As of today, I am 365 days sober. Let me just say, I wasn't an alcoholic, didn't "need" to get sober, nor did I have a problem with alcohol. I just took it upon myself to make the decision not to drink anymore for many reasons. I wanted to cleanse my body - I didn't like the way my body felt after drinking. It made me feel gross inside and out. Further, into my sobriety, I wanted to build a relationship with God and didn't want any distractions. Throughout the last 12 months of sobriety, I learned 12 different things. Let's dive in.
1) I learned that you lose a lot of friends when you get sober. You aren't the "fun" friend anymore when everyone is drinking to get drunk and you're just sitting there. They either don't invite you to hang or go out, or they feel like they can't drink around you which makes you feel like a burden. It also shows you who your real friends are - the ones that still invite you over or out even though they know you won't be drinking with them. The ones that support your decision to quit drinking.
2) Dating is hard. Every guy I've met in this last year has asked the questions, "do you want to go out to this bar?" or "do you want to grab a drink?" Then you have to explain to them that you shouldn't because you're "almost a year sober" or you "don't drink anymore, it's really not that big of a deal." With my luck, they don't reply or change their mind about going out. I mean, seriously? Just because I can't drink doesn't mean we can't go out and get to know each other.
3) I'm stronger when I ask for help. I went through a few months of counseling with an alcohol specialist at the beginning of my sobriety to learn coping mechanisms, learn about myself, and what alcohol does to the mind, body, and soul. I only stuck with it for a few months, but I learned a lot. I learned that I don't need alcohol to feel better when I'm sad, that there are people out there to support me, and that anyone can get sober. I also learned that I am capable of using good coping mechanisms, and being strong when going through tough times.
4) Counseling isn't for everyone. I realized a few months in that I wasn't getting anything out of the counseling after a while and decided I was able to continue the journey on my own. I cherish the lessons I learned during the sessions, but it just wasn't for me. I grew a lot more on my own, when I didn't have to follow a book to be sober.
5) I'm allowed to set boundaries. This one was hard for me to understand in the beginning. I didn't feel like I could tell my friends I didn't want to be around alcohol. I didn't know how to make space for myself to feel comfortable when going out with friends and not drinking. I wasn't sure how to tell my friends "well, I don't feel comfortable right now with going out, maybe next time."
6) I don't need alcohol to be outgoing. I have a great personality! I can have fun without drinking and still have a good time. I used to think "drunk Erin" was "fun Erin" because that's what my friends used to tell me. That's just not the case! I can be fun on a normal day, in a normal setting too.
7) Drinking makes me uninspired. I love being creative, writing, painting, etc. Alcohol dulled my creativity and made me sluggish and boring. When I stopped drinking I became more lively, happier, and just overall a brighter human being. I no longer have terrible hangovers that make me tired. Alcohol isn't numbing my brain. I'm a whole person again and I love it.
8) Major cravings are real and temporary. In the beginning, every little thing made me miss alcohol. I couldn't go to Athens without the memories of partying with friends. I remember walking around the area and literally needing vodka because that's what my brain associated Athens with. The cravings sucked, but they were only temporary, although still to this day when I get stressed I think "wow, I wish I could take a shot."
9) I am not missing out when I don't drink. I'm not losing anything by trying to be a better version of myself.
10) It gets easier. As I write this I can already picture myself sober in 6 years. The cravings go away, the thoughts of drinking stop, and you start to live your life. It's a beautiful thing. You all of a sudden wake up and feel like you can do anything (especially through christ).
11) Though I haven't fully experienced this because I haven't "relapsed" yet, I still learned that there is no perfect person. It's okay to get off track - start again. It is okay to have cravings - fight through them. It is okay to be an imperfect person!
12) Lastly, I am enough. Just because I drank doesn't make me less of a person. Just because I decided to be sober doesn't make me less of anything. No matter what I am enough.
Here's to the next year of sobriety and learning more and more.