Welcome to The (Not) Drinking Diary Series! I’ll be chatting to people on alcohol and on life; about their sobriety, mindful drinking and/or alcohol free (not drinking) period.
Michelle is a former high school English teacher turned Drug and Alcohol Counsellor. She has a passion for what recovery and a strong recovery program can do in one’s life and I hope to inspire others while they journey on their road of recovery. Read on for her not drinking diary …
Name: Michelle Ghirelli
Location: West Covina, California
1.What led you to think differently about drinking?
My wakeup call came because of an embarrassing and life-altering arrest. This arrest caused me to lose my career, home, self-identity, self-respect, and respect from others. I couldn’t look in the mirror without hating myself for what I had done, and my decisions were caused by my drinking.
I had no choice at that moment but to look at myself and the path I was on and make some changes.
2.How would you describe your relationship with alcohol now?
I once looked at alcohol as simply the catalyst I needed to have a good time. I never looked at it as something I used to numb myself or get out of my own head. I didn’t see it as a negative thing. However, today my relationship with alcohol is completely different. I see it now as the crutch I used throughout my life, becoming more and more dependent on it as the years went by.
3.What’s been the biggest challenge you’ve faced since your approach to alcohol shifted?
My fear when I got sober was that my life would be boring. When I was drinking everything I did revolved around alcohol. At the beginning of my sobriety I did struggle with boredom and filling my time with things that I was passionate about.
But I’ve learned that, with time, we find new passions and interests and hobbies and sobriety is just as much fun as anything we did when we were drinking (and we remember it!).
4.What lessons have you learnt about life (and yourself) since your relationship with alcohol has changed?
In recovery I have learned so many lessons. I think the most important one is that as much as I would like to I can’t change the past. Because of this I’m not able to move on to my future until I let go of my past.
It took me some time, but now over 2 years sober, I am able to see the lesson in everything that has happened rather than the disappointment and shame.
5. How do you start your day? Do you have a morning routine?
My morning routine is quick, especially if I hit the snooze button a few too many times. But a few things that I always do before I head to work are: drink a cup of hot water with lemon, read my morning meditation, and pray (I usually pray as I drive to work).
6. Do you have any rituals you always make time for?
I make sure that I play with my dog (because you can’t be unhappy when you’re playing with a dog), spend a little time reading each night, and go to a meeting.
7. What’s your favourite thing to do (hangover free & not drinking) at the weekend?
I make sure that I keep my weekends busy. I love to go and visit my friends down by the beach. We walk along the pier, have lunch, and spends hours together talking about nothing and everything. I’ve learned in recovery that true friendship is hard to find and when you do it’s a precious gift.
8. When it comes to your own personal development, what is one thing that you’re working on or learning right now?
Right now I’m learning how to balance work and personal life. I’ve always been a workaholic and even now I love my job and want to learn and grow in this career as much as possible.
What I’ve learned to work on is balance; balance between my personal life and my professional life. I’m learning to spend time developing both equally.
9. What is the one thing you’re obsessed with at the moment that’s making your life better?
As cliché as it might sound, the answer to this would be the 12 steps. Nothing else these past two years has changed my life in the way that working the 12 steps did. Although it took my some time to get started on them (over a year), once I finished them I was a different person.
10. And finally, thinking differently about alcohol can be challenging and isolating, is there any advice you turned to or do you have any words of wisdom for people reading this?
I was told by one of my best friends “God doesn’t waste a hurt” and I remind myself of this every single day.
Every time I regret my past or wish I had done something differently I remember there’s a lesson in the pain. If I can just remember to look for the lessons rather than stay in the pain than my life is so much better.