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How Sobriety Helps Me Better Manage My UC

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On July 5, 2020, I woke up incredibly hungover and depressed. I had seen my usual storm of unhealthy coping mechanisms approaching for a while. The root issue that triggered this round was an inability to run anymore. But really, it didn’t matter. It was the same cycle over and over, just with different details surrounding it. I could blame this, that, or the other thing, but on this particular morning, I was exhausted from blaming everything but myself. 

And underneath all of that, I knew my drinking wasn’t good for my gut … yet, I couldn’t stop. I didn’t know how else to cope with life’s obstacles. But something about that morning woke me up, and I quit drinking right then and there. My husband, also has been sober for more than 10 years, had already done his due diligence in helping me find some long-term mental health support, and I promptly called my doctor to ask for antidepressants. 

Now more than two years later, I hardly know who that person was. My drinking had been an on-and-off problem for nearly 10 years, and the only time I truly stopped was if I was training for a big race or if I was flaring. But if you live with inflammatory bowel disease, you can probably guess that quitting the bad stuff when you’re already sick hardly does anything if you’re treating your body like trash the rest of the time.

So that was one driving factor for my choice to quit. By removing my main coping mechanism from my life, I was forced – er, encouraged – to actually do the work to face the things that drove me to barstools. And getting on antidepressants finally helped take the edge off that I honestly needed help with. Between ditching alcohol, focusing on antidepressants, and going to therapy, I slowly started to clear the murky air and see life clearly for what it was: an opportunity to start over as a healthier person living with UC.

As time passed, I noticed that I wasn’t wallowing in the hard stuff as much. I was still upset on bad days, but instead of running to the nearby pub to chase it down, I sat with it and moved it through my body, and the time it took to do that got shorter and shorter the farther away I got from July 5. I was able to start being more honest with myself – what kind of UC advocate did I want to be? Did I want to just talk the talk, or did I want to live the version of life I was encouraging others to live? Did I want to keep ruining my insides and ignoring potential side effects of booze plus meds, or did I want to start focusing on healthier ways to go about life with UC? The answer was always the latter.

I’m not saying sobriety is a must for everyone, let alone everyone with UC. It was a must for me and my story. Drinking was simply an unhealthy distraction, something that made me turn away from the things I did have control over when it came to UC – my attitude. If I could shift my attitude and reaction to the difficult stuff (and believe me, it didn’t happen overnight), then needing that vice would suddenly be less of a necessity. 

If you’re living with UC, or even if you’re not, and sober-curious, here are five TL;DR reasons why the jump into zero alcohol was right for me:

  1. It lovingly nudged me into actually working on my mental health, not just saying I am. Mental and UC are completely intertwined. 
  2. I saved a lot of money that could be better spent on things I love doing that fill my life with positivity.
  3. My intestines and liver are no longer being pummeled with bad choices.
  4. I have the luxury of time back; I’m not sucking away the hours in a dark bar.
  5. I am now able to be a present mom to my son. 

What are your reasons for putting down the drink? If you’re exploring that way of life, I promise it’s worth it.

Originally published: November 2, 2022
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