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My sobriety catapulted me into abundance

I finally leaned in and accepted, so my life transformed

My relationship with alcohol has always been volatile and complicated. At the beginning of COVID-19 shutdowns in the United States, that relationship became very intense and toxic. I was drinking out of boredom. I was drinking to cope with the state of the world and the fact that I had just moved out of necessity from the state (Minnesota) I had loved for 7 years back to the state (Illinois) I had left for good purpose — but that move is reserved for another story.

I would be sneaky and selfish around my consumption. I had anxiety if I didn’t have enough alcohol around me or if I thought I’d might run out when at social gatherings. I would hide alcohol bottles in my bedroom so that I could have a secret stash just for me. I used my intense drinking as a “cure” for my insomnia, because my heavy drinking always made me fall asleep so rapidly.

But in exchange, I would wake up in the middle of the morning, around 3 or 4 am, with the most intense and frightening bouts of intrusive thoughts, muddled with a killer hangover-induced migraine. The hangovers would then turn into manic episodes, which would be prolonged by caffeine induced anxiety attacks. I was “quietly” living my life as a mess. But it was on brand to be a mess — so I just hid behind it.

I was living my life as as shell of a person. I was either drinking to “cure” my anxiety or anxious because I was hung over. I would use alcohol as an excuse for so many things. I would let myself drink too much instead of working on writing or other creative projects. Or I would use alcohol to get the creative juices “flowing” and have to stop because I was too drunk to write coherently or productively. I would blame my binge drinking on decisions that ruined relationships and trust from other people. I loved drinking even though it was ruining my life.

So did I really love it? Or did I love temporarily how it made me feel? Mostly, I was too afraid to live my life without it. It was woven into my habits and my identity. It was my social life. It was the greatest “joy” but mostly, the greatest pain in my life. I simply had to accept what the relationship was before I could start making any changes. And that’s the part I was so hung up on.

There were times were I thought about quitting drinking, but I could rarely make it more than a week at a time — the most I ever committed to in the past was 28 days. In fact I remember how painful those weeks of sobriety would leave me feeling, and I would rush right back into those awful habits again.

I remember a few times close people in my life would make comments about my drinking habits, recommending I slow down, etc — and anytime I heard feedback like that from anyone, it made me incredibly stubborn and resistant to stopping. Quitting had to be solely my idea. But I was dragging my feet to actually come into terms with that desire. I was still resistant. Something had to give.

Fast forward to the end of 2020. I am living in my new apartment in Chicago with a close friend. I am working a relatively new job. On the outside life feels fairly stable, despite the uncertainty and fear that was lingering in the air, regarding the state of the world. Despite having a stable income, great friends, supportive family, and relatively good health, I felt like a gaping black hole was slowly growing and consuming me.

I remember the final breaking point for me. It was the end of 2020, with only a few days before the New Year was sneaking around the corner. It was December 28th, I was sobbing and feeling suicidal; I was as drunk as usual but something inside me felt different. I was so sad. I felt so ashamed of the life I had wasted to my drinking periods. By this point, I had already had the discussion with my therapist to stop drinking for an indefinite period of time. But I was looking for additional ammo to really sell this idea of sobriety.

I reached out to my friend Will who I knew in some capacity was alcohol free, but I hadn’t really asked him the extent of it. He was one of my “cool” friends from college, someone I always admired and enjoyed the company of. And for me, knowing someone who was cool and sober helped sell the idea a little bit more. On that painfully dreary and tear-filled December evening, I worked through my pain with Will and received the life-saving support to quit drinking.

To make my sobriety work, I created pockets of accountability. I would check in with certain friends, with Will, and my therapist—all while on social media discussing the milestones of each new month of being alcohol-free. Every month I didn’t drink, I bought myself “little treats” to celebrate. In the early months, I used the I Am Sober app and sober threads on Reddit to have a semblance of community. I still check in on Reddit for community and reenforcement.

I also wanted to take a “scientific” approach to sobriety. With my therapist, I created a hypothesis for my self-guided science experiment — if quit drinking, my life would become infinitely better.

And I was right. The experiment was proven successful.

In reality, I’m just getting started on this journey.

I will admit, the act of become sober is not for the faint of heart, especially if alcohol has an intense chokehold over your life (like it did for me). But every hard day was rewarded with beautiful bouquets of abundance in so many new ways.

I am now rounding out 11 months of sobriety and I can’t believe how the time has flied. I have made new friends. I started a new job. I met an amazing sober romantic partner. I am writing and taking my creative pursuits seriously. I started working out with a personal trainer. Things started to align quicker for me. And I started to open up to expansion I never knew was possible.

The expansion is multi-faceted.

The greatest gift and sometimes the hardest part of sobriety is how open I am with acknowledging my emotions. I am a very sensitive person. I used alcohol to stamp out that sensitivity because I was led to believe it was a weakness. In fact, there were many facets of my identity I tried suppressing with alcohol use, and now I am allowed to freely and safely express them.

There are so many other elements of abundance sobriety found for me like:

  • the opportunity to sit clearly with my uncomfortable thoughts
  • the space to actually work on my goals with out sabotaging myself
  • the availability to start evaluating my emotions, desires, and needs in several facets of my life
  • the vision to see my creative abundance clearly — reminded me that my dreams are so valid and worthy and I wasn’t going to let myself or anyone else get in the way of them
  • the heightened senses including physical and spiritual: taste, smell, intuition, vision, presence, hearing, etc
  • the option to pursue and create a community that supports each other while keeping accountability

I am so grateful to be sober today. It is one of the greatest gifts I can bring to the world. As I continue on my own journey, I intend to help others locate and enhance the abundance in their own lives too.

Note: In reviewing this essay I don’t even feel like I touched the surface on why I started drinking and why I drank for so long. But I realize that healing from years of drinking will take time, just like the exploration through the years of sobriety I intend to have ahead of me. Thank you for joining me on this opening journey.

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Chicago-based creative and certified hypnotherapist. I write about mental health amongst other things. Wanna chat? Email me: jennaborrelli.life@gmail.com

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Jenna Borrelli

Jenna Borrelli

Chicago-based creative and certified hypnotherapist. I write about mental health amongst other things. Wanna chat? Email me: jennaborrelli.life@gmail.com

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