I’m An Alcoholic And You Might Be Too

go through life sober as an alcoholic

Dun dun dun!!! I know, I wrote a blog just a few months back questioning whether or not I was an alcoholic and I told you all that labels don’t really matter. Although I still don’t believe the label is required, I do think I wasn’t being 100% honest with myself. So I’m here to say that …My name is Kelly and I’m an ALCOHOLIC!!

Wow that really wasn’t so bad. I am not a stranger to saying that phrase these days since I am attending AA meetings 2 to 3 times a week. With the work I’ve been putting into my 12 step program, and the reading and meetings I’ve been doing lately, I’ve learned a lot. The biggest thing I’ve learned is that there is absolutely no question in my mind anymore about whether or not I’m an alcoholic. I am an alcoholic and that’s ok. Part of the program is being brutally honest with yourself and that’s what I’m doing. Reading stories in the big book and hearing more about what alcoholics think, do, and say has cemented the fact that I am one.

I think back in September when I wrote the “Am I An Alcoholic?” blog I was looking for any excuse not to be one – the same thing I had been doing throughout my years of drinking. This partly has to do with the stigma that the word carries. After I started going to AA, I realized being an alcoholic is NOT the worst thing in the world and admitting this to myself and others was actually the jumping off point for me becoming more of who I am. I didn’t feel as if my sobriety was endangered because I didn’t admit I was an alcoholic, but I know that one day it could be.

I believe I was emotionally addicted to alcohol. I believe the addictive behaviors and decisions I was making because of this, were signs of a bigger issue. I can now look back on my drinking history and even at my ways of thinking today, and know that I have an alcoholic brain. Normal people don’t think “I need to finish every drop of liquid in this cup,” when it’s water. Normal people don’t coax their boyfriend into buying a beer when they go out to dinner because they can’t have one (yeah that’s me). Normal people don’t need to try to control their drinking. They don’t need to set limits for themselves, one drink – just beer – just wine – only on Saturdays.

So to you I say: I’m an alcoholic and you might be too …and guess what? That’s totally ok. In fact, I find a sense of relief in it. I’m finally figuring out the things I’ve been thinking and feeling aren’t weird, but they’re a symptom of this disease I have. It feels amazing to be able to go to a place where every person in the room feels the same way I do and they love me and accept me for me. They know exactly what it feels like to question whether or not you’re an alcoholic, and then how to accept it, and embrace it.

Admitting that I am an alcoholic has been therapeutic for me. At first it was scary, but I realized there is nothing to be afraid of. This is who I am, this is my story. I read this quote that really resonated with me from The Little Red Book that says, “The alcoholic lives in compulsive slavery.” I couldn’t agree more with that statement and now I am finally free. The weight of trying to figure it out or not, and being terrified if I was an alcoholic, has finally melted away. This is just one of the many beautiful things that has happened for me since getting sober. Putting the drink down is just the very first step.

 

7 Pieces Of Advice For Your First Weeks of Sobriety

sober advice

When my readers message me or leave me comments, the most frequent question I am asked is: I am starting my sobriety journey, do you have any advice for me? Or, I’m thinking of going sober, what advice do you have for me?

It’s hard for me to answer this because it’s SUCH a loaded question and I feel like I could go on for hours about it. It makes it difficult to write back to you guys that ask me this because the space allowed in a Facebook message or tweet is minimal and it would take me hours to write it all down. In an effort to answer this question and not write a book, I’ve outlined what I consider to be the most useful pieces of advice you need to know when starting your sobriety journey.

1. You’ve made the right decision.

Stop asking yourself if you’ve done the right thing or not. I know agonizing about whether or not to go sober is a tough one. Some of us go back and forth for years before taking the plunge. It might be a difficult decision to make, but let me tell you this: I’ve never heard of any person saying they REGRET getting sober. In fact, 99% of people I know, including myself, say it’s the best decision they’ve ever made. There aren’t many negative consequences to getting sober. Therefore, you can take comfort in the fact that you’ve made the right decision.

