5 Years of Freedom

It was just like any other weekend of my crazy 20-something life. Sun, sand, and a plethora of drinks in my hand. Only this time instead of staying up for days at a time and snorting cocaine off my house key in the bathroom, I was with my childhood best friends in the Dominican Republic. I had an incredible amount of anxiety before going on this trip and in a way, I feel like my body and soul already knew, and were preparing me for it. I was worried about doing the right thing and playing the part for everybody. I wanted to prove to my friends I had an amazing life living abroad in Cancun. I didn’t want to feel judged for choosing a different path than them. When they chose 9 to 5’s and marriage, I chose to flee the country and make a life in Mexico.

I felt like Fer had been breathing down my neck for months about getting it together with my drinking. Two weeks prior to my Dominican trip I had ruined my month-long streak of not blacking out by getting shitfaced on a low-key night out with his friends in downtown Cancun. Fer and his friend Aldo carried me out of the club just after I projectile vomited on the boutique nightclub’s floor. I don’t remember any of it. Following that night Fer didn’t want me to go on the girls trip to Punta Cana because he wouldn’t be there to make sure I was alive and safe in the presence of alcohol.

Double fisting alcohol at a concert in Playa del Carmen just before my trip to Punta Cana in 2013

Double fisting alcohol at a concert in Playa del Carmen just before my trip to Punta Cana in 2013

Of course, everything he had worried about turned out to be true. No matter how hard I tried to play it off like he was cramping my style, telling me what to do, being overbearing, and untrusting, I knew he was right. I could not stop my alcohol intake once it started and it would ultimately result in dire consequences for me. But the worst part of my drinking episodes were never the physical injuries, debilitating hangovers, careless flirting, or causing pain to my loved ones. Yes, those things were horrible, and signs that my drinking was no longer working for me, but the worst part of my drinking had become the deep-seated feelings of self-hatred that festered below the surface at all times. This self-hatred, combined with a mind void of memories lost to the blackout abyss, cultivated serious paranoia and anxiety for me. After I blacked out in Punta Cana and my childhood friends cleaned up my mess, I was paralyzed by the thoughts that I ruined the entire trip for them, that my spectacle ruined my friend’s bachelorette party, that it became about me instead of her. I couldn’t shake the idea that they were mad at me. I couldn’t stop imagining all the crazy things I might have done when I was not in control of my body or mind in my blackout. I was riddled with fear and embarrassment, not to mention the fact that Fer had broken up with me knowing full well I could not keep my promise of staying coherent while drinking on the trip.

My last weekend drinking.

My last weekend drinking.

I had been in this position before, harboring these exact feelings, drinking them down before they spilled over like a well. Somehow, it had become the cycle of my life. Drink, fuck up, endure the unbearable physical, mental, and spiritual pain of post-drinking, drink because I’m such a fuck-up, repeat. I would often fantasize about what a ‘normal life’ would look like: Honeymooning with my husband with a fancy champagne glass in my hand. Taking my children to a festival without a hangover. Happy hour that consisted of only two drinks. Visiting a winery in Italy. Toasting at midnight on New Year’s Eve. But deep down it felt like an unattainable goal. I could not have these things. I had tried. Visions of this “perfect” life were always immediately smashed by my reality: I went to Italy in 2005 and made the whole trip about drinking. I had taken Fer to the Christmas Village festival in Philadelphia and made him leave early because I was so sick with a hangover. I had puked in the Ben and Jerry’s Factory bathroom in Waterbury, Vermont. I had once attended a fancy, open bar New Year’s Eve event in Philly and blacked out before the ball dropped.

After the trip to Punta Cana finished and I had nothing else to do in the airport but ponder my life and what it had become, I felt forced to make a choice. Relinquish myself to the cycle of alcohol and drugs in my life, or latch on to the small idea that maybe, just maybe, life could be better.

But somehow I knew if my life was going to better, there was no place for alcohol in it.

It’s been half a decade since I sat in the Punta Cana airport that day and made the most significant decision of my life. A day I will remember for the rest of my life. A day when I had no idea what I was doing, how I was doing it, or if I was doing it forever. My warped ideas about sobriety were wrapped up in stereotypes and words like alcoholic, AA, and disease. I didn’t know that drug and alcohol use changes your brain chemistry. I didn’t know there was such a thing as gray-area drinking. I didn’t know that our society specifically targets women with alcohol ads. I didn’t know that binge drinking culture on college campuses is not only NOT normal but dangerous. I didn’t know that sobriety was an option for me.

Then I got to thinking about all the other party girls I had come in contact with over the years and I wondered, did they know? Did they know they didn’t have to do all that? Did they know that they should be alarmed by their blacking out? Did they know that planning trips and events and lives around alcohol is problematic? Did they know they didn’t have to just live with the pain? Do they know sobriety is for them too?

It’s taken me 5 years to accept that sharing my personal stories has become a life mission for me. As a young girl, I dreamed of writing books. As I got older I joked, “I’ll put that in my book one day,” in regards to the countless crazy stories I had about my life and my drinking. Once I started my blog, my followers started to ask me, “when are you going to write a book?” Me? A book? Wait, I think they’re being serious. “Well, I guess I could,” I thought. Last year I took a class with Anna David on how to write a book proposal and created my own. This year I was ready when I was approached by a publisher when they asked me, “Have you ever thought about writing a book?”

“It’s funny that you ask…” I responded, clearly shocked about how nonchalant the unvierse is.

Today I am 5 years sober, grateful, and now, a soon-to-be-published author with her forthcoming memoir, From Party Chica to Sober Señorita: Getting Sober in Mexico (working title), set to publish in 2019 from Passageway Press.

Sometimes we cannot predict the path our lives will take, but we can always accept our fate and make something beautiful out of it.