Stars Can't Shine Without Darkness

Ten years ago my life changed. Actually, I like to think of it as the time when my life began. The person I am today amazes me, catches my breath when I stop to reflect on my past, and who I could’ve become if I didn’t make a change. A decision to say enough, and take the road less traveled. A journey that thousands of people attempt to embark on, some more successfully than others, although not accepted, or talked about as much as it should be.

I am a daughter, a sister, an auntie, a friend, a writer, a yogi, and I’m an alcoholic.

Growing up, I always felt different. I was insecure, painfully shy, afraid, anxious, angry and always expecting the worst. As I hit adolescence, all those feelings intensified. I was so busy comparing my insides to everybody’s outsides that I went through life physically, emotionally and even spiritually uncomfortable. What I remember so vividly about that period of time, is wanting to be somebody else. Somebody who was pretty, confident and able to face the world. I wanted any excuse to escape so many intolerable feelings, all of which I was unable to articulate - and so I acted out. Around this same time, I went to my first party. I was 14 years old.

Over the next decade, I used alcohol to escape. It wasn’t every day, but it was consistent. After some time, it became problematic. And after some even more time, I didn’t recognize the person staring back at me in the mirror. I was making poor choices, and alienating myself from the people who loved me. More importantly, I let myself down. Straying far from my purpose, always quick to use the easy button, to avoid any uncomfortable feelings. After several attempts to cut back or stop drinking all together, I found myself back at square one, always with the best of intentions; yet unable, or unwilling, to find another way of coping. It was a constant cycle. An ugly, lonely, confusing, scary cycle.

One day, I had enough. I awoke after another crazy night out on the town, and those same intense feelings were still present; the ones that I used to justify my behavior. It’s ironic that I started drinking all those years ago to escape from the same negative feelings that I was now living with on a daily basis. I felt stuck. I felt hopeless. I felt done. It was in that moment that I decided to get some help…and that’s when my life began.

Recovery is possible, and difficult, and messy, and beautiful. The process itself, although seemingly daunting, was actually manageable when I chose to get out of my own way. I first had to stop making excuses, admit defeat, gain a little humility, and ask for help. Only after I emerged from the darkness, could I truly begin to shine.

What amazes me today is the level of clarity sobriety has provided me with. I can cope, with both good and bad feelings, in a healthy non-destructive way. I make better decisions, and have a level of confidence I didn’t know was possible. Even in the toughest of moments, I know picking up a drink will only make things worse, and instead I choose to lean into uncomfortable feelings, fully present and vulnerable. Believe me, there have certainly been moments in which I desperately wanted to pull the covers over my face, hiding from myself and others, and yet that way of living is no longer an option; at least not for me. This experience has taught me to show up, no matter what, despite how difficult it may be at times.

I think back on that lost, sad vulnerable girl and feel grateful. Without my past, I don’t think I would have the courage to be the person I am today. Learning to love myself, and to accept life on life’s terms, is a daily practice. I’ve met people with shared fears and experiences, who have lead the way for me, teaching me how to be fiercely introspective, patient and kind. Role models who despite themselves continue to do the work needed to gain emotional maturity and contentment. Throughout this process, I learned how to become the woman of my dreams.

I wouldn’t change one aspect of my life, and I certainly don’t wish I wasn’t an alcoholic. I am stronger today because of it. This is my path, one for which I am thankful for. I will say, it was with careful thought that I chose to share this most personal side of myself. There is no agenda. It’s just me being honest, real and fearless, sharing a piece of my story, in hopes that one person finds strength in our similarities.