My Recovery Story: From High-Functioning Alcoholic to Reiki Master

I’ll never forget the day I woke up alone on the floor of my Airbnb in Mexico City.

Tangled hair. 
Bloodshot eyes. 
Bloated face. 
Blotchy skin. 
Pounding headache. 
Mouth made of sandpaper. 
Two empty bottles of mezcal. 
A shattered glass on the counter. 
A steadily growing bruise on my right hip.
A no-longer-oscillating fan I vaguely remember tackling the night before. 
An impending panic attack on the horizon. 

“My god, what happened?!” I rhetorically asked aloud, cringing in shameful bewilderment. “How did this happen?”

I already knew the answer. I’d been down this road many times before. 

Except this time was different. This time, I was finally tired of my own BS. This time, I was finally ready to get sober – once and for all. 

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The First Chapter of My Recovery Story

I started my sobriety journey in January 2021. Hands down, best choice I’ve ever made. 

In all honesty, I never thought I’d be able to claim sobriety as an accomplishment, especially considering that I’d repeatedly attempted – and failed at – quitting alcohol many times in the past. Not to mention, my life looked vastly different just one month prior to making this profound life-altering decision. 

“The day I get sober is the day Hell freezes over,” I drunkenly mumbled while ordering another round of mezcal shots at a hole-in-the-wall bar in Playa Del Carmen. 

“Actually, on second thought…can you make mine a double?” I slurred to the bartender.

The last two years had been fraught with profound loss, intense sadness, and deep psychological pain. I was utterly broken and more lost than I’d ever been, plagued by cumulative grief that I had zero intention of facing head on.

 So, I did what I knew how to do best: I entangled myself in yet another trauma bonding love affair and drank – heavily. 

Deep down, I liked the idea of being sober. Something about it felt so alluring, so…freeing. Because let’s be honest, who truly enjoys being wasted all the time? (You’re lying to yourself if you say you enjoy it. Take the word of a sober woman.) But, like most people who struggle with alcohol dependence, you let the fear control you. You let the fear dictate your life

You tell yourself that your life will be boring if you get sober. That you’ll have no friends. That people will judge you. That you’ll judge yourself. That you’ll have constant FOMO. That you’ll have to stay away from people, places, and things that do not participate in active sobriety. That you’ll be absolutely, terrifyingly miserable 24/7, 365. That you’ll hate the tragically mundane human you’ll suddenly morph into. 

Those are all lies. In hindsight, I wish I had quit sooner. Because the truth is, I was a high-functioning alcoholic for many years. And living that way for over a decade was downright exhausting. 

“Deep down, I knew I had a problem because I often questioned whether or not my drinking was a problem. And wondering if you have a problem is a surefire sign that you most definitely have a problem.”

Despite operating in a constant state of anxiety-riddled misery, I was never able to own up to my problem. Something about the terminology just made me feel…demoralized? Culpably negligent? Humiliatingly out of control?

“I’m not an addict,” I’d scoff. “Addicts go to rehab. I can stop drinking whenever I want.” 

I now realize that was just my ego deflecting reality. 

Deep down, I knew I had a problem because I often questioned whether or not my drinking was a problem. And wondering if you have a problem is a surefire sign that you most definitely have a problem. 

Family History, Dysfunction, and Trauma

I have a long family history of alcohol and drug abuse. I also grew up in a highly dysfunctional household which was chock-full of repetitive traumatic experiences (e.g., constant gaslighting, excessive criticism, unrealistic expectations, to name a few).

On top of those inescapable precursors, I worked in the addiction treatment industry for 3 ½ years, which meant I knew ALL the classic red flags of alcohol dependence and abuse: 

  • Using alcohol to cope with life, whether life brings ups or downs
  • Having chronic, obsessive thoughts about drinking and partying 
  • Always trying to limit yourself to a certain number of drinks and failing every. single. damn. time.
  • Easily finding excuses to drink even though you specifically planned to not drink 
  • Getting annoyed when other people don’t want to drink or party with you 
  • Becoming angry, defensive, or childish when people make comments about your drinking habits 
  • Excessively spending money even though you don’t have the funds to back it up
  • Casually dismissing recurring brownout or blackout episodes
  • Engaging in risky sexual behaviors with little to no memory
  • Developing a tolerance so you need to drink more alcohol to feel its effect
  • Surrounding yourself with the type of “friends” who provide the least amount of resistance to the way you live your life 
  • Feeling irritable, tired, depressed, nauseous, or anxious when you haven’t had a drink

I exhibited ALL of those telltale signs and symptoms, yet I could never outwardly admit I had a problem. Instead, I’d boldly claim that I was only a social drinker. That or I’d tell one of the following lies that allowed me to continue swimming in the magical seas of denial:

“Life is boring without booze!”
“But these are my fun friends! Fun people party. Fun people get trashed.”
“I’m happy, energetic, and fabulous when I’m partying!”
(And my personal favorite:) “I’m perfectly healthy. I get acupuncture. I go to the gym. I did Whole30 and didn’t drink for an entire month!”

Let me be perfectly clear: Happy, healthy people don’t drink a bottle of wine – sometimes two – six nights a week to manage an overly anxious mind. Happy, healthy people don’t casually do key bumps to counteract their intoxication after “accidentally” getting drunk at home – alone – on a random Tuesday. Happy, healthy people don’t routinely wake up and take a 2mg bar of Xanax to offset hangover-induced anxiety and feelings of intense guilt. And happy, healthy people certainly do not condone any of the aforementioned statements or behaviors.  

It all boiled down to one thing: trauma

Unresolved Emotional Trauma

Suppressed emotional trauma is the root cause of my addiction. It’s also what causes us to stay in situations (and around people) that are familiar and comfortable even though they might not be good for our health and well-being.

I had over 30 years of unresolved trauma that I was unwilling to face. Instead, I used alcohol (and an unhealthy amount of Xanax) as a daily coping mechanism to drown out the pain of my past and the problems it caused in the present. 

Alcohol is classified as a central nervous system depressant, meaning it slows down brain functioning and neural activity. So, sure, it can definitely help you feel more at ease and forget about your underlying stressors, but the effects are short-lived. 

It was a vicious cycle of circling the drain. Somewhere along the way, I had convinced myself that feeling mediocre was as good as it was going to get. 

You know the saying about how most people don’t really change? It’s true. Well, partially. People don’t change because they are set in their comfortable ways, whether or not they’re willing to admit it. But here’s where I call BS: We ALL have the power to change. We ALL have the power to be better versions of ourselves. Sometimes you just have to get out of your own way to see that change is possible.

If you had told 27-year-old me that I’d be a sober reiki master at the age of 34, I’d have thrown my head back and dramatically laughed, undoubtedly spilling the large glass of red wine that was always glued to my hand in the process. 

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I allowed alcohol to define my adult life for well over a decade. Until one day, I decided that it wasn’t going to define my life anymore. 

I made the conscious decision to stop using alcohol as a crutch to numb the pain of my past. Instead, I sat with my feelings. I leaned in. I welcomed the pain. I accepted responsibility. I forgave myself. Then, I did research. I found tools. I made a plan. I committed to myself. Every. Single. Day. 

I’m not saying sobriety is easy. 

But if there is one thing I can promise you, it’s this: sobriety is absolutely worth it.

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