No Hangover Club: Karla

I remember the day I chose alcohol over myself so vividly. I was 19, halfway through a summer abroad program, a year from graduating college, feeling incredibly lonely and disappointed in my college experience. The opportunity to party with a bunch of fellow American students presented itself so I went for it -- big time. I mimicked their drinking for a night out of dancing.

The next morning I woke up with a horrendous hangover and worried because I didn’t remember getting home. I quickly learned recapping the night and trading bits and pieces of memory was “funny” so I pushed aside my feelings saying it was wrong. This set the tone for the next 13 years of my life.

I knew early on my drinking didn’t feel right. From the get go I was blacking out regularly, unable to stick to drink limits, and putting myself in dangerous situations. Sober Karla was upbeat, caring, responsible and an overachiever. Drunk Karla could be found crying in the corner with no regard for anyone, especially herself, and could never seem to get drunk enough. 

The cognitive dissonance was exhausting. Does someone who has a problem have a Masters Degree at the age of 21? Do they get promotions and accolades at work? The shame and guilt about my drinking habits got worse as the years went on. My anxiety and depression got to the point where I needed professional help in the form of a therapist and medication. The relationships with my friends, family, and partner were deteriorating as I started to believe Drunk Karla was the real me.

I would think about quitting drinking and what I imagined sobriety to be was bleak. I thought I would be spending my time with old men in a church basement drinking black coffee out of a styrofoam cup sitting on a cold, metal chair. On New Years Eve 2018, my partner left for a party without me because I was too hungover. As I thought about the reality of my life compared to what I wanted it to be, I found myself faced with no other option but to really dive into sobriety fully.

There were several Day 1s before 12/31/2018. Looking back it’s because I kept holding out hope I’d be able to reset to a “moderate drinker”. I knew intimately where alcohol led me and now I had to see what being sober was all about.

I encourage anyone who finds them self in a similar situation to find a way to learn more about alcohol -- whether it's through quit lit, sober Instagram accounts, podcasts or meetings. It is liberating to realize how many others have questioned their relationship to alcohol, seeing others be empowered by their decision to remove it from their life, and see life doesn’t end.

Don’t be afraid of having to change your life when you’re newly sober. I stopped going to dinners, happy hours and anything else that was too tempting while I nurtured my new way of life. It doesn’t have to stay this way forever but it’s important to give your body and mind time away from alcohol to start to heal. 

Now with 700+ days since my last drink, I am incredibly proud of the human I’ve become. I openly share my story on Instagram for the fellow high-achieving drinkers who are confused if they have a problem. All the things I thought made me immune to having an issue are the very things that kept me drinking and kept me from living an authentic life.