A few months before my 29th birthday, I woke up mid-day next to a guy I vaguely remembered meeting the night before.
I glanced around the room and saw two empty cocktail glasses sitting in pools of condensation.
I didn’t own glassware like that, so where did they come from??
Then I realized we must have walked right out of the after-hours bar with the glasses in our hands.
He said my phone had been ringing but he wasn’t able to wake me up.
It was one of my contacts at the World Health Organization - a strategic partner for the contract I was working on - wondering why I wasn’t at our 10am meeting.
On a Thursday morning.
I can’t really describe how awful that moment felt. This wasn’t the way my life was supposed to go.
You see, just 7 short years ago I was on top of the world.
I had spent my 20s in a whirlwind of success and ambition.
I had worked in a prestigious position for the Municipal government, created an innovative initiative with the Provincial Health Authority and founded an international advocacy network that allowed me to travel the world presenting at conferences and the United Nations.
And I’d honestly lost count of how many countries I’d traveled to and worked in before finally settling in Cambodia where I had just landed an important consultancy gig for an international organization.
I was living the dream...on paper.
At the time I wanted nothing more than to believe my life was as great as everyone else thought I was - but it wasn’t.
You see, when I was 16, I started using alcohol as a coping mechanism, as a confidence booster, and as the soothing balm that could so easily erase reality and quiet my troubled mind.
I’d left my mother’s house after a huge fight, moved in with a friend, worked 2 jobs while also trying to finish grade 11 (Junior year) - all while trying to convince my guidance counsellors and teachers I was okay.
It didn’t take long before I blacked out for the first time at a party.
And I did it again. And again. And again.
It started me on a quest to prove to the world and everyone around me that I was fine...even though I was a frightened, sad young woman who felt unlovable and unworthy.
Alcohol proved to be a reliable antidote to these deeply held beliefs about myself.
It wasn’t all bad, of course. I loved to party, dancing and music were my escape, I met loads of hilarious and amazing people, and had many exciting adventures around the world.
But it was pretty clear my relationship with alcohol hadn’t changed much - whether I was getting blackout drunk as a teenager or calling my contact back at the World Health Organization to make up a lame excuse as to why I missed my 10am meeting on a Thursday.
There were some changes though.
I was now going through a divorce and lonely.
I was in a career that no longer thrilled me even though I had worked so hard to “make it.”
I was drinking red wine almost every night to cope with insomnia and anxiety, combined with a dangerous mix of some of the same pills that lead to Heath Ledger’s accidental overdose.
And I was was STILL going out to party and drinking excessively to the point of blacking out.
So why am I sharing this publicly now?
Because as I’ve been more open about my experience I’ve come to realize that so many women struggle with similar issues and feel totally alone.
I am sharing my story now for any other woman who lacks confidence and hides that feeling behind the false bravado that comes from alcohol.
I am sharing this for any woman who feels like she is living a double life, just as I felt from my early teens until my late 20s.
I am also sharing it as a beacon of hope for those who intuitively feel there should be another approach to alcohol...something other than the total abstinence “all or nothing” attitude where we pretend everything is totally fine until is not and you’re on the way to hitting rock bottom.
Though my relationship to alcohol was problematic for 15+ years (more than half my life!) and some might have classified it as a dependency or addiction, I have successfully learned to control my drinking and have a healthy relationship with alcohol.
But first, I had to learn how to have a healthy relationship with myself.
This didn’t happen overnight. It’s been 5 years since I slept through that meeting. I have made many lifestyle changes and dug deep into internal healing.
I created a clear vision for the life that I wanted to live and how I wanted to feel once I redefined my relationship with alcohol. I wanted to be that person who could sit and have a glass of wine with a nice meal, without the obsession over whether or not I was going to order another.
I told the people closest to me that I was done drinking to get drunk. I often told acquaintances I had stopped drinking completely because it was easier and I felt less pressure.
I enrolled into a yearlong holistic health-coaching certification program with the Institute for Integrative Nutrition and developed daily rituals that nourished my mind, body, and spirit - empowering me with the inner strength I needed to handle those situations where I was feeling like I absolutely “needed” a drink.
My toolkit goes beyond my relationship with alcohol and has allowed me to have a better relationship with my body. My quality of life has improved dramatically. I am no longer plagued by anxiety, self-doubt and insomnia.
I can now enjoy a glass of wine and know that I don’t “need more.”
Truth be told, I rarely want more.
My internal reality is too great now to mess with it too much.
I’ve truly found peace and happiness within me.
As a holistic health and lifestyle coach for successful women who struggle with alcohol, I now support other women to do the same.
I want every person who intuitively knows there “must be another way” (other than abstinence-only) that there IS one.
I want this for every person who wants to redefine their relationship with alcohol and to find freedom from alcohol, on their own terms.
I want you to know that it doesn’t have to be all or nothing. Between 85-90% of those of us who have problems with alcohol CAN learn to moderate.
If you’d like to learn more, please download my free “Drink Less Success” video series or check out my book, “Drink Less, Be More: How to have a great night (and life) without getting wasted”