Updated: Jun 29
Out of all the years I've lived combined, I've learned the most in the ten months I've been sober. That's the greatest gift of sobriety... it teaches you lessons you never knew you needed to learn.
Just yesterday, I found myself in the middle of a new lesson, even though I didn't know it at the time. I'm ten months sober, but yesterday I felt the most anxious I've ever felt in my life. But, through the crippling anxiety, I learned the importance of listening to what my heart is telling me.
First, some background context. Ever since I was fifteen, I've worked in the service industry. First it was McDonalds, then it was a local bakery, then catering, serving, and finally, bartending. Essentially, that's almost nine years of my life that have been spent in a restaurant, kitchen, or bar.
At first, I didn't mind it much. By no means did I love it, but it paid my bills. It also offered flexibility to my school work and for taking time off for vacations. Plus, it was easy and no experience was needed.
However, about three years ago, I really started to dislike it. I'd dread going to work but would push through it because the money was great, and I was saving up to move to DC and pay for my degree. When I moved to DC, surprise surprise, I got another restaurant job. I did look elsewhere, but after three months unemployed, I went for what I knew best.
The restaurant I worked in DC was intense, but I loved the people that I worked with. Despite it being a scratch made kitchen with the menu having almost a hundred items (don't get me started on the tiki drinks), I learned quick and made friends. However, serving people all day had a serious drain on me and I'd often come home with little to no energy left.
I started feeling angry and anxious before shifts. Truly, I didn't want to serve anymore. I absolutely loved the environment, yes. But did that make up for the fact that I hated what I was doing? I didn't know.
One day, the bar manager approached me and asked if I wanted to start bartending. I said yes immediately because it meant a one-way ticket out of serving (or so I thought) and I got to learn something new. I started behind the bar about a month later, and really enjoyed it. Ironically, it was about a month after I started when I decided to quit drinking.
The restaurant (like most) was super short staffed. Eventually, I was being scheduled to serve along with my bartending shifts. Every time I was scheduled, I tried to get out of the shift. Eventually, I was at my breaking point. I thought that I could find another job and I wouldn't have to serve and I'd be happy. But who was I kidding? Working in a restaurant was just not for me anymore.
Fast forward to yesterday. I had gotten a different job for the summer at a country club and would be working as a poolside bartender. However, I absolutely hated it after the first day. The thought of going back gave me the absolute worst anxiety I've ever had, and I couldn't fall asleep until 7am the next morning. So I quit.
The anxiety followed me immediately when I woke up, because, well, now I was unemployed. And if you know me, I have a LOT to save up for... we're talking moving across the country in August, a wedding in Minnesota in September, and a two week backpacking trip in Europe the week after. Yeah. I've got money to make.
However, the same day that I quit, I had bought tickets to an event called "sober in the suburbs." Usually, I'd bail after only getting three hours of sleep and be dealing with bone crushing anxiety, but for some reason, I was dedicated to going. And boy, was I glad that I did.
I made the fifty minute drive, and wound in front of a house in a neighborhood. It was nerve racking because I wasn't sure what I was getting myself into, but I was drawn to the event. Down the stairs I went into the backyard.
What I found was an amazing sober community, and five successful women who had made a living off of their sobriety. The first was a woman who published a book off of her sober blog (what a coincidence... right?!). The other was a woman who made a business off of creating hand crafted mocktails using the best non-alcoholic spirits. And the other three women were sober holistic healers.
I can't explain what it was, but I know that I was meant to be there that day. After talking to these amazing women, I felt my anxiety slowly dissipate, and I felt at peace again. It was also a beautiful reminder that I can find work that fuels me instead of drains me.
I think about what those women had to go through to get where they are today. Lots of time, patience, and hard work in their sobriety. I'm sure that they too had moments like the one I was going through. I felt connected to humanity more than I ever have before.
When I was talking to one of the women, I asked her how she knew that holistic healing was her purpose. She explained that we all have purposes, plural. But we all deep down know what our purposes are because if we listen to our bodies, they will tell us what feels right, what feels whole.
So much of our lives is dictated by our thoughts. But what if we instead listened to our hearts, and what they tell us?
I tried to rationalize continuing on in the service industry for so long that I simultaneously stopped listening to my heart. No matter how much money I made or how flexible my schedules were, I was unhappy. I don't have to be.
After leaving the event, I was no longer worried about how I would find another job. I know deep down that there are options available out there for me, and my heart will guide me to the ones that will best serve me. I no longer choose to let my mind have complete control over my decisions in life. My heart deserves equal, if not more of a say in those same decisions.
While this isn't really a blog post about drinking or alcohol, this lesson is still attributed to my sobriety. If I hadn't quit drinking, I wouldn't of been able to truly hear what my heart was telling me. I also would've never attended that event, met those wonderful people, or learned the beautiful lesson of letting my heart guide me to my purpose. I'll end with this...
"Let yourself be silently drawn by the strange pull of what you really love. It will not lead you astray." - Rumi