Next month marks one full year since I last had a drink. It’s astounding, really, what can change in a year. Everything has changed: who I am, the way I look at life, and who I am becoming. Choosing to live a life without alcohol has been eye opening, challenging, at times soul-wrenching, full of emotional peaks and valleys, and quite possibly the best thing I have ever done for myself.
Here are ten of what I consider to be the most valuable lessons I have learned over the past 341 days:
1. You accomplish the goals you set.
Over the past year I have been able to achieve and exceed every goal I set for myself. I have embarked on a new career. I completed my first ever juice cleanse. I started this blog and have developed my writing. I have been able to meet my financial goals, and I did this by making some incredibly hard decisions. The most difficult of which was selling my car. This allowed me to get significantly ahead in the long run, but it has been one of the hardest things I have ever done. Public transportation is no joke, and neither is having to rely on other people for rides. Learning to depend on others has taught me humility and filled me with gratitude. Luckily, in a few months I will have a brand new car all my own! And damn does that feel great.
2. People’s perception of you will change.
This is OK. I became more quiet. More settled. More calm. More sure of myself. Less willing to compete for attention. I found that on the inside I was thinking much more, and much more in-depth, about anything and everything but I often found myself wanting to keep my thoughts and opinions private. I’ve also learned that new people I meet might think I’m a goody two-shoes, which is just fine with me.
3. It’s not boring.
Just because I have stopped drinking doesn’t mean I have stopped having fun. I still love to go out, socialize, and try new things. It has been refreshing to discover just how much fun I can have without alcohol pushing me along. I laugh more, and genuinely enjoy myself more, than I did when I was guzzling down the booze. Appreciating the moment has become easier and more authentic.
4. You learn not to take the easy way out.
Sobriety isn’t easy. It’s not a walk in the park, and it’s not all rainbows and butterflies. Your problems just don’t disappear because you no longer have alcohol in your life. You feel different from your peers, and many times I have struggled with the feeling that I do not fit in anywhere anymore. This makes you stronger. It makes you wiser. It will change things. In the end, it’s worth it.
5. You learn to trust.
You learn to trust yourself, your decisions, your journey and your story. Being able to trust yourself is invaluable.
6. It will affect your dating life.
It will do this in both a good and a difficult way. Dating without liquid lubricant has been something I have had to make an effort at. I’ve had to confront, and try to heal, the trauma I have experienced in past relationships. Removing alcohol from my life has allowed me to deal with my romantic past head-on, when I used to run from it with every atom of my being. This has been incredibly healing and restorative. However, it has made casual dating practically impossible for me and I have simultaneously discovered I am not quite ready for all that comes with a serious relationship. I have learned that temporary situations no longer give me any thrill, and I would rather hold out for the one that is worth my time and heart than fill the in-between with a superficial relationship. I value my independence and alone time.
7. Your friendships will flourish.
The appreciation I have for the friends in my life is indescribable. I have met a few key people over this past year that I know will be my friends for the rest of my life. I have been able to build on my existing friendships. This is one of the greatest gifts I could ever receive. I have learned how to be a better friend by becoming less selfish and less self-seeking, and this has invited wondrous change into my world.
8. You’ll have more energy.
Much of the time, I feel like the Energizer Bunny. I’m more alert, more aware, and more open to what the Universe throws at me. Every day feels like a fresh start. I start my day at 5am, maintain two jobs in a six day work week, try to incorporate an active lifestyle, do my best to weave a healthy amount of self-care into my schedule, and somehow balance this all without my own vehicle to get me places. Lord knows I wouldn’t have been able to do that while drinking. God bless sobriety.
9. It will cultivate your sense of self.
I have learned an incredible amount about myself during this time, and continue to discover new things every day. I am more sure of myself, less critical, more embracing of the present, and full of confidence and hope. In short, I have learned to like me again.
10. You HAVE to embrace the whimsy.
Sometimes I miss the old me. Sometimes I miss the partying, the craziness, and the reckless abandon. I have found it’s important to cultivate my whimsy side fairly regularly to maintain my sanity. I do this by losing myself in music, dancing like nobody is watching in the middle of the dance floor, having deep and heartfelt conversations with complete strangers, and nursing my sweet tooth.
If you would like to know more about my journey or this past year, please email me or post a comment below! I would love to hear you share about your own personal journey and experiences!