Updated: Jun 29
When I first gave up drinking, the only thing that I could focus on was riding out the cravings. For the first month, I did whatever it took not to drink. For one, I was drinking hot chocolate or coca-cola every time I had an urge to drink alcohol. I was also binge-watching Netflix to keep my mind off of getting a cocktail at a restaurant down the road, or scrolling through social media to distract myself from buying a bottle of wine for the upcoming episode of The Bachelor. The sugar intake, social media obsession and binge-watching might've helped me survive for that first month, but I didn't want to live that way forever. When the cravings started to fade, I came to the conclusion that I had a LOT of work to do to cope with my uncomfortable feelings. After three months of being sober, I realized that my drinking had hindered my ability to cope emotionally, spiritually, mentally, physically, and socially.
As time went on, I started to look into healthy ways of dealing with my stress. I started swapping out unhealthy habits with healthy ones, and gave myself a nudge in the right direction. Instead of Netflix, I started reading books instead. Instead of hot chocolate, I indulged in chamomile tea every night before bed. And eventually, I substituted scrolling on social media with journaling. All of these methods allowed me to sit with myself and acknowledge my inner presence. Sometimes, this was excruciating to do. But these little steps allowed me to become more comfortable with who I am and what I feel inside.
In the process of learning how to be alone with myself, the space that alcohol once occupied in my mind was now empty. I wasn't dealing with the brain-fog that accompanies a hangover, and the temptation for alcohol was no longer intruding my thoughts. After two months of having a clear head, I started to understand things about myself that I had been repressing for years. My brain made room for opportunities for healing and growth that I didn't know I desperately needed. In turn, I was able to tune into myself, and identify areas in my life that I wanted to heal. I slowly began liking the person who I am, and feeling compassion for the parts of myself that I disliked. I started to identify what triggered me, and eventually came to an understanding of why I had those triggers in the first place.
I'm getting a little too far ahead of myself, though. It would be wrong for me to discount the credit that the book The Mindful Millionaire by Leisa Peterson had on my quest for healing. With the new time, money and healing capacity I encountered when I quit drinking, one of the first things I wanted to improve in my life was my financial situation. As a graduate student at a private university, I desperately wanted to tackle my loans head-on to reach financial freedom as soon as possible. However, the book was so much more than a financial guide. The book allowed me to identify my limiting beliefs, gave me insight on my unbalanced energy, and provided groundbreaking journaling prompts that helped me understand myself fully. Leisa's book is about being mindful of who you are while you work towards financial freedom. It was through her book that I began a morning routine that has allowed me to begin healing from my repressed past towards a successful future.
I'll get into my morning routine in a later blog post, but for now I'll cover the basics. Each morning, I wake up, and do six activities, all in under an hour: breathwork, meditation, journaling, affirmations, visualizations, and exercise. I've become a firm believer that if you spend just one hour everyday working on becoming a better version of yourself, your life will change immensely. More on that later. This post isn't so much about the morning routine as it is the power of inner reflection. I became aware of some uncomfortable truths about myself, and have taken baby steps to heal them.
Through my journaling practices, I realized that my parents divorce has shapped many of the behaviors and triggers that I have as an adult. For one, I have extreme control issues. I'm a high achiever, and have a hard time feeling proud of myself. I only feel safe when I'm in control. When I experience uncertainty my stress goes through the roof. I've always known this about myself, but I didn't realize it stemmed from my childhood. My parents got divorced when I was about ten, and every week I was alternating between two different houses. Constantly being on the move as a child, I focused on external ways that I could manage the feeling of instability: through schoolwork and controlling what I could. If I studied and knew I would get a good grade, it was one less thing I had to stress about. One of my biggest triggers today is when someone tells me what to do. I realize this stems from the lack of agency I felt at a young age.
Another thing that stemmed from the divorce was my inability to validate my own feelings. The divorce was messy, and custody was a huge part of it. I don't think it's right to involve children in the custody battle, but unfortunatley thats what happened to my brother and I. Nonetheless, I always felt that I was being treated like an object being fought over rather than a human being. The arguments were usually about me, but never included me. Deep down, l felt like my feelings were not valid enough to be acknowledged. Later on in my teenage years, I would act out because I felt like my feelings were invalid, and I desperately wanted someone to acknowledge my hurt. I was never asked why I was acting out, the focus was always on my equivocal behavior. This reinforced the idea that my feelings didn't matter, only the things I did mattered.
Those are only two of the ways that the divorce shaped some of my adult behaviors that I have disliked about myself. However, when I became aware of where they stemmed from, I was able to acknowledge that these behaviors were attempts made by my child-self as a way to manage the hurt and pain I was feeling inside. They were simply acts of survival, just like my social media and hot chocolate bingeing were at one point, too. I'm now aware that I don't have to continue to live in that reality as a scared and hurt ten year old. I can let go of the ways I had coped in order to survive. I am no longer living that truth.
By simply journaling through these experiences, I've had tremendous breakthroughs with myself. I began therapy (which I have felt EXTREME resistance - due to forced therapy in childhood) as a way to learn how to validate my feelings further, and to let go of resentments I hold from the past. I am working towards feeling proud of myself by writing gratitude notes in my journal daily. I've also committed to other goals, such as a savings fund, running a ten mile race, and writing in my blog post weekly. Slowly but surely, I am healing the hurt parts of myself while learning to grow into someone I want to be.
Healing takes time. I'm not even sure if there is an end to it. However, I know that I wouldn't have been able to identify what I need to heal from, had I not quit drinking. If you're considering quitting, know that it does get better. The first month will be hard, but the real growth starts later. You're capable and deserving of healing the child within. A book that I recommend to anyone who has childhood trauma is Childhood Disrupted by Donna Jackson Nakazawa. Another book that focuses on how the body stores trauma is The Body Keeps The Score by Bessel van Der Kolk. Click the links if you'd like to see them on Amazon. If there are any other resources I can give to you on this topic, please feel free to reach out. I believe in you, and wish the same self-awareness and compassion I have gained from inner reflection to all of you. You are worth it!