Throughout my twenties, I was in a toxic relationship with alcohol. It gradually ate away my self-esteem, self-confidence and self-worth. Until I realised that it was just not worth it anymore. I deserved better, so I broke up with alcohol for good!
Drinking was of no interest to me as a teenager. I was very focused on doing well at school and trained obsessively as a competitive runner. Being socially anxious, the thought of going to parties with boys and alcohol was terrifying.
This all changed when I hit university! It wasn’t cool to not drink, and I was sick of being the shy girl that I was in high school. An invitation to go to an older friend’s cocktail party was my opportunity to shake off that boring, innocent image.
Getting drunk for the first time was a totally foreign feeling of relaxation and confidence. Finally, it was easy to talk to people and a lovely break from the anxiety which was always holding me back in social situations.
I didn’t want to miss out on anything that university social life had to offer, so I decided to give up competitive running, because morning training sessions and hangovers do not mix. I guess you can still go to parties sober, but isn’t alcohol an essential ingredient for making friends and fitting in?
First year university was fun! My girlfriends and I would get dressed up in our tiny bandage dresses, get drunk on passion pop and go out clubbing together. Most of it was innocent fun, but sometimes I drank to the point of blackout and my friends had to recount to me how I made a fool of myself the night before. But that’s normal, right?
The blackouts became more frequent, even to the point that I had to be picked up in an ambulance one night. I was pumped full of fluids and discharged to my very disappointed parents the next morning. My friends reassured me that I didn’t even drink that much, and my drink must have been spiked. The concerned nurse at the hospital told me that my blood alcohol reading was a very dangerous 0.2. In my mind it wasn’t my fault, so I chose to believe my friends.
My parents and younger sister tried to warn me about my drinking, but like anyone in a toxic relationship, I was deaf to anyone who told me that my drinking was problematic.
At times when I was unhappy, I used alcohol to fill a void. When I was dissatisfied with work, going through a break-up or just feeling shit about myself, I drank to escape from my discomfort.
The escape was only short lived. I would frequently black out and wake up with awful hangovers and even worse anxiety, trying to recall the stupid things I had said, done and texted the night before.
Alcohol made me the worst version of me and by my mid-twenties I was starting to question who I had become. I was sick of drunk me sabotaging everything I worked hard for, so I decided that I would go back to running with a coach and training squad. Running had always made me feel like the best version of me, so I figured that focusing on it would force me to moderate my drinking.
Through running, I would socialise by meeting friends for early morning runs and coffee, and I had races to build toward, so naturally I was able to reduce my drinking. None the less, I was still within alcohol’s toxic grip, so every 4 to 6 weeks I would blow out. I’d start drinking when I was excessively stressed and after two or three, I just couldn’t stop. After these blow outs I would feel even more anxious, struggle to focus at work and would be unable to train properly. I would get myself back on track, but I just kept repeating this vicious cycle.
When it came to dating and romantic relationships, I used alcohol as a mask to give me more confidence. I was scared that men wouldn’t like the real me.
I met one boyfriend in a drunken haze at a mutual friend’s birthday drinks. He was naturally shy too, so I’m not sure if we would have hit it off if alcohol wasn’t involved. I couldn’t believe that he liked me, because I sure didn’t like myself. I thought that being in that relationship made me happy, so I was lazy and did no work on myself including not addressing my issues with alcohol.
After 18 months, he broke up with me. My self-esteem was shot. I felt totally lost and alone which resulted in some especially bad blowouts with my drinking. I ruined Christmas that year.
The shame had become too much to bear and I decided to re-invent myself by moving to a new city. I was going to be sober and no one would know me any differently. I stayed completely alcohol free for just over two months and felt great! My running was going well, I was excited about being in a new city and my anxiety was well controlled. I decided I was fine and could moderate my drinking.
Much like going back to a toxic ex, it worked well for a few months. Then, the loneliness and anxiety crept up again. I had a blowout one night, alone on my couch. I woke up the next morning with so much self-hatred. How had I let this happen?
I was drowning in a pool of my own shame and I didn’t feel strong enough to swim back to the surface. The best I could do was to tread water.
