There is no doubt in my mind that quitting drinking was the best thing that has ever happened to me.
I had my last drink 3 years ago on April 13th, 2013.
Whenever I celebrate these sobriety milestones, I tend to get a lot of congratulations for the fact I've made it some amount of time without alcohol. Which is, of course, a big, huge, crazy deal.
For the last 1,095 days not a drop of alcohol has passed these lips.
Not many people can say that, and being proud I don't drink will never get old.
But if I'm being honest, sober time under my belt is far less interesting and important than what that time actually translates into, which is that part of my life where I finally started living.
As far as I'm concerned, my life can be cut up into two boxes: The life before I learned what it meant to not drink, and the life after.
The former: a slow progression through a tolerable life with a severe longing for something more and a clear sense of never having or being enough.
The latter: not just the escape from that; the latter, truly the having of things I had always assumed were just not for me.
I've been writing this list slowly over the past month and the thing that strikes me the most about it is, on some level, I still don't believe it.
It still seems incredible to me one little change could add up to so much, one step in a different direction could lead me so far away.
But this is how it goes. This is what happens when we abandon the things that are holding us back and do the things we are terrified to do: everything. Everything we dreamed to happen, everything we could wish for. All of it. Here.
This path through sobriety is never ever just about giving something up, or just not drinking, and it's not a punishment, a consequence, a failure, or an acceptance of a smaller life with a paler set of colors. This path is one thing and one thing only: an acceptance of the invitation that has been there all along: To become who we were meant to be.
There is no doubt in my mind that quitting drinking was the best thing that has ever happened to me.
Sobriety is hands down the best thing I have done in my life, and while I could give you at least a thousand reasons why, I've narrowed it down to the one hundred (and three!) of the best.
Here are 103 ways my life has improved during my three years sober.
2. No longer subject to secret 4 AM recycling runs.
3. Honestly completed doctor intake form. No, I do not drink, smoke, or do drugs. BOO. YA.
4. Stopped eating grocery bags of food, vomiting up grocery bags of food with aid of toothbrush.
5. Stopped using toothbrush to vomit things up.
6. Kept same iPhone for ENTIRE life of contract. Two years, bitches. Bought this fancy gold iPhone in February 2013, and kept it IN TACT for two years and one month. Previously, had lost and broken 8 iPhones.
7. No more secrets. No more worrying if somebody will find something out. No more living a double life or feeling like a fraud. Absolutely cannot be blackmailed.
8. Remember all purchases. No more mystery receipts.
9. Only lost wallet once. Remembered where. Bonus, when police officers came to door, did not worry if they had drug sniffing dogs with them.
10. Brush teeth consistently. (Still forget to floss.)
11. Completed 200 hour Kundalini Yoga Teacher Training. Certified.
12. Completed 200 hour Vinyasa Yoga Teacher Training. Certified.
14. Developed daily yoga practice. Finally can do full camel.
15. Stopped smoking cigarettes.
16. Stopped smoking pot. No longer woman in her thirties who thinks April 20th is a holiday.
17. Stopped asking myself things like, When do I finally grow up?
18. Blackout free. No more missing pockets of time. No more pretending to remember things I don't remember.
19. No more drunk texting or drunk Facebooking or drunk dialing.
20. Cool tile of bathroom floor no longer considered "health cure."
21. No more committing to things that sound awesome when drunk, but in real life are not.
22. No more Asian Glow. Also, no longer only white girl I know with Asian Glow.
23. No longer worried if side pain liver cancer or cirrhosis of liver.
24. No more beer belly, bloated face, bloated body, or swollen red hands. I no longer have a beer baby.
25. No longer plan life around alcohol or drinking or getting high. Plan life around life. (And sometimes coffee.)
26. Healthier than ever. PMS symptoms almost halved. Eliminated back acne (bacne). Energy getting better. Working on gluten/sugar/dairy and digestive system.