2. Don’t concentrate on forever

I know part of what kept me drinking for so long was the fact that I could not picture living the rest of my life without alcohol. That was terrifying for me. GASP! a life without alcohol oh my god, it can’t be done. Picturing yourself not taking a drink for the rest of your life sets you up for disaster. It will make you feel overwhelmed and hopeless. There is a reason Alcoholics Anonymous’ most famous saying is: one day at a time. And no matter how annoying you think it is, it’s true. Break it down – one day, one hour, one minute at a time. When I first got sober I didn’t know how long it would be, I just kept going one day at a time and here I am 20 months later – still sober.

3. Get ready to feel feelings

Oh man, are you going to have some FEELS. I’ve written about this subject pretty extensively in the past and what I wasn’t prepared to deal with when getting sober was my emotions. After years of numbing yourself with drugs and alcohol, your true emotions come through and they will hit you like a ton of bricks. I am 20 months sober and I STILL find myself crying for no reason or getting my feelings hurt over the silliest things. During the first months of my sobriety I was extremely self conscious. I was afraid everyone was pointing at me and talking about me in private, judging me for being sober, when in reality no one gave a shit that I was sober. I mean of course my friends and family were proud of me and supported my decision, but no one was pointing at me and saying, “HA HA LOOK AT THE SOBER GIRL! WHAT A LOSER.” By the way, only alcoholics think things like that! haha.

4. You are not alone

Oh how I cannot stress this one enough. In the first weeks and months of sobriety I felt completely lonely. I had/have an amazing support system, but it was hard to find people who related to me 100%. This could also be due to the fact that I didn’t start going to meetings until about 4 months ago. Part of my goal in writing this blog is to let all of you out there know that you are not alone. You are not a bad person and what you are feeling is not weird.

5. Getting sober isn’t the end

One of my biggest realizations was that getting sober isn’t a quick fix. Don’t get me wrong – it’s important and it’s the first huge step of many. However, if you think you can just stop drinking and doing drugs and your life will be officially normal again, you’re wrong. You’ll have to relearn how to be a normal person. You’ll have figure out how to deal with emotions, situations, and your own personal history. You will need to dig deep and figure out why you were using substances so heavily in the first place and evaluate your life. It takes time. You will be a work in progress, but it will be worth it.

6. You will do great things

The best part about getting sober is that you are clearing the path for a life that will be better than you ever imagined. Yes – you will have to deal with your pain, yes – you’ll have to learn how to live again, and yes – it will be hard. But in the end, you will come out on top and you will do great things. If you told me 2 years ago that I would be sitting here, writing this blog right now about advice on being SOBER, I would not have believed you! Here I am though, living my truth, sharing my story, and finding healing through writing about it.

7. You will prefer sobriety

Many people ask me: how will I still be able to have fun? What about birthdays, holidays, weddings, or a champagne toast on New Year’s Eve? Guess what.. you will get through all of these occasions without drinking and they will still be glorious. You’ll still have fun, a different kind of fun – a fun without regret, hangovers, or shame. A quote I hear a lot in recovery is “Your worst day sober is better than your best day drunk.” And it’s so true. Eventually you will prefer this way of life, you just need to stick with it.

I hope these pieces of advice will help you along the way as you navigate your sobriety journey. Whether you just started, are a few months in, or have several years – I hope these are good reminders. Remember, it’s not about strength or your worthiness as a person – you just have to want a change and stay dedicated to that yearning for a better life.

If you haven’t already, please read my latest Huffington Post piece: 5 Feelings You Should Leave Behind In The New Year

10 Tips To Get You Through the Holidays Sober

Woohoo, it’s Christmas Eve Eve and the holiday season is in full swing. For those of you who are newly sober, already have some sober years under your belt, or are still on the fence about trying sobriety, this list is for you. The holidays should be a wonderful and joyous time for serenity, gratefulness, and being with your family and friends. This means you can still have a great time without getting wasted and here’s how:

1. Be prepared

We all know the holidays are filled with parties and places where alcohol and drugs are present. The holidays can get you feeling all sentimental and nostalgic. It’s important that you don’t start yearning for those drunk days or slip back into an unhealthy routine just because you’re home for Christmas and old friends are around. Be prepared to deal with cravings. Be prepared to deal with feelings of discomfort and questioning. Family and friends may ask why you’re doing this sober thing and your answer can be simple: my life works better this way.

