Before I decided to quit drinking, I was a server and bartender in a restaurant, even though I had dreams of writing and editing. Serving in a restaurant was all I could handle at the time. The short shifts, the flexibility, the mornings off — I needed all of that to maintain my drinking, which was all I could manage to do at the time. 

I also thought that my dream jobs — writing, editing, teaching — were completely out of reach. I’m an introvert with an anxiety disorder. Doing the jobs I wanted meant I’d have to put myself out there in myriad ways, and introverts with anxiety disorders just don’t do that. 

I needed alcohol to quell my anxiety just so I could get through motherhood. I definitely couldn’t add the career I wanted to the mix. In my drinking days, I chose to play it small because I didn’t know there was another option. 

In my drinking days, I chose to play it small because I didn’t know there was another option. 

There was this person I wanted to be; the woman who finished school and lived bravely enough to write her truth and tell the stories of others. The woman who helped other writers tell their truths and grow into their full potential as writers. The woman who stood in front of a college classroom and helped budding journalists grow into their craft. 

And then there was the person I was at the time; the woman who had given up on school because the responsibility was too much. The woman who could only work a restaurant job a few days a week because I couldn’t figure out how to manage a full-time career and my drinking and unchecked emotions simultaneously. 

I couldn’t figure out how to transition from the woman I was to the woman I wanted to be, and at the time, I didn’t realize alcohol was standing in the middle. 

I couldn’t figure out how to transition from the woman I was to the woman I wanted to be, and at the time, I didn’t realize alcohol was standing in the middle. 

And then, after a particularly bad birthday (I ended up puking in my bathroom at 11 pm and had the worst hangover the next day), I decided to give sobriety a try

Over several months, I learned how to live without alcohol as a crutch. As a binge drinker, I didn’t rely on alcohol daily but I did find it necessary to drink to numb myself from the stress of motherhood and from my anxiety. At some point, I’d also started drinking to mask the guilt and shame I felt as a result of not living up to my potential. 

I worked with women who helped me work through my feelings rather than try to bypass them. I learned how to mother my son without having to run from the hard days. I learned that I needed the help of a therapist and a movement practice to work through childhood trauma and coping mechanisms that were no longer serving me. 

I also learned that it was possible to live up to that potential — to go back to school and pursue a career in the field I wanted — now that I was sober. 

Sobriety provided me the tools necessary to walk through my fears and anxiety rather than avoid them. Instead of diving into a bottle to escape fear, I now have the ability to feel fear and move forward anyway. I was provided healthy coping mechanisms like meditation, deep breathing techniques, even prayer. I used those tools to learn what fear felt like in my body, and with a little exposure therapy, I found that I could keep moving forward and do the things that scared me most because those were also the things I wanted most. 

Instead of diving into a bottle to escape fear, I now have the ability to feel fear and move forward anyway.

Today, I teach a course at a local university. I write for publications big and small. I’ve edited at a few publications as well. 

And I’ve done all of it sober. 

I’d never have been able to do these things while drinking because drinking was what stood in the way of my learning how to navigate through the hard and messy parts of life. Going to school while raising a child and working is messy. Teaching a college course online, in the middle of a pandemic, when it’s really meant for in-person learning, is not only hard but requires immense creativity. Writing my truth and publishing that truth— and then dealing with the inevitable backlash of being vulnerable in the internet age— requires courage and conviction.

  

To do these things, I need presence, patience, and consistency — all attributes that evaded me when alcohol was my only tool to cope with life. It was in sobriety, in feeling all of my emotions and learning how to navigate them, that I was able to build the life that I wanted.