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

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

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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