The past two years haven’t been easy for anyone. And the billion-dollar wellness industry continues to remind us daily that it’s here to help by aggressively producing and advertising endless amounts of new products, podcasts and apps waiting to enlighten us on our paths to becoming the best versions of ourselves.
One term that’s been trending in more and more wellness-centric headlines these days is sobriety. And it makes sense, right? But just like the controversial term “success,” sobriety holds a unique level of nuance and stigma in our society depending on who you’re speaking with. If you’re talking to me, I would say that sobriety saved my life.
I find myself audibly cackling whenever I go down the rabbit hole of recalling the year 2020, also known as the worst year of my life. Not because anything about it is funny. But because of how sci-fi the entire saga seems to me.
My ultimate low that year — amidst the start of an indefinite pandemic and that fever dream of a presidential election — arrived in early June when I received the news that my mother had suddenly passed away. Depressing details aside, I don’t remember what I thought grief was before I got that call. But the days following the initial shock all the way up to this moment have had me earnestly and endlessly trying to wrap my head around the science of grief and pursuing tactics to anchor the very present singular pain I’m still navigating.
One remedy I quickly discovered provided me with the sweetest amounts of relief and that I found myself holding onto tighter than anything else I had ever held in this entire world was my relationship with alcohol.
That last statement took me a very long time to admit.
Alcohol has played a role in nearly every formative experience in my twenties and into my thirties, like the majority of my peers. From celebrating personal and professional successes to wallowing in the depths of my most epic failures, I consistently counted on alcohol to put me in the right headspace to get through every notable moment.
But as I began navigating the trenches of grief, my mental health was transported into what felt like a Black Mirror episode. Plus meme culture had officially declared it more than appropriate to start drinking as early as possible (because time doesn’t exist when you’re home all day). So in a very short amount of time, my friendship with alcohol became a bona fide love affair.
Now I could disclose every juicy detail of this sordid affair that eventually led to my ultimate rock-bottom moment, but unless you have a million-dollar book deal ready for me, I’m not going to. What I will tell you is that after suffering through a very long period of denial and trial-and-error by myself, I realized that asking for help was the only way any change could possibly happen — and that was in fact the most daunting part of the entire situation.
Would I be judged or labeled as something I wasn’t?
Am I just looking for attention?
Have I failed?
Through some major self-examination and the support of therapy, I’ve learned that I’ve conditioned myself to believe that asking for help is, on some level, a failure. I don’t blame my parents or anyone specific for instilling this in me. Frankly, I have no clue as to when I began thinking this way. But I have come to recognize that this mindset has really hindered my ability to understand the positive impacts asking for help can have.
I can confidently say that I would not have found sobriety without the willingness and openness that asking for help has afforded me. The act of asking for help is a skill that requires equal amounts of humility, courage and understanding, and it allows us to have a more active relationship with the unpredictable moving parts of change and growth. Honestly, asking for help is the most human thing anyone can do.
As I’m writing this, I’m officially 200 days sober. This very much remains a one-day-at-a-time type of journey. It’s something I’m learning to become more and more grateful for each day, and I’m just starting to see the rewards from the hard self-work I’ve invested in: a more solid marriage, good friendships, better health, consistent sleeping patterns, liking the person I see in the mirror a bit more, and the like.
Is sobriety easy? Hell no. Do I miss drinking alcohol? 100%. Do I find myself better without it? Without a doubt. And that simple piece of knowledge is what I choose to meditate on and choose for myself each and every day. Health is wealth. And wealth is power. So I’ll toast to that.