“Nothing can be done without hope and confidence.”

–Helen Keller

I’m not known for my confidence. As a child, I was known for basically the opposite: my shyness. I was highly anxious, even as a kid, and lived in constant fear of saying the wrong thing, or saying something that someone would deem stupid. As I matured, I also began to fear saying something that might make someone angry, or stir up controversy.

When I knew the answer in class, I never raised my hand. Every time a teacher asked a question I knew the answer to, and I sat there in silence until the teacher finally revealed the answer, my answer, I wanted to slap myself in the back of the head. Just raise your hand! What are you afraid of?

It’s silly to look back on, now that I’m much older and have matured and could go back and reassure my teenage self that everything would be fine. But, the fear back then was real. I would sit in classes where the teacher called on people randomly, and have silent panic attacks. Heart racing, body shaking, palms sweating, and just pray I wouldn’t have to say anything.

I had no confidence back then. No one had ever really instilled in me a sense of confidence. For reasons unbeknownst to me, that it will probably take a licensed professional years to dig up, I am not a fan of myself, generally speaking. I am not confident enough to take risks and try new things, because I am afraid of failing. I am not confident enough to speak my mind or express myself, because I am afraid of criticism. And I am not confident enough to fully open up to other people, because I am afraid of the vulnerability and shame.

When it finally became clear to me that I needed to choose the path to sobriety, I wasn’t confident about that either. It seemed impossible for me to do it. It promised to be painful, scary, difficult and uncomfortable. It took weeks of having my self-esteem re-inflated by the counselors at rehab before I had a shred of belief that I could manage life without alcohol.

And then I finally realized that I was going to have to muster some semblance of self-confidence if I was going to have any chance at succeeding. This is why they have me listening to and repeating so many affirmations, I realized. Because they were rebuilding my confidence. My hope. My belief that I could do it.

In the end, the only thing stopping you from doing anything is a lack of confidence. It’s the last road block that’s left at the end of a plan or a dream. You have to break through all the messages coming at you that you’re not worthy, you’re not able to, you can’t, you shouldn’t, you won’t, you never will, you aren’t going to.

You need to move past all of that. Or through it. Over it, under it, whatever it takes. And then you’re there. And then you can look back at your struggle. And here’s the best part about confidence: once you get a little bit of it in you, it grows, and grows and grows. And pretty soon, you’re unstoppable. And your confidence spreads to those around you, and they believe in you too.

I’m 96 days sober. And I never could have done it without self-confidence. And now, I feel like I can accomplish so much more. I look forward to the next 96 days, instead of dreading them. And the days and months and years after that. I am excited to see what I can do.

In your struggle to be sober, you must believe in yourself, above all else.