Then, finally, something just clicked. I had started drinking to give myself more confidence, yet, ironically, alcohol had completely shattered my sense of confidence and self-worth.
When I drink, I say and do things that are not a true reflection of me. I hate drunk me. It’s like an alien invades my body. Every time I have a binge, I feel like none of my achievements matter anymore and that I am a complete failure.
So, what is the point in having that first drink? Much like a toxic partner, there is nothing you can do to stop the problem, apart from cutting ties completely.
Since breaking up with alcohol, I feel like the old me again. The authentic me. I love being able to focus on the things that make me truly happy, like running, friends, family and my dog. I love experiencing everything in full focus and waking up hangover free with no regrets.
I am still haunted by some of the mistakes I made when drinking and the number of blackouts I had (which I cannot count). I am only just beginning to forgive myself for making the choice to drink and for the consequences that came from this. I accept that overcoming an addictive behaviour is a long process, especially as a young adult living in a world with a lot of social pressure.
Now I choose to move forward and enter my thirties sober, leaving the drunk me, the alien me, in the past forever.
Sarah Greenwood is a 29-year-old Physiotherapist from Perth, Western Australia. She enjoys long distance running, hanging out with her dog Buddy, reading and creative writing.
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Congratulations! I can relate to so much of this though it has taken me many more years to come to the conclusion.
Thanks Sparky 🙂 it doesn’t matter how many years so long as you got there!! Sarah
Well done! One of the hardest things ever is to get out of an abusive relationships and you did it!!! Xx
I can relate to your story. Thank you for the inspiring words! I am 16 months sober and working on forgiving myself for past mistakes as well. Thanks for sharing.
My pleasure and thank you! forgiving ourselves can be hard but we will get there. No looking back. Sarah x
Right on. Now I hope I can do it.
You can do it Gary, it was reading someone else’s blog on here that really got me committed to making the change! Sarah 🙂
The Alien! I have to have one that I need to leave it behind.
Good story and thank you x
My pleasure Kendall, The alien isn’t you and you’re much better off without it 🙂 good luck and thank you. Sarah x
Thank you for sharing … such an important story 🙂
Thanks for reading Doris 🙂 Sarah
Amazing – I love your analogy to alcohol and a toxic partner, and the need for a complete break up.
I’d like to hear more detail about the final breakup and how you were able to make it a permanent one.
Thanks for the great read!
Hi Donna, thanks so much for reading and I’m glad you got something out of it! I had been trying to end things for a while but for some reason I just couldn’t. Its hard to put my finger on but the thing that has made the most difference is making sobriety a daily practice. Everyday I write down why my life is so much better without alcohol so it has made this mind set permanent. Hope this helps and good luck 🙂 Sarah x
Congratulations Sarah, a wonderful achievement.
Thanks Greg 🙂 Sarah!
Thanks for sharing. It gives me strength.
Thanks Dave, keep going, you can do it! 🙂 Sarah
Reading Sarah’s story brings to mind my history of alcohol use. I feel happy for her, and the outcome she achieved. Although words cannot adequately portray the emotional battles that she encountered addressing her alcohol use, she deserves to be congratulated for her victory.
Thanks Mal, you are right that it is very hard to use words to portray the emotional battles. there were some hard times but it has paid off. 🙂 Sarah
Congratulations! Its stories like yours that give the rest of us hope.
Hi Carl, thank you! it was reading other peoples stories on HSM that gave me hope! I’m just like everyone else on here 🙂 Sarah
GO YOU🌻and thank you for sharing💛 your thirties will be AMAZING because you will remember them.
Thanks Bianca, super excited for my thirties! appreciate the encouragement 🙂 Sarah x
I resonate with so many parts of your story. Using alcohol to give me confidence and reduce social anxiety but then hating myself and full of regret. Sobriety has been the greatest gift I have ever given to myself. I have always been taught to think of others but it’s taken me until my 40’s to realize that I am worthy of giving something to as well.
Hi Simone, thanks so much for reading and for your kind words. All I wanted was for others to resonate with my story as I felt so alone when I was drinking. Remember that you are so worthy!! Sarah 🙂 x
To self medicate with alcohol is like trying to put a fire out with gasoline- it took me over 30 years to realize this – you did it in less than 10 – congrats!
