day (i lost track)

Somehow, I went from somebody who lived for the weekend and slid by just to achieve the bare minimum to somebody who is in a constant state of stress and can’t think about anything other than school and getting out of college and being successful. I can’t really tell which version of myself I like more.

The old me looked for any excuse to “celebrate” and relax. Chilling and having fun was my top priority whereas schoolwork was always put on the back burner and it received about as little amount of attention that it required. There was no such thing as putting in extra hours and extra effort in my book. As long as I turned in all my half-ass assignments on time and could say “yes” to a social invitation, I was content. Honestly, I was happier at times then. I was never worrying if I was going to make it in life, I was just worried if I could make it to the bar in time for free cover. I was always making up excuses for myself not to worry. Now, I can’t think of a reason not to. As long as I was surrounded by my friends and had a drink in my hand, I was laughing and had a smile on my face. The old me did everything I could to make sure that was happening a majority of the time because if I was alone, I thought about everything I was trying to avoid. Now, the only thing I try to avoid is drinking, so all I do is think about my responsibilities and the other various stressors in my life constantly. I keep telling myself that it’ll pay off in the long run, but to be frank…it sucks.

I never feel like I have a moment to take a deep breath and relax, not even for a couple hours. I feel like there’s always something I could be doing and if I don’t do it, then I’m going to fail and regret it later. I’ve become an anxiety-ridden perfectionist who doesn’t want to waste a second on something that doesn’t involve getting things done. Even just picking up a beer in the comfort of my own home after I finished all of my homework feels like something that I shouldn’t be doing. This all sounds so “responsible” and “conscientious” of me and like I’m asking for a pat on the back or a gold star but I feel like a ticking time bomb that wants to explode. The old me always thought that things would magically fall into place and work out for themselves and now I feel like I’m going to be a complete and utter failure in life if I don’t put every ounce of energy and effort in my body towards my priorities. This is why I’m not sure what version of myself I like more. The old me might’ve been a naive idiot that was always running away from her problems but at least my ignorance was bliss. I fucked up and fucked up and fucked up again but I kept living my life the same way because I knew changing would be really hard. And guess what?! It’s really, really, really hard. I don’t think I’m trying to change my mindset anymore because my mindset feels pretty much changed. I can reminisce on the carefree person I used to be, but actually being like her again is something I could never let myself do.

And you know what? I bet there are a lot of people out there who really liked that person. I’m not talking about the blacked out, drunk version of me. Nobody liked her. I’m talking about the me who didn’t feel like she had a brick weighing on her chest 24/7, the me who wasn’t always bitching about everything she has to do or why she can’t do this and why she can’t do that, the me who was always smiling and goofing around and not taking anything seriously. That me was the kid I never wanted to let go of because I wasn’t ready to be an adult. I wasn’t ready to be like this yet. I wasn’t ready to think about the future, or graduating, or what job I was going to get out of college, etc. I just wanted to escape reality and pretend like I didn’t need to grow up, but now my best friends that I graduated high school with are graduating college in 6 months while I’m asking a Magic 8 Ball if I’m ever even going to get my degree (It said “Reply hazy try again”). Moral of the story, I don’t feel like the same person anymore. The people who liked the old me might not like the new, worried, over-achieving, excuse-making, sober and boring Lauren that they’ve never met before in their lives until now. But like I said, I already feel like it’s too late to turn back. I know what I want now and that my previous ways were only holding me back, even though they might’ve been more fun.

day 9

About exactly a year ago, I thought my life was perfect.

