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When You Get Off The Hamster Wheel

On the Clarity that Comes in Sobriety

Originally posted Sept 19, 2023 On The Ultimate Mom Challenge

In trying to describe my life before I quit drinking, I came up with a perfect visual. It was me on a hamster wheel, desperately trying to get “ahead” of the mounds of work, problems, and stress, only for the wheel to keep spinning faster and faster.

Because that’s what happens on a hamster wheel; the faster you run, the faster it spins.


I drank alcohol to minimize the strain and pain of my body and mind’s constant spinning. I used wine to mentally slow down the wheel — a brief respite — before the spinning doubled down with the awful feeling of “hangxiety” (hangover anxiety), my body physically depleted from my harmful coping strategy and working on overdrive to get the alcohol out of my system.

But here’s what happened when I quit drinking: I stayed on the hamster wheel for a period of time but slowed down enough to look around. To realize I was on a damn hamster wheel and going nowhere fast. No wonder I felt burnt out. Depleted.

After some time and confidence, as I relearned to care for myself and trust my body and intentions again — a huge process and a separate post I should probably write sometime — I realized something big: I’m on the wrong hamster wheel. In fact, I wasn’t sure I wanted to be on a hamster wheel at all!

I was determined to climb the corporate ladder for so much of my life. I was going to break glass ceilings and #girlboss my way to the top. But in sobriety, that life doesn’t look nearly as idyllic as when I wasn’t drowning my thoughts and feelings out with alcohol regularly. I was able to rethink my priorities and goals. My values. And I made a choice to get off the hamster wheel altogether. Not find a new wheel with new shiny bells and whistles (this was hard at first as LinkedIn showed me all the other available jobs I could apply for). Ignoring job openings for companies that seemed exciting or trendy was challenging.

But I stood my ground, and decided not to fall into the trap of the next hamster wheel. If I do get back on someday, I want it to be the right one… not the one that just happens to be hiring and I’m qualified for. It makes me think how many of my jobs were never by my design. They were always happenstance. A company that happens to be hiring for someone like me. That’s how I landed in PR. That’s how I landed in the clean tech sector. 20 years of my life determined by happenstance.

But it’s not too late. That’s the beauty of dawn break each morning; every day, earth sends us a reminder we get another go. The sun rises and reminds us we can start again. In sobriety, our pursuits, and where we want to expend our energy.

Sobriety slowed me down enough to see I was on a wheel going nowhere.

Sobriety gave me the conviction to step off the wheel and reevaluate what I wanted to do with my life. And sobriety reaffirmed that I still don’t know “who I want to be when I grow up” because I am much less interested in growing “up” than growing into the person I am meant to be.

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