“Whenever you find yourself on the side of the majority, it is time to pause and reflect.”Mark Twain
One year ago today, I quit drinking.
TLDR: Being sober is not always easy, but it is definitely worth it.
Note: this post is not intended to bring shame or judgment to anyone who is drinking. Rather, it is shared in the hopes that it may be helpful or inspirational to someone who is questioning their own relationship with alcohol.
A Look Back: How I Got Here
I was 13 when I had my first drink. A friend’s older sibling bought us some Purple Passion, and we passed the 2-liter around while we walked the dark streets of my neighborhood. I don’t remember being drunk that night, but it was the beginning of a long, 29-year drinking journey.
I have always been the life of the party. The loud one. The one encouraging everyone around me to drink up, take a shot, etc. I would drink to relax before entering social events, and I would drink during social events. A social event without booze was one that I couldn’t quite comprehend, because I believed fun and nondrinking to be mutually exclusive. Thankfully, I was wrong.
When I took my last drink on 12.31.19, I was drinking no more than 3-4 times per week, and often less. On the days that I drank, it was typically no more than 3-4 drinks. I took an “Am I an Alcoholic” quiz and was relieved when it told me that I was not. I was not drinking to blackout, though I have done so in the past. Drinking was not interfering with my ability to function as a parent, an employee, or a human.
Still, I sensed an impending problem. Drinking was a huge crutch for me: a reprieve on a bad day and a celebratory requirement for the good days. It was August of 2019 when I first began to notice.
Back in May of 2019, my journey of self-awareness that I’d been on for some time was accelerated. I applied for a position at work that I was not selected for, and I received some valuable feedback and insight to myself that opened my eyes even further. I began paying closer attention to my relationships, the way I was spending my time, and how I was treating myself.
In August, with my growing sense of self-awareness, I began to notice my relationship with alcohol. I was going to crossfit five times a week and tracking macros and calories in an app. Seeing those two, three, and four vodka entries on the nights I drank made me wonder if it was really worth it, especially because I was so focused on fitness and being healthy.
In an effort to prove to myself that I didn’t have a drinking problem, I decided to not drink for 2 weeks in mid-August. I’d almost made it to two weeks, and I drank at a Chris Stapleton concert because I couldn’t imagine not drinking at a concert.
After another month of drinking and observing myself, I planned to do “Sober October”, once again as an attempt to alleviate my growing concerns about alcohol in my life. I made it through most of October and went back to drinking on Halloween weekend because I went to New Orleans for Widespread Panic concerts.
My drinking (and noticing) continued through the holidays. In December, I began to plan an “extended Dry January” of 90 days. I was determined to successfully complete a period of sobriety after having two unsuccessful attempts. Fortunately, I’d already learned a lot from those attempts.
On Tuesday, December 31, 2019, I took my last drink. I absolutely planned on going back to drinking on Day 91. I was only planning to do a “reset”, which would be followed by moderate drinking.
On the same day, I began seeking sober influencers on Instagram to help encourage and motivate me through the 90 days. It was there that I found Holly Whitaker, who had recently published her book Quit Like a Woman: The Radical Choice to Not Drink in a Culture Obsessed with Alcohol. I ordered the book and read it within 24 hours of delivery. The book was chock full of impactful insight, including: the impact of alcohol on my body, mind, and spirit (even at the levels I was drinking), the power and influence of Big Alcohol, and tools to quit drinking. I was overwhelmed with excitement and wanted to know even more. I kept searching.
I discovered that Holly also founded Tempest, a “modern recovery program that helps you stop drinking and feel better.” I signed up for a spot in what was then known as Tempest Sobriety School and counted the days until it began, still believing that I was doing a 90 day reset.
The Tempest program and community gave me everything I needed to confidently become a non-drinker: love, acceptance, perspectives, support (so much incredible support), tools and techniques, and a wealth of people who were also evaluating their relationship with alcohol.
I don’t remember the exact day that I realized that my quitting drinking was much more than a 90 day trial. I do remember exactly where I was and what I was doing when it hit me that I was better off not drinking. Period.
I was determined. I was self-assured. I was pridefully living as a nondrinker. Then Covid hit.
The first week of being at home working while my kids were home-schooling, I began to question whether I should postpone nondrinking until after the pandemic was over. The uncertainty of Covid made me think I needed to drink to cope. I leaned harder into the Tempest community of people who were experiencing similar thoughts. I desperately clung to the lessons and tools I’d gained from Tempest and soon realized that I was so much better off not drinking during a pandemic. My drinking would have almost certainly digressed further during the isolation. I was grateful to be sober, now more than ever.
With every passing day, I am more grateful to be sober.
There are a number of resources have been and continue to be very helpful to me in embracing sobriety:
- Quit Like a Woman, Holly Whitaker
- Tempest program and community
- Untamed, Glennon Doyle
- We are the Luckiest, Laura McKowen
- This Naked Mind, Annie Grace
- Easy Way to Control Alcohol, Allen Carr
- Jason Isbell: incredible musician and song-writer
In summary, I found and embraced my sobriety by being curious, listening to my own intuition, and acting on it.
The Impact of Sobriety
It is a challenge to put into words the ways that sobriety has affected my life. Everything feels different but also native, like this was always inside of me, wanting to thrive.
My anxiety has improved tenfold. I now know that my drinking was creating the anxiety that I would often drink to subdue. I still experience anxiety (hello, 2020!) but I have the awareness and the tools to deal with it in a healthy way.
The quality of my sleep is much better. Though I’m sleeping about the same amount of time, I wake feeling much more rested and restored.
My self-confidence has grown tremendously. By prioritizing my intuition over external influences (society, culture, others’ expectations of me), I have found confidence that I did not know was possible for me. I am so much more comfortable using my voice to speak up for myself and for others.
I can lean in to vulnerability. There is much good that can come from living and loving vulnerably. I’ve known this from a textbook perspective and have lightly practiced it in the past. Now I know in my soul that I can make the most impact in this world with my vulnerability. Combined with my self-confidence, I believe I can do anything.
I have experienced deep love in a way I thought impossible for me. It has already been one of the most rewarding experiences of my life and something that I hope everyone can experience in theirs.
I am enjoying being present in all the moments, big and small. Experiencing joy in the little things (especially the little things) has been a tremendous and unexpected surprise of sobriety.
My life is not perfect and is not easy. It never will be. But I am here for it, here in it, and fully experiencing every little morsel it has to offer. A glorious gift.
“Being human is not hard because you’re doing it wrong. It’s hard because you’re doing it right. You will never change the fact that being human is hard, so you must change your idea that it was ever supposed to be easy.”Glennon Doyle, Untamed
Sobriety has allowed me to return to my true self, the self that is not constructed or limited or guided by external influences. It feels more like freedom than anything I’ve experienced. The BEST gift.
What I’ve Learned
Though I consider myself a perpetual student of life, I had no idea the wealth of lessons that sobriety would bring.
My life is so much better without alcohol. I’ve heard nondrinkers say such things before but quietly thought to myself that they were just saying that, trying to convince themselves. Now I know it to be true.
I do not identify with and no longer use the term “alcoholic.” I do believe that alcohol is destructive and can be a progressive addiction. However, I also believe that the label focuses on the “defect” of a person willing to admit their powerlessness to alcohol and prevents us from addressing the actual problem: the relationship between alcohol, addiction, and us as individuals and a society.
I often used alcohol to numb or distract myself from the “bad stuff”. I’ve learned that you can’t selectively numb the bad stuff without also numbing the good stuff. Feeling hard feelings is part of life