2 Years ago, I gave up...

Today is a very important and special day for me as it marks the 2 Year Anniversary that I gave up drinking alcohol. For those of you reading this who like to drink, you may get a little sting of guilt or even jealousy when you hear that; I know I used to when people told me they stopped drinking. I thought things like, “good for you, I could never do that. I like drinking way too much and it likes me.” And, “I would be so bored if I quit drinking. Not to mention, A BORE! Who would want to talk to me if I didn’t have a witty, (and sometimes) slurred comeback for everything?” And, “Alcohol gives me the best excuse to do the things I would normally never do, and I LIKE having excuses.”.

So why in the hell would I quit drinking if I liked it so much? The truth was, I was totally miserable. I couldn’t even trust myself and found that my daily life was turning into more and more of a paranoid’s nightmare. I allowed my mind to get the best of me with unlikely scenarios and situations that were not ACTUALLY happening, so I would drink to quell any fears, keeping the cycle going another day, and then another.

After all, my inner-self knows SO much more about who I REALLY AM and it was railing against me all the time when I would veer off course – for what I NOW know is this: When you are not in alignment with your true self, you will feel at odds with yourself, confused, off-track, crushing anxiety, nervousness, depression, anger. Before I knew it, I was pushing back on those emotions with a heavy-duty drinking problem. I even tossed in some massive piles of Adderall to try to even it out. Not only did Adderall give me an excuse to drink more, and longer, it also gave me something to grab onto first thing in the morning to help me push through my hangovers. At least that it what I told myself, that it was “helping”.

Like many alcoholics, I was looking for any edge I could get that would allow me to keep drinking and fitting in and functioning in my daily life without anyone thinking I was a complete mess. That’s where Adderall came in. I lied to myself mostly, and to everyone else, I hid bottles of booze, I hid pills, and I hid that I was smoking cigarettes from everyone for nearly 6 months at one point until I gave up and surrendered again to THAT demon for a second time. (I had quit smoking once before, 9 years prior, then picked it back up. Sometimes we do drastic things to give ourselves the smack in the face we really need to WAKE UP.)

As a high-performing corporate saleswoman in the legal field, I was expected to deliver, and deliver, and deliver. Many of you who are reading this now can relate to that feeling. The great thing about being an alcoholic and working in the legal field was that there was NO SHORTAGE of attorneys and paralegals who would join me for a drink or two or three after work – or sometimes BEFORE the end of the day. I felt like I found my people! My drinking buddies! I would go out all night with a handful of attorneys, laughing and drinking the night away, then pop an Adderall in the morning to get me and my hangover out the door and off to work only a few hours later so we could do it all again. Usually I was begging for a drink around 2 or 3 pm and would do my best to find someone to join me at the bar, or just go myself.

Eventually, this all caught up with me. I knew something had to change. I was extremely bloated. I was angry and completely nervous when I wasn’t drinking. I felt dependent on these substances and I did not like that feeling of not being in control. So, I started by eliminating the Adderall. I weened myself off of it over 6 months’ time. To challenge myself a bit further, I left a little container of broken up pills in my medicine cabinet so I could see them every time I went to brush my teeth. I never did open that container, though I did pick it up from-time-to-time and roll it over in my hands. After a while I didn’t even look at it. Then one day, a year or so later, I finally tossed it. I said aloud when I did so, “I don’t need this.” It felt pretty damn fantastic, I won’t lie.

Through all of my drinking, the saddest thing, I think, is how this all reflected on my loved ones. On my husband, especially. He was travelling much of the year and so he didn’t really get to see my darkest days. I was really good at hiding them, too. That is, until I couldn’t really hide it anymore. It was late May 2016 when he came home and he really started to see how much I was drinking. Well, he was being deceived because I was HIDING at least half of the empty bottles. Instead of throwing them in the recycle bin where he could see them, I wrapped them up and stuffed them in the bottom of my oversized tote and would take them out the door with me when I headed to the office the next day. I would make up insane excuses to run to the local deli and get something or other so I could smoke cigarettes and sometimes even buy a small bottle of beer and chug it on the sidewalk while I was smoking my cigarette. When we were drinking together, I would always take extra sips when he wasn’t in the room.