27. Stopped using chemical products in household and on body. (Because, toxins!).
28. No longer prematurely aging or worried about things that cause premature aging.
29. Look better. Look way, way, way, way, way, way, way, way, way better.
30. Love being 37 years old. No longer afraid of aging or not having accomplished enough for my age or being married or life passing me by or any of that BS. Excited about aging. (Side note, still want Botox, still hate wrinkles).
31. Have found time to learn random things like read tarot, perform EFT (Emotional Freedom Technique), use Garage Band, and play the gong. Currently learning to speak Italian.
32. Started writing. Discovered I can write. Started blog.
33. Started singing. Discovered I can sing.
34. Started taking pictures. Discovered I can take pictures.
35. Started dancing. Discovered I cannot dance. Still dance anyway, because do not give f*cks.
36. Learned to not give f*cks.
37. Met Laura, finally understand whole soul mate thing.
38. Have honest relationship with mom. Closer than ever.
39. Like sister without having to be drunk. Closer than ever. Moved to LA to be near her.
40. No longer thinking about first beers with niece and nephew, but rather how to explain why Jesus and Martin Luther King and Susan B. Anthony are important. Became one of those aunties who considers herself role-model instead of bad influence.
41. Visited Rome three times for extended periods. Fourth trip planned, July 2016.
42. Began love affair with Rome. Know Rome like back of hand. Love Rome more than any man I have ever loved. Would marry Rome if I could.
43. Have never consumed wine in Italy, will never consume wine in Italy. In love with this fact.
44. Saw Prince in private show, remembered all of it. Bonus, when Prince asked crowd to not smoke pot, was only one to applaud.
46. Found purpose in life, followed heart, made it my career by starting own company. Literally do what I love for a living — write about sobriety, teach people how to be sober, hold people's hands through crazy life changes, bear witness to humans coming alive, and countless other things that feed my soul and make my life. Bonus, yoga retreats are tax write-off.
48. No longer just trying to make it through life, no longer feel like there is no point. I get it. I get why I'm here and I want to be here. No matter how hard it is, the magic doesn't escape me anymore.
49. No longer afraid to die or to suffer.
51. No longer afraid to lose people for being me.
52. No longer care what "they" think, only care what I think.
53. Discovered sober sex. Love sober sex.
54. Have better orgasms. Have orgasms people write novels about, and put Fabio on the cover of. (Have orgasm hubris.)
55. Work attire has entirely changed. Can and do wear yoga pants to work. Ann Taylor is dead to me.
56. Have personal psychic. Finally girl who starts sentences with "My psychic said..."
57. Get the whole "self-love" thing, no longer vomit in mouth a little when hearing "self-love", no longer want to murder people who talk about "self-love".
58. Discovered addictions mean I'm strong, not weak. Discovered depth of strength.
59. Discovered I am brave. Really, really f*cking brave. I can do hard things — the hardest of things — and I look forward to doing them.
60. Discovered the art of living how other people won't so I can live how other people can't. Not afraid of couch surfing, or not having things, or being ungrounded, or living with my mom at age 36, or not having health insurance, or the prospect of homelessness, or incurring massive amounts of credit card debt, or being the girl who doesn't drink, or saying things people don't like, or getting hate mail, or not fitting in, or or or...and only know all of this because was forced to do first subversive thing — stop drinking.
61. More tattoos. Better tattoos. Also, just, tattoos. Since quitting drinking I've kinda sorta fallen in love with tattooing myself. This is the latest, Pigeon.
62. Have saved about $50k total. Saved $32,850 on drinking and drinking related expenses ($30 a day, which was conservative at the end). Saved $17,505.08 on cigarettes, pot, and related expenses like Black Car service to drug dealer's house.
63. No longer have drug dealer.
64. Got the courage to leave San Francisco. Moved to LA. Love LA. Leaving SF felt impossible, but not changing felt even more impossible.
65. Looking to purchase property in Rome. Have no idea how I will do this, but know I will do this.
66. Learned I can do anything I put my mind to. (Because if you can stop drinking, you can do anything.)
67. Learned to say no.
68. Learned I'm an introvert. Learned I don't like parties or overwhelming social situations. Learned that this is all okay.