Thanks Mark! it doesn’t matter how long it took, you got there too!! Sarah 🙂
Very brave and inspiring post.
Thanks Tracey! Sarah 🙂
Thank you for your story, I sometimes felt guilt from my past drinking, what I did or didn’t do, I lost a lot. Sarah your words of forgiving yourself and leaving the past behind are true and this is what I am going to do to heal and move forward into by late 40’s
Hi Caz, thank you for reading. the guilt and shame can be really hard to deal with but so so important to be able to forgive yourself. You deserve to heal and be the best version of you. No need to re-live the past. Sarah 🙂 x
Proud of you Sarah! Look out 30s!! Xxx CM
Thanks CM. Love you GF xx
the booze is a bitch and i can get it everywhere
So much courage and so much raw honesty. I’m so very proud of you my beautiful friend x you deserve all the happiness and love in the world and it all starts with you xxxxx
Thanks Annette my love it means a lot 🙂 I couldn’t have done it without all the support form my beautiful friends like yourself x
Hi Sarah, reading your story was like looking in the mirror. I can relate to your struggles with alcohol. Good luck with your journey without the drink. Regards Matt
Hey Matt, thanks so much for taking the time to read and I’m glad to hear you were able to relate to it. excited for the journey ahead and good luck to you too! Sarah 🙂
WOW!! Sarah you are an inspiration to me and you should be extremely proud of yourself and what you have achieved and the decisions you have made. I am also from Perth and my journey has been similar to yours in a lot of ways. I am now 14 months sober and I have never felt better .
But i am always vigilant that my sobriety can change in the blink of an eye.
Thank you for sharing 😀
Hi Jase, Thanks for such a lovely comment! it is nice to know that others close to home are going through similar journeys. So happy to hear your sobriety is going well! it is a daily practice but everyday does get easier 🙂 Sarah 🙂
So many things in this piece chimed in me although I wasn’t smart enough to tackle it until well into my forties.
Hey Rich, thanks for reading!! its not about being smart it just about getting there eventually 🙂 well done for tackling it!! Sarah 🙂
Someone I know is currently struggling. She has just lost her job because of her drinking, yet is still finding it difficult to do what you have achieved. Would love to know more about how you actually did it.
Hi Karina, I’m sorry to hear about your friend. To make the change she has to want to do it and choose having the life she wants over alcohol. This is something I remind myself of everyday! I hope this helps. Sarah 🙂
Thanks for sharing your story. You are very brave. I like your analogy if alcohol as the toxic relationship, so true. Best wishes for a wonderful life moving forward with alcohol. Enjoy your thirties!
Hi Alisa, thanks so much! super excited for my thirties 🙂 Sarah 🙂
Thanks for sharing your story. You are very brave. I like your analogy of alcohol as the toxic relationship, so true. Best wishes for a wonderful life moving forward with alcohol. Enjoy your thirties!
Wise words Sarah (also my daughters name it means Princess)
It took me until i was 57 to really come to grips with alcohol.
Thanks Brett and well done on coming to grips! some people never do. Sarah 🙂
So proud of you Sarah & it takes a lot of courage to face such a demon but even more to openly talk about it.😊
Thanks Claudja means alot !! 🙂 x
Well done. You are lucky that you only regret your 20s. Some of us regret our relationship with drinking in our 20s, 30s, 40s and 50s .
Keep going with your sobriety is my advice. 💕
Thanks Sam! I love my life soo much more already, I will definitely keep going 🙂 Sarah 🙂
What an amazing story! I have just turned 40 and still in a relationship with alcohol. In fact am writing this with a hangover. Your story is inspiring. I would love to know if you decided to replace your alcoholic drinks with non alcoholic drinks. I have no self control once I get to 3rd or 4th drink.
