No girl wants to be “that girl.”
When I look back on the last 20 years of my life, as hazy as they are, it’s clear to me that all I wanted was for people to like me. I measured that by how much attention I got. As a teenager, I struggled with my identity; not able to find my place. Popular, athletic, smart – none of these words fit.
I went off to college, fell into a crowd of partiers, and finally felt like I belonged. It was there that I developed a very toxic relationship with alcohol.
I thought I made the most out of my college experience spending all of my time around a keg in a packed basement. Those four years full of pot smoke, noise, and several visits to a jail cell. I earned the nickname, “Crazy Karen,” and lived up to my reputation. The next day I would feel sick and be filled with shame and anxiety.
When I graduated and started working, I found a crowd of friends/colleagues who liked to party as much as I did. My philosophy became “work hard, play hard,” and I thought I was living a successful life.
I believed alcohol helped me relax; that as long as I was able to function the next day, spending my nights drunk was okay.
But I wasn’t functioning.
Even after a few failed marriages and the birth of my kids, it still didn’t occur to me that my lifestyle was unhealthy. I was always happy when 5 o’clock came around and I could open a bottle of wine. I found other parents that liked to drink as much as I did and continued to live the party life.
What I didn’t realize was that not everyone was getting drunk every time they drank. They still partied hard, but unlike me, they were spending most of their nights sober. I wanted to drink a lot and was relieved when the people around me did too. When they didn’t, I drank anyway.
I didn’t want to quit, but eventually, it became my only option. I was an anxious mess, and I was drowning in and failing domestication. I knew I needed to get healthy, but I didn’t believe alcohol was impairing my health. It seemed like the only thing that kept me calm.
One day my mom told me that I was an alcoholic, and if I didn’t change, I was going to lose everything. I was shocked, mad and hurt because I was in denial, but eventually, I accepted that she was right.
After several months of attempted moderation turned into a whole lot of horrible binges, I knew I had to stop altogether. I went to my bed and stayed there; unable to function. I could uncover myself, start to swing my legs over the side of the bed, but could not convince myself to go any further. Everyone was worried about me, but no one knew what to say or how to help me.
All I did was sleep and cry, because I was so angry that I had to stop drinking. I was useless to my family, but I managed to stop drinking. A Facebook friend posted a link to Kristi Coulters “Enjoli,” and after reading it (several times) I felt an actual sense of relief that someone else was struggling too — that it was ok to admit it. I related to the article so deeply that I still keep it open and re-read it for support. I also found several other sober blogs that I related to, and these groups helped me to get through the first five months of my new sober life.
Total strangers became the people I relied on every day to keep it together. I saw a therapist, went on antidepressants, and found an exercise class that I was able to clear my mind in. I did whatever it took to just make it through each day. I prioritized my recovery over everything. I had to rely on other people for a while and give my body the care it needed. It was not instant, but I came out of it so present and capable that I’m sure I am making up for the lost time in my life.
I am so thankful to have an extremely supportive husband. He quit with me; which I am more than grateful for. During my worst early days, he would check on me often, but wouldn’t pressure me to be better. He let me mourn my past and figure out how to move into my new life on my own terms.
My eyes are wide open now to all the hurt and despair that alcohol and drugs can cause a person, and how hard it is to get out of that hole. I think the hardest thing for me to do was to admit I had a problem, and realize I wasn’t alone in my struggles.
I’m still that girl, but without the quotes. I love to hang out with my friends, eat out at delicious restaurants, and go to concerts. I enjoy laid back times with my family, as much exercise as I can get, and quiet moments to myself. I don’t crave alcohol to relax or to get over tough days and in fact, I think being sober actually helps me find daily peace.
Being sober feels like a weight lifted off my shoulders and a gift I give myself. I celebrate sobriety, and my physical and mental health, every single day and I know that I’ve finally found the place where I fit in.
Hanu Skin Care. She is a US Advocate for the National Association for Holistic Aromatherapy, and a member of the American Herbalists Guild. Karen holds certifications in Essential Aromatherapy and Clinical Aromatherapy, has a degree in communications from Fitchburg State College, and has done some Masters of Business Administration studies.