I’ll keep living my truth because I can’t be sober if I’m not authentic, and I’ll encourage others to do the same.

From as far back as I can remember I yearned to go out into the world: to meet people, to see things, to learn, and interact. I wanted to be in the in-crowd and surrounded myself with countless people, places, drugs, and drinking that filled a void I didn’t know I had. You see – nothing was ever good enough. My desire was always more, more, more. Life was never satisfactory for me, no matter what went on. I tried alcohol for the first time in high school and it was just what I was looking for: fun. It led me to new people and situations so that I was never bored. After high school I couldn’t wait to start college and live on my own. I also knew that college was full of parties where I could meet more people and be on the go. College was when I started to realize my drinking habits weren’t normal, but I made sure to justify that they were.

Complete memory loss blackouts became a normal thing for me in college. Hangovers were crippling. Somehow, through it all, I managed to graduate with two degrees and play four years of NCAA II soccer. I strategically planned everything around drinking: class schedules, activities, etc. I created the persona I had always wanted. I became the popular, pretty party girl, who was the host or attendee of every awesome party. Even though I loved this way of life at the time, I became extremely defensive when someone called me a “party girl,” because that meant I had a problem with alcohol, and that wasn’t me. People would always say to me, “I don’t know how you do it!” in reference to my crazy class, athletics, and party schedules. The truth is I don’t know how I did it either. I was playing with fire and I liked how it felt. Not drinking or cutting back on my drinking never occurred to me despite all the trouble and problems I got in. I experienced a lot of guilt and shame over things I had done in blackouts and I felt I had to drink to rid myself of these heavy feelings.

After college I was officially lost. I started to blame life for everything bad that happened to me. I thought I was cursed. I couldn’t make a relationship last or even deal with the simple ups and downs of life. I believed everyone was out to get me. I moved cities and countries looking for a solution to my problem, but it only made it worse. Blackouts became more frequent. The shame, guilt, and self-hate became embedded in my spirit. I had an ex-boyfriend tell me, “Kel, if the things that happen to you, happened to me when I drank, I would never drink again.” There were signs I chose to ignore because I thought my drinking was still a fun, party lifestyle, like society portrays it. I didn’t think addiction could happen to me. I didn’t understand the gray area between okay and not okay.

On May 7, 2013 my life changed forever. The pain had become too great and I knew I needed a change. I tried something I never tried before: quit alcohol and drugs all together. I had no clue what I was doing, but I knew I never wanted to feel the way I felt on those preceding days, ever again. Today, I am living a life beyond my wildest dreams. I just celebrated two years clean and sober and I have never felt so amazing and so grateful. I was terrified of living a life in recovery because chaos had become my norm and the unknown was too scary for me. I didn’t want to call myself an alcoholic because the stigma surrounding the word is too great. Even after I got sober I had friends tell me that I’m not an alcoholic. Today, I say there are much worse things I could be. Discovering my alcohol problem has given me a solution. My solution today is living a life in recovery, and I am out loud and proud.

Millions will never get the help they need and deserve because the stigma of addiction is still widespread.

In my eyes there is nothing to be ashamed of, in fact I am proud. I am one of the lucky ones who chose to face my problem head on and change for the better. Ironically, I now have the freedom I was always searching for. To wake up with inner peace, live a life free from hangovers, and without a cycle of shame and regret, are things I never thought were possible. I didn’t know how good my life could be. Today I am satisfied with just being alive, living in the moment, and cherishing every second of my beautiful life. I am no longer searching to fill the void I once had for so many years. I have a renewed sense of self-respect and I am able to love and be loved. I spent many years citing phrases like, “Live each day like your last!” “You only live once!” and “Young, wild, and free,” when in reality I was living the exact opposite of all of these phrases. Today I finally understand what these phrases mean and I have the will to live them.

In the beginning of my recovery I was extremely lonely and very ashamed. I felt like I was keeping a secret about myself from the world. After I hit one year sober, I decided to share this secret on my blog, the Adventures of a Sober Señorita. I started my blog with the idea that I would write about being a newly sober, young American woman living abroad in Mexico. For the first 5 months of my blog writing I didn’t talk much about being sober. When I celebrated one year I published my infamous 7 Things I Learned During a Year Without Alcohol post that stunned myself and the world by going viral. The reaction and attention I received was completely overwhelming and humbling. I still to this day, continue to receive messages and emails from people all over the world thanking me for sharing my story. I have some people tell me that my blog is the reason they decided to try sobriety and why they’ve experienced continued success. I’ve had people tell me I have saved their lives by speaking out.

I never thought that simply sharing my story would create such a huge impact. The truth is there are millions of addicts and alcoholics out there who are still sick and suffering, contemplating death, and trying to decide if they have a real problem or not. Millions will never get the help they need and deserve because the stigma of addiction is still widespread.

I choose to break the stigma and share my story about how sobriety has worked for me so that others like me will know that there is a way out. You are not destined for a life of chaos and pain. Accepting your addiction and changing your life isn’t the end, it’s the beginning. Living sober does not mean a boring, secluded life of sitting on the sidelines. You can live a fun, sober, and exciting life. I am proof of this. I’ll keep living my truth because I can’t be sober if I’m not authentic, and I’ll encourage others to do the same. Recovery is freedom and I’m grateful I’ve found it.