Back then, when I used to binge drink regularly, I had the impression that the lifting of my inhibitions meant that this magic elixir was showing me who I truly was. The stressed out, anxious, overthinker could not possibly be the person I was destined to go through life as. No, it made much more sense that I was a fun-loving risk-taker who could charm strangers and gather crowds in bars to hear what I had to say...right? Well, not exactly.

You see, while I may have wanted to not have the thoughts looming over my head (like that I was inadequate and that no one could really like me for me), the solution I chose only led me down a road towards completely losing myself. And, almost losing everything else along the way. While I may have wanted to mask my insecurities by drinking and forgetting them in the moment, what really happened was that I forgot myself and turned into someone I eventually had a hard time seeing in the mirror. While I wanted to be the person who everyone wanted to be around, I turned into the good time party girl who may have been wanted, but in all of the wrong ways.

My binge drinking eventually pushed me to many rock bottoms. I became a manipulative liar...and would brag about how good at it I had become. I had the ability to morph into any character necessary to get my way. I avoided my amazing family and events with them because my priorities lay with finding the next high. As time passed, more legal woes presented themselves. With this came the self-loathing, and while I hated what I had become, I continued to drink and use, to the point it was no longer even appealing, but I did it anyway. I kept myself around people who were just like me. People who had problems just like mine. This was by choice. I didn’t want to deal with anyone’s talk of concern or care.

Finally, my final rock bottom moment hit and with that came the last day I drank. July 28, 2019. This is when the real work began. This is when I had to be brutally honest with those I loved, and also with myself. I admitted to myself that I had major issues and that I wanted to change. At age 42 (then), it was finally time for me to grow up. None of this was easy. Learning how to be an adult when your age is double that of two adults is NOT a simple endeavor. But step by step, I started to see the layers of Kelly peeling back. Things started to look clear. Emotions showed up and I was forced to deal with them authentically. I learned that while this was hard, sitting with the feelings and growing because of them was so worth it. I found out just how strong I really am. I am becoming the mother, daughter, and friend I wish I had been all along.

I am present for the things that really matter. Catching frogs with my daughter. Seeing the sun come up. Hearing birds sing at dawn. Learning what I like and don’t like. Discovering hobbies. Reading books and writing again. Sharing my story...the things that brought me the most shame are now the things that I can proudly put on display because it helps me grow each time I talk about it. And, it potentially helps someone else who could have experienced some of the same things. The fact that I have been allowed the opportunity to make it through all of this and gotten to this point is beyond miraculous to me. Never have I been more grateful for anything more than sobriety—it allowed me to discover who had been inside of me all along. Thanks to living alcohol-free, I can finally, for the first time in adulthood, say that I love myself and my life.

Kelly Belew is a mother and sobriety blogger in Charlottesville, VA. Kelly founded the East Coast Sober Squad and can be found @kelz_is_sober.

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