When I first ventured into sobriety two years ago, a family friend, who is also sober, said to me: "You'll be amazed how full your life can be." At the time, I didn't believe that. My life was full when I was drinking -- at least I thought it was.
It took some time, but eventually I realized that what I thought was a full life was really just a lot of shallowness and superficiality that I mistook as meaningful. Two years later, and I've realized what that family friend meant. My life is so much fuller than I ever anticipated, and I owe it all to sobriety.
Here's what I've gained:
Sure, I was confident when I was drinking...after about four drinks. Prior to that, I was always insecure even if it wasn't outwardly apparent. Since getting sober, I've realized what real confidence feels like. While I'm not always 100 percent happy with myself, I feel a lot more secure in who I am and who I want to be, and less concerned about what others think about my choices. Being confident is a hell of a lot less draining than being insecure.
For the first time in years, someone loves me as much as I love them. I'm in a happy, loving, reciprocated relationship, something I never accomplished when I was drinking. Drinking turned me into a person I wasn't. I would do and say things I didn't mean and sabotage any relationship or potential relationship I had. My boyfriend drinks, and that's okay. He understands that I don't, and that I have my reasons.
3. Meaningful relationships.
Not necessarily romantic ones, either. Getting sober allows you to realize who really wants to be in your life, and who was more of a party friend. Sometimes these realizations hurt, but it's for the better. I'd rather have a smaller amount of true, authentic relationships than a large amount of superficial ones.
I never realized how much shame I carried as a result of losing people's respect. Before drinking, I had always been a respectable person. I was responsible, smart and made good decisions. Drinking made all of that obsolete. From the moment I started college on a drinking note, I made a reputation for myself. And it wasn't a good one. In the time since getting sober, I've been able to gain back the respect of most people in my life. I'm so thankful I didn't do irreversible damage because I probably would have, had I kept drinking.
This goes hand-in-hand with confidence, but is a bit different. I remember one specific instance when I was drinking and I should have felt proud and instead felt nothing. I was in a public speaking class, and had asked my professor to write a letter of recommendation. She did, and it was absolutely glowing, stating what a standout student I was. I read it and all I could think was, "This isn't me." I had given a few of my speeches in her class while a little bit tipsy, and I didn't feel as if I deserved the praise she gave me. Now, two years later, I feel like I am finally that person she was raving about. I feel proud of myself again.
Before getting sober, I spent any free time I had drinking or recovering from drinking. I left little to no time for the things I was most passionate about, like writing. I've often heard that free time in sobriety can be dangerous and can lead to relapse, but I've found the opposite to be true. Free time allows me to engage in my passions, which in turn keeps me sane and sober.
Towards the end of my drinking, I was, to put it quite plainly, a shit show. And it showed physically. I was always bloated and my skin had a yellowish cast to it. I had gained weight, but I didn't care. In the time since, I've made a lot of changes and I feel like it shows in my physical appearance. While I'm not completely content with how I look (and never will be), I look a hell of a lot better than I did two years ago.
I can be trusted again. For the longest time, I didn't even trust myself. I knew that when I drank, I made stupid choices, but I did it anyway. Each night was a wild card. While no one explicitly said so, I'm sure people in my life didn't trust me. I wasn't a very reliable or honest person when I was under the influence. Since getting sober, that has changed. I truly believe I am a reliable, responsible person, and I believe others think that as well.
I no longer wake up in the morning hating myself and who I have become. Instead, I wake up excited about life, ready to take on what the world has to offer and stay sober while doing so. I know I am a person worth loving, and that makes all the difference.