fancy. The shame, guilt, and remorse from this were ultimately what led me to get sober.
My age wasn’t a deterrent because of other sober young people. Sure, 21 is a really young age to get clean from drugs and alcohol. Some people even say that it’s too young and use that as an excuse to keep drinking. I was fortunate that it wasn’t a barrier to me getting sober because I met a bunch of other young people who were living a sober life. I met them in AA and I learned about how they got themselves clean. It was magical.
I lost friends but I gained better ones. Putting down the booze meant that I lost the friends I partied with. That was most of my group. It felt devastating at first but I quickly made new friends who were much healthier for me. The cool thing about AA is that you make fast and real connections with people. They’re genuine people who are doing hard work on themselves. I love my new friends.
Things aren’t perfect but they’re better. Getting sober doesn’t mean that all of my problems poof away. In fact, some things got worse before they got better. Nonetheless, on the whole, life has gotten a whole lot more manageable and enjoyable. I can be grateful for the small things, knowing that my level of happiness often coincides with my level of gratitude.
I’ve learned to actually feel my feelings. The best part about alcohol is that it blots out everything. I loved to chase oblivion and as a result, I defeaned heartache, sadness, loneliness, anger, and any feeling really. It worked for a while until it stopped being useful. Now I lean into my feelings. Sure, sometimes I eat a cupcake or text a boy instead of feeling my feelings, but in general, I’m not afraid to sit with the tough stuff.
I’m much more self-aware now. I didn’t have an awareness of how much I hurt people when I was drinking. I had no idea the ripple effect my cheating had. Presently, I have more awareness. I’m tuned into how my actions affect other people and my own life. I’m causing less destruction and instead sowing more seeds of kindness, tolerance, love, and care in my life.
I have the opportunity to help others. The absolute best part of being sober is being able to pass what I’ve learned on to another suffering alcoholic. Saying “me too” or having someone else say it is a powerful thing. Especially meeting others who are trying to get sober young, there’s nothing quite like sticking my hand out to offer them help. It strengthens my recovery.
I’ve been sober for 4+ years. It’s been quite a journey. I’ve been at this for four and a half years, sober since my very first AA meeting. A lot has happened over this time but one common thing is that I haven’t put a substance in my body. I hope to have many more years of recovery.
It’s not easy but it’s worth it. Recovery is one of the damn hardest things I’ve ever done. It takes daily work to maintain and years of persistence to build a foundation. Although it’s certainly not easy, it’s definitely worth it.
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