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Sobriety

1 Year Sober: Sobriety + Mental Illness

As I sit here reflecting on my journey towards sobriety, I still can’t believe I’ve made it to my 1 year milestone. It’s crazy as hell! Originally I quit drinking in an attempt to conquer my crippling colitis symptoms and it definitely provided me with some immediate relief. I had always known I was a raging alcoholic but up until last year was not willing to face my addiction and alter my lifestyle. 

Numbing my pain meant I could mask my trauma and avoid dealing with a lot of deep rooted insecurities and abuse. It wasn’t until the spring of 2019 that I decided I’d had enough. I honestly didn’t know what to expect or how I was going to get there. All I knew was that I needed to make a drastic lifestyle change in order to course correct and pave a new path for myself. 

Within the first 30 days I noticed an alarming amount of physical changes starting to take place. My acne had improved and there was a natural glow to my skin that didn’t previously exist. The wrinkles around my eyes started to disappear and the extra fluff I had been carrying on my lower stomach was completely gone! I was in shock watching my body transform in such a short amount of time.

As my self confidence began to increase, I was finally able to acknowledge the damage I had been putting my body through for the last 10 years. Realizing that I had been willingly poisoning myself for so long was exactly the wakeup call I needed to keep on going. 

Vanity aside, I wasn’t the least bit prepared for the mental clarity that followed my new lifestyle. For the first couple of weeks I struggled with my depression and found it extremely difficult to get out of bed in the morning. It wasn’t easy by any means but I knew that these feelings were temporary which allowed me to push through them. One day at a time. 

These last 12 months have taught me a LOT about myself and my mental illness. Cutting out alcohol has impacted my life in SO many positive ways that I can’t even imagine reverting back to substance abuse as a means to cope with my bipolar and anxiety. 

Below are 4 ways that sobriety has positively impacted my day to day life and decreased the crippling symptoms associated with my bipolar and generalized anxiety disorder. 

Increased Cognitive Function 

I’m sure most of you can relate to the brain fog that follows a heavy night of drinking. I’ll never forget the day I woke up in my bed with no recollection of how I’d gotten there. My girlfriend and I had attended her best friend’s birthday party the night before and the last thing I could remember was hanging from the railings of the party bus twerking…I vaguely recall falling into a pile of her cousin’s vomit after that and the rest of the night went black #blackoutboulevard

I immediately started to panic and woke up my girlfriend with a million questions. What happened last night? How did we get home? Why does it feel like someone hit me in the back of the head with a hammer?

Well as the story goes, it would appear I threw myself into a snowbank and tried to drive a limo into our house. Thankfully the limo driver was able to pull the keys out of the ignition before Karen (my drunk alter ego) was able to do any serious damage.

“Could you imagine?” he screamed in utter disbelief. Yes sir, yes I can imagine. 

That night I wasn’t thinking clearly. I had downed a two-six of Bombay to myself over the course of 3 hours and am fortunate that I didn’t hurt myself or anyone else in the process. 

I no longer wake up unable to remember the night before. My memory has returned and I’ve learned how to respond vs react. 

The increased mental clarity has been such a beautiful gift! One I wouldn’t trade for anything in the world. 

Stabilized Mood 

For as long as I can remember, the highs and lows of my bipolar have felt like a never ending emotional rollercoaster. More often than not, I would find myself highly irritable, overly sensitive or completely withdrawn when masking my mental illness with alcohol. 

One night on my way home from the club, I had gotten into an argument with my ex and decided to jump out of the car at a red light. I woke up 3 hours later after having passed out by a tree on the side of the road, lost my phone, and wasn’t entirely sure how I’d wound up there. Karen wasn’t a beautiful trainwreck, she was just a hot mess!

After a few months alcohol free, I noticed my overall anxiety and mood fluctuations started to stabilize. My nights no longer involved me curled up on the couch sobbing while slamming back one too many double G&T’s. I could actually process my emotions and react accordingly when triggered. 

Turns out I’m not the hostile and aggressive person I thought I was and I no longer wake up feeling guilty for having lashed out at people during a blackout. It’s been a real treat! 

@charles_finnie_photography

Decreased Stress 

One of the most rewarding byproducts of sober living is the decrease in my stress levels. Not only is alcohol insanely expensive when you’re consuming as much of it as I was, but it also attracts a certain kind of crazy. I had become so used to vibrating on such an intense frequency that I couldn’t imagine what life might be like without the chaos and toxic relationships I’d cultivated. 

During the Vancouver Pride Festival in 2017, Karen attended a very boujee pool party with her fellow dancers. We’d danced in the parade for over 2 hours and were ready to let loose and have some fun! 

Don’t get me wrong, we certainly had a good time…from what I can remember. At least until I woke up 15 hours later projectile vomiting everywhere. I had never experienced this kind of hangover in my entire life! I was sweating profusely and so weak I could barely move…

After contacting a few of the girls I realized we’d actually been date raped by someone at the party. I’ve never felt so violated! Who were these people I’d managed to surround myself with and how had I made it out in one piece? Mixing drugs with alcohol can oftentimes be fatal and I’m SO fortunate that nothing more serious occurred that day. 

You see, these aren’t things I have to worry about anymore. My stress levels and anxiety have decreased substantially knowing that I’m of sound enough mind to avoid unsafe people and situations. Chaos is a distant memory rather than my life anthem and I intend to keep it that way. 

Strengthened Relationships 

Let me just start off by saying I am in no way surprised that I attracted extremely unhealthy friends and partners into my life over the years. Addicts seek out other addicts to justify their behaviour and fuel their addiction. All of my friends drank an alarming amount, my ex spent his weekends doing blow behind my back for 4 years, and I couldn’t attend any sort of social function without downing a bottle of wine before leaving the house. 

Shortly after moving to Vancouver, I became friends with my hairdresser. She was also from Edmonton and we would spend countless hours chatting over wine, having dinner, or drinking at the beach. Looking back on it now, alcohol was always present when we got together regardless of the time of day. Our dependency on alcohol brought us together and led me to confuse addiction with friendship. 

When my ex and I split up, I found out that she had started hanging out with her behind my back. She immediately became defensive and dismissed my feelings when I approached her on the matter, continued to spend time with someone she knew had caused me a great deal of pain, and eventually took to lashing out at me on social media. Blocked, blocked and blocked!

Alcohol clouded my judgement in the friends department. Within a year of sobriety I’ve managed to cut all ties with the enablers in my life and start manifesting genuine connections with like minded people! We love each other, inspire growth, and enjoy quality time spent sipping tea and creating beautiful art. What’s not to love about that?

I can honestly say that substance abuse ruined my life. It put a wedge in my relationships and left me feeling disconnected from my loved ones and myself. Eventually the damage became so severe, that I couldn’t even recognize myself anymore! It was time to lay Karen to rest. 

RIP Karen

I’ve learned that in order to thrive without the use of prescription medication, sobriety is an absolute must for those of us struggling with our mental health. Bipolar specifically, is caused by a chemical imbalance in the brain. Adding alcohol to the mix can increase manic and depressive episodes and result in erratic behaviour and impulsive decision making. 

Sobriety increases cognitive function, stabilizes your mood, decreases stress levels, and strengthens your relationships. It is the catalyst to freedom and peace of mind for us addicts.

365 days later and I can proudly say that alcohol no longer controls my life. I do. 

Recovery is an ongoing battle. But I can assure you, you’re worth the fight. 

xoxo

Beautiful Train Wreck

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