She was the bottom.

She was the bottom. The one that finally held up a mirror and I remember sitting on the cement floor, in the garage and staring into the bottom of the glass, knowing I was done.

I would never tell her this… because she would think it was her fault and I would never want her to carry the burden. If anything, I am thankful. She was only the reflection- the final broken piece of the mirror, and I know now that rock bottom isn’t really a bottom–

it’s a mirror.

It’s the moment where you truly see who you have become and where you’re going so clearly. I was looking into her face and hearing her words– so angry and judgmental and hurtful and I recognized parts of myself in her. It was an incredibly sad moment of reckoning–

A reckoning on a cold cement floor, 3 bottles of wine deep, watching your soul leave your body temporarily, allowing the demons in… the black and white checkered floor became a reflection of my own struggles and when I sat, looking through the smoke filled haze that resembled oil meeting water in my mind…

THERE’S THE LINE. I can see it so clearly now…

I cannot exist in both.

I cannot exist in both.

I cannot exist in both.

 

How Alcohol Gave Me Anxiety- From Breakdowns to Breakthroughs

I’ve never understood what anxiety was or the ways in which it could cripple your life. I’ve never been an anxious person, nor have I suffered from anxiety in the way some people do. Whenever people spoke to me about their anxiety I couldn’t really connect because I simply couldn’t relate. As a child I was always moving and talking but I don’t remember having social anxiety or feeling like anxiety was affecting my life in any way. After almost 3 months sober I am finally able to see the ways in which my anxiety was a direct cause of my drinking.

Anxiety came rushing into my life about 4 years ago for the first time. Being completely ill-equipped to deal with it, I didn’t even recognize it as anxiety at first! It would come in waves and started gripping me during social situations. Being a traveler you are constantly meeting new people and making first impressions, being asked to sum up your life in 10 seconds and explain who you are and what you represent to people you just met. I’d always identified myself as an extrovert so when I started getting to the point that social conversations with new people because stressful, I started drinking more. Drinking was a HUGELY socially acceptable part of not only every other facet of life but especially the diving community and was the number one way to network with other instructors or people involved in the industry. Booze fueled my travels and social interactions, it helped me make friends and even got me job offers in the middle of the evening, completely sauced. This all gave me the illusion that drinking was helping me make connections and get to where I want.

About a year ago I started feeling hyper sensitive to energy that was surrounding me and became extremely susceptible to picking up and carrying the negative energies of others. I wasn’t healthy spiritually, mentally or physically so I wasn’t able to protect myself from any of this, nor did I have the awareness to identify it was happening. I started having these completely random moments of panic where I felt like something terrible was about to happen, where it consumed me and I found myself in the midst of my first panic attack.

In March of last year I had my first emotional breakdown. You know those “mid life crisis” breakdowns everyone speaks about but mostly in a joking manner? Yea, well… at almost 30 years old I had a alcohol induced emotional breakdown that left me completely scared, lost and alone. This moment became my first tipping point. I recognized this encroaching anxiety as a cry for help from my body. I realized it was time to do something drastic but I wasn’t ready yet to pinpoint exactly what I needed.

I sought out sobriety first to get my life back under control, seeing the ways in which alcohol lowered my self esteem, caused a whirlwind of shame, kept my brain cloudy, and forced me to seek refuge again in the very thing that was causing me to feel this way in the first place. I did great for 6 weeks, really dived into my yoga practice and started actually exploring my own spirituality for the first time. Things started to fall into alignment and once my self esteem went back up and I felt in control, I went back to drinking again.

Guess what happened? Nothing changed! I slipped right back to where I started. I would balance my life for awhile until I would get a bee in my bonnet, go back on a bender, and then start my self depreciation and self loathing cycle all over again. This resulted in huge anxiety that I was unable to control. When I felt all these feelings my first instinct was to have a drink to get my anxiety under control. The thing is, I always knew in the back of my mind that all of this could be controlled and eliminated if I simply quit drinking, but that seemed way too dramatic. I couldn’t and wouldn’t admit that I’d failed! I had failed to control my drinking and substance abuse 10 years before and ended up in rehab, the ultimate mark of an addict! I didn’t want to admit my own failure again. I simply wasn’t ready and I was scared of not being able to do it.

I had to BREAKDOWN to BREAKTHROUGH! This was 2018 folks! Not only for me but the story I’ve heard from so many loved ones! Maybe you had a breakdown, or maybe you had a breakthrough or maybe both! Energetically this was an extremely difficult year. If you are relating to any of this, or if this resonates with you, I hope that you’ll seriously consider making some changes for 2019.

