4 months sober

Today, I am 4 months sober/alcohol free. I’ve hit quite a few milestones over the last 120 days but this one hits me differently. This won’t be a long blog post because I’m not quite sure how to even put what I’m feeling into words. I can’t quite put my finger on the exact feeling but I do know one thing: I am feeling an overwhelming amount of gratitude.

Maybe because it’s a foreign feeling. Something I only dreamed of. A feeling that I thought only other people could feel. You see, I was filled with so much shame and self hate for SO long that I didn’t know how to be proud of myself.

Pride: {noun} a feeling or deep pleasure or satisfaction derived from one’s own achievements, the achievements of those with whom one is closely associated, or from qualities or possessions that are widely admired.

That’s it. Pride. This is what I’m feeling.

Making the decision to get sober at the age of 27 goes against everything I’ve been conditioned to believe. I thought only people who went to detox centers or ended up on the show Intervention got sober. I knew that alcohol would have to be out of my life in order for my mental health to improve. I chose life and I’ll choose it over and over again.

I didn’t lose a single thing by giving up alcohol besides hangovers and the paralyzing “hangxiety” and shame. I gained more than I could have ever hoped for by saying goodbye to alcohol.

It’s been about finding myself after years of constantly losing pieces of myself. It’s about the self worth and self respect that I have for myself now. It’s about actually being able to look in the mirror. It’s about healing from years of pain, shame and trauma. It’s about being uncomfortable and making the choice to sit with those feelings. It’s about putting in the work when I leave my therapists’ office. It’s about healthy coping mechanisms that include mindfulness, breathing and meditation.

It’s about being present for every single moment in my life.

It’s about coming home to myself.

I want to feel it all because it means I am alive.

It means I am human.

Sparkling waters > Alcohol

I have been alcohol free for 58 days and I don’t have any intentions of adding it back into my life anytime soon. I have not only lost 17 pounds since January but I have also deepened my love for seltzer waters!

These are some of my favorites that I wanted to share with you! These are in no particular order because I LOVE them all.

1.) Polar Seltzer’ade- my obsession with seltzers began with Polar waters over 3 years ago!

“Bubbles with the charm of your favorite lemonade, but none of the guilt!” -Polar

No juice, no sweeteners and no sugar! And the taste of these seltzers are just an added bonus. So refreshing, light and crisp. These remind me of summer all year round. There are eight flavors to choose from and I can report back that they are all AMAZING.

2.) Bubly

“No calories. No sweeteners. All smiles”. -Bubly

Bubly offers 15 flavors. I have tried: pineapple, watermelon, blackberry, strawberry, cherry, cranberry, raspberry and lime! I have found that they are flavorful and have just enough “bubbles”. The Bubly website is very user friendly and they offer cocktail and mocktail recipes!

3.) Spindrift

“America’s first sparkling water made with just real squeezed fruit. Yup, that’s it”. – Spindrift

Now this one is a little different but I LOVE it! Spindrift is made with real fruit. You can totally tell too because the flavors taste real. The colors of these drinks are beautiful and I feel like I am treating my body with care when I drink them. I also enjoy adding fresh fruit to my Spindrift drinks! Lemon, lime and raspberry lime are my favorite Spindrift flavors.

4.) AHA

“AHA’s new flavored sparkling water pairs familiar flavors in unexpected ways for a uniquely delightful, flavor-forward experience.” -AHA

Now this is a new one for me but it quickly became a favorite in our household. There are eight flavors to choose from! Blueberry and pomegranate is my FAV! I can’t wait to try more flavors because this girl is a fan of AHA!

5.) S. Pellegrino

“S.Pellegrino is the finest sparkling natural mineral water.” – S. Pellegrino

The first time I tried S. Pellegrino was in Aruba at an Italian restaurant. I couldn’t believe how hydrating and refreshing it was. The best part is that it didn’t make me feel like I was missing out on a glass of wine. I recently stocked up on S. Pellegrino for the nights that I feel like being “fancy”. They offer flavored waters that are also amazing!

