I was always the party girl, the one who kept up with the boys, the first to arrive and the last to leave. My social life revolved around drinking. I never went to anything that wasn’t serving alcohol. I thought happiness was tied to drinking, but the truth was drinking had stopped being fun for me long before I got sober. I thought I was fooling everyone because I had a great job, owned my own home and I was happy go lucky…at least on the outside. But my friends and family could see what I couldn’t…that alcohol had me in its grips.
It took getting into some legal trouble for me to finally ask for help and I was terrified. I could not imagine my life without alcohol, but I knew I couldn’t live with it anymore either. My biggest fear when I got into recovery in 2010 was that I would never have fun again and that the new sober friends I would need to make would be boring.
I could not have been more wrong.
I am as outgoing as ever, but here is what I didn’t expect: I have more fun, more laughter and joy in my life now than I ever did drinking. I’m still a party girl – just without alcohol. And my life is so much better. I laugh harder, right from my gut, and it’s REAL. I love being present for my life – even the hard times.
I have always been outgoing, upfront and straightforward. I call it like I see it. Honestly? It never crossed my mind to hide my recovery. I work in an industry that has a strong drinking culture, and I was at the center of this for many years. When I returned to work after treatment, I didn’t keep my recovery a secret. I didn’t know what to expect from people. It really didn’t matter to me. I knew only that I was not ashamed of my recovery, in fact I was proud. It was by far the hardest and best thing I ever did.
We live in a society that promotes drinking everywhere you turn. Not only is it accepted, it is expected. Believe me I know…I used to feel that way myself. Until I got sober, I never noticed that people talk about drinking constantly. If you’re having a hard day at work, people say, “you need a drink” or if you bump into an old friend “we should go out for drinks sometime” or if you help someone with something, “let me buy you a drink.” It was eye-opening to see people’s reactions when I would reply, “no thank you, I don’t drink.” My comment was often followed by a shocked, “Why?!”
When I first got sober, I would say, “Because I’m an alcoholic…I can’t drink anymore.” I could see the surprise on people’s faces followed by, “Really?,” “I’m sorry.” Some would even take a step back. Fortunately this didn’t bother me, but I would end up explaining myself and telling them I was happy to be in recovery, but I could tell many people didn’t understand and might have even felt embarrassed for me, but that was definitely not how I felt.
Then I saw the movie, The Anonymous People, and it changed my life. It made me realize that most people don’t understand alcoholism and addiction and that there is a stigma attached to the disease. A stigma that just isn’t true and keeps people stuck out of fear of being judged. Some of the best people I have met in my life, from every social status, are in recovery. In fact, they are the funniest, most compassionate, genuine, hard-working people I know.
The movie also made me passionate about showing the world that THIS is what recovery looks like. That it’s NOT something to be ashamed of. I speak openly and honestly about me recovery whenever I have the opportunity. And guess what? Just about everyone I have spoken to has someone that they care about in their life who struggles with addiction. And as a result of me being open about my disease (yes, it is a disease) I’ve had dozens of people reach out to me to ask for help…for themselves or for someone they love…and I do what I can to help them.
That’s how recovery works.
Today I’m a Recovery Advocate and Co-Founder and Director of a non-profit organization called Shining Strong, started by my best friend. Our mission is to help women who are suffering from addiction, who are struggling in early sobriety, or are sober and want resources to stay that way.
We’re passionate about breaking down the stigma of addiction that keeps so many people stuck and alone. And we’re celebrating the more than 23 million Americans who are currently living in long-term recovery. I am also the Co-host of a weekly podcast about recovery from alcoholism and addiction, called The Bubble Hour, which was created to provide hope and inspiration to people who are wondering about their drinking, struggling to get sober, or who are sober and want to stay that way.
For me, one of the greatest gifts of sobriety is being able to help other people.