I had my first drink at 13, and my last at 32. For close to two decades, alcohol was an integral part of my life. When I fell pregnant with my first child, I had plenty of time to dry out and think about how unhealthy my relationship with alcohol had become. This would become the biggest catalyst in my journey to living booze-free.

I grew up in the suburbs of a large city, in a safe residential home. Despite having a loving and supportive family, I was a highly sensitive child, and struggled with feelings of low self worth from early on. As a chubby pre-teen, I felt like I stood out, and for all the wrong reasons. I wanted people to see that I was kind, funny and nice; not that I was eating too many chips and chocolate bars. The end of my elementary school years saw me eating my lunch in the bathroom, isolated from the judgement of my peers. Some days, I would throw my lunch in the garbage, ashamed to even be seen with food.

The inner dialogue of not being good enough plagued me.

I often felt sad, lonely and ugly. Unlovable.

In high school, things changed. I found a group of friends that were open and accepting, and slowly, I became more confident in my skin. I enjoyed making people laugh, and soon, my body issues lessened, but didn’t entirely disappear. When I had my first drink at the end of grade 7, I realized that this magic liquid was an effective way of forgetting that I hated myself.

I drank with friends on the weekends; at parks, parties and punk rock shows. I had finally found a formula that worked to relieve my teenage angst and coming of age confusion.

Drinking made me feel more social, prettier, and far more interesting. This was the very beginning of my drinking career, so hangovers weren’t a major issue for my young and capable body. Recovery was quite easy, and the party had just begun.

By the time high school ended, I found myself in the midst of a huge life change. My parents were separating, and I was going to be moving, along with my mom and sister, to the city. Although this was an exciting logistical change, the hurt and sadness of the separation were not easy to deal with. I tried to focus my energies on music, friends and school, but my sensitive nature once again kicked in to overdrive. Not knowing how to deal with my emotional burden, I escaped into the bottle. I dropped out of college unfortunately, as I had been part of a really neat Law & Society program that I loved. During the first three semesters, I was getting straight A’s, and really focusing on advancing my academic career. By the fourth semester, I was drinking of beer in the park during the day, crying over my badly bruised heart. My family had split up and I literally didn’t know how to deal with it.

The drinking continued, as I found myself in one destructive relationship after the next. Fixating on romance became a bit of an obsession. Subconsciously, I was trying to heal the wounds that were left from the demise of my parents’ marriage. Choosing partners that were absent, abusive or struggling with substance abuse issues left me feeling very shaky and ungrounded. I was so desperate for a fairy tale ending, that I sacrificed my mental and physical health, staying in unhealthy relationships for much longer than I should’ve. I accepted poor treatment, all the while believing that I was the flawed one that was unlovable.

In my mid 20’s, I’d had enough of the bad feelings, so I embarked on a journey of self discovery. Reading self-help and personal development books by the dozen, I slowly started to understand why some of these negative patterns had emerged. Little by little, I was uncovering that I was more than just a little bit codependent. Trying to fix other people’s problems took the focus off of my own, and my obsessive tendencies kept me busy enough to get by.

Despite being heavily into the self-help department at the bookstore, I continued to drink. My self-awareness levels were rising, so I obviously knew that I had an unhealthy relationship with drinking, I just didn’t know what I wanted to do about it at that point.

I liked to drink. A lot.

It seemed like booze had almost been weaved into my core self, so much so that I didn’t know who or what I’d be without a drink in my hand.

When I met my husband, I knew that I was on the right path. For once, I had chosen a partner that was present, supportive and kind. We drank a ton together in the early years, but at least the relationship was abuse-free and loving.

It was a step in the right direction.

It was the day after our wedding party, and I was hungover in a hotel room. A pregnancy test confirmed that I was going to be a mom. Not only was I ecstatic at the prospect of having a child, I knew that it was time for some major life changes.

Although I wasn’t totally sure of what would happen after the baby was born, I was soulfully blissed out for 9 months, alcohol free (save a few sips of wine at dinner from time to time) and grateful.

Though I enjoyed my newfound clarity immensely, I hadn’t fully committed to a sober future, and my bad habits quickly returned a month or so after my son was born. I drank with added shame, desperately not wanting to be a boozy mom, but also struggling with giving it up. When I found out I was pregnant again, just three months after giving birth, I knew that the Universe was sending me some major signs. The first child was the eye-opener, and the second was the enforcer.

Mom, you can do this. You have to do this.

On August 11th, 2017, I made a solid commitment that I would not drink again.

Time and experience had proven that alcohol added nothing positive to my life, and so I bravely jumped on the wagon with gusto and pride.

Instead of feeling shame about my past relationship with drinking, I want to share my story to help break down the stigma that surrounds alcohol abuse.

Three years ago I would’ve never imagined that by now I’d have two beautiful babies, a wonderful husband and a book in the works.

Clarity, happiness and gratitude have replaced cheap wine, hangovers and regret.

I am so proud of how far I’ve come.

My evolution into a sober warrior has really just begun, and I am so excited about what the future holds.

Here are my 3 top tips for starting out on sobriety journey!

1 Read and write! When I first started flirting with sobriety, I devoured books in the “quit lit” category. Reading about other people’s journeys helped me to stay focused on my own goals, and also gave me some great information about alcohol abuse.

2 Network. I found a huge online family via Instagram and other public forums. This community helped me when I needed someone to talk to about my struggles. It’s really helpful to find that there are thousands of people who have had similar experiences.

3 Focus on self-care. This is a big one! Quitting drinking will immediately make you realize how much time was spent on drinking, partying and nursing hangovers. Focusing on self-care, and being patient with yourself throughout the process will help immensely. I started to workout more regularly at the gym, and prioritized things that were good for my body, soul and mind. Reading, long baths, baby cuddles and writing have become necessary additions to my week.

My Instagram is @soberstarlet

Blog: www.theshadowandtheshimmer.blogspot.com

Written by Ariane, barely edited by Sober Fish

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