I would love to hear from you and what your favorite sparkling waters are. I am always on the hunt for new seltzers to add into my alcohol free life!

Doing a dry January turned into so much more than I ever expected…

I stared at the blinking cursor for 10 minutes before I started typing. I have been hesitant to share this part of my journey because the what-will-people-think part of my brain holds me back. But here’s the thing: I have “met” so many amazing people online that are either sober, mindful drinkers or sober curious like me. Having conversations with them has made me feel less alone and that is always my goal with sharing my journey. That you might feel less alone…

So here we go!

Alcohol and food became hot topics early on in my therapy sessions. My vices. How I learned to cope over the years. We all have them. I have definitely used food more to numb out but alcohol takes a close second.

My relationship with both food and alcohol got tremendously better when I started therapy last year. We started working through a lot of the shame that I was feeling. I became so committed to my healing journey that I was always looking for ways to push myself out of my comfort zone. To be the best version of myself that I could be because I was tired of simply just existing.

Something that I was thinking about for months finally stumbled out of my mouth in one of my therapy sessions. “I want to see what happens if I stop drinking for a while”. I had been practicing mindfulness for months at this point and I was now SO aware of how alcohol made me feel the next 2-5 days after consuming it.

I was hardly drinking at this point but I knew that it was still holding me back from fully healing and learning to truly cope. Could it really be playing that big of a role in my anxiety and depression?

Of course it was! Alcohol can easily take away any stress or anxiety for the night but you better believe it’s going to come back ten times worse the next day especially if you already have an anxiety disorder. It’s called “hangxiety” and it is a very real thing.

One night of drinks, turned into 5 days of paralyzing anxiety, turned into eating foods that made me feel crappy, turned into not exercising, turned into damaging thoughts, turned into more anxiety and shame. The cycle that I was in was a nasty one and it was up to me to end it.

January 1st was when I made the decision. I was sitting at my kitchen table with my best friend and I told her that I was going to do a dry January. I told my mom and my husband. I kept my support system small in the beginning because I was terrified of being judged for not drinking.

Crazy right? Alcohol is a drug. It can be so damaging to a human’s mental and physical health but people will still question why you don’t drink (this is a story for another time).

The only thing I knew about doing a dry January was that you stop drinking for the entire month. I had NO idea that the mental and physical results would be so life changing. I didn’t think that being alcohol free would go beyond January either. I felt alive and I didn’t want that feeling to stop so I continued.

I have been alcohol free for 95 out of 97 days this year. Currently 50 consecutive days. I have learned SO much about myself during this time. I am actually working towards a life that I’ve always wanted.

Physical results of being alcohol free: I have lost a total of 15 pounds since January 1st. I workout 5-7 days a week and fuel my body with foods that make me feel good. Not to mention, my skin is clearer than ever and my gut feels like it’s working properly for once thanks to replacing wine with kombucha.

Mental results? Mind blowing. I am less anxious and my depression doesn’t come around as often. My self esteem is higher because I feel strong and confident in my body again. There is no doubt that my overall mental well- being has benefited the most from going alcohol free.

I am a better person because of my journey. I am a better wife, friend, daughter, sister and co-worker. It hasn’t been easy. Far from it actually. I am still grieving the old parts of my life, the old me. I am learning to be uncomfortable in social situations but also realizing that I am not going to die…even though it feels like it sometimes.

Choosing to live fully awake is hard friggen work. You also realize how BEYOND normalized alcohol is in our culture when you take a step back. I have become aware of the trap that has gotten me hundreds of times. Stressed out? Drink. Want to have fun? Drink. Bored? Drink. Want to forget? Drink. Red wine is actually good for you so drink-it-up kinda stuff. Anxiety? Yeah, definitely drink.

I am not sure if being alcohol free is going to be a “forever” thing. I can’t think like that anyways because I am only focused on today. Today, I am alcohol free. My goal is to be able to manage my anxiety and feelings without food or substances. To be able to walk into a room and feel safe, confident and present in my body. This might take me months or years. All I know is that it is going to be my 110% my choice.

