I could never have imagined how far I have come – Gemma Sheppard
My mental health has never been better, and many people around me turn to me for advice or as a source of inspiration on their own journeys
I joined OYNB 90 day challenge to start in January 2020. This was also when I was set to move from Wiltshire, England to Hanoi, Vietnam. I wanted to have a fresh start in a new place. I’d lost my dad to cancer 3 years before and my drinking had been getting heavier since this. I’d known that my drinking was a problem for a while but put it down to me being in my 20s. All of my friends would drink heavily and take drugs every weekend so I didn’t see it as an issue in a social way. However, I was depressed and my anxiety was impacting my work and relationships.
Trying to go it alone
I had done some dry months before, just to prove I could really, especially as my dad was an alcoholic and his parents too, so I was all too aware of the genetic factors. I was drinking at least 5 pints daily and binging from Friday-Sunday, often being drunk the entire weekend. It was really hard because I’d moved to a new country where I didn’t know anyone. I started off well but then we went on a beach holiday and I drank during that time because I didn’t know how to holiday without alcohol. Most of my friends were younger than me (in their early 20s) so the plans always revolved around drinking. It was hard, way harder than I expected.
Removing alcohol from your life is one thing, but the adjustments you have to make in your social life are another. I guess I just always had to remember that this is my journey, and other people are on their journey. I was told I was boring because I wasn’t drinking, which I am now aware enough to realise that was a projection. That person thought they were boring without alcohol so they projected their insecurities onto me. The challenge was really just the beginning for me and I could never have imagined how far I have come today.
Where am I at now?
It is now nearly 2 years since that original 90 day challenge. I no longer enjoy getting or being drunk. I have started my own business as a sobriety coach, adopted a dog, learned to ride a motorbike, taken up boxing, fallen back in love with reading and now have a daily yoga and meditation practice. I feel calm, peaceful, joyful, grateful and radiant. My skin has never looked better and I have quit smoking.
I have a counsellor and a coach and I’m on a healing journey, getting to really understand the things that caused me to drink in the first place; drinking was just a symptom. I sleep 8-10 hours a night and no longer suffer from crippling anxiety, which was a part of my life for many years. My mental health has never been better, and many people around me turn to me for advice or as a source of inspiration on their own journeys. That is the thing I am most proud of, being able to help other people.
The OYNB support
The OYNB group is amazing because there is such a great variety of people of all ages and from all over the world. My relationship with alcohol has truly transformed thanks to the inner work I have been committed to for the past 2 years. I never considered myself an alcoholic but I certainly would have become one if I continued down the path I was on. I do not count days and if I choose to drink then I don’t beat myself up about it or call it a relapse. I drank a total of 6 times in 2021.
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