One day he said I smelled like cigarettes. I had to come clean that, yes, I was smoking. It didn’t make me feel any better. It made me feel worse, actually. But I was sliding deeper and was caring less and less about what I was doing to my body and mind because I NEEDED it. I needed EVERY FIX I could get. That’s what I said to myself. I didn’t know how to cope – smoking eased things for me – at least for a few minutes at a time. I started smoking in front of people, no longer hiding it. Taking smoke breaks much more frequently.

One day it hit me: I was going to be 40 years old. I had to get my shit together. My body was a mess, my mind was a mess, my life was a mess. If I got rid of the Adderall habit, I can do this… kicking smoking and booze HAD to come next. I was determined to feel better damnit!

I started by forcing myself to NOT go to the bar after work every night. I LITERALLY had to find something to hold on to to stop myself from walking into the bar: a ledge, a lamppost, a bench on the street – ANYTHING that I could use to steady myself as I argued internally about how just one drink would help me relax, and that I can start my alcohol-free life the next day. I am certain I looked like a lunatic standing on the street with a determined, angry look on my face every night, just standing there, staring at whichever building housed my go-to pub (there were a few). I MADE myself go home once a week without a drink. THAT was NOT easy. I fought against it. I paced. I was angry. I read books, I did ANYTHING I could to keep my hands and mind busy. And I slept. Then I moved to twice a week, then three times a week, then before I knew it, I wasn’t going to the bar but once a week. Mind you, I was still buying booze on my way home. But I would just stare at it and not open it. I would force myself to get rid of it, give it away, so I wouldn’t drink it. Eventually I learned how to do this WITHOUT hating myself for being in the position of having to be ‘recovering’ in the first place.

So, yeah, the real irony of my story is that, THROUGH ALL OF THIS, I was working on myself. I would try to meditate, and I would read self-help books. I got certified as a health coach! I got my massage therapy license! I was an over-achiever in every sense of the word. AND, like anyone else, I had good years and bad years. The worst for me was 2016, right before I quit. That was when my drinking turned to day-drinking and hiding bottles, and lying to people about how much I was drinking, and the rest.

No one said the path to healing is full of rainbows and unicorns. It is always painful. And it is ALWAYS worth it. Surround yourself with people you respect and who respect you, with people who love you and support you and hold you accountable. Fill your time with activities that involve helping others and helping yourself. Keep focused, and remain curious. Most of all, do not give up. Just over that shitty, winding, twisty hill is your next AHA moment! Once you find it, keep it and use it as a clue to find the next one, and the next, and the next.

Today I have been alcohol-free for 2 years. By choice. I have not only survived but I have THRIVED because of it. I have worked and excelled WITHIN the legal industry even without drinking daily and THAT I did not think was possible 2 years ago. I built my businesses on healing and even created a company DEDICATED to the wellness of my fellow legal professionals: Legal Ease Wellness. We help to create one-of-a-kind wellness events and we see it catching on. It is MUCH more sustainable than looking for answers in the bottom of a booze or pill bottle.

Funny thing about getting sober – you have SO MUCH MORE TIME to get shit done! Let me tell you, if you thought I did a lot before, these days it’s a whole new ball of wax! I love every minute of creating my life from love instead of fear. And have developed a confidence that I never knew I had.

I am now working as a High-Performance Intuitive Coach and use my gifts as an Intuitive, an Energy Healer, an Artist, and a Business Woman to guide my clients through breakthrough after breakthrough in their own lives. The most magnificent feeling is when my clients have their own AHA moments: when they pick up and keep moving into their greatest version of themselves. Truly inspiring.

If you want to share your journey with me, please feel free to do so. The more the merrier! There is quite a stigma about addiction (especially in the legal world!) and I am writing this in part to help end that. People can change. We are resilient. We are here to learn from our mistakes and move forward. Sometimes it takes longer than we imagined it would, and that is all okay.

I look forward to hearing from you.

Photo on the left is me, bloated and drinking every day. Photo on the right is sober, and loving my life! Photos taken about 20 months apart.

Gayle Damiano

February 2, 2019

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