I will be turning 28 next month and I can finally say that I’m proud of the person I am becoming (best b-day gift ever). 28 will be the year that I step into what the Universe has been wanting for me all these years. I am so ready.

I’m here to tell you that it is okay to want more for yourself. It’s okay to put yourself first for once. The unknown is terrifying. Trust me, I get it. Please forgive yourself for whatever keeps you up at night. You don’t need to keep punishing yourself. You are human and your past does not define you. I wish someone would have told me that a little sooner.

You really do know yourself better than anyone else. That gut feeling you feel? Listen to it. That’s your very own built in spiritual guide. It knows. Don’t ask me how, it just does…

Therapy saved my life

When I started therapy for the 100th time last year, I knew that it was going to be different. It HAD to be different this time. I had been in therapy ever since I was 12 years old. I saw psychologists, psychiatrists and social workers throughout my teenage years. I even spent 4 weeks in an eating disorder treatment center so I was no stranger to therapy.

It had to be different this time…it just did.

When I walked through her doors last March, I truthfully hated myself and felt like I was the biggest mistake to walk this earth. I had no idea how to stop the painful and scary thoughts that consumed 90% of my days. The worse part is that I questioned my worthiness multiple times a day.

I didn’t realize how ill my mind was until I shared with her how much my heart and soul were hurting. How I was tired of pretending that I was okay. How the anxiety and depression had a solid grip around my neck. How I was getting tired of fighting the constant war in my mind. How I felt sad most of the time.

My therapist immediately picked up on the shame shit storm I was living in. She listened. She let me cry. She helped me understand the shame and we worked together to find the source. My deepest darkest thoughts were shared within those 4 walls and that’s where they will stay. She not only created a safe space for me but met me with compassion and empathy, not judgement.

60 therapy sessions have come and gone over the past year and I can honestly tell you that I am not the same person that I was a year ago. Actually, far from it. If there is one thing I am proud of…it’s not giving up on myself. My heart and soul have healed more than I could have ever imagined. I smile and laugh now because I’m happy. I don’t need to pretend anymore.

Was it easy? Hell no. It involved me owning my shit and looking at the ugliest parts of my being (yes, we all have them). It required practicing mindfulness, meditating every day, creating a strong morning routine and BREATHING. I had to learn how to do what was best for me and not care what people MIGHT think about me (*still working on this).

I had to starting retraining my thought process so that I could truly heal, grow and change. I had to learn how to sit with uncomfortable feelings instead of numbing out with food or alcohol. It looked more like Friday-Sunday numbing for me. I took this part very seriously and have now been 100% alcohol free for almost 50 days.

If there is one thing I learned it’s that I am a highly sensitive, introverted human that is just trying her best. I have an understanding of my true self for the first time ever and I am actually starting to like who I am. I have more work to do but I can’t wait to see what growth comes out of the next 60 sessions.

My therapist would say that she didn’t save my life. She would say “Emma, you saved your own life”. I beg to differ. I can’t help to think that without her and therapy, my life might look a whole look different.

I share my story in hopes that you might not feel so alone. I’m here to tell you that it’s okay to ask for what your heart and soul need. Maybe it’s therapy. Maybe it’s reaching out to a friend. Maybe it’s setting new boundaries. Maybe it’s meditating or writing. Maybe you aren’t ready for therapy and that’s OKAY.

After all, we are all just trying our best to find our place in this world. I see you and I hear. If I could grab your hand and hold it tight, I would. We are in this together.

Your mental health is just as important as your physical health if not more important (yes, I said it). Take care of your mind because it’s the only one you get.

P.S. To all the therapists, social workers and mental health professionals: I cannot thank you enough. You are angels walking on earth. I truly believe that.

A letter to my 12 year old self

My therapist asked me to write a letter to my 12 year old self because I still associate with my younger self. We are working on sending her love and setting her free. Writing this letter was one of the most painful yet most beautiful things that I have ever done.

