Nicole's Story

I think that with many stories, it’s essential to start from the beginning to understand how we got to the end. My sobriety story began when I was a kid, moving around from house to house and country to country. While I feel blessed having experienced so much at a young age, I recognize now that the instability of moving around forced me to grow up too quickly and left me with wounds I didn’t know how to heal. It takes a toll, always being the new kid. Not only do you have to learn new languages and cultures, but you’re also constantly trying to make new friends. It’s difficult to develop deep, meaningful friendships when you’re only in one place for short periods, so as I matured for self-preservation, my relationships became more and more superficial. When things got too deep, I tapped out. I was soon the friend to count on for that next amazing time or that awesome experience. Eventually, this pattern attracted the wrong people, and I started to find trouble. Like a magnet, I gravitated toward other like-minded individuals who were also hurting, and unfortunately, this is where I found partying and drugs. I felt more accepted by people on this level because I never felt judged there. Instead, I could just be, and I loved that. But it didn’t take long for me to realize that the amount of alcohol or drugs I consumed was always just a little more than my friends, and as I built up a tolerance, I had to move on from the friends who thought I was doing “too much.” When I tried to figure out why I liked drugs so much, I chalked it up to just enjoying the feeling. But as I’ve gotten older, I realize that constantly changing homes, countries, and friends stripped me of really knowing who I was. I didn’t have a solid identity and instead just molded myself to wherever I was and whoever I was with; drugs seemed to be a release from that pressure and then it just became normal to do in any social setting. Regardless of how much I was using, I was always able to maintain fantastic grades and hold down great jobs, which deluded me into believing that I didn’t have a problem. Even though I fluctuated between phases of not using that much to almost going to prison, having suicidal thoughts, and even overdosing, it was always just an experience instead of a lesson learned. Eventually, I left San Francisco behind for a new life in Chicago, where I met new friends and my husband, only to realize that my drinking and drug use weren’t normal. I could completely have my life together during the week only to turn unpredictable, wild, and even violent during a weekend bender. It wasn’t until I got to the point that my goals changed, and I wanted a different life did I realize I had no control. So began the cycle of trying to moderate. I tried everything I could, from having one drink and then mocktails the rest of the night to only drinking every other weekend; nothing worked. I always ended up drinking too much, acting recklessly, blacking out, and then feeling the inevitable guilt and shame that comes the next day. It was such a lonely time. Having my own business and being someone who works out and eats healthy, it was hard to explain to friends and family who didn’t see that I had a problem. What they saw on the outside was someone who had it together. But what they didn’t see was the never-ending negative self-talk and the obsessive anxiety that comes with trying to control it all. When I got to the end of my rope, I was experiencing regular mental breakdowns, daily anxiety attacks, and depression. I couldn’t bear it and finally had enough. The Dragonolia project fell into my lap at this time. I had yet to commit to sobriety but had grown to hate alcohol, and I knew that it wasn’t serving me anymore. While working on the Dragonolia project, a community created to break the stigma around addiction, I found a sea of people facing the same issues. I discovered Instagram profiles that posted things that I could have written myself. I found a world I didn’t realize existed, an endless number of people who never hit rock bottom but were also abusing alcohol in a way that wasn’t serving them, and for the first time in my journey, things started to resonate for me. When I found the Sober Powered podcast, one episode made me finally recognize that I had to remove alcohol from my life for good. When I listened to that episode, I literally broke down and cried. I now accept that I have a problem with alcohol. Label it what you want, but if it makes you miserable, you have a problem; and I was miserable. Everything I did to try and control my drinking was exhausting. At first, when I admitted to myself that I had a problem, I felt grief. How would I eliminate alcohol forever? But then, I felt relief. I could finally quiet the conversations in my head. I could eliminate the inevitable anxiety. I could stop letting my husband down and, more importantly, myself. And I could finally begin the healing process of forgiving and loving myself. I thought it might be hard to write my story, but most beautifully, it flowed out of me in a way that felt more authentic than I’ve been in a long time. There have been so many days I promised I wouldn’t drink only to end up going back on my word. But not this time.
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