Today, I am 2 years sober.
During this past year of sobriety, I’ve taken so much time to reflect and accept my past. To say that I haven’t carried guilt would be a lie. I’ve carried a ton of guilt around things I’ve done, things I’ve said, and the way that I’ve navigated through life for so long. I can’t change the past and it’s taken 2 full years to be able to look back and be OK with who I used to be. In this article, I will discuss my relationship with alcohol and how it took over my world. The purpose of this article is open up to those who may be feeling alone, guilty, or unsure how to move forward from what may seem like an uncontrollable force, addiction.
My First Drink:
I was 18 years old at a friend Jesse’s house party while her parents were out of town. High school was coming to an end and I was late to having my first drink (in comparison to everyone else). I remember someone making me a drink out of Absolute Vodka. The smell reminded me of nail polish but I ignored it as I felt that it wasn’t supposed to smell or taste good. The next thing I remember was falling face first onto the carpet floor in the living room. I was quickly picked up by friends only to be followed by laughter. It was “cool” to be drunk and I felt in place. The rest of that night was a blur as drinks were mixed. I recall having swigs from a UV Blue bottle as we thought the color was cool. I don’t remember much more of that night.
Addiction is like a gun.
Genetics are the bullet.
Trauma is the trigger.
My Drinking Career:
When I was 19, my family suffered from some trauma that left a hole in my heart. It was after this event that my drinking alcohol became my escape. Every weekend meant blacking out and because everyone else was drinking, I thought it was normal. The reality was that I was looking for something to fill that hole and the bond I felt with friends during our drunken nights provided just that only to wake up feeling remorse and guilt. “Why did I get so fucked up?” became a normal thought in my head. My insecure self thought that the only way people would hang out with me is if I held parties at my grandparent’s house while they were out of town or if I bought them shots at the bar. I became the party guy and everyone knew it. If there was a party, I knew about it and was the guy to get you there. As I look back on those years, it makes me realize how lucky I was that I never got arrested, a DUI, or worst, died. When it came to drinking, I would drink as much as I could as fast as I could. I thought the more I drank that the more fun I would have along with everyone around me only to realize that I became a liability. I was the drunk guy.
As the years progressed, my oldest friends became strangers and my circle became people I didn’t even know. I was blacking out 2-3 times a week with money I didn’t have. I began to receive collection calls from my student loans and various credit cards that I wasn’t paying. I spent my Sundays when I would visit my parents sleeping on their couch trying to recover from the night before. I was now in my mid 20’s bouncing from various relationships becoming codependent still looking to fill that gap from my past trauma. My career out of college was on the up but still suffered from the occasional no call no show from being intoxicated from the night before. I performed well so that overshadowed the demon inside me that was literally killing my organs.
My Turning Point:
It wasn’t until the fall of 2017 that things started to change. I just got out of a relationship that didn’t end on my terms. I was forced out and while I thought “Why is this happening to me?,” I soon realized this is happening for me. Shortly after, I participated in a silent meditation retreat as I felt I needed to begin searching inside to fill that gap from my past. I remember during one of the 2 hour sessions that anxiety built up so much that I started sweating and almost broke out into a panic attack. I spoke to the monk that evening that I realized alcohol is hurting me. I didn’t quit drinking after that retreat, in fact, I went out the very next day on New Year’s Day and got drunk but it started to make me think. I started to think “Is this it? Is this all I am? Is this what life is about?” During 2018, I was single and told myself I would start to challenge myself in different ways in search for my purpose. I always enjoyed athletics but never pushed myself to the point where I was fully committed. I did a few races and performed fairly well without training much while continuing my drinking career. In March, I signed up to get certified as a group fitness instructor as that always seemed appealing to me. That summer while I was studying for the test, I got so drunk that I fell asleep while cooking a pizza and woke up to the fire alarm in the middle of the night. The apartment reeked of smoke for a week and I’m shocked the fire department wasn’t called. Again, something was looking over me as it wasn’t my time. 6 months later, I passed my test and I became an official trainer but I still had one foot out. It was during this time that I started dating Ashton.