A lot of my behaviors, thought patterns and feelings come from my childhood because there is a part of me that is stuck there. For example: being a people pleaser and searching for my worth in other people developed when I was a child. This is a huge obstacle that I am currently overcoming but for the first time EVER…I am able to define and see my own worth.

This is an unedited, raw letter that I wrote. I am sharing because I want to be transparent as I heal and grow throughout my journey in hopes of helping others. If you feel like there is a “young child” that still lives within you…I highly encourage you to write a letter to that child. Send them love and set them free.

Dear Emma,

These are the things that I want that 12 year old girl to know:

1.) You are beautiful just the way you are. Society will try and convince you otherwise. Sadly, you are a victim of manipulation. You are told that you can’t be beautiful unless you are a size 0. You can’t be happy unless you have the best clothes and toys. And you will never be good “enough” unless you look a certain way. You feel unworthy most days but this isn’t your fault Emma. After all, you are only 12 and no one was there to tell you otherwise because they were also fed the same lies from society.

2.) Other kids call you names like fat, cow, pig. I wish that I could hug you because those things are far from the truth. The bullies hurt you over and over again but you remained kind and your heart remained big through it all. Those bullies were hurting and it was never about you. It was about them.

3.) You will begin searching for your worth in other people. This will send you down a dangerous path as you get older but I forgive you for not knowing better. You gave pieces of yourself to people who never deserved it. You said things just to make people happy even though you knew it was wrong. You tried so hard to fit in but again…you were only a child.

4.) You have one of the most beautiful hearts that I have ever known. You feel things deeply and are very sensitive. I want you to embrace this part of you because it is nothing to be ashamed of.

5.) The boys you like reject you over and over again. You wonder if there is something wrong with you. There isn’t. They are also taught from a young age to desire a certain type of girl. You are beautiful and there will be a guy that will make you feel all those “fuzzy” feelings one day.

6.) You feel fearful of the real world. Your mind plays tricks on you and most nights you can’t fall asleep without your mom laying next to you. She loves you so much.

7.) You have an anxiety disorder that you stay quiet about. You know that something is wrong and the way you’re feeling can’t be right. You are just a child so you stay quiet because you can’t bear the thought of being judged. Instead you turn to food, nail biting and hair pulling. I love you for trying your best to make it through each day. You are so brave.

8.) I’m 27 years old now and finally dealing with all the pain I faced in my childhood. I want you to know that I love you but I’m ready to set you free. I’m ready to set the pain free too. You will always be a part of my journey but you no longer serve a purpose in my life.

I will always love you.

-Emma

Mental Illness Does Not Discriminate

I have debated hitting the publish button on this blog post for over a month now. The fear of what people would think about me held me back and I just couldn’t find the courage to share it until now. Being vulnerable is SCARY. I recently watched Brené Brown’s special on Netflix called “the Call to Courage” and it rocked my world. By watching this special, I was able to see my vulnerability as an advantage and not something to be ashamed of.

I have made the decision to own my messy, imperfect and beautiful mental health journey. I have recently stepped inside of the arena and I am fighting my demons one by one. Facing emotional pain that I haven’t touched in years means that my ass is most definitely getting kicked but I’m choosing courage over comfort. And here is my story:

The word mental illness can carry such a heavy daunting stigma in our society. It can leave people feeling like there is something wrong with them, which then leads to shame, guilt and loneliness. People would rather isolate themselves or suppress their feelings in order to avoid judgement.

But here is the truth: most of us have struggled with mental health at some point in our lives and we decided to stay quiet about it. We choose comfort over speaking our truth. We stay quiet because we feel “crazy” for what we may be thinking or feeling. REALITY CHECK: we are not crazy, broken or unworthy. We are HUMAN.

You might be thinking…“Emma, how do you know this?”

Well I know this because mental illness has been my reality for many years. Looking at me, you would think that I’m a healthy 26 year old woman. You can’t see my brain or hear my thoughts so you have no idea that I have been diagnosed with three mental illnesses over the course of my life. My health chart would say: Anxiety Disorder, Depression and an Eating Disorder.

