I am celebrating two years sober on March 30, 2016. Two years! Some days, I genuinely can’t believe I’ve managed to do it. Besides being so much happier and sleeping so much better, I am also more productive, more peaceful, more present and most definitely more self-loving. That last one is the real kicker. My self-esteem was so low for so long, I wasn’t able to recognize it as the root of many of my problems until I had some perspective and time to build it back up. Sobriety has given me that. I can’t always explain why my life is so much better on an emotional and spiritual level but some tangible reasons definitely include no more waking up wondering how I got home, wasting hours of my life sleeping off a hangover or vomiting in the wastebasket at a shitty temp job.
Also, I look fine as hell!
You read that right: I’m hotter than ever and not afraid to tell ya about it. There are some women who can drink like fish (even beer, those lucky bitches) and not gain a pound and still have sparkling skin and glowing eyes. I am not one of them. When I discovered Bud Light in college, my world, and my face, were never the same. My face was so fat, it made my eyes looks squinty and I was told I looked like Tina Yothers post her Family Ties years quite often. She wasn’t exactly hot during that time period, to put it nicely. The end of every semester usually involved me crying on the floor of my closet because nothing fit. I’d drink 10 to God knows how many beers and eat a whole pizza at 3 am then wake up whining, “Why am I so fat?!” Based on the fact that I had approximately two romantic encounters the entire span of my college years, my unattractiveness definitely wasn’t in my head.
People always reminisce about the body they had in college or their 20s. I cringe when I think about that body. I used to joke that I needed beer goggles…for myself. I never felt hot when I’d leave to go out for the night but I remember always drunkenly admiring myself in the dark bathroom of some shitty LA dive bar by 1 am. I’m lookin’ at you, the now defunct Ye Coach and Horses on Sunset.
It doesn’t help that I was wearing the wrong bra size for so many years too. Beer bloat and an ill-fitting bra on a really busty chick is not a good combo.
I am not saying there is anything wrong with not being a size-two twig. I will never be that. But when you are short and top heavy and generally uncomfortable in your own skin for years until suddenly you’re not, it’s pretty amazing. Everyone has to find what works for themselves in order to feel confident. For me, it wasn’t when I was struggling to zip a size 14 bridesmaid dress over my 5’4” frame.
When I first quit drinking I was told to eat as much sugar as my heart desired and boy did I take people up on that! I still do! If I’m at a party and I want cake, you best believe home girl will eat cake (probably more than one piece). I am muscling through this party sober so I’ll happily let myself numb the awkwardness that can come with large social gatherings with some sweets.
The thing is, just the act of not drinking automatically ripped a layer of cellulite and bloat off my body. So while my weight definitely fluctuates in sobriety, I still haven’t ever reverted back to the way I looked when I was pounding Blue Moon and vodka on the regular. I gain weight but it’s not the same kind of weight, if that makes sense. When I drank I was always a size 12 or ten by default and now I am always a size eight or six by default, sometimes a four. It also helps that I can actually stick to an exercise plan. I’ve always worked out but I was usually just trying to break even after a night of gluttony. I get away with a lot more now that I am not piling on extra empty calories and slowing down my body’s natural fat burning system (it’s a real thing, you can look it up) with alcohol.
My skin isn’t perfect now but it’s a hell of a lot better. In the past I almost always had acne, now I have extended periods without it. Okay, they are very rare. I have sensitive, redhead skin and a habit of touching my face when I am stressed but that’s on me, not my sobriety. It does the best it can with what it’s got. I never bleach my teeth but I get a lot more of, “Your teeth are so white!” these days too. Dropping my red wine habit has to have helped, right? And the whites of your eyes really do get brighter! You can take that one to the bank. I guarantee there is someone ten days sober, struggling to hang on but noticing that their eyes are in fact a nice hue not permanently surrounded by bloodshot redness and dark under-eye circles.
Did I mention how much skinnier my face is now? I am still shocked when I see myself in pictures nowadays.
There are definitely times in sobriety when I’m not eating great or pushing myself super hard with exercise but people still tell me how awesome I look. That might sound cocky but that never happened when I was drinking. Maybe all that bullshit about feeling beautiful on the inside showing through on the outside really is true?
Nahhhhh! I’m just better looking sober!
But seriously, there have been times when I really wanted to drink again. Usually I’m either missing the fun I used to have or desperate to escape emotional turmoil. For the most part, I can dodge a relapse by thinking of the possibility of losing my job or knowing the glass of red wine I so desperately crave will lead to, or my last bad hangover. Sometimes though, the only thing that stops me from doing it is fear that I will instantly gain weight. Call me shallow or dramatic, but it’s worked to keep me sober.
Despite all my proclamations of loving who I am when I have a smaller frame, I do believe good choices start with self-love. Even if I get into some unhealthy eating and want to shed some pounds, it’s a lot easier to establish that first step now that I’m in recovery. I hope someone reads this and calls me cocky, because it would be the first time. When you hate the way you look for so long, an accusation of being arrogant about your appearance feels like serious progress.