Hi Jane, don’t be hard on yourself 🙂 you know you need to make a change and that’s often the hardest part. Having non-alcoholic drinks is really helpful! I drink non-alcoholic beer and kombucha. I feel like I’m having a drink and never really feel like having more than 2. I used to have no self control after 3 or 4, its because of what alcohol does to your brain. Keep at it and you will get there! Sarah 🙂
well done – i’m similar to you – love running and my dog – this is inspiring to me – thanks for sharing
Glad to hear M 🙂 how good are dogs and running! good luck!! Sarah 🙂
I’m in my 60’s and had a close relationship with booze since my teens & still have many of those same issues, the “after two or three, I just couldn’t stop” rings especially true. I did over a month A/F earlier this year, and after a quiet, easing back into ‘social’ drinking, I’ve found myself slipping back to old habits. Seems it’s best not to lubricate that weakness.
Thank you Sarah for your wonderfully honest account of your progression and subsequent toxic relationship with alcohol. It reminds me a lot of my own reliance on alcohol as a social lubricant for my adolescence also initiated from feeling shy, self conscious and socially inept. I realise now at 50 the reason my relationship with alcohol seemed so right at the time but became an emotionally and physically destructive crutch. You can certainly feel very proud that you have identified this at your young age and can look at this relationship as a painfully formative process that has now freed you to indulge your authentic passions and live a rich and clear life full of memorable experiences. Thank you such for sharing and your raw honesty. It really helps me to know my story is not so uncommon and that there are others just like you that followed a similar destructive path. Thank you 😊
Hi Glen, thank you for this lovely insightful response. That is exactly what alcohol does, it seems so great at the time but is so destructive in the long run in a lot of ways so not worth it! I’m so glad you felt seen by the article as that’s all I wanted to do by sharing. Good luck and keep going! Sarah 🙂
One of my biggest regrets in life was not giving up alcohol years earlier. My whole life has changed so much in the past 3 years thanks to quitting drinking and I’m 61. You have 30+ more years than me to really enjoy your life and make yourself proud. There’s nothing you can’t do. Congratulations.
Thanks Vicki! I’m so glad to hear your last 3 years have been so good without alcohol! some people never quit so you have done so well and should also be proud!! Sarah 🙂
Reading this is like reading my own story! So strange we feel like we’re the only ones who feel like this, but the reality is we aren’t alone
Hi Kimberley, thanks for your comment. I felt so alone at times to so I’m so glad to hear this resonated with you. There are so many like us and there is also nothing wrong with us! Sarah 🙂 x
Congratulations! A very honest and thoughtful account. It’s hard to bare your soul this way for others but it’s so encouraging to know you best this!
Thanks Alyson, I’ve found being raw and honest is the best way to help other people. Its also been really healing for me 🙂 Sarah 🙂
Good on you! I had two months alcohol-free, then I thought I could moderate it and I failed. Now I am on my 6 day part 2 AF. You inspire me.
Thanks Andrea! I had plenty of slips while i was trying to quit last year. Don’t be hard on yourself, you can do it 🙂 Sarah
I feel very proud for you! Thank you for sharing . Best wishes for the sober you! X
Thank you Beth 🙂 Sarah x
Amazing that you’re entering your thirties with so much self awareness! Well done for putting in the work Sarah. The rewards will be endless, you get to live life 😊👍
Thanks Kristal, still lots of work to do! really looking forward to 30 and beyond 🙂 Sarah x
As a runner and someone who was very shy in school I can relate to so much of this post. I started drinking for the exact same reasons, to get more confidence and overcome my social anxiety. It then just spiraled out of control and took me years to get out of. I live with regrets of what could have been different had I never made the decision to drink. Thanks for sharing your story!
Hi Beth, thanks so much for your comment. Wow you sounds like you have had a very similar experience to me! I know what you mean about the regrets but that is all in the past now and you’re probably stronger for it now! I know I am! Good luck! Sarah 🙂
I had the pleasure of training with Sarah when she ran with us TriNations. Not only is she a champion runner, but also a champion person. Brisbane’s loss Perth’s gain I guess. Stay fit and healthy and look forward to running with you again 🏃♀️
Thanks Simon, come run with me in Perth anytime!! 🙂 Miss the Trination crew. Sarah x
Great Blog. well done and congrats Sarah.
Thanks Martina 🙂 Sarah x
Congratulations, and good for you!
