When I was only 20 years old, life as I knew it came crashing down around me. The morning of May 7, 2013, I woke up in the emergency room of the hospital closest to my college campus with no recollection of the previous night’s events. I was told I’d been walking alone, extremely intoxicated, and the police had picked me up. I had blown a .34 on the breathalyzer, so they transported me to the hospital.
Sadly, nights like this were not out of the ordinary for me. The only difference between other nights and this one was that this time I had been caught for drinking excessively while underage. Though I’d only been drinking for two years at this point, I’d gone downhill fast. Drinking was beginning to affect every aspect in my life in a negative way, but I didn’t care.
Ending up in the hospital was the last straw for my parents. They told me I could either go to treatment or move out. I chose treatment. However, I had no intention of staying sober. I wasn’t even old enough to have had a legal drink. I didn’t think there was any way I could actually have a drinking problem.
But as time passed, I realized my drinking was, in fact, problematic. Now 25 years old, I have been sober since that night in the hospital. Though at first I was convinced my life was over, I’ve realized in the time since that there are so many reasons why it’s beneficial to get sober at a young age. Here are a few.
1. You get to be present for all of life’s big moments.
When I drank, I drank hard. When I drank hard, I often had no recollection of the events I drank through. When I think about all I could have missed in life due to drinking, I am so thankful for my recovery. Had I not gotten sober at a young age, I’d likely have drank during or around some of the biggest events of my life, such as my college graduation, my first job in the real world, or my first date with my future husband. Because of sobriety, I’ve been able to recall clearly all the details from each of those events. I was fully present and will always have those memories. This doesn’t only go for the happy times; it’s also a blessing to be able to be present in the difficult parts of life. Rather than turning to alcohol to numb the intense emotions, I can fully feel them and make rational decisions about the next steps to take. There is nothing that compares to being fully aware of and present in each moment of life.
2. You get to discover who you really are early on in life.
Alcohol has a way of overtaking a person and making them forget who they are outside of drinking. When I drank, I didn’t make time for any of my other passions. All of my free time was dedicated to getting drunk. Upon getting sober, you’ll find that you have more free time than you are comfortable with, but don’t panic. This is not a bad thing. You can use that new free time to hone in on passions, such as writing, photography, working out, and et cetera. Eliminating drinking rewards you with the time to dig into yourself and discover your passions and hobbies, something that may never have happened had you continued to drink.
3. Your rock bottom is higher than it may have been otherwise.
I was lucky that I got sober after only two years of drinking. Had I kept drinking, I can’t even imagine the destruction I’d have caused in my life. When you get sober at a young age, it’s likely you have a high rock bottom compared to others who have been drinking for decades. If this is the case, you probably can repair some of the damage your drinking has caused in your relationships and professional life. Getting sober gives you a chance to start over and prove yourself to be goal-oriented and responsible.
4. You can use your experiences to help others.
One of the most unexpected rewards of recovery for me has been having the opportunity to help other young people who have questions about recovery and want to know how it’s possible to live life without alcohol. At the beginning of my recovery, I was embarrassed and ashamed. I didn’t want to tell anyone. But when I started talking about getting sober, I realized I was far from alone. Other young people were struggling as well. While it’s enjoyable to be successful in your own recovery, there is a whole other level of reward you can find in helping others realize their full potential. Knowing that sharing your story can make a difference in someone else’s life and maybe even save their life is a feeling there are no sufficient words for.
5. You get to forge real, meaningful relationships.
After I stopped drinking, I lost a handful of friends. At first, I was upset. As time passed, however, I realized that those friendships were never rooted in something deep anyway. Those people were just people with whom I drank. In sobriety, it’s been possible to form real friendships and romantic relationships without the presence of alcohol. If you don’t drink, you don’t have to worry about alcohol making you act like a person you are not. You get to be in full control of yourself and know that the people in your life like you for your authentic self.
Though getting sober at a young age isn’t always easy, it is worth it. If alcohol is affecting your life negatively, you’ll find that there is so much life to live when you remove it from the equation. With time and dedication, you’ll likely find that being sober at a young age is something you thoroughly enjoy.