“I am and have always been a very extreme and all-or-nothing type person. The word ‘moderation’ does not exist in my vocabulary. I either work out every single day or cancel my gym membership and refuse all types of physical activity. I will abstain from eating even one bite of a cupcake (my weakness) or I’ll gorge on 3 of them in one sitting. I’ll either plan an itinerary full of activities during a vacation or will plan absolutely nothing. As you can probably guess, this has not always served me especially when it came to drinking. Up until 2 years ago, my philosophy on drinking was I would either not drink at all, or drink to get drunk. I’m not going to waste time, money and calories to just get a teeny tiny buzz. That’s not me. I was literally blown away by people who can easily stop themselves after 1-2 glasses of wine, my husband being one of them, and knew I would never in a million years be able to do that.
A lot of people don’t know this about me, but I have a family history of addiction. I lost my father to alcoholism and mental illness (the two often go hand in hand) back when I was 23, and I was so embarrassed and ashamed about it for the longest time. Addiction was the big elephant in the room. It was never talked about in our family, and quietly slipped under the rug because the last thing we would want is to bring shame to our family. Many people will probably be surprised to learn I also have my own personal history of addiction. I started partying at the early age of 13 and always knew I was ‘different.’ I was known as the crazy one who never wanted the party to end. I was constantly pushing the limit and testing boundaries. There were a lot of dark times in my life, and in my early to mid 20’s, I hit rock bottom. I remember nights of going to bed after a very hard night of partying, drinking and drugging and wondering if I would wake up. Looking back, I wonder if I even wanted to wake up. I was the Queen of self-destruction and self-sabotage. I hurt others before they could hurt me and was incapable of loving anyone because I didn’t love myself. One day, I realized my worst nightmare had come true. I was truly alone, pushing everyone away and ruining almost every single relationship in my life. From there, it should come as no surprise, that I did a 180 and completely turned my life around. Or, so I thought.
Fast forward to almost 10 years later where I’m now a successful and contributing member of society, with a picture-perfect life. However, looks can be deceiving – because I had a secret. I loved my wine and had a very unhealthy emotional relationship with it. I would drink to overcome my shyness and insecurity in social settings, to relieve my anxious and racing thoughts, to ‘cure’ my insomnia and help me fall asleep, to escape from a particular problem I was currently dealing with, to feel a connection with others and be liked and the list goes on and on. Basically, I drank to run away from negative feelings and emotions. One morning, after a particularly wild night of drinking with a girlfriend, I had enough. I was tired of the control alcohol had over my life. A lot of people think an alcoholic is the homeless person you see on the street. Or, maybe it’s the person who has to drink every single minute of every single day. I definitely did not fit the definition of an alcoholic, but I finally realized I was one.
Obviously, I’ve abstained from drinking before because I have 2 healthy and beautiful children, but during my pregnancy, I was what we call in the recovery world ‘white-knuckling’ it and a ‘dry drunk.’ Physically, I wasn’t drinking, but I still wanted to very badly and I missed it. I missed it a lot.
It was very hard for me to get pregnant with my daughter which is no surprise considering how much I abused my body. At this point in my life, I was clean from drugs but still loved drinking a little too much. My husband and I had to do IVF, and thankfully it worked. Due to my addictive nature I had still not yet healed, I replaced my love for alcohol with food, specifically sweets. I have a small frame but ended up at almost 200 pounds by the end of my pregnancy. I was unrecognizable.
When I decided to finally seek help and get sober, I wanted to get to the root of the issues and heal the reasons why I’ve struggled with addiction in the past and can’t drink in moderation in the present. There is both a physical and psychological component to addiction. The gun can be loaded, but something has to pull the trigger and I was ready to find out what that was in my life.
The beginning of my sobriety journey was probably one of the most difficult things I’ve ever had to do. I had to admit I had a problem which is the first and hardest step. I had to face all of my fears, insecurities and weaknesses and learn to overcome them on my own. Repressed memories started coming up out of nowhere and I had to heal parts of my life I didn’t even know needed healing. I realized how much pain and trauma I’ve been carrying with me from childhood until now, and finally forced myself to feel it, so it no longer had the power and control over me and my life as it once did. I learned to forgive both myself and others. A lot of people think that forgiving is for the other party, but it’s actually the greatest gift you can give yourself. I had to figure out who I was as a person.
For the longest time, I’ve always tried to be someone other than myself because I thought that would make me more accepted by my peers. It may sound silly, but I never grew out of wanting to be popular and liked until I became sober. The minute I stopped caring about what other people thought was overwhelming because of it’s foreignness. I now know not everyone will like me and want to be my friend, and I’m okay with that. It’s their loss because I know I am pretty freaking awesome. But seriously, it’s okay not to click and vibe with certain people and to go separate ways. That is perfectly okay.
While I once used to wish that I was ‘normal,’ I now fully embrace and love who I am. I feel like I’ve lived so many lives, but know that this was the journey I needed to take in this lifetime. I’ve realized how strong I am and feel empowered, confident and alive. I am not your ordinary girl and there is nothing vanilla about me which I find absolutely beautiful. I can honestly say I am living life to the fullest and am living MY best life. I look better now than when I was in college and I contribute it to living a healthy and 100% sober lifestyle. I have a thriving career in luxury real estate and have gained quite a following on social media. It’s important to me to not only use my platform to promote my business, but to inspire others by speaking openly and authentically about my past and the struggles I’ve endured. We all come here with our own flaws and weaknesses, but it’s up to us to determine how much we will let it define us. The obstacles in life can either make us or break us. But, it’s important to remember we are the creators of our own lives and life is always happening for us.”
This story was submitted to Love What Matters by Julia Wang, 35, of Houston, Texas. You can follow her journey on Instagram. Do you have a similar experience? We’d like to hear your important journey. Submit your own story here, and subscribe to our best stories in our free newsletter here.
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