My First Battle to Sobriety:
Now that I was an official trainer, I was eager to start building a new name for myself and started teaching classes. My alcohol consumption dropped but I kept my Saturdays as “my time” and would have the normal night of binge drinking. I remember agreeing to teach a class on a Sunday morning and drank the night before. It was 10 minutes into the class that I was looking at myself half awake sweating out alcohol and absolutely hating myself. All I could think about was if anyone could smell it or if the class knew I was drunk from the night before. It was then that I started to realize that it was either embracing this new fitness journey or continuing the party Omar that I was used to. The key word in that last sentence is “started” as I didn’t stop just then. All I did was agree to not teach any classes on Sunday so I could continue my Saturday binge nights. Again, I was still one foot out unable to let go of this uncontrollable force.
While I was in the clear to go out on Saturdays and enjoy myself, I still had this thought in my head from the meditation retreat of letting go of this devil on my shoulder. I was enjoying the new network of people I was meeting within the fitness industry plus everything I was learning. I sharpened my nutrition and sleep habits which was important to me as I was now 30. The issue here was that I was on a tight binge/restrict schedule. I was eating clean and not drinking Sunday through Friday only to play catch up on Saturday nights. The hangovers got so bad so I would still feel on Monday when I have to workout, work my day job, and teach classes in the event. I was burning the candle from both ends.
My Tipping Point:
It was Sunday morning after a night of drinking. Ashton had sat me down after watching me overconsume again for the millionth time and we had a talk. We talked about how the last few months have been this roller coaster of binge/restrict and my blackouts became worst. While her drinking career was not to the same extent as mine, she realized that it wasn’t serving her in a positive manner and knew for sure it wasn’t for me. She had asked if I had ever considered quitting drinking and I said yes. When she asked me that question, I felt as if that gap I’ve been searching to fill was starting to become filled but not fully yet. I knew that I needed to commit to leaving that past life behind before that gap could be filled. It was June 9th, 2019 that we agreed to quit alcohol.
My Next Challenge:
To say that everything was sunshine and rainbows after that day would be a lie. I needed to search deep inside to build true confidence and be secure with my decision. I continued to go out to bars and parties but not drink. It was during this time that I realized that I really wasn’t having much fun staying out late. “Friends” would make comments or make fun of my decision to not drink but that didn’t make me question my decision but more so the relationships I was in. I also started going to therapy and it was there that I learned that it wasn’t them questioning me but more so them questioning their sobriety. Over the next year, I started to see the world differently and began reinventing myself.
That first year of sobriety brought up so many questions…
What am I doing with my life?
Who am I surrounding myself with?
What kind of work am I doing and is it fulfilling?
Am I living where I should be living?
What do I want to be remembered for?
What is my purpose?
When the pandemic hit, it was just shy of 1 year of being sober and we were all forced to stay home. In a sense, I was relieved because I really wanted some time to think about these questions. Living in the Gold Coast of Chicago during that time made me realize that I wasn’t living where I should be. I was working a job that paid me well but I was stressed out of my mind. I was so stressed that I couldn’t truly enjoy the time I spent working on my passion project (UNAVIDA) because I was drowning in work. I needed a change and after talking with Ashton, we agreed to take a risk.
We knew we wanted to be closer to nature and decided to visit Denver in September 2020. 3 months later, we packed up our belongings, bought a car, and moved out west. I took on a new job that provided a healthier work/life balance and enjoy downtime. While it’s still in Corporate America, it allows me to take advantage of the downtime to strategize on the next evolution of my career and build. From a fitness perspective, I’m investing more energy into UNAVIDA where my goal is to elevate the lives of others through health and wellness. It’s become my purpose to help others see their potential not only through fitness but through their passion. For me, it’s running and it’s become my anchor to begin every single day. When I talk to people about this, I remove myself from the equation and push others to think about what it is that excites them to get out of bed. This could be painting, yoga, archery, hiking, or chess, it doesn’t matter.
Nobody is perfect and neither am I. It took me a long time to realize alcohol isn’t for me (11 year drinking career) and I’ve made a ton of mistakes along the way. Going sober helped me identify my purpose which pushed me to change my environment and ultimately improved my lifestyle. We live in an era of cancel culture which makes others scared to speak freely or say anything at all. I’m here to say that we need to move on from this and be vulnerable to each other. We can’t help each other if we’re completely isolated from one another. I can honestly say that I am happier today than I have ever been before but I wouldn’t be here without the lessons I learned along the way. While I never went to AA or any kind of treatment center, I want to lend my ear or time to anyone out there that may be alone, feel guilty, or unsure how to move past this uncontrollable force. Addiction is a disease and I’ve seen/experienced what it can do to someone and those around them. I am hear to listen and not judge.