I had just put an end to my first long-term relationship that should’ve been over the second it started. It was forced and something that I didn’t want but something that I kept holding onto for about two and a half years because I was scared of being alone. I felt like being in a committed relationship, no matter how bad it was, would be better than casually dating around. But when I eventually got the balls to shed that phase of my life for good, a whole new life emerged right in front of me. I immersed myself into my sorority and adopted a social life that was completely the opposite of what it had been before. During my first college years, I sheltered myself. I didn’t want to meet new people and I was so stuck in my ways and in my comfort zone that I never gave myself the real chance to branch out. Once I finally was single, it wasn’t just about boys. It was about doing what I wanted, having an open agenda, and finding myself. My first relationship had the same affect that alcohol had on me. It held me back, blinded me from my priorities and new opportunities, and most importantly, it was just unhealthy. Everybody saw it, I knew it, but I didn’t truly see until I opened my eyes. So in turn, my life drastically changed that following Fall semester. I was so happy, I never felt alone, I always had somewhere to go, someone to hang out with, and my priorities were in line. I had a nice car, a great serving job, all A’s, and I finally realized how fulfilling it was to let go of something that had run its course. All of the problems that I faced during that time period were just signs that I needed to move on because there were better things on the horizon. It all made sense.

I remember going to the beach after I aced all of my final exams with my little and two of my best friends that were in my Greek family. It was a beautiful day, it was the beginning of Winter Break, and best of all…I genuinely thought that I had found the right guy. That day at the beach, as my hand was hanging out the car window while we were driving down the shore, “Roses” by the Chainsmokers blasting and my hair flying in the wind, I thought to myself, “My life is perfect.”

Three days later, my life flipped upside down…and so did my car on the side of the highway. What prompted me to get in my car that evening, I have no idea. But an impulsive decision that I wasn’t even conscious enough to make ruined my “perfect” life. No more sorority, no more car, no more transportation to my job, no more transportation to school (I lived in Lake Mary at the time, 30-45 minutes away from campus), no more clean record, no more clean reputation, no more feeling like I had my life together. I went from feeling like an independent, studious sorority girl to a criminal loser. Before the accident, I was excited to move into my sorority house, but I had to sublease somewhere last minute instead. I felt embarrassed to go out in public at first since I knew for a fact that my mugshot was being sent around in group messages and that the worst night of my life was being ridiculed and made fun of.

I always asked myself, “I’m a good person…why is this happening to me?” Because good people make stupid fucking mistakes. Good people aren’t immune to bad things happening to them and good people don’t just get away with breaking the law. It took me a good amount of time to own up to my mistakes instead of blaming the Universe or God or bad luck. Even though I didn’t want to let one bad night and one bad mistake define me or my life, it ultimately did. I constantly thought about everything that I lost and how my life did change for the worse, even though I desperately wanted to convince myself that it didn’t. Sooner or later, instead of thinking about all the possibilities and the “what ifs” and the “whys” that drove me nuts, I decided that I was going to own it. I was going to go out and show my face and pretend like nothing happened, like I was happy to be a Greek life reject and that I was better off this way, and that a bump in the road wasn’t going to stop me from enjoying my college years. I suppressed all of my regret and embarrassment with even more alcohol and denial. And by transforming into this girl who wanted to drink to the point where she forgot who she was all the time, I wasn’t the girl that this guy fell for anymore. What I desperately needed was somebody to be there for me and reassure me that everything was going to be okay, but I pushed away the person that I wanted there the most by being a hot ass mess that seemed like more trouble than she was worth. The more distance that came between us, the sadder I got. So luckily for me, I found another reason to drink on top of everything else.

It’s been almost 10 months since that night and I still think about it every single day. I’m still aware of how different my life is now compared to what it would have been if I never made that one choice. But sometimes, I look around and realize that what I’ve got now isn’t too bad. I live in a cute apartment with two of my new best friends that I’ve made since the incident. I have a new job that I genuinely enjoy. I started off the semester strong and already aced my first exams. I have more motivation than I’ve ever had to succeed in the Journalism field and to keep writing about my personal story. I’ve stopped giving so much of a shit about what people think and am living my own truth. Best of all, I already have more confidence in myself after only 9 days that I can make the right choices and be in control of my own life. Maybe there are better things on the horizon for me soon, maybe I still have some more fighting and struggling to do, who knows? The second that I thought that my life was “perfect” was the second that God laughed at me and threw me a curveball that I never saw coming. You just never know what’s going to happen and you can’t make plans or worry about things that haven’t happened yet. As cheesy as it sounds, all you can do is take things day by day.