69. No longer fear missing out on things. LOVE missing out on things! Self-worth no longer tied to being seen, being invited, being there.
70. Learned to be with myself and be comfortable in my loneliness. Discovered I am my favorite person in the entire world.
71. Completed 10 day silent meditation retreat. Did not talk for 240 hours, meditated for 105 hours, lived.
72. Discovered love for reading. Have read 350+ books in three years, and counting.
73. Found Pema Chodron, Marianne Williamson, Chogyam Trungpa, Stephanie Snyder, Debbie Ford, James Baraz, Rob Bell, Yogi Bhajan, Gandhi, MLK, Thoreau, Ralph Waldo Emerson, and countless other teachers.
74. Built a website from scratch with zero training, found profound love for this form of creativity. Colors + pictures + styling+ typography + words = heaven.
75. Learned content marketing, social media strategy, photo editing, copywriting, sound editing, content management, SEO, branding, and a few thousand other things.
76. Became one of those people who has a Mac and works from Hipster coffee shop that serves Stumptown. (Have always wanted to be one of those people who has a Mac and works from Hipster coffee shop that serves Stumptown.)
77. Finally believe in God, and not just because I'm afraid not to.
78. Bought first edition Piranesi. Own legitimate "Could be in a museum!" art. An art dealer named Francesco (who I did not make out with), holding my first real art purchase. It's a first edition Piranesi and it's of the bridge across from Castel Sant'Angelo in Rome. You can actually see the building we are standing in in the etching.
79. Started cooking. Even though it's just for me, even though it looks ugly. Also keep fridge stocked for first time in entire life.
80. Made countless friends of all walks. Found my tribe and found my people — people that GET me and get me on a level I've never enjoyed. Richer in authentic relationships than anything else. Bonus, get to collaborate with friends on various endeavors (like co-authoring an art and mantra book with Tammi, podcasting with Laura, creating nutrition resources for addiction with Mary, and countless other things).
81. Have made out with three different men named Francesco.
82. Rode on motorcycles throughout Italy with strange men. (None of which were named Francesco.)
83. Okay with being single. (No, really guys, I am).
84. Bought car, keep car clean. Bonus: paid for registration ahead of time for first time in life. I know we're not supposed to love things or also have SUVs. But I love her. I love her so much.
85. Do laundry regularly. Change sheets once per week like the people who read Real Simple do.
86. Stopped reading Us Magazine. Wholly unmoved to know what is happening in celebrity's lives.
87. Stopped gossiping as a rule. Practice Astaya, non-stealing, of people's reputations. No longer worried if gossip is going to come back to bite me in as*.
88. Stopped calling myself names in my head. Only sweet, compassionate words allowed when addressing myself.
90. Discovered profound love for neurobiology.
91. Discovered still hilarious, don't need booze to be hilarious.
92. Discovered still socially anxious and awkward, cool with being socially anxious and awkward.
93. Found my voice.
94. Found the vagina to speak my voice.
95. No longer ruled by fear. (Not fearless, just not ruled.) I am not afraid even when I'm afraid. There is this overwhelming sense of "bring it on, I can take it."
96. No longer afraid to get my heart broken.
97. No longer afraid to try, because no longer afraid to fail.
98. No longer afraid to ask for what I need.
99. No longer worried if I'm going to die from drinking.
100. No longer worried whether drinking is making me fat or ugly or old.
101. No longer worried about drinking, period.
102. Can look self in mirror. Like what I see in mirror.
103. Got free. More free and liberated than I ever believed possible. Believe in infinite possibilities, believe in magic, believe in life, believe we can do anything, believe in me.
"There are no rules. No one is in charge. No one is coming to get you." —Zoe Wild
Bonus, 104: Discovered it just keeps getting better.
This article was originally published at Hip Sobriety. Reprinted with permission from the author.