2. Have an escape plan

After you emotionally prepare yourself for anything, you should physically prepare yourself with an escape plan. If you ever feel uncomfortable, or are in a place where drugs and alcohol having you feeling awkward, get out of there, STAT! It’s not worth it! There is no shame in backing out or “ghosting” out of a party or get-together because you feel like you might do something you may regret later. Don’t worry about what others will say, just get out of there!

3. Have someone to call

Whoever your support system may be – sponsors, meeting list numbers, AA hotlines, friends, family – make sure you have their phone numbers at the ready. You should always have someone you can talk it out with. It always makes me feel better to acknowledge my feelings when they arise and after talking with someone, I know everything is going to be ok.

4. Indulge in some mocktails

There is nothing better than a big tall glass of sparkling water in a fancy glass with a lemon wedge! When you’re getting ready for your holiday parties make sure you bring something special just for you. A delicious mocktail or non-alcoholic beer perhaps? You deserve it!

5. Always have a good book

This might sound weird, but whenever I am bored, uncomfortable, lonely – I can always find solace in a good book. Maybe that book for you is the big book, or maybe it’s a novel, or a drinking memoir. You never know when you’ll need just a momentary escape from your life. A book can give you that.  I always have one or two in my purse, tucked away for whenever I may need it.

6. Learn to say “No”

I can’t emphasize this one enough. It’s hard when you’re a people pleaser and even more so when you can’t hide behind the shield of alcohol. There is nothing wrong with putting your recovery first. You can turn down a party, a holiday shindig, or even a certain dinner if you feel like it will negatively impact your mood or sobriety. Ask yourself, is this worth it?

7. Don’t forget to exercise

The holidays are filled with delicious meals, baked goods, candy, and other Christmas goodies. If you’re like me and you feel like you deserve chocolate because you don’t drink booze, you will want to remember to exercise. Aside from being good for your figure, exercise does wonders for your mental health. A clear head and a clear heart will keep you on your sober “A game” this year.

8. Write out a gratitude list

Write down every single thing you’re grateful for. Keep track of everything amazing sobriety has given you, or if you’re just getting sober – write down the changes you’ve noticed thus far and the goals you plan to achieve. It’s good to see all the great things that come along with sobriety written down on paper. It will remind you of what you have and what you don’t want to lose.

9. Plan your holidays

Sometimes they say don’t let yourself get “hungry, sleepy, or bored,” and by they I mean people at meetings. They say this because these types of uncomfortable feelings can lead to thoughts about drinking and desire to fill the void. To make sure you don’t get into this type of situation, you should try to plan out your holidays as much as you can. Make plans to see your friends and family, set out time for shopping, meetings, and hobbies. Keeping busy  = staying happy and sober!

10. Go easy on yourself

Last, but not least… go easy on yourself! Don’t get down on yourself if you have to leave a party or avoid certain friends or family for your own piece of mind. You have to be honest with yourself about your own recovery and where you are. Being comfortable in certain settings or environments will come with time. Like anything in life, don’t set goals you can’t achieve. Take it one day at a time and do the best you can for you.

Take this list with you over the next few weeks – if you’re beginning your sobriety journey or if you just want reinforcement during the difficult holiday season. Always remember you are never alone in your sobriety! There are thousands of people out there just like you and me staying sober and working through their own addictive behaviors. I hope these tips will help you stay sober during the holidays and all year long! Happy Holidays my friends!

sober Christmas

 

5 Things That Are Cooler Than Drinking During The Holidays

sober Christmas

ANYTHING is cooler. Ok, just kidding, that wouldn’t make for a very practical list now would it?

The holidays are a lovely time for being grateful, giving back, and spending time with your family and friends. Of course we all know what else the holidays are good for, and that’s drinking. Even though the holidays might get you nostalgic for the drink, you should know there are tons of other cooler things you could be doing. I’m here to remind you of the multitude of things that are cooler than drinking during the holidays.

