I started setting boundaries and speaking my truth. Here’s how.

I started setting boundaries and speaking my truth. Here’s how.

I still have the journal entry. It says, in striking black pen, “I wish I could say what I mean. If I can learn to say what I mean before I die, I will die a happy woman.” 

I’d written it the morning after I’d been the recipient of unwanted advances at a bar. A stranger had engaged me in aggressive conversation, peppered in flirtation, and every so often slipped his bony hand around my waist. For 30 minutes I’d tolerated his behavior with a fake smile before feeling it was appropriate to escape to the bathroom.

I could’t bring myself to say “Thank you, but I’m not interested. ’’ I’d waited in silence, hoping the man would mind-read my discomfort and give me space. My stomach had churned with discomfort. The next morning, I took my pen and articulated what I saw as my Great Frontier in life: speaking up, resisting the impulse to people-please, and not settling for less than I deserved.

My tendency to people-please at the expense of my own wellbeing manifested in all areas of my life.

It was why I worked in a job that didn't reflect my values; why I felt emotionally isolated in my imbalanced relationships with friends, lovers, and colleagues; and why I relied on external distractions and addictions to numb myself to my emotional landscape. Sometimes, my people-pleasing manifested as mildly as staying too long in a conversation that bored me, or offering to help a friend when I didn’t have the time. Sometimes, it was as extreme as sleeping with someone I didn’t want to sleep with because I didn’t want to “hurt his feelings.”

I knew that my difficulty setting boundaries was largely a consequence of a culture that encourages women to be people-pleasing, accommodating, and self-sacrificial. As Harriet Lerner says in The Dance of Anger: “Our society cultivates guilt feelings in women such that many of us still feel guilty if we are anything less than an emotional service station to others.”

Though I understood the cultural roots of my behavior, I didn’t want my socialization to define me. I wanted to develop the capacity to speak up for myself. The less I heeded the wishes and warnings of my inner self, the more her cries went unheard - and the more her anger, instead of directed outward, became directed inward, at me.

I felt like I was constantly betraying myself, constantly designing my life around others’ desires. The result was a life that felt mediocre, underwhelming, and not quite my own. 

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10 Amazing Things That Happen When You Kick Alcohol Out Of Your Life

10 Amazing Things That Happen When You Kick Alcohol Out Of Your Life

Today is my one–year Soberversary. I’m sitting on the carpeted floor of my apartment in oversized sweatpants, a mug of tea to my right, the cool blue sky out the window to my left.

Calm mornings like this are relatively new to me. They’re a trademark of the sober lifestyle I chose one year ago today, and they – like so many of my new routines and simple pleasures – are sacred to me. Sobriety has reshaped my life in ways I never could have predicted.

This journey that I assumed would be difficult, isolating, and painful has been replete with silver linings. Though I never formed a physical dependence on alcohol, I abused it from day one. My five-year relationship with drinking was the origin of many traumatic memories, painful injuries, toxic relationships, and though I didn’t realize it then, my deepest wellspring of shame.

And so after five years of drinking, I made the difficult decision to quit.

My decision was predicated on months of reading, journaling, and wondering – wondering if my drinking was “bad enough” to warrant sobriety and wondering how hard it would be to quit. I was nervous at how my life would change. My mind was occupied with everything I’d miss as a sober person, and I struggled to imagine how a sober life could be satisfying and enlivening – an intoxicant all on its own.

When the benefits of sobriety began appearing – subtly at first, then rapidly, like a breaking dam – I realized that my life had become far more interesting than it was before. Becoming sober was the first choice I ever made to prioritize my health, wellness, and spirit, in spite of the fact that it would restrict me from certain activities, weaken certain friendships, and fundamentally restructure my lifestyle. That’s why sobriety honestly feels like my greatest achievement. I’m proud of it, right to my bones.

It opened my eyes to the many ways we use numbing agents to create barriers between ourselves and the raw, uncomfortable, potent experiences of living in this world.

What began as a commitment to avoid hangovers became a commitment to getting in touch with my heart, a commitment to living in the present moment in spite of discomfort, and a commitment to experiences and people that make me feel fundamentally nourished and safe.

The way I see it, we’re not incentivized to kick an addiction until we begin to believe in a brighter alternative – an alternative that feels more inspiring and satisfying than the addiction. When I quit drinking, I knew that if I was going to permanently resist the buzz of booze, I needed a compelling alternative waiting in the wings.

Here are the 10 amazing things that happened when I kicked alcohol out of my life…

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