“I believe that telling our stories, first to ourselves and then to one another and the world, is a revolutionary act.” ~ Janet Mock
Four years ago, I made a decision that changed my life.
Since then, I’ve never felt freer. The decision to quit drinking didn’t happen overnight. It was something I thought about for a long time. But there were excuses, reasons not to, and the fear of what life would be like without drinking.
I remember a few nights having an almost out-of-body experience observing myself while drinking. A voice inside said, “This isn’t going to end well—your story won’t end well if you keep this up. Stop while you’re ahead.”
I didn’t listen and I kept drinking.
I spent more days beating myself up than not. I used to hate myself for the time, money, and energy I committed to something that was the cause of so much suffering. Nights were lost because I couldn’t remember them. And the guilt was unbearable. It was something heavy and thick. It was the number one reason I kept numbing out.
Back then, I didn’t have a healthy way of dealing with the guilt and shame I carried, so finding temporary relief in drugs and alcohol became my way of anesthetizing the pain.
My journey to sobriety happened in phases. The first phase was coming to terms with it myself.
When I made the decision to quit drinking four years ago, I knew it was for life. Friends asked how long I wasn’t going to drink, and I replied, “I don’t know…just the month.”
The fear of what they would think kept me from telling the complete truth. Would they think I was an addict and imagine my life a wreck? Or would they laugh and talk me out of it? I wasn’t strong enough in my sobriety to handle judgement, so I chose to keep it to myself.
Telling my close friends and family was the second phase. Letting the people in my life know I decided to give up drinking and why was the most challenging phase. I saw my relationships change. I had to reconcile the loss of friendships and I found myself having to come up with new ways to spend my time. I also had to develop a new relationship with myself and take a deeper exploration of my life.
What did I get out of drinking and why was I so invested in something that never brought me true joy?
The third phase is where I am now—feeling completely proud of and grateful for my sobriety. It’s also the phase in which I feel the most comfortable, confident, and inspired to share. Seeing the negative effects of drugs and alcohol in my own family used to keep me at a distance from the story of sobriety. However, I believe the grace we experience in our lives is a gift to be shared—not something to withhold.
A good friend of mine recently got sober and I asked him what makes him feel different now than he did before. He said something someone told him completely revolutionized the language in his heart. Feeling hungover and morally at his bottom, someone told him, “You can continue drinking if you want, but just know you don’t ever have to feel like this again.”
Something shifted for him in that moment. To hear he didn’t ever have to feel miserable again because of his drinking was like a huge weight being lifted off of his chest. Those words set him free and gave him renewed hope for his life.
I believe we are the creators of our lives. Our choices create feelings and feelings become energy. The energy we put out into the world comes back to us as our life experience. When we consciously, or unconsciously, feel guilt or shame we will knowingly or unknowingly seek punishment. My punishment was a sick cycle of not feeling good about myself and staying a victim in my own life. My level of self-worth was enough to get me by and maintain, but never enough to thrive.
In order to thrive in life, we have to learn how to truly love and accept ourselves. Connecting with our spirituality, loving ourselves, and taking full responsibility for our lives and our choices is where our strength lies at the deepest level.
A lot of people reach out to me seeking guidance on how to give up drinking and quit making self-destructive choices. What I always offer them is, “Cultivate a spiritual practice and make a commitment to your personal development.”
Sometimes, someone will ask whether or not I miss drinking. Sure, I miss the taste of a cold Corona, but I love sobriety much more. Knowing I won’t ever have to wake up hungover again has been the biggest gift. No longer being bound by the effects of a previous night of drugs and alcohol is what true freedom has meant for me.
Wherever you are in your journey, and whether it involves sobriety or not, know that we create our lives with each and every choice we make. Our lives are meant to be celebrated and feel free. They’re also meant to be remembered with reverence. Each of us deserves to feel good about ourselves and our lives, always.
May you find your own version of freedom and have the courage to set yourself free.
Author: Chris Tompkins
Image: Courtesy of Andrea De Martin, Dreamstime; Unsplash
Editor: Leah Sugerman
Copy Editor: Danielle Beutell
Social Editor: Catherine Monkman