Embracing Sobriety: One year without alcohol

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Nimai Larson Prince Rama

It was hard for me to admit my relationship was not working.

I lingered in a naive nostalgia for the good nights—nights when my Special Someone made me feel like the most beautiful woman in the world, the funniest, the most honest. When my lips touched His, I would immediately feel a warm, tingling sensation all over my body. I would be simultaneously turned-on and relaxed. I love smiling. I love being comforted. I loved the way my Special Someone made all the problems that plagued me vanish. Even when the darkest recesses of my complicated mind would tell me I’m not good enough, He offered me a sense of confidence, hope, and security. At least until the morning…

I try not to remember the bad nights—nights when the euphoria was fleeting and the crash was infinite. After blindly navigating the grim reality that my Special Someone has tricked me into believing my problems had been solved, I wither. I am still trapped in my mind, alone, miserable, and convinced that I am right. My feelings of entitlement to be angry, resentful, and jealous inevitably render me powerless. Always chasing a high and never satisfied; clawing at the empty achievement of temporary happiness. My Special Someone has dimmed the light inside of me. The exhaustion with my own failure to break my addiction to Him would kill me.

One year ago, I made the decision to break up with Alcohol—the Special Someone that I had been in an abusive relationship with for years—and wrote an article about it. What I didn’t realize back then was that simply eliminating Alcohol from my life would not eliminate all of the reasons I felt the need to drink to begin with. I still had an ego, a past, childhood resentments, fears of inadequacy, failed relationships haunting me, and no spiritual foundation to center myself. I was still crazy and didn’t have Alcohol to whitewash over all of my problems.

About a month into sobriety, I was crying on the phone with my mom and shouted, “I did not STOP drinking so I could STILL be psycho! WHEN’S LIFE GONNA GET EASIER?”

Her answer was simple. “You’ve taken alcohol away and now you feel empty, lost and helpless. Give yourself purpose. Allow yourself to work on your true identity—that will last.”

In my decade of drinking, I never possessed the cojones to admit my part in the problems that riddled me with resentment, crippled me with fear, and filled me with shame about my sexual pursuits.

But who is Nimai? I thought to myself. At this point I felt like a shell of a human being: the toxicity of my old skin cradling and feeding my false ego. The only way to abort the further development of pestilence was to admit that I was powerless over Alcohol. And not only Alcohol, but powerless over the weather, what other people think of me, the success of my band, the amount of money we are paid, the way men see me, the way clothing fits me, the traffic in New York City. You name it, I can’t control it. And the endless cycle of disappointment upon realizing that I am not the controller has the power to re-infect me with anger. The only vaccine I have found to remedy my anger is to have the “serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things that I am able to, and pray for the wisdom to know the difference between the two.” I no longer want to fall victim to believing everything is happening to me. Instead, I seek the perspective and gratitude to understand that things are happening for me to expand my ability to grow.

Before I quit drinking, I would feel flooded with gratitude when finding out that the event I was attending had an open bar. I felt a similar gratitude when men would approach me and say I was sexy. I grew up an ugly duckling—the girl with braces, headgear and glasses surrounded by a gaggle of gorgeous cheerleaders. It didn’t help that I grew up in Texas, the BBQ capital of the world, and our family is vegetarian. The rejection from boys and the exclusion from girls fostered a debilitating sense of inadequacy within me. When I was a senior in high school, a small “miracle” occurred in my world: I was accepted to work with the tall, tan, beautiful people at Hollister Co. To hide my insecurities, I asked my co-workers to teach me how to integrate into their world of flirtation, seduction, and intoxication. The result was a misleading sense of acceptance, an addiction to Alcohol and a dependence upon the attention from men to restore me to “sanity.”

Four years and a million cocktails later, I was single in New York and bloated with unrealistic expectations of what or whom could make me feel validated. But expectations, I sadly found time and time again, ultimately lead to resentment.

In my new sober journey, I have begun to understand that nothing finite will truly satisfy my eternal craving for validation and love. An infinite source of love is God. And I can receive Divine Love if I become willing. Though my sister and I were raised Hare Krishna, I had not entered a temple on my own accord since leaving my parents’ house at age 18. I was weary of the Christian Church because of childhood memories of feeling peer pressure to attend youth groups, then ostracized for refusing to do so. My Mom’s side of the family is all Jewish, but I had never taken an interest in getting to know their faith. Three months into sobriety, I went to Israel. Standing on a ledge in the city of Jerusalem—the holy place of pilgrimage for Christians, Jews and Muslims—I felt embraced: not by a Higher Power that I felt obligated to believe in or by a Higher Power that I felt intimidated into accepting. I felt the embrace of a God of my own understanding. The power of my experience that night granted me the willingness to abandon my selfish will and my life over to the care of God, as I was beginning to understand Him. The Love I allowed myself to start feeling began to mend my desperately broken heart.

In my decade of drinking, I never possessed the cojones to admit my part in the problems that riddled me with resentment, crippled me with fear, and filled me with shame about my sexual pursuits. In sobriety, I began to assert accountability by conducting a complete “moral inventory of self” survey. One by one, I symbolically took out the internal garbage bags that had been weighing me down and cluttering the platform that would be integral to building a New Identity. I also realized that my involvement with men at this fledgling state of my sobriety was like pouring Miracle Grow on all of my character defects; not to mention incredibly distracting me from doing the structural work on rebuilding myself. So for the next nine months, I committed my whole heart to my sobriety and did not have sex with with, kiss or date a single man.

Give yourself purpose. Allow yourself to work on your true identity—that will last.

In the last two months of my year-long journey, Prince Rama, the band I am in, went on tour in North America. It was my first tour not partaking in the ritual shot of Fireball before every show, or clutching a drink the second I got off stage, or trying to seduce someone to sustain my high. On this tour, I was able to help with the long drives instead of puking into a Subway bag in the backseat as a result of possessively drinking a bottle of vodka in a sauna after the previous nights’ show. I was able to take on all managerial responsibilities I did not know I was capable of handling while on tour. I could attribute my new sense of empowerment to the tools that sobriety had revealed to me.

The Rolling Stones say “You can’t always get what you want. But if you try sometime, you just might find, you get what you need.” I started this journey in purgatory, resentful of hitting a plateau but fearful of moving forward. Now, as I steadily try to blaze this path of unrestrained honesty and clarity, I humbly admit that I am not perfect and the need to continue clearing the wreckage of my past will always be there. But that simple willingness to surrender my ego has given me a foundation to further my development into a woman of grace and dignity. With Alcohol no longer dimming the light inside of me, my heart can shine with a new willingness to give love, feel compassion, and be of service to those around me.

For this second chance at life, I am eternally grateful.