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There are times where I have to sit down in awe and think to myself, “How did I even get here?”
This life that I am so incredibly blessed to be living now wasn’t even a blip on my radar 10 years ago.
I was convinced that the life I was living then would be my trajectory. After all, it was what I had spent all those years working toward and pushing myself to achieve.
By most people’s standards, I was living an incredibly blessed life back then. I was the youngest VP of Marketing and Operations over a global company. Married to my college sweetheart. Two adorable kids. Living life between Colorado, New York City, and London. Jet-setting around the world for work.
It all sounds so glamorous.
My drive to achieve was also behind what was bringing me down. Day in and day out.
I’d always been the type of person who, no matter what it was I needed to do, was going to make it my priority to excel. Failure just wasn’t an option in my world and that mindset allowed me to make some pretty stratospheric advancements in my career.
The trouble is that there is a price for everything. I was paying the price for my professional success with my personal life and well-being.
Early in my career, a well-meaning manager encouraged me to start attending corporate happy hours in order to advance my career. This was where the deals were made, he said. That was all I needed to hear. I immediately began strategizing how to be the best drinker and deal maker at those damn happy hours.
No one tells you that it is hard to distinguish the rush of closing a deal from the rush of the drink in your hand. Happy hour starts to follow you home because “Why wouldn’t you want to keep experiencing those good feelings?”—deal-making or not.
He also forgot to say that a drink in your hand becomes a good companion when you’re half a world away from your kids and the time difference means you can’t call to say good morning or good night. That the only time you’re available is while they are not.
Success comes at a price, and the thing that got me to the top was also what I was using to deal with the pain and discomfort that position was bringing me. Yet, no matter how much I drank, it didn’t make it any easier, and I was no longer getting any better at my job.
Something had changed. Obviously, I hadn’t always needed a drink to be successful. I didn’t even really start drinking until I was out of college! Life didn’t always revolve around alcohol. There was a time where I could allow myself to have fun, let loose, or even have a good cry session without needing a drink in my hand.
I wasn’t trying to change the world, but I knew I needed to change myself.
I never counted on my journey of self-discovery becoming the foundation for hundreds of thousands of others to change themselves as well.
Changing myself meant doing something completely out of the ordinary for me. I wasn’t going to try to be the best. In fact, I made it my mission to stop trying so hard to be in control. This time (and for every journey since that day), I decided my modus operandi would be curiosity.
What changed? Why did I think the way I did? Where were these beliefs coming from? Were they even valid? Or was my entire mindset built upon lies?
What did alcohol even have to do with all this? What role was it playing in my thoughts, my beliefs, and my actions?
This was not a journey to stop drinking. It was a journey of discovery. A research paper into how I went from that happy and carefree 20-something who didn’t drink to this depressed, anxious, and career-driven 30-something I no longer even recognized.
Who was I? And more importantly, who did I want to be?
I had no idea how alcohol played into all of this, but I knew one thing was certain—something had to change.
That journey started over seven years ago and the most important lesson that came out of it for me is that, in the end, alcohol had very little to do with why I was feeling the things I was feeling and doing the things I was doing.
It sounds cliché and maybe a little new age, but everything had to do with my mindset and my beliefs. Changing myself meant changing everything—how I talked to myself, how I defined fun, how I defined romance, what I considered success to be—the list goes on and on. Yet, with every step I took to rewrite those definitions, alcohol stopped having power in those areas.
A drink wasn’t giving me courage and making me successful at my job. I was doing that because of my intelligence, my personality, and my skill set. Alcohol didn’t make my friends fun—I was friends with them because they were fun and I enjoyed being with them.
For the second time in my life, everything changed. The first time was when I heard that ill-fated advice that led me to those happy hours. I could look back and wonder how life would be different if I hadn’t heeded the advice that day, but that also means I wouldn’t be where I am today.
It’s true that I wasn’t trying to change the world, but what that journey made me realize is that there are so many other people just like me who are trying to change themselves. The details in their story might differ from mine, but the universal truth is that by changing ourselves, we do change the world.
We change the world when we are brave enough to share our stories, when we open up about not just our victories, but also our failures, and when we say, yes, I felt that way too.
My journey of change led to a career shift, three books, and an online program that has helped over 225,000 people take a break from alcohol and change not just their beliefs around alcohol but also change how they view themselves and the world around them. If you want to ditch the rules and try something different for a change, check out The Alcohol Experiment. It is completely free and might be the beginning of the change you need.