I have decided to share my story in hopes to help others find their voice. To help others feel like they are NOT alone. I am sharing my story to help end the stigma that I have put upon myself over the past 20 years because ending the stigma starts with US. I also want others to know that recovery IS possible.

I first realized that I was different when I was in elementary school. I had irrational fears such as my parents dying or being kidnapped from my own home. My thoughts were obsessive, scary and uncontrollable. My mom had to sleep with me most nights in order for both of us to get a good nights rest. I would try and sleep over at friends’ house to only end up in tears by 10pm and begging to go home. The anxiety consumed my childhood leaving me to feel like I was broken.

At a young age, I figured out that food helped calm my anxiety. It made the “yucky” feelings go away but only for a short time. Food made me feel safe just like my mom did when I woke up screaming and crying from a nightmare. I ended up weighing 230 pounds by the time I was 15 years old. I was taller than most of my peers, boys didn’t like me “that way” and I was shopping in the women’s plus size section when all my friends were shopping at Abercrombie and Fitch.

I was bullied for the way I looked. I was called a pig, cow, fat, and “big girl”…just to name a few. One kid even put me in a choke hold because he knew that I wouldn’t stand up for myself. I can still feel his arm wrap around my neck as he laughed a laugh that I’ll never forget. I was prey to anyone that was hurting enough to hurt others.

I lost 80+ pounds in less than a year during my sophomore year of high school. I became obsessed with the number on the scale and how small I could get my body. People were calling me beautiful for the first time ever and boys actually liked me! As a 16 year old girl, you can imagine how confusing these messages were. I was willing to do just about anything to make sure that the attention continued.

I was diagnosed with bulimia nervosa and depression by the age of 16. I was sick both physically and mentally. I spent 4 weeks in an eating disorder clinic to only relapse the day after I was discharged. I was terrified of gaining weight and becoming the “big girl” again. I battled my eating disorder for 7 years before feeling like I finally had a strong grip on it.

I went to college feeling broken, lost and 100% unworthy. I discovered that alcohol could help me feel comfortable in my skin but that’s a story for another time. I began to question my own life and experienced passive suicidal ideation. It is an understatement to say that I was in a dark place for years and this might come as a surprise to some. I got extremely good at putting a smile on my face even when my heart was hurting.

As I got older my irrational fears shifted. I became obsessively worried with what people thought about me and I became a chronic people pleaser (I am still working on this). I gave ALL the love and kindness to everyone except myself. I figured that putting everyone before myself would solve the feeling of not being enough.

But boy was I wrong…very wrong. By the age of 25, my anxiety was at an all time high. People would tell me to think positive thoughts or that I just needed to stop worrying. YEAH OKAY, stop worrying? What they didn’t know was that it’s not that simple because anxiety is such a complex illness.

I was second guessing every conversation and obsessively thinking about things from the past. I would beat myself up for things that I did YEARS ago. I was giving up opportunities because I felt like I wasn’t worthy of them. I would have days where I felt a rush of happiness and others where I couldn’t get myself out of bed. I was confused, sad, happy, and anxious all at the same time.

I turn 27 next week and I can truthfully say that I am in a place of finally allowing myself to heal. I have been working with an incredible therapist twice a week and have opened up about painful feelings that are deeply rooted in me. It will take time to quiet the anxiety and to rewrite the untrue stories that I have been telling myself for years. The difference is that I am hopeful for once. I am hopeful that I will finally start living my life without feeling paralyzed by fear and anxiety.

Mental illness does not discriminate. I grew up in an amazing family with loving parents. We had a beautiful house with a barn, pond and endless amounts of land to explore. They gave me the world and yet I struggled through every stage of my life. Is it genetics? Life experiences? Brain chemistry? Whatever it may be, I know that mental illness will not win and that I will come out of this stronger than ever.

My goal is to share more about my mental health journey through writing. If you are struggling, please don’t ever feel like you are alone. I’m here if you ever need someone to talk too. There are 46.6 million people in the United States living with a mental illness (National of Institute Mental Health). Let that sink in. WE are not alone and together we can create change. Let’s be vulnerable, courageous and imperfect together.