August 31st 2009. We were all sitting out in the sun. Me, my best friend, our advisor and the rest of the kids who wanted to create a local club. This was the day I joined UNF. Just turned 18, just started my senior year in high school.

Back then I was very, very shy. I was introvert, quiet and afraid of almost everything. I never spoke, unless I really had to. I didn’t dare to laugh or smile. I always tried my very best to keep the laugh inside of me. Sometimes I failed and when I did, I laughed very quietly and covered my mouth and face. I didn’t look people in the eye and hardly anyone was allowed to touch me. There was only one exception to this behavior – and that was whenever there was a discussion. During discussions, I was unstoppable. I argued, I made my opinions clear and I was brutal. People were – at the very least – surprised.

That was over three years ago. Before UNF, before I had any training or education regarding drug policies and politics and before I’d even met a single soul from the Sobriety Movement. Let’s just say I’ve changed quite a lot since then.

I remember the first time I attended an UNF-event. There were so many happy, friendly people everywhere! The atmosphere was cozy, everyone was cuddling, discussing and talking. I was overwhelmed. It was an amazing feeling. So I started going to as many UNF-events as possible, all over Sweden. After 1,5 years, I’d been to most of the seminars that UNF had to offer – I had even represented UNF abroad, arranged some of my own seminars, started an international project with two friends and held lectures myself. Things were moving really fast.

Then over a year ago, something happened. I didn’t get the same amazing feeling when I was at UNF events. I had lots of friends and acquaintances within the movement, whom I always look forward to seeing and we had fun every time we met. But it wasn’t the same mind-blowing feeling. That made me quite sad and I wasn’t sure whether or not I should remain within UNF. I felt like I was done, that I had nothing left to look forward to anymore.

Working locally for a better world
#LifeSetFree

But then a while ago, something amazing happened. I was at the UNF office in Stockholm for the Global Youth Empowerment Weekend (GYEW) and I got that feeling back. I had so much fun, smiled the whole weekend through and I got the feeling that I never wanted the weekend to end! And I got to learn so much from all the other participants! It got me thinking. What if I had left the movement a year ago? What would have happened?

GYEG group discussion
#HeartDriven

It became clear to me that everything has its ups and downs, but most of the time, it’ll turn around. I’m very glad that I didn’t leave UNF and today I’m positive that I never will. Never might seem like too big of a word and I agree, it’s not a word I use easily. But three years ago, I began a journey, a journey that has no end.

Today I’m an open person. I laugh a lot, I smile a lot. And I try not to hide my face when I do so. I hug people, I love hugging! I try not to be afraid and shy, and most of the time, I succeed. But what’s most important is that by being a member, I haven’t only gained knowledge and friends. I’ve gained a family. And for that, I’m eternally grateful.

Thank you for reading.

Lots of love, Amanda.

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