Today marks six years of sobriety for me.
I’ve been in a really reflective place in the weeks leading up to today. It’s hard to fully capture in words the massive amounts of change, transformation, growth, loss, gratitude, grief, and utter joy I’ve experienced since deciding that drinking was no longer going to be part of my life.
In so many ways, my life feels completely changed. I have built a life that I am wildly in love with. I have found my purpose and built a global coaching practice that supports women and LGBTQ+ folks in building sober, joyous lives they don’t want to escape from. I have the privilege of doing meaningful work that has tremendous impact.
I am present in my life now. I feel it all and have learned to sit in the discomfort, knowing that I can handle whatever comes my way. Many of these lessons were hard-won, and the struggles that I endured to learn them are priceless. With that, I want to share six of the biggest lessons I’ve taken from the last six years of my sober journey.
But before we get into it, I have a message for those who are sober curious, newly sober, or aspiring to be sober: please know that I didn’t arrive here overnight. While I’m in a space where I love my life and everything about my sobriety, that wasn’t always the case. In the beginning, I wasn’t sure if I could do this thing called sobriety. I had doubts, I didn’t believe in myself, and I was scared.
If you’re feeling any of those things right now, please know that it’s okay. And know that you can do this. You absolutely have the capacity to change your damn life, if that’s what you choose. Whatever has happened so far doesn’t dictate what happens next.
And with that, let’s get into the lessons:
1. Anything is possible.
When I first got sober, I truly believed that my life was over. I couldn’t picture a world without booze in it, and I genuinely felt like my life would be terrible. I didn’t think I would ever have fun again. I didn’t think it would be possible to enjoy socializing. I expected I’d lose all my friends and that life would essentially become unbearable. I had infused so much meaning and power into alcohol and its role in my life that I thought the absence of it would obliterate all sense of purpose, enjoyment, and satisfaction.
My beliefs about what my life looked like as a sober person could not have been further from the truth. I literally could not have been more wrong. What I have come to truly understand is that alcohol was serving to not only water me down but act as a barrier to connecting to my powerful, intuitive, capable self. I thought that removing alcohol from my life would limit my life, but it actually acted to expand everything.
I now feel more confident, competent, and capable than ever before, making anything and everything feel like a possibility for me. Sobriety opened doors and created opportunities I never dreamed possible, including building a global coaching practice, connecting with the best community around, reconnecting to my creativity, experiencing the widest spectrum of emotions fully, and living the most authentic, present life possible. When you’re no longer engaging with the thing that’s dragging you down, the sky’s the limit. Truly. And I’m not the only person who feels this way. Check this out.
2. I can do hard things (and so can you).
When my dad unexpectedly passed away in 2014, I thought that the weight of the sadness and grief that I was experiencing were going to destroy me. I didn’t think I could withstand how horrible I felt and to experience these feelings and not be broken at the end. So I drank about it. I drank to numb the grief, I drank to press pause on what I was feeling, and I drank to not feel any of it.
Since getting sober, I have endured a lot of loss, grief, heartbreak, and betrayal. Because those experiences are part of life and life will always throw you curveballs. What I now know about myself is that I can, without question, do hard things. Whether it’s experiencing feelings of grief and sadness of losing family members (both my grammy and my favourite uncle died during COVID-19), going through a breakup (I did this one three years ago), or experiencing betrayal (someone close to me had been lying and manipulating our entire relationship for years, resulting in it ending abruptly), what you need to know is this:
>> You are way more capable than you give yourself credit for. You can feel and move through the feelings you have and they won’t destroy you.
>> Adding alcohol to the mix doesn’t actually do anything to resolve the issue for you. Everything will be exactly where you left it, only you’ll be dealing with the situation with a hangover and whatever feelings you might have about that.
>> It’s not ever usually as bad as you expect it will be.
I know hard things are hard and I also know that you’re stronger than you know.
3. Community is key.
I will never be the person to tell you that you can’t do it (sobriety) alone. Of course, you can. But it will likely take longer (to learn the lessons), feel harder, and be lonelier. So if those don’t sound appealing, I would encourage you to find your community. Connecting with other sober women (mostly online) has been a game-changer for me. Hearing their stories, knowing they see and understand me (and won’t judge me for my life or choices), and feeling inspired by their lives is tremendously helpful.
Connecting with others makes us feel less alone. Toward the end of my drinking days, I felt alone, and I knew I didn’t want that experience in my sobriety. Check online, join a group, or send a DM. You can absolutely do this alone, but you don’t have to.
4. Everything I was looking for at the bottom of a bottle is actually found in sobriety.
Not only did I give a lot of my power away to alcohol, but I also over-inflated all the things I thought it did for me. I really thought that alcohol made me “cooler,” more fun and social, sexier, more confident, the life of the party, funnier, a better dancer, smarter, more attractive to potential partners, and so on.
But here’s the thing: all of that was not only not true, but alcohol actually made all the things I looked to improve much worse. I wasn’t cooler; I was contorting to what I thought it was to be cool. I wasn’t more fun or social; I was less aware of social cues and more likely to say and do things to get attention but misconstrued that attention as being the life of the party. I wasn’t sexier or more confident; again, it was all a show that required “liquid courage” to execute. Instead of taking time to build confidence, I faked it while drinking.
The point is this: all the things you seek out in drinking are actually already within you. You are and can be whatever version of yourself you want to be, no alcohol needed. Taking alcohol out of the equation gives you the space to cultivate real confidence and allows you to get to know exactly who you are and actually embrace that. Who you truly are may not be exactly who you expected or anticipated, but it’s you and there’s nothing better than that.
5. Sobriety makes us stronger and more resilient.
For as long as I can remember, I’ve been a resilient person. This trait has most definitely supported me as I move through my sober journey. And what I can say for certain is that my sobriety strengthened my resiliency tenfold. Through my sober journey, I was demonstrating to myself that I could handle anything that came my way and I was creating evidence of my capacity to manage challenging situations.
What I also learned is that regardless of our starting point with resiliency, it’s like a muscle that can be strengthened at any point, by anyone. Sobriety and resiliency go hand in hand and support each other, which is why resiliency building is a pillar of my coaching practice. Knowing that I can handle anything that comes my way and knowing that I don’t have to reach outside myself to cope is true resiliency, and my sober journey helped me get there.
6. Challenges present the best opportunities for growth and expansion.
I know that sobriety and recovery are tremendously challenging times. Believe me, I’ve been there. The early days were rough and pushed me to my limits in pretty much every area of my life. And I wouldn’t be where I am today without the challenges that I went through. A helpful reframe that I often remind myself of is that challenges are actually opportunities for growth.
When I think of the times in my life that I went through the most challenging experiences, they always led to the most significant growth and expansion in my life. When we aren’t challenged, we typically remain in the same patterns and habits that we’ve always been in and aren’t as likely to shift and grow if not prompted by a challenging time or situation. Embrace the challenges and know that the lessons found on the other side are equipping you to better handle what’s coming down the road.
Sobriety is most definitely the road less traveled, and in choosing to go down that road, you are stepping into the possibility of more growth than you have ever imagined. When it comes to the journey of being sober, Jess King offers sage guidance, “Keep going until you learn something new about yourself.”