day 7

I used to be genuinely proud of myself if I went two or three days in a row without drinking, so not drinking for a week feels like somewhat of a small accomplishment for me. Here’s what I learned:

  1. Feeling hurt and hopeless and lost is a really good starting point if you want to make some big changes in your life.
  2. Some people really do care about your happiness and well-being, whereas some people only care about whether or not you’re going along with their agenda.
  3. It actually feels great to stay home and turn down plans to study for hours and get an A on your first exam.
  4. You perform a lot better at work and enjoy it significantly more when you’re not hungover.
  5. The amount of “Sorry about last night…” texts decrease at an alarming rate when you don’t drink.
  6. Your mind feels quicker, your mood feels better, and your energy feels higher when you’re not poisoning your body with alcohol day after day.
  7. When you start feeling proud of yourself rather than feeling guilty and ashamed all the time, your self-esteem increases.
  8. When you feel confident about cutting one toxic thing out of your life, suddenly you have the confidence to cut out another thing, and another, and another.
  9. Things that no longer serve a beneficial purpose in your life don’t seem as attractive as they used to when you focus solely on having a positive future.
  10. A lot of people have shit going on in their lives. Life isn’t perfect for anybody and we all experience ups and downs and good phases and bad ones.
  11. Most importantly, as cliche as it sounds, you wouldn’t appreciate happiness if you never experienced sadness. There has to be balance in life or you wouldn’t appreciate anything that goes right.

Today, I thought about if I ever really will drink again. I’m not somebody who depends on alcohol to survive, and believe it or not, I enjoy myself sober and can be happy without it. But I’m 100% sure that I’ve been using alcohol to self-medicate my underlying problems. The second my problems got worse, my drinking got worse. What if I learned how to process my emotions in a healthier way? Better yet, cut out those emotional triggers that have worsened my urges to drink for good? What if I got through this month or the next few months practicing self-control, would I be more confident about being able to handle just having one or two drinks in moderation one day? What if I limited myself to drinking when I actually had a reason to relax and celebrate, not just drinking every night for no reason at all? There are underlying problems behind my drinking that need to be solved and progress that needs to be made within myself before I ever decide to pick up a drink again. I don’t know when that will be or if it ever will happen, but I do know that this is the right choice for me at the moment. I’m not just doing this to quit drinking. I’m doing this to find and better myself in general. To let go of all the things that I’ve been clinging on to for dear life that aren’t meant for me, whether it’s a person or a coping mechanism or a mindset that no longer serves me. This is a journey of self-discovery and bringing back the joy that I’ve been wanting but doing nothing to find. Maybe one day, I will have a drink AFTER I have good grades, am off probation and am done with all of this DUI nonsense, and am on the right track financially, emotionally, mentally, etc. I’ve realized that I’ll never know what obstacles are around the corner, so only time will tell.

day 6

I don’t know if this is just the nature of the beast when it comes to quitting drinking but I’ve felt drastically different every day. Some days I feel hopeful about it, some days I feel depressed, some days I feel like nothing can stop me, and the emotion of the day today is just lonely. After watching my friends get ready to go out together yet again and leaving me alone in my apartment as I’m sitting on my bed doing homework, I’m finally starting to feel like I’m missing out. It doesn’t make me want to change my mind, but it does make me think about all the good times that I’m missing out on while my friends don’t have a care or worry in the world about drinking. I’m not just giving up alcohol. The hardest thing about quitting drinking is giving up the places that you’re used to going, not spending as much time with the people that you’re used to doing it with, and turning down the invitations that you’re used to getting. You have to change the dynamic of your life when you’ve revolved so much of your time around doing things that involve alcohol. My mom doesn’t understand why I think I’m going to lose friends through this. She is probably the most responsible drinker I know, somebody who can go to a raging concert or a sporting event or go bar hopping with her friends and have two light beers and have the time of her life. She has a rich and fulfilling social life despite the fact that she doesn’t depend on getting wasted to have fun. But you couldn’t catch me dead at a sweaty college bar that smells like puke and cheap liquor without any alcohol in my system to make it more tolerable. I’ve had a lot of people tell me that I come off as an outgoing and friendly person whether I’m drunk or not, but it’s easy for me to feel overwhelmed and anxious in big crowds. I want to be positive and say that I could still thoroughly enjoy myself being the only sober person in a room full of obnoxious drunk people but I can’t really picture it. I’ve showed up to Pub at midnight completely sober once and it was one of the most annoying and uncomfortable experiences I’ve ever endured.