In a few days I will be 3 months sober. My anxiety is completely gone and although I have anxious moments about normal things that happen in life, I no longer suffer from panic attacks or emotional breakdowns. The thing is, introverts or people who suffer from anxiety typically tend to drink more- feeling the need to relax during social interactions they reach for a beer to calm the nerves and believe that this is actually helping them. The reality is that we’re all a little anxious, that sometimes human interaction is difficult and that’s okay. I’ve had to learn to be my bubbly self without alcohol, I’ve had to learn to dance and laugh and be silly without having any “liquid courage” to do it! Although introverts usually seek alcohol out to make them feel more extroverted, my extrovert personality paired perfectly with drinking and partying and in turn give me anxiety. A different route but the same result.

One of my biggest fears about quitting drinking was losing my “party girl” persona. I didn’t think I’d be as much fun and I was afraid people wouldn’t view me that way anymore! I know now that I’m just as much fun, that my interactions come from the heart, that when I connect with people it comes from a real place. I don’t fake small chat anymore and I don’t stay in situations or around people that give my intuition red flags- before I could ignore my own signals by consuming more booze, now I listen to what my body tells me and invest in the people and moments that bring me joy.

I still have INCREDIBLY awkward moments sometimes out at bars and in basic interactions. But I’ve learned to laugh it off because I know that I’m being authentic and we all are trying to connect in the same way. I see now that drinking added so much anxiety to my every day life. If I wasn’t anxious while I was drinking, I was anxious afterwards while I suffered from a hangover and a load of shame, when I felt bad for all the things I wasn’t accomplishing and the way in which I was wasting my time and wasting my life. Because of that anxiety I would just reach for the one thing that gave it to me in the first place and tried to fix A MILLION other things about my life first, instead of starting with the most important step.

You don’t need to be an alcoholic to stop drinking! I know, I know, crazy right!?! You don’t need to label yourself in any way! I for one, don’t like the term alcoholic. It makes it seem like I’m doomed to spend my life wanting something I can’t have. That doesn’t sound like freedom, and I no longer want something that caused me so much misery! I think most of us can agree that drinking affects us in negative ways, but we simply can’t imagine a life without it. If this is you, I hope you hear me- it is possible! And WAY easier than you think! I am happier than I’ve ever been. I’ve found purpose and true joy. I’ve learned that I can handle anything life throws at me sober and that I do not NEED to rely on any substance to live happily! I have never felt more free knowing that I no longer want to poison my body with a substance that has literally never given me anything in return, but remorse.

The cycle of alcohol and anxiety is huge! It affects so many people and we have all been fooled into thinking that alcohol gives us more courage, makes us more funny, lessens our anxiety, calms our nerves and does a MILLION other things!

STOP! Quit lying to yourself and quit letting the rest of the world lie to you too! There is no black and white! There are no “good drinkers” and “bad drinkers”! There are soooo many in-betweeners like me! The grey area drinkers that woke up and realized that alcohol was a waste of money, time, and energy. I’m happy to have myself back and I’m blessed to go into 2019 free from something that used to consume me. From breakdowns, to breakthroughs, I’m telling you, I’ve been there. Bring it, 2019!

My Break Up with Alcohol

Great change typically begins with the person in question getting sick of their own bullshit. That’s pretty much exactly what happened. 1 month ago I made a personal video where I sat down and privately broke up with alcohol. In it I talk for 10 minutes about all the reasons that alcohol is no longer serving me, I cry, I list my fears and I remind myself of all the negatives so that any time I feel tempted, I’m able to look back and listen to myself.

To help you understand where all this came from we need to back up to high school. I was an overachiever as a kid and teen. I got great grades, was in student council and speech, and had been dancing since I was 3. I wasn’t a young drinker, I didn’t smoke, and I think I tried smoking weed only about 3 times before I graduated. I was an organizer and a planner. My junior and senior year I decided to leave high school and go to the local community college to get a jump start on college credits because high school was boring and I had already taken all the advanced classes. The junior college introduced me to college students and college parties and this is where it all began.

By my senior year I almost lost my dance captainship being accused of drinking at college parties and there begins my first big lie to cover up my drinking. One summer before my senior year I threw a small party at my house when my parents were out of town. I didn’t think I drank that much but at one point I don’t remember anything until I came to with someone on top of me and inside of me. I remember trying to talk and move but I was unable to do anything. It was the worst feeling in the world. Unable to consent I was raped.

