For those of you who don’t know, in a little less than a month, as of Oct 11, 2016 I will be 4 years sober. I HATE saying I’m sober. I HATE saying I am an alcoholic. The words SOBER, ADDICT, and ALCOHOLIC are shame based words, I physically see people cringe and without being able to help it judge when I say them.
Addict is a strong word linked to a lot of judgement. When I was drinking I would often tell myself, No way I’m an alcoholic “it’s not like I’m drinking everyday,” until the anxiety got so bad I was. I would compare myself to people who had “real drinking problems” and I justified my behavior by saying, “I only really drink on the weekends.” The people I surrounded myself with thought nothing of it. I was “fun”, the life of the party, and no one over questioned my out of control actions. Everyone just thought I was loud, crazy and fun, but no one ever saw that aftermath. The anxiety and the depression so deep I would call in sick to work, cancel my clients, not leave the apartment and completely hide from the world.
One weekend I attended a seminar with one of my favorite trainers, Todd Durkin. He started talking about how so many people are living double lives. They tell people one thing and actually themselves are living the complete opposite. The date was 10–11–12 and he said, “In order to be a leader, you must be the example.”
On that day my life changed, I came to terms with my toxic anchor. I realized I was doing everything I could to be accepted by everyone, because I didn’t accept myself. I had lived my life with the label of being the wild child, the black sheep of my family. I told myself, if I was going to have that label, I would accept the role and play the part like a star. The truth though, I wasn’t the black sheep, I wasn’t a wild child, I gave myself those labels. I was just scared of finding out who I really was without anything to hide behind.
I called my business partner the next day and asked him to go on a run. It was early morning and the sun had not even come up and as we were running up Carrillo hill I stopped midway and said something I’ve never said before. It was something I had known my entire life, but avoided saying it out loud in fear of rejection, judgment or abandonment. I said, “Stephen, I am an alcoholic.” He responded with tears in his eyes, “it’s about time. Now that you’ve said it, let’s move forward.” There was never any judgement or shame only forward momentum.
None of this is easy. Making a change, sticking it through, writing this blog, it’s all hard. Change and openness is not easy and it’s why most of us go back to what we know. It’s just easier to give in. Whenever I thought of giving up alcohol I would ask myself, how will I ever meet anyone? Who wants to go on a date with someone who can’t have a glass of wine? How will I ever go on vacation, celebrate birthdays, go to parties, holidays, survive my family without alcohol?! It’s overwhelming to think of everything you have to give up, and the mere thought of giving up alcohol usually made me drink!
I remember some conversations I had with friends who couldn’t understand the thought of me not drinking. One friend saying, “I don’t understand why you just can’t have one or two drinks, I just don’t get it.” Then another friend saying, “you can’t trust people who don’t drink.” A couple years later that same friend called and wanted help quitting his addiction to soda. We don’t have to understand people’s personal struggles. What we do have to understand is that we are all struggling, and other peoples struggles are not better or worse than our own.
Here is the truth, We are all fighting something. Alcohol, drugs, shopping, food, gambling, porn, people pleasing, and yes soda; these are all the same thing. Anything we do to avoid feeling our own reality, anything we do that doesn’t make us our best selves all gets us to the same finish line…. An unfulfilled life. When we don’t accept who we are and when there is a void of self-love and self-acceptance we look to “other” ways and other people to fill it. You can NOT get from other people what you aren’t willing to give yourself. It’s time we stop filling our voids and start loving who we are. I’m still loud, fun-loving, and super fun, but now it’s on my terms. I love who I am and I love where my life is going because I no longer sit in the passenger seat, I’m the one driving the car.
This blog is meant to inspire you. I’m giving you permission (not that you need it) to know that whatever you are going through it’s not to big or too small. Whatever you’re fighting, if it’s holding you down, holding you back, if in your gut you know you are better than this, here is the moment you can cut the rope to your toxic anchor. It won’t be easy but it will be worth it. There is a direct correlation to the happiness and success of my life today and that decision I made 4 years ago. Love who you are and realize that your happiness is more important than making other people happy. It will change everything. I am so grateful to be on the other side of this and to know that what I used to think I was giving up, is what was truly holding me back.
I love all of you, thank you for letting me tell my story.
ALIVE and LIVING,
Originally published at medium.com