1. Eating

Is there anything better than food during the holidays? The answer is no. The holidays are the perfect time to try new restaurants or food you’ve never had before. It’s time to hit that Indian spot down the street and see what everyone’s raving about. Or, you can rekindle your romance with mom’s cooking. If Christmas doesn’t get you excited for meatloaf, turkey, stuffing, and every flavor of pie under the sun you are missing out. December is a great month to become a chef yourself too. Cooking classes can become your new hobby, or you can finally try those 50 Pinterest recipes you pinned once and never looked at again. I’ll be using my juicer that I got for my birthday in June and haven’t used yet (oops.) The possibilities with cooking and eating are endless and are definitely cooler than drinking.

2. Seeing the world

There’s nothing more tragic that being stuck in the same town forever. Being sober will take you places you’ve never been before, literally. I know when I was drunk all the time, I still traveled, but everything was a blur. I barely remember some pretty amazing places, or they are tainted with drunken regrets and I don’t want to remember them. Now, I am 100% present when I travel. I can appreciate every trip, every site I see, and every new piece of information I learn along the way. If you can use your holidays this year to travel, I recommend you do so and leave the drinking behind.

3. Do nothing

When you have some extra time off work over the next few weeks, don’t force yourself to rush around and be social if you aren’t feeling it. One thing I have learned about sobriety is that rest time is imperative. Remember all those nights you didn’t sleep or you didn’t enter REM because you were wasted? Yeah, now you have the amazing ability to sleep normally! Use this holiday to rest, recuperate, catch up on your reading, TV watching, or write in your journal. Think of how refreshed and revitalized you will be to take on the new year.

4. Making new year’s resolutions

Included in the holiday season is the New Year celebration. There are much cooler ways to celebrate New Year’s than drinking. Gasp! I know, it’s hard to believe. I didn’t think it was true until I got sober. That’s why I’m here to tell you, there is nothing better than ringing in a new year sober. Trust me you will not miss blacking out and not knowing what you’re celebrating or who you’re kissing at midnight. Removing the alcohol factor will really allow you to embrace the ending of an entire year and welcome the serenity and excitement that a new one brings. Going along with that, writing your own New Year’s resolutions can be therapeutic and take on real meaning now that you’re sober. It’s the perfect time to set goals for the coming here: pick out new hobbies, commit to running a marathon, pick a vacation and save for it, or buy that new car.

5. Volunteering

‘Tis the season for giving and if you are in recovery it’s always a good time for service. What better way to feel good during the holidays and avoid drinking than volunteering? If you attend meetings, you should give back, chair a meeting at a prison or a rehab center, or talk to a treatment center. Volunteer at a homeless shelter or a soup kitchen. Get involved with the causes that mean something to you personally. There’s something about giving back that can help you find your place in the world and makes you feel like you are worth giving this life your best shot. Plus, you are helping others, and that’s just plain humbling.

These 5 amazing things only scratch the surface of the plethora of activities that span this Earth that are infinitely cooler than drinking. So don’t spend the holidays feeling sorry for yourself and questioning why is it that you can’t drink. One drink won’t make you normal and one night out won’t make everything better. Instead, focus your energy on new hobbies or skills – see the world, better yourself! The best part about all of these things is that you’re sober, you’re evolving, you’re becoming more you.

5 Things I Learned When My Sister Got Married

miami beach wedding

My sister and her family. jonathanconnolly.com

Over the Thanksgiving holiday weekend, my only sister and very best friend got married. I was her maid of honor and had to give a public speech in front of about 100 people aka my worst nightmare. There is a reason I prefer writing, not speaking. Haha. This joyous occasion not only marked a new chapter in the lives of my sister and her new husband, but in my life as well.

1. My family is forever changed

And this is a good thing! I wasn’t always open to change, but I’ve realized now that our family has expanded greatly and it will never be the same. I’ve finally gained a brother (something I’ve wanted my entire life!) and a nephew who keeps life exciting. I know my dad is psyched to have other males around because he was surrounded by  just my mom, me, and my sister for so long. This new dynamic we have with my boyfriend Fer, my sister’s husband (also named Fernando!) , my dad, and my nephew Adrian, brings testosterone and male bonding. As an independent woman, I still really like seeing that we have a strong male side to our family now!

2. I have to share my sister

Boooooo. Haha. If you know me, you know I’m not a great sharer. It’s been hard for me to get out of my selfishness and realize my sister isn’t going to be at my beck and call 24/7. There were times when I felt like I was in competition with my sister’s boyfriends in the past, which is just silly. I’m finally realizing my alcoholic brain needs training to learn that it isn’t all about ME. Luckily, I am happy to share my sister with an awesome guy like my brother-in-law; he is making it easy for me! He not only unconditionally loves my sister, he also accepts me for who I am and respects the close friendship I have with my sister.

