Our Stories: Carrie

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Drinking more than you want to is just about the most common experience a drinker can have. You are not alone in questioning alcohol and there is so much power in finding another way.

I have yet to meet someone who quit drinking who didn’t completely up-level their life. Read and see.

This series shares stories of strong-ass women (and men!) who decided to stop settling for hangovers and mediocrity and discovered their best selves through an alcohol-free lifestyle. They inspire a whole new generation of people to know that you don’t have to drink to be “normal” or fit in. Why not be exceptional instead?

Carrie from Bigger Life Adventures

Carrie is a yoga teacher and co-founder of Bigger Life Adventures, a yoga and recovery retreat company she runs with her husband Zach. Not only did she completely transform her life through sobriety, in 2017 Carrie and Zach broke out of the ordinary life they had been living in California and became digital nomads devoted to culturally immersive travel, finding ways to work from anywhere, and seeking more spiritual fulfillment in their day-to-day lives. After six months of bouncing around Asia, Bigger Life Adventures was born from a spark of inspiration to combine all of their passions and share them with friends — travel, yoga, adventure, recovery "outside the box", cultural immersion, and giving back (10% of all retreat proceeds go to nonprofits). Her story is fascinating . . .

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Q and A with Carrie

What did your drinking look like before you quit?

I drank for 11 years total, from ages 18-29. When I first started drinking I kept it under control and mostly on the weekends, like your average American college student who likes to party. At the beginning, I loved the way alcohol loosened up my inhibitions and made me less socially anxious.


After college, I joined the Peace Corps, where my loneliness and isolation led me to drink a lot on the weekends, then moved to San Diego where my husband and I worked in the restaurant/bar industry and traveled the world as much as possible, while my drinking slowly ramped up. Because I was in such a booze-soaked industry and all my friends like to party, it was easy to pretend I was fine. It’s “confirmation bias.” If you see everyone else around you behaving the same way, you can convince yourself you don’t have a problem. Eventually, I started drinking to deal with everything in my life—celebrations, happiness, sadness, anxiety, even my hangovers. At the end of my drinking I was drinking every day, oftentimes in the morning or secretly at work to get through a hangover, pretending I was fine on the outside, but barely holding on the inside.

When you became consciously aware you were drinking more than you liked, did you try to moderate or cut back? How did that go?

Towards the end of my drinking, I was drinking more days of the week than not. I started trying to take breaks of various lengths in order to feel healthier or fix my drinking problem, but usually I wouldn’t last the amount of time sober I promised I would. Towards the very end I did find the book The 30-Day Sobriety Solution: How to Cut Back or Quit Drinking in the Privacy of Your Own Home and through working the program in that book I quit drinking for over 40 days and felt great. Unfortunately after that, I tried to go back to some “moderate drinking” and failed miserably. That’s when I knew I had to quit for good. I’ve been sober since 8/8/16.

How did you get sober? What did you do in the first six months?

I got sober through AA. I don’t think it’s the only path but it was what I needed. Going to meetings was really humbling and nerve-wracking, but eventually I found a sponsor and a lot of community there. I worked the steps and started changing my life from the inside out. The 12 steps are really like free therapy. There are a lot of things I don’t agree with about AA’s culture but I do believe there is a lot of magic in sponsorship and the 12 steps. It got me through the first six months and beyond. Nowadays I incorporate a lot of other tools besides just AA.

Besides that, at first not a lot of things changed. I still had a job where I was the only sober person and everyone partied a lot around me. My husband was still drinking. I thought, “I’ll keep the same friends and I’ll go out to the same place and nothing will change, except I won’t drink!” Well, it didn’t take too long to realize that that was not a satisfying way to live. I started making new sober friends who shared common interests like hiking and rock climbing. I got outside a lot more. I dove into my yoga practice. I felt like I had all this lost time to make up for from all the hours, days, and weeks I had spent hungover.

What does a hangover-free life mean to you? Has your sense of happiness changed?

A hangover-free life is such a gift! I don’t miss those horrible, head-throbbing, anxiety-ridden mornings at all! Thanks to my sobriety I got the chance to re-learn who I actually am and what really makes me happy. I discovered that I really value getting outside into nature more than I value going out and partying. I finally learned to embrace my introversion and be comfortable with being by myself when I need to. I became less co-dependent on my husband and nowadays we both even take solo trips away from each other at times just to explore and rejuvenate on our own. I feel like when I was drinking I never wanted to be alone with my own thoughts and now I really treasure that time.

 

Removing alcohol as a numbing agent leaves a whole lot of emotions on the table. How did you cope with your newfound feelings and fears?

At first I coped with a lot of tears, frustration, and relying on the support of my sponsor and sober lady friends. There was also definitely a lot of awkwardness I had to get through with learning how to be the only sober one at my job, with old friends, and in certain situations. People always want to know why you’re not drinking. At first I would make some excuses but eventually I just started telling everyone. It’s been amazing how many people I used to drink with have now been able to come to me for support and understanding when they’re going through their own struggle with alcohol or drugs. By bravely and honestly talking about my sobriety I’m able to help way more people than if I stayed silent and fearful.  

I know not everyone has a “rock bottom” but I did and it was pretty dramatic and terrible. However, now that I can look back on how I got through that time successfully and against all odds, actually quit drinking, I know I really can get through anything life throws at me!

How has quitting alcohol pushed you out of your comfort zone in other areas in your life?

Getting sober made me take action on dreams I had put on the back burner for many years. I had gotten so comfortable in San Diego and despite saying I wanted to travel more and live abroad again, I wasn’t taking any real action on making that happen. However, once I got sober, everything started to fall into place with my self confidence, finances, and everything. When the right job opportunity came up, my husband and I sold and packed all of our stuff, quit our jobs in San Diego, and moved to Thailand.

It was pretty scary and unknown, but doing that led us to be pushed so far out of our comfort zones, grow a ton, and eventually start our passion business, Bigger Life Adventures, which is going strong today. We run yoga and adventure retreats for sober or sober-curious people and it is truly a dream job incorporating all the things we love—yoga, travel, great food, and adventure!

Do you have any tips or words of inspiration for people exploring sobriety? 

Sobriety is such a positive, healthy, and spiritually fulfilling way to live your life. I want more people to see that it’s a desirable life choice and not a punishment, which is what I always saw it as before I tried it out. My recovery has led me to become a better person, discover my true calling as a teacher, and allowed me to help other people by sharing my story.  

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