Now whether or not I was drugged, or simply inexperienced with alcohol and drank more than I thought, this is where it all began to spiral. After that my senior year was a blur where I was forced to go to counseling but sat there with my arms crossed, refusing to talk, insisting I was fine. The summer after my senior year I went to visit my best friend in Colorado and came back with a bottle of Adderoll that I couldn’t stop nibbling on. My boyfriend at the time threw it out the window in a fit of rage. By my freshman year of college I discovered more Adderoll, Ritalin and then eventually cocaine to go along with my binge drinking ways. It allowed me to forget everything amongst my almost constant blackouts and made me feel like I could cover the shame I felt by being the party girl. After my freshman year of University I was completely broken down by the time I came home to visit for the 4th of July. That day everything came to a head and in a drunken stupor I managed to horrify my 16 year old brother, scare my parents, and almost lose my boyfriend. I came clean and said I needed help. On 7/7/07 I got sober for the first time and checked into a 28 day program at Hazelden.

Because I was young and hadn’t exactly tried to control my substance abuse, I was told by my counselors that I may not be an addict but that I needed to deal with the things that were making me drink and abuse drugs in the first place. For the first time I started opening up about how I was feeling, and actually allowing myself to go through all the emotions. I got the help I needed, a new support system and for the next 2 years I remained sober and worked on myself. On my 21st birthday I went back to drinking with a new attitude.

In the beginning I was cautious only allowing myself 2 drinks, and creating all these rules around drinking. I found a new group of friends in the festival scene, started traveling around and making music my priority. I kept things pretty well in control the first 2 years but the blackouts never went away and the feeling of shame that came from not remembering the night before made me feel like shit. Since then, the last 10 years have been hit or miss. I’ve watched my family struggle with alcohol and seen the ways in which all of us act out. I’ve spent the last 6 years teaching scuba diving and traveling the world- both of these things regularly include drinking. It’s normal for customers to buy me a beer at the end of the day and for us to get to know each other. I’ve struggled with saying “no” and found myself getting drunk in the middle of the afternoon only to accomplish nothing the rest of the day. I’ve tried to maintain a spiritual practice, yoga practice or other daily rituals only to find it impossible with a hangover and given up.

I do things that I wouldn’t do if I was sober. I say things I don’t mean and have done other incredibly embarrassing things that make me feel lucky to have my partner in my life. I always claimed that I didn’t want a relationship because I enjoyed being single, and although a lot of that was true, the primary reason was that I didn’t want to show anyone my struggles because I didn’t want to be challenged. I didn’t want someone else to judge me and I wasn’t ready to admit that my drinking was affecting me more than I’d like. When Victor came into my life, he tried to be supportive and understanding but I could tell that he was worried. Quite often I’d come home not remembering getting home, not remembering what I said or did to the person I love, and I’d wake up angry with myself, shameful, and full of regret. To top it all off, I’d made my partner angry and scared for me too.

Getting out of Mexico and living on a small island made me focus on the simple things in front of me. It put my drinking problems at the forefront of my mind as I tried to create a healthy relationship with myself so that I could reflect that back to the man I love. I did a 30 day trial of sobriety this year to see if I could do it. I finally found a yoga practice that I fell in love with and started to make spirituality my primary focus. After my 30 days of sobriety it didn’t take but a few weeks until I had a blackout incident or lost a wallet or my dignity in some other form and I was back to where I started. A few months later I did almost 2 months before my 30th birthday and once again felt amazing. But just like before, once I started drinking again things slowly went back down hill.

It became very clear to me that the universe was giving me an opportunity to change my life. At 30 years old I have a lot of goals to open my own business, I now have a daily yoga practice, a partner I feel deserves the best version of me, and I am beyond sick of hangovers, drinking, shame, and subscribing to a lesser version of myself. People kept telling me to control it but that really hasn’t worked for me, and if it has, it was by sheer luck. It wasn’t abnormal for me to say I was going out for “an hour” or that I “wasn’t going to drink that much” only to come stumbling in at whatever hour I pleased. Drunk Lauryn does whatever she wants and that stops being cute or okay when you’re my age. I look at the person I know myself to be and the person I am when I drink and I don’t like myself anymore. My hangovers have become so bad that I cannot even function normally. A few years ago in Mexico I lost 8 phones in a year, 2 wallets and 2 purses with everything included. I’ve taken taxi rides home I don’t remember. I’ve partied with people I shouldn’t have trusted. I haven’t respected my body or my sexuality. I’ve allowed my behaviors to affect my relationships and my job.