The straw that finally broke the camel’s back was pushing away somebody that I cared about for the last time due to all of my drunken antics. But what will new guys that I meet really think when I tell them that I don’t drink? Will they think that I’m lame and boring? I’d rather not go into detail about why if they ask. How will I loosen up before a date? What if they ask me to meet up with them for drinks, what will I say? All of these questions have been flooding into my head today and I don’t have the answers to them. All I know is that alcohol has been the root of every problem and negative situation that I’ve found myself in over the past few years and I’m not going back, so I guess those are all scenarios that I’m going to have to deal with when they arise. I’m just hoping that when I do meet somebody worth my salt, they won’t care about whether or not I drink and will like me for who I am.

I’m also hoping that after this week, I won’t be talking so much about how hard it is to not drink anymore and I can just write about other things in general. At the end of the day, alcohol is just alcohol. It’s a liquid that makes you feel a certain way, like soda makes you feel hyper and like chamomile tea makes you feel relaxed. It’s not the actual act of drinking that I crave so much, but the lifestyle and the social events that come with it that I’ve been so accustomed to. This is the sixth night in a row that I’ve spent alone while my friends are all out and about and I guess I’m just starting to feel the pangs of solitude.

day 3

Every person who has reached out to me individually since I started this blog has praised me for being so brave and open about what I’m going through. But what really makes it brave that I’m writing about my problems? Is it because we’re so used to only seeing everybody’s “highlight reel” but none of their “behind-the-scenes”? News flash, EVERYBODY has problems. Even that person who is smiling in every picture and gushing about their accomplishments has issues and insecurities of their own. So many people that you would never expect are dealing with their own shit. But social media might make it seem like you’re the only person in the world who abuses substances, or is going through heartbreak, or feels really depressed and anxious sometimes, or has family problems, etc. We live in a world now where it’s shocking and taboo to admit to people that we don’t have a perfect life. I am extremely appreciative of every single person who has gone out of their way to encourage me and show me their support through all this, but most importantly, I hope it makes people realize that it’s okay to not be “normal”.

For the longest time, my mom has always told me that “normal” isn’t a thing. What really is the standard for a word like that? Because everybody has their quirks, flaws, and things that make them different from the person next to them. I used to feel like I wouldn’t be “normal” if I didn’t drink. I thought, “Why does everybody else get to drink but I can’t?” Here’s a statistic…according to the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, 16.3 million adults who are 18 or older had an Alcohol Use Disorder in 2014. 16.3 million people have drinking problems, but close-minded Lauren thought that I was the only weirdo who did. But in college, when you’re surrounded by people who think binge drinking and doing drugs is the coolest thing since sliced bread, it’s easy to feel like you’re an outsider if you’re sober. But for the record, if you couldn’t already tell, I’m done giving a shit about what people think. Growing up, my self-image was completely crafted by what other people thought or said about me. One positive comment could’ve boosted my ego for the day and one negative comment could’ve crushed my whole world. If someone said something mean to me, I took their word for it. I thought that their opinion of me was more important than what I thought of me. But living life like that with no control of how you feel about yourself and just depending on everybody else to decide that for you only leads to disaster, trust me. I never felt like I was living my own truth. I only did what I thought I was supposed to be doing instead of what really made me happy. When you recognize that quality in yourself, you start to recognize it in so many people around you. I know that I’m not alone, and I don’t want anyone else to feel like they are either.

