When I started my self care journey, I started noticing some character traits about myself that I haven’t paid attention to before, like being a very serious person. Taking things personally at every turn. I felt like everything was an attack on me.
So I explored this further by asking myself why my life was so self-centric. I realized I wasn’t really of service to anyone or the community. I was just for me only for me. Until about the age of 24 my ego was enormous. Alcohol inflated it. Many of my relationships, prior to quitting drinking were very one sided, and superficial. I didn’t allow true vulnerability to get in the way of my fun. The lack of honesty with myself and compassion for other people did not contribute to any healthy relationships. So I had scarce relationships even less healthy ones at that. This made me defensive about the way I treated people and the way people treated me. I really didn’t know why I was taking things personally, but it was definitely due to a lack of self awareness.
I wanted to change, so I joined a non-profit that provides local art platforms for underprivileged youth. I met a wonderful woman who herself has faced adversity in her own life, overcame these challenges and started a non-profit to give back to the community she was able to heal her own past at the same time. It was a beautiful cycle of reciprocity. I knew then that this was my way of stepping out of my head and allowed myself to be of service and dropped the ego. It was hard for me to see how self interested I was until I started volunteering. Even today I sometimes need a reality check and sit in gratitude rather than throw myself a pity party.
With volunteering I started stepping out of my defensive mode and became more aware of the vulnerability of myself by allowing others to show me their stories. I listened, I related and understood that with listening and not imposing myself on the world I opened up a space in me for other people. I became less judgemental, I took things less personally. I became less heavy and less serious.
If you think you need an ego check or feel like you take things too personally, try volunteering or being of service to someone for a day. To help and service the community allowed me to listen with no judgment and helped me to listen through an open vessel that I didn’t tap into before. Sometimes we all need to do something for each other unconditionally and in turn this helps us do for ourselves without judgement and criticism. I think this is a win-win situation.
It was spring 2016 when my husband and I decided alcohol is no longer going to be part of our lives. I didn’t know where this would take us but the decision was made, and life went on.
That first summer was challenging. My husband and I love to indulge in food and drink and without that we didn’t know what would fill the space that occupied this. So I signed us up for a variety of activities. My husband did rock climbing and I started Yoga. At first I enjoyed the movement of my body and how healthy I felt, as well as, the break from my husband as these were separate activities we were doing. But to be honest, we were both feeling a little irritated. I didn’t realize how much alcohol eased my anxiety and then fed my anxiety and then eased it again, a vicious cycle.
I broke the cycle by removing the booze. Alcohol did more than just give me liquid courage and entertain me on the weekends, it also numbed me to any little annoyance in my life. This was a big step in my awareness of my dependency on alcohol to ease my anxiety and cope with daily life.
I started to meditate and embraced buddhism and mindfulness. This was a pivotal point in my alcohol free journey. I really didn’t know how to cope with anger, stress, my excited feelings, my depressed feelings, my overwhelming overabundant feelings because they were being dulled by alcohol. That summer was a steep learning curve of feeling everything again and I felt alive. I had to be honest about my feelings and admit them to myself even if I didn’t like them. That was the hardest part. Being ok with not being ok in every situation. What did that mean for my life? I questioned whether I was actually happy. What does happy look like now that everything felt different? What did feeling happy actually feel like?
I deconstructed many perspectives that I thought were true that summer and went from there. I relived some of my traumas while meditating and that was ok. I confronted some of my bad behaviours, mended some relationships and ditched some relationships at the same time. Since that summer not drinking alcohol got easier and more challenging all in one fell swoop. As new life challenges came up I looked to numb in other ways, food, vacations, self-help books, binge watching Netflix, anything really for a distraction, an escape from feeling. What I know now is that feeling uncomfortable or feeling in general is such a blessing and nothing to run away from. It means I am alive and here. That is good enough. I am not perfect and I’m ok with that. I am thankful to alcohol for introducing me to the curriculum of my life. To feel and be with what comes up.