3. New roles

Whoaaaaa life! I am an aunt now and a sister-in-law. These are roles that I’ve never taken on before. This means a lot of learning, listening, and patience – skills I am still perfecting! haha. Seeing my family members in new roles is different too. My parents are grandma and grandpa and my sister is a step mother. Observing these new roles and how I fit in is fascinating and eye-opening.

4. I’m next

Since my sister and I are only one year apart in age and I have a long-term boyfriend, many people at the wedding were questioning when I am going to get married. Pressure! Of course I can’t wait to marry Fer, but we are in no rush. Plus getting married means spending a lot of money and time on one special day and we are spending money on other things right now, like travel and cars. However, these questions do make me feel old! I can’t believe I’m going to be 30 next year…but that’s for another post…

5. If I wasn’t sober I wouldn’t be enjoying any of this

This is the truth. I believe if I was still in my days of heavy partying, I wouldn’t have enjoyed my sister’s wedding and everything that came with it. I would have probably not been such an integral part of this experience and I would have been fighting tooth and nail not to share my sister with someone else. I would have been drunk, blacked out, or hungover, or all of the above. Being sober has given me a perspective I’ve never had before. It has allowed me to deal with situations with a mature and healthy mindset. I am not only able to accept the happiness and life choices of my sister, but I am able to enjoy them, support her, and really be there for her during one of the happiest times of her life. I am truly and genuinely happy for her. I feel peace and joy in my heart when I think of her future and her new little family.

Most importantly I was able to get up in front of a crowd and express how I felt about my sister and her husband. Even though I was nervous, I didn’t need alcohol. People laughed, they cried. They enjoyed my speech just as much as I enjoyed giving it.

I know from this point forward my family will be different and I’m ok with it. I am willing and able to accept these changes with open arms. I know I know, who am I? I guess these feelings are just another advantage of being sober.

sister wedding

Fer and I
jonathanconnolly.com

6 Reasons to Be Thankful You’re Sober on Thanksgiving

sober Thanksgiving

This year is my second sober Thanksgiving and my first one living in the United States in quite a few years. Last year I was working on Thanksgiving because obviously it’s not a holiday in Mexico. Although we aren’t doing the normal huge turkey dinner this year because we are busy prepping for my sister’s wedding this weekend, I still get to be with my family and enjoy this special day. Thanksgiving is a day when you are meant to reflect on what you are grateful for and the one thing that tops my list is my sobriety. Some sober people and a lot of normies probably think it’s the pits to be sober on Thanksgiving, but it’s actually pretty amazing. That’s why I am taking the time today to write down reasons to be thankful you’re sober on Thanksgiving.

1. No hangover

Thanksgiving eve is the biggest bar night of the year! It used to be just another reason for me to get shitfaced. Being sober now you can stay in, go home early, be the DD, wake up early and help your parents cook, or run a Turkey Trot 5K like I did this morning! You know why it’s so great? Because the possibilities are endless! Without a hangover, you can take on the world.

2. Renewed Tastebuds

If you’re hungover, or always drinking excessively, it’s probable your tastebuds have become slightly deadened. When I was drinking I didn’t even care for food half the time, my stomach was upset from drinking, or I just didn’t eat. Now I can actually savor the flavors of different kinds of food and we all know this is an important trait on Thanksgiving.

3. Gratefulness

Yes you should be thankful for gratefulness and vice versa. One of the things I’ve realized is how ungrateful I was when I was drinking. I can truly say I am thankful to be grateful. I am thankful sobriety has given me the opportunity to reevaluate my life and become grateful for each day.

4. Avoid Embarrassment

If you’re sober, chances are you won’t be doing any of the embarrassing things you did when you were drunk or on drugs. You’ll actually remember everything and you can calmly enjoy an awesome holiday with your family and friends without blacking out.