Thanks Dan!! 🙂 Sarah
Such an inspiring and hopeful story, Sarah. Hats off to you! A couple of questions: how do you cope now with those social situations that you used to find so awkward (eg going to bars and parties)? What reason do you give for not drinking? And how did you actually manage to stop drinking?
Hey Kitty, thanks for reading and glad you got something out of it 🙂 In answer to your questions, I’ve become less shy with age/maturity so don’t really worry about not drinking at social events and I do always have an alternative like AF beer so I don’t feel like I’m missing out. If anyone asks why I’m not drinking I actually find it easier to be honest and say that drinking has been problematic in my past so I now chose not to take that risk. I realise this approach isn’t for everyone but I am comfortable with it and find that no one can argue against this. So far everyone has been understanding and sometimes say ‘I wish I could stop drinking’. It took me a while to stop drinking, a few attempts but I’ve found since I’ve been making it a daily practice of writing a journal to remind myself why I am choosing an alcohol free life I have been able to make it stick. I find engaging with communities within HSM and sober pages on social media help with everyday inspo. Hope this helps! Sarah 🙂
After this you can achieve anything.
Forgive yourself for your past failings, don’t get caught up on them, they are what have made you who you are today
Thanks David, this is really encouraging 🙂 Thanks for reading 🙂 Sarah
Absolutely honest and beautiful! So many similarities, glad you are smart younger. I was just shy of 50. Thank you for sharing
Couldn’t agree more!
I’m turnig 40 this Septemer and I’m looking forward to the next new ‘shame-free’ decade 🙂
Thanks Emma, congrats to you too 🙂 I will not miss the shame, that is for sure!!! Sarah 🙂 x
I am glad you talked about the feelings of anxiety. I am not a binge drinker but yet I need a constant IV of “not strong “ alcohol. I get by without people noticing my impairment. I too have for no apparent reason anxious feelings. I quit for a year and became incredibly fit losing 35 kilos—I too want this better version of me back again!
Hi Keith, everyone is totally different in the way they use alcohol to numb uncomfortable feelings like anxiety. It helps to find a less dangerous replacement to deal with the anxiety like exercise, meditation, writing.. Good luck in finding that better version of you! It is there 🙂 Sarah
Hi Sarah, thank you for sharing your story, there is so much I can relate to as I reflect on my past drinking self. Well done for making the change. I am 12 months sober and only just reconciling my drunken past – I have wreaked a couple of Christmas/events etc 🤦🏻♀️. I loved the one liner in your post, so relatable. It takes a lot of strength and self-forgiveness to move forward. It is comforting to read other people stories. All the best
Wonderful. Blog Sarah so good to read I am giving up alcohol today after a bad slip last night. So hard but your story so encouraging Sally
Hi Linda, thanks for reading and your response 🙂 I found this comforting too and I think there are a lot of people out there who have wreaked havoc on events in particular Christmas! There has been more than just the one Christmas for me. All the best to you too and forgive yourself 🙂 Sarah x
Thank you Sarah for being brave and sharing your story of sobriety. I love the analogy of the toxic partner/relationship – they appear to offer us so much in the beginning but ultimately they suck the life out of us! Well done for making such a healthy lifestyle change in your 20s. You can now become the person you were destined to be.
Hi Trish, thank you 🙂 sharing has been very therapeutic and these encouraging comments have been so nice to read. appreciate it! Sarah 🙂 x
I’ve just taken up running to give me focus and some goals.
Thanks for your story
You are inspiring
Hi Jackie, thanks for your response, I’m glad you felt inspired by the blog 🙂 Running is so therapeutic, glad you have joined the band wagon. All the best with it 🙂 Sarah x
Thanks for sharing Sarah. I can relate! In my mid fifties and still trying to quit. The horrible texts and hence hurt I’ve inflicted on others when drunk followed by the apologies…I get it.
I will keep trying to quit though!
By the way, I live in Perth also and I have an adorable kitten called Buddy!
So good to hear you won your battle. I’m not there yet. Very encouraging to read others have /had same problems. Lou
Being your Dad, Sarah, makes me feel very proud that you are able to deal with things that laid you low in the past but I’m more proud of the fact you can express your feelings in a way other’s, me included, can be inspired! love You Xx.
Well done Sarah!