So, what makes me happy? I love to read, write, paint, run, do yoga, watch Netflix, go on Pinterest and Tumblr, clean, hang out with my friends and family, chill with my cat, lay out by the pool, go to the beach, etc. But for the past 9 months, if you asked me what I actually did with most of my free time, it wouldn’t be that. I dedicated most of my time to slumping around my apartment, feeling sorry for myself, and drinking. I didn’t do the things that made me the happiest anymore and I wondered why I wasn’t happy. So I challenge you to do the things that make you happy, to reconnect with your hobbies and passions and spend some quality time with yourself.

On a happier note, today I got my first Journalism internship. It’s crazy how a couple days after I cut out such a toxic thing out of my life, something positive popped up. I’m hoping that more and more positive things unfold as I shed those negative feelings, mindsets, and habits that I’ve been carrying around for so long. I feel scared about making such a huge change sometimes. I feel like I’ve identified with being somebody who likes to drink, go out, go to parties, and be “fun” since high school, and now that’s all done…I’m not that girl anymore. It feels really weird and intimidating and daunting. But I find solace in knowing that I’ve seen so many signs and red flags and experienced so many close calls that have lead to this moment. That’s what makes me feel confident that I’m making the right decision.

day 2

I woke up this morning and the first thing I thought of was a text I recently received. It stated that despite how sometimes I seemed like somebody who was attractive, cool, and somebody that they wanted to be with, that my drinking habits are what caused them to see me in a whole different light. When I first got that text, I couldn’t stop bawling my eyes out. How did I let myself ruin something that I wanted so badly just because of alcohol? I keep thinking about the what ifs…what if I never drank, what if always kept my cool, what if I never said and did things that I regretted the next day, would I be happy with this person that I fell so hard for, something that seemed so perfect at first? I realized that every negative situation that pushed us apart had to do with me drinking. For almost a year, I’ve been getting chance after chance with this person, only to fall into the same negative cycle of proving that I’m just a hot mess that can’t control herself…that can’t process her emotions in a healthy way, that can only express herself after she drinks and lashes out, then profusely apologizes like a lunatic the next day. My friends and I can call this guy an asshole if we want to try to make myself feel better, but it gets to the point where I have to ask myself, “Would want to be with a person like me? Can I blame him?” It’s hard to expect to find a healthy relationship with someone else if you’re not in a healthy relationship with yourself. I’m always going to be trying to fill a void, looking to somebody else outside myself to try to make me happy, only to be left disappointed time and time again. I was unhappy. I lost touch with my hobbies, my friends, my goals…I just revolved my life around going out and wanting attention from one person. No healthy or normal relationship is going to blossom out of those circumstances.

Sadly, the DUI wasn’t the wake-up call. Flipping my car three times on the highway wasn’t the wake-up call. Being put on chapter probation for drinking and then eventually getting kicked out of my sorority wasn’t the wake-up call. Being in the front seat while someone else got a DUI wasn’t the wake-up call. It was finally losing somebody that I cared so much about because alcohol and being an insecure person in general made me look like somebody that I wasn’t. It was putting strain on my friendships because I was a selfish friend when I was drunk, who only had a one-track mind and listened to nobody. I love with everything I have, so how am I going to let my substance abuse get in the way of the relationships that mean the most to me? If I want to be appreciated for my good qualities, I can’t be only showing my bad ones and then asking what the hell is wrong with people when they don’t like me.