5. Shopping

If Black Friday is your thing, I’m sure it’s much easier to do sober. Now that they are opening the stores on the evening of Thanksgiving, it’s even more of a reason to stay sober today. You’ll be able to get to those sales without throwing ‘bows and be the designated driver for any other family members who want to shop, but might have had too much wine at dinner. Warning: there are only 28 shopping days left until Christmas.

6. Realizing your worth

Being grateful on Thanksgiving and especially for your sobriety, brings it all full circle. Remind yourself today why you’re sober and how hard you have worked to get where you are. Today’s holiday is a great reminder of why you’re worth the work it requires to be sober every day of the year.

7. Family

There’s nothing better than being with your loved ones during the holidays. If you were a cranky, bitter drunk like I was, then you probably never really appreciated it before now. In the past I couldn’t be bothered with family functions, dinners bored me, and I couldn’t wait to get out of there and do something fun (aka party.) I have completely converted into a holiday obsessed freak who burns balsam candles in the middle of summer and wants to get her Christmas tree before Thanksgiving. This is what sobriety does to you people. Just kidding! But really, I found myself getting nostalgic and teary eyed watching the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day parade on TV this morning because I just feel like I never REALLY appreciated it before. I feel like a little kid experiencing these holidays for the first time, getting giddy over parade balloons and floats, looking around at the table seeing all of my family members laugh and get along. This is bliss.

You see, there really is nothing like experiencing the holidays sober after being numb for so long. So take some time today to remember why you’re sober, how great it is, as well as everything in your life that you’re thankful for. I hope you’re thankful to be sober on Thanksgiving and every day of the year!

Happy Thanksgiving!

7 Reasons To Come Out Of the Addiction Closet

come out of the addiction closet

I guess it’s not any secret that I am not anonymous when it comes to talking about my addiction and paths I’ve taken to recovery. Sometimes it’s not all sunshine and rainbows and putting yourself out there can invite hurtful comments or questions. Despite this, I’m a big advocate for breaking the stigma of addiction, living your truth, and coming out of the addiction closet. I am loud and proud about my struggles and it has given me freedom. Below is a list of 7 reasons why you may want to break your anonymity and come out of the addiction closet.

1. You will know a new freedom

A relief is lifted off your shoulders once you come to terms with who you really are. You will finally feel like you are not weighed down by the shackles of your secrets. Your friends, family, and most importantly yourself will learn to love you for who you really are.

2. You can be honest with yourself & others

It’s exhausting trying to be someone you’re not. Putting on a face everywhere you go, making mindless small talk with people to pretend you’re one person, when on the inside you’re someone else. Stop the madness! Be true to yourself and live your truth! Don’t be afraid of who you really are.

3. You will gain inner peace

After being truthful to yourself and others, you will find inner peace. Admitting you have alcohol issues is one more secret that can’t keep you sick anymore once you release it.

4. You’ll help break the stigma

We all know the bad stigma the words ‘addict’ and ‘alcoholic’ carry. People can look at you differently, assume you’re a bad person, or that you aren’t worth much. Many people imagine addicts as immoral criminals, but this is just not true. Keeping your addiction a secret may continue the feelings of guilt and shame that accompany it. By sharing your story, you will open people’s eyes to the fact that addiction can effect anyone regardless of age, skin color, or economic status.

5. You will inspire others

You could literally save a life. By sharing with someone else who is suffering, you may inspire change in them. Many blog readers message or email me and ask me how I got sober, or why, and that they are thinking of doing the same. Just by talking to them I can help plant the seeds of change. You never know whose life you can impact by being honest and telling your own story.

6. If not you, then who?

It’s easy to sit around and say, ok great idea, I’m sure someone else will do it. Sometimes you have to come out of your comfort zone and take action to make a change. Just assuming someone else will do it doesn’t make an impact. Why not you? Why not now? If not you, then who?

7. Meet new people, make new friendships

Personally, by sharing my story I have made friends online and around the globe that I would have never known had I not decided to speak out about my struggle with alcohol. Through these friends I have been introduced to new programs, classes, and other things I probably never would have tried if I didn’t meet these people.

Coming out of the addiction closet has benefits not only for you, but for the people around you; some you may not even know yet! Break the stigma, strive for inner peace, and be honest with yourself! We all have our demons. We all have our issues.  Do what you can to stop the shaming and live in the light.