When I got sober at 19 I got a tattoo on my wrist that said, “amen. peace. love.” When I was in treatment we used to recite, “God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference. Amen, peace, love.” The tattoo was supposed to be a reminder of the power I held by getting sober and a reminder that if I ever felt that I’d lost control, I could always get it back. As I sit here 11 years later and rub my fingers against my wrist, over the words, it brings tears to my eyes. After 2 attempts at temporary sobriety this year, I realized that the only way I could move forward with my life was to remove drinking from the table completely. Sick of trying to control it, figuring out when to drink, when to not, thinking about my next drink, giving myself pep talks that I’ll keep it under control, blah blah blah… all of this was only forcing me to spend more energy and time on drinking. If I removed it from the equation, it no longer took any of my energy.

I read a book when I came back to the States called The Naked Mind: An Easy Way to Control Drinking, and it completely changed my viewpoint on alcohol. My previous experience with getting sober through the 12 Step Program was something I didn’t really relate to. Now, more than before, I have many people in my life that have opted for “spontaneous sobriety” where they’ve suddenly realized that alcohol wasn’t serving them and gotten sober without anyone’s help. According to the 12 step program I need to admit I have a problem with alcohol, am powerless, and cannot control it on my own. From my own research on the study of habits willpower only lasts so long, which is why we seek out support systems. But if you really want to change a habit you also have to change the subconscious mind otherwise you’re only changing the conscious habit. My conscious mind no longer wants to drink, that is a choice I’ve made, but my subconscious mind still desires a drink and this is where most of us fail. I am working on changing my subconscious so that I can be free of the desire.

So, am I an alcoholic? Sure, maybe, I don’t like that word. I’m just someone that got sick of my own bullshit. Someone that realized that my life would be better without alcohol and vowed to do 1 year sober to see how and if my life changed. To most of my friends I wouldn’t be viewed as a problem drinker, but from my experience more people then we realize have their own struggles. I call these people “grey area drinkers”. If you’re someone that regularly feels shame or guilt around their drinking then maybe you fall into this category too. I’m not encouraging you to get sober, because what works for me may not be what works for you. But I encourage you to do a 30 day challenge and see how you feel. I encourage you to reach out to me or talk to someone else you love and trust. I think you’ll find that more people share the feelings you do.

I looked at the person I want to be, the relationship I want to have, the people that love me, the way I was living my life, my spirituality and my values and just decided that enough was enough. For the first time I feel in control of my future. I don’t have to worry about being able to keep it all together anymore and I feel a huge weight has lifted. This has not been an easy article to write, or to share. I hope in doing so we can create more conversations around a socially accepted illness. I will continue to share my story, struggles, and moments of hope as I continue down this journey. I decided the best way to start was by calling friends and family to tell them about my decision. I’ve decided to share it with you now that I’m 30 days in as a way to hold myself accountable and hopefully help anyone else that’s struggling.

Life is beautiful and I have been so blessed to travel and experience the things I have. I am ready to change my life and that begins by getting out of my own way. Drinking was the root of so many problems. I kept looking for other things that I thought would fix it but ignoring the fact that this ONE thing was clearly the culprit. In the last month I’ve been reunited with friends that I haven’t seen in years, attended parties, gone bar hopping, seen 2 nights of my favorite band, and traveled across the country, all while sober. I haven’t said no to doing anything I would’ve done before and I haven’t hidden away from drinking or being around alcohol. I’ve just decided that alcohol isn’t the central theme anymore. It hasn’t been hard and I haven’t been tempted. I don’t want a drink anymore because I am reminded of where that goes. I no longer buy into the false beliefs I used to have around alcohol and I don’t feel like a victim. I don’t envy people that can control their alcohol and I don’t judge those that can’t. I don’t compare myself to other drinkers or do google searches online to figure out whether or not I have a problem. The problem I view is enough for me, has created enough problems for me, and that’s enough, that’s it, it’s a personal choice.

Thank you for taking the time to read, for helping me stay accountable and for supporting me. If this resonates with you and you’d like to speak to me please reach out, it’s healing for me and you!

I love you and I’m here for you,

Lauryn