I don’t let addiction define me. I live with my addiction every day, mostly in subtle ways, but in no way does it define who I am.

I don’t let addiction define me. I live with my addiction every day, mostly in subtle ways, but in no way does it define who I am. Each day I talk to other people in recovery, go to a meeting if I can, do some journaling, and meditate. These are just parts of my life today. When people find out I don’t drink they sometimes ask, “Well, what do you do for fun then?” My answer: “everything you do, but sober.” I go to work, concerts, the gym, bars, out to dinner, the movies, skydiving, swing dancing, nightclubbing — everything the drinking person does. The only difference is I do it completely sober.

I got clean when I was 19. I’m 26 now and sober almost 7 years. I mostly drank, but did a bevy of drugs as well. Telling people I was getting sober was uncomfortable in the beginning. It felt so — important. It took me years to realize no one cares about me being sober as much as I do. It’s just not that important or heavy to other people. For the first couple years, my sobriety was the biggest cross I had to bear. It was liberating — but a burden as well. When I told people I was a recovering addict I felt like I was divulging a deep dark secret.

For the first few years, I didn’t know how I fit in within the “real world” as a sober person. Do I only have sober friends? Can I hang out with the people I used drugs with? Can I go to places where they serve alcohol?

Now, I am almost comfortable in my own skin. It took a while. Most days, I just feel like everyone else. I have goals, dreams, career ambitions, and things to work toward. I started a business. I have a job, a daughter, friends — both sober and not sober — and family in my life. Today, I have hobbies; I try new things, and life a beautiful full life. I try every day to be a better person and treat every person I encounter with dignity and respect. I try to have gratitude.

When I tell people I am sober, that I am a recovering addict, most people admire me. Many are confused about what that means. Some people think I’m weird for not drinking. “Normal” drinkers who consume alcohol with impunity are the hardest people for me to explain my situation to. They don’t understand the need for me to quit entirely, but I know deep in my heart and in my core I just can’t consume alcohol safely, and I’m okay with that today.

It feels so strange to have people say I am an inspiration or they admire me. Deep down I still feel like a low-life alcoholic. A burn on society. A burden to my parents. A menace to my friends. A selfish, self-absorbed piece of shit. When I’m in romantic relationships I constantly think I’m not good enough. I suffer from being a people-pleaser nowadays. I battle obsessiveness. I constantly feel the need to prove myself.

However, the loveliest awe-inspiring part of being a recovered alcoholic is I can see beauty in everything if I allow myself. When I remove the mental constraints holding me back I appreciate every breath. I revel in every rainbow. I feel the power in music. I hug my daughter like there’s no tomorrow because I know there are no guarantees in life. When I allow myself to be grateful, I feel like the luckiest girl in the world.

I know I was given a second chance at life.  I will absolutely live my life to the fullest. I will not look back at my life and see my second chance wasted.

Most of the stigma I feel regarding sobriety is my own personal hurdles. My own mental blocks. Sometimes I feel embarrassed of the fact that I don’t drink. On occasion, I am ashamed of my past, but more often than I like to admit, I wish I was like other people. “Why the fuck can’t I just have one martini like my other 25 year old friends?”

What I know now, after being sober for a number of years, the only thing which matters is making the most of my sobriety. Recovery has opened me up to thousands of new experiences I would have never had if I was still drinking and using. Today I am free. I honestly feel like I can do anything. When you drink and use drugs every day, that’s your only goal — to find the next high. Now, the world is completely open to me.

The period in my life when I used and drank is just a period of life. On my best days, I don’t give a shit about what you think of me. On my worst, I care way too much, but overall I am happy.

If I can look at myself in the mirror and not hate myself, I consider that a success