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Alyson’s Story…

"I don’t remember many details of that evening, but I do remember that after drinking about half of the beer, my social anxiety disappeared. For the first time in years, I felt like I could breathe. I felt like the socially confident child that I used to be. I was able to talk to everyone at the party with ease. I felt like life had been restored and I was who I was meant to be. That night began my love affair with alcohol that lasted 20 years! "

"My journey with alcohol began when I was just 15 years old and a freshman in high school. As a child, I had always been a very social creature and made friends easily. I was very confident in all my abilities and often found myself in various committees at school, as well as
many sporting events. I not only excelled socially and athletically, but academically as well. I always felt like I had a handle on life. That is until I entered Junior High. The dreaded time in everyone’s lives where you are transitioning from child to teenager. Instead of this popular, confident child, I found myself to be strange, awkward, and gawky. At school, I was teased and ridiculed for every decision that I made. I did not transition gracefully through junior high and it resulted in some pretty intense social anxiety. I still excelled athletically and academically, but was a mess socially. I worried about everything and it resulted in physical symptoms such as stomach aches, headaches, and insomnia.

Entering high school was a little easier, but not by much. As a freshman, I not only worried about myself in relation to my classmates, but also to those in the remaining three grades ahead of me. So, when I found myself invited to my very first “party” that was being thrown by much older and more popular classmates, I naturally wanted to go and was also terrified. I went with a few of my friends and felt like a scared nervous mouse hiding in the corner. This is when I was offered to drink my first beer that had been poured into a supersized fast food cup. It didn’t look or smell appealing and the taste was awful. I don’t remember many details of that evening, but I do remember that after drinking about half of the beer, my social anxiety disappeared. For the first time in years, I felt like I could breathe. I felt like the socially confident child that I used to be. I was able to talk to everyone at the party with ease. I felt like life had been restored and I was who I was meant to be. That night began my love affair with alcohol that lasted 20 years!

After that first experience with alcohol, I felt like I needed it in order to be in social situations. I started drinking most weekends when I was out with friends. If a little bit of alcohol made me relax, then I figured a lot of alcohol would make me feel better. Later in my high school career, I would transition from a light-weight drinker to a blackout drunk. None of this scared me into slowing down my alcohol consumption. I thought it was normal to get trashed on the weekend and not remember any of it. I would do really stupid things while being blackout drunk and this would lead to a hit in my self esteem and self worth. The lower my self-esteem fell, the more I drank to cope with my sadness, loneliness, and embarrassment.

By the time I graduated high school, I had destroyed many of my friendships and relationships. I felt horrible about myself and saw college as an opportunity to start fresh. I would be meeting new people who knew nothing about me and would be able to re-connect socially on a clean slate. This lasted about one semester and then the heavy drinking began again. In hindsight, I am able to understand that this had occurred because I learned to use alcohol as my main coping strategy. I still felt like it helped alleviate my social anxiety, but it created so many other issues. Just like in high school, I still excelled athletically and academically. My heavy drinking never interfered with those aspects of my life, but it wreaked havoc on my ability to make friends and meaningful relationships. I attended college for 7 years. I obtained a bachelor’s degree and two graduate degrees. After all that time, I had only made and maintained one good friendship.

I met my husband online while in graduate school and my drinking habits made it hard to connect with his friends and family. They would enjoy me at first, but would then become shocked at my behavior the first time they saw me blackout drunk. When they realized that this was my normal social behavior, they naturally distanced themselves. My husband had always seen me for the good person that I was. He sees me sober more than anyone else and understood that there was this very vulnerable person inside the blackout drunk that hated herself. My husband helped me over the years to slowly build my self-esteem back up and to love myself again. Even though my confidence was higher than it had been in almost a decade, I still continued my heavy drinking because it became a habit. It was something I did when I was sad, mad, happy, and experiencing every other emotion. Alcohol had become my best friend, that never judged me and was always there for me for every occasion. I knew I had to get better control over it, but never saw myself as having a problem. I had a home, loving husband, and excelled in my career.

I did not start to seriously rethink my drinking habits until I was pregnant with my second child and had been drinking steadily for 19 years. Just to be clear, I did not drink with either one of my pregnancies. Not one drop because I knew it could spiral out of control. Having my first
child was a huge life changer and I also experienced relationship issues with my husband. My drinking was mostly reserved in the evenings after my daughter went to bed. I was on a steady course of getting drunk, feeling hungover all the next day, taking a day off, and then starting the cycle over. I had a very hard time getting pregnant with my second child, which of course, made me drink more because I was so sad and frustrated. When I did finally get pregnant, after almost a year of trying, I was forced to put the alcohol down and really think about what was going on. I decided that I needed to make a significant change and that I could not do it on my own. If I didn’t have a plan, I was going to go back to my old behaviors. During my pregnancy, I read a lot of books on becoming sober and memoirs written by those who had experienced the sober journey. I also met regularly with a therapist. We discussed my goals for post pregnancy and worked on developing appropriate coping skills for my anxiety. I worked towards sobriety for those 9 months, all while being forced to be sober.

My second daughter was born in April, right before I turned 35 years old. A few weeks after having her, I thought to myself that since I had done all this sobriety work and had been forced to be sober for 9 months, that just maybe I could moderate my drinking. I was not quite
ready to kick alcohol out of my life entirely. I was able to moderately drink alcohol for the first 3 months of my daughter’s life. I never blacked out or felt like I had consumed way too much. I was able to have a few drinks and stop. I was able to moderate. Unfortunately, I worried about drinking non-stop. Every time I was out and faced with alcohol, I worried about when I would drink, how much I was drinking, if I sounded drunk, and what people would think of a new mom having a few cocktails. It consumed my mind and was driving me insane. For me, this was proof that I was not a moderate drinker and that I needed to make a huge change. At the end of July in 2018 I made the decision to become fully sober and abstain from alcohol completely.

When I began my sober journey, I found that it was not as hard as I thought it would be. I think it is because I had mentally prepared myself for so long before actually taking the plunge. Instead of feeling denied by not drinking alcohol, I feel free and happy to have made the choice. Removing alcohol completely has made me deal with life head on and figure out healthier ways to handle my stress and anxiety. There are times when I wish I could have a cocktail to relax. There are times where I’m on a date with my husband, on vacations, or when life is simply getting me down. When I have these feeling, I reflect on the past and push forward so I don’t have to relive it. I’m a stay-at-home mom to two beautiful girls. They will be turning 5 and 1 years old this coming April. Managing small children, a household, and relationship with my husband can be difficult at times and I have found that I can handle everything much better when I am sober and not hungover. My mind is much sharper and clearer. I’m a better decision maker and my memory had dramatically improved. In addition to my daily struggles, I’ve been able to attend dinners, weddings, parties, holidays, and vacations all completely alcohol free. My husband has said to me multiple times that being sober suits me. I am a better conversationalist, friend, wife, and mother. I’m able to clearly figure out who I am, what I’m interested in, and what soothes my soul in times of need. I have been sober for almost 8 months and I have been enjoying the ride. I’m incredibly thankful to be able to find myself again to truly become the wonderful person that I have always meant to be!"