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When I stopped drinking, I kept my sobriety a secret for months. Alcohol had always been a big part of my identity.

Angela Anagnost-Repke   

When I stopped drinking, I kept my sobriety a secret for months. Alcohol had always been a big part of my identity.
  • One night, while at a dive bar, I realized I wanted to stop drinking alcohol.
  • But I felt like drinking was part of my identity and didn't tell anyone I was sober for a while.

The last time I drank alcohol, my husband and I went out with two other couples. We sauntered through the late summer air into what used to be my favorite kind of establishment — a dive bar. The stale scent of cigarettes and booze hovered. As we sat smushed together in a booth, sipping our Oberons, people played pool and laughed all around us.

But I wasn't having any fun.

I kept checking the time because I just wanted to go home and crash into bed. Yet I painted a smile on my face because that's how everyone saw me — the life of the party. So that night, I kept drinking.

I decided to quit drinking

As I sat in that booth, I thought about how alcohol wasn't serving me. During that time, near the end of my drinking days, my anxiety was heightened by booze, and I was consumed by guilt.

The anxiety woke me at 2 a.m., and I never fell back to sleep because it felt like a weight was squashing my chest. Then, because my hangovers affected my parenting, guilt consumed me and only fueled it more. And when the kids bounded out of bed the next morning, the cycle continued like a slinky cat all day long.

Aside from the emotional effects of drinking, I started to feel it physically, too. Fatigue interfered with my daily life. I developed — and ignored — allergies to all types of alcohol, and my face would turn blotchy after sipping anything. Even if I hadn't been drinking the night before, I always felt hungover.

Honestly, I hadn't planned for that night to be my last night of booze. But sitting there, thinking about it all, I realized that I had had enough.

I didn't tell anyone I was sober for a while

When I first stopped drinking, I didn't tell anyone. Sure, I was raising two kids and had a solid teaching career, but letting loose at social gatherings was also at the core of how my friends saw me. And perhaps, it was also how I saw myself.

At first, I felt no one else would understand. Drinking is the driving force to so many get-togethers, and I let that steer what I did and who I hung out with for the bulk of my adult life. In the beginning, I simply dodged hanging out with friends altogether. Having two active kids made it easy to give excuses about being too busy. I sat alone with the secret of my sobriety, which should have felt more like a feather than a bomb.

After a couple of months of sobriety, though, I started feeling good — really good. My head was clear. I looked forward to little adventures with my kids, like trail hiking, because my energy started to soar. I said yes to bedtime requests for "one more book," and let my kids' energy fuel me instead of deplete me.

My nerves about telling others began to evaporate because of the empowerment I felt on the inside.

I told my husband I'd quit drinking first

First, I opened up to my husband. We'd met in college, where we both guzzled anything you put in front of us, so I was worried about how he'd take it. Luckily, he met my sobriety with curiosity instead of fear and saw how much it benefited my mood and overall health. Then, after almost a year of my own sobriety, my husband gave up drinking, too.

Next, I started telling my friends. I always had the conversation on the phone and before a social event so I didn't have to discuss it in public. I didn't want anyone to feel like I was judging them, and I also didn't want them to peer pressure me into drinking. I'm embarrassed to admit that, now — that as a woman in her late 30s, I still struggled with peer pressure.

But now that I've been sober for over four years, I know that some of my friends were probably mourning the old me. The "fun" me. They'd say things like, "So, you're not going to have any drinks? Like not even one?" Or even, "What about an edible?"

I'd say no to this subtle peer pressure because my mental health was worth more to me than partying. Being present with my kids was worth it. I was worth it. All in all, some of my friends embraced the new me while others didn't really jibe with the new awakened version of me. So, my circle of friends is now smaller — and that's OK.

Now that I'm not drinking, I wake up ready to parent and to be there for my family. I can give them what they need by giving myself what I need — sobriety.

Sure, I stopped drinking in secret. But now, I share it boldly, in hopes that it can help someone step into a dive bar for their last time, too.

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