For the past several months, the only way I dealt with my sadness was to lay in bed all day and sulk. I avoided my friends at times, avoided schoolwork, avoided the world and just hoped that somehow things would miraculously get better even if I just laid in bed and did nothing. The only things that I didn’t avoid were opportunities to drink with people who probably didn’t value me as a real friend, but just a drinking buddy that never said “no”. I sat around sitting, waiting, and wishing instead of actually doing things that would benefit me in a positive way. So today, instead of dwelling in my negativity and crying which I initially very much felt like doing when I woke up, I got up out of bed and made coffee and breakfast at a reasonable hour. I set up an internship interview and went shopping for professional clothes. I got my ass into some workout clothes and ran the trails with my roommate in 90 degree weather and almost passed out in a bush. I still felt sad throughout the day, but the person that I’ve been for the past year would’ve never had the motivation to do any of those things considering the way I felt. I’m not going to let my feelings or let my drinking get in the way of moving forward in my life anymore. I came to college to get an education and establish a career, not just to party and revolve my life around trying to find love in the wrong places.

day 1

Today is the day that I’ve decided that I’m done living in a daze. I’m done blurring my days and nights together, abusing alcohol to forget about my problems. I’m done looking in the mirror and seeing tired, red eyes. I’m done not recognizing myself. Who is this person? I thought she was smart, and driven, and good at heart…not somebody who lives life in the shallow end, trying to find the answers to her problems by numbing herself. Sometimes, I feel so much at once that I think it’d be better not to feel anything at all, even if my problems in the first place were caused by alcohol. I’ve pushed people away with my drinking problem. I’ve made people start seeing me as this hot, uncontrollable mess rather than somebody who likes to paint, write, do yoga, read, and love with my whole heart. I have so much to offer to the world but all the world can see is how I’ve been negatively portraying myself…as this girl who pounds shots and slurs her words and isn’t in control of her life. You would think that getting a DUI would’ve been a wake-up call. That’d be a good time to get sober, right? Wrong. My drinking got worse. Getting kicked out of my sorority only motivated me to be more rebellious. I told myself I didn’t want to let getting a DUI define me and that’s why I didn’t stop drinking. I told everyone I didn’t want to sit in my room and dwell about my mistakes so that I had an excuse to continue going to the bar and pretend like nothing happened. But I’ve let getting a DUI cause my life to become even more chaotic and messy. I thought maybe being a “hot mess” would be like my personal brand. I owned the fact that I partied a lot and made bad decisions and acted like a fool. But deep down, I knew this wasn’t me. I barely even knew who I was at all. But all I knew was that in the moment, when I was dressed up with a drink in my hand and dancing, I wasn’t thinking about how lonely or insecure I really was deep down. I wasn’t thinking about how I could be in a room full of friends and family and still feel like I was so hard to love. I wasn’t thinking about how repeatedly having embarrassing, drunken nights is what caused guys who once thought I was beautiful and attractive to think that I was a problem that they couldn’t handle. After going on benders for weeks at a time, I started waking up in the middle of the night with shaky hands and a pounding heart. I was experiencing overwhelming anxiety and didn’t know what the root of it was. After doing some research, I found that unexplained anxiety symptoms can be caused by alcohol withdrawal. I thought to myself, “Really?” Was my body really beginning to depend on alcohol? Maybe I wasn’t just a college kid who liked going to the bars, but a person who had to drink to feel normal. These thoughts swirled in my head every day and I still went to go pick up a drink the second someone offered one to me. I ignored all the warning signs and told myself that I was being dramatic and still went out every single night.

So what’s rock bottom for me? I’ve seen it all. Someone else’s rock bottom is just another night for me. After repeatedly binge drinking and doing and saying things that absolutely don’t align with my true values, I’ve realized it’s just time to put this phase of my life to an end. Is alcohol worth feeling like I “fit in”? Is it worth treating every school night like a Friday? Is it worth making my social life more of a priority than getting good grades and being a respectable employee? Is it worth pushing away the people I love, making them think that I’m just a girl that can’t control her drinking? It’s not anymore. This isn’t the person I want to be. For the past year, my only priority has been to numb whatever I’m feeling. So now, I just imagine myself becoming 100% sober, getting back into working out and eating healthy, having relationships that don’t revolve around drinking, and doing well in school. It’s not going to happen overnight but I’ve decided that I’m going to use this blog to document how I feel about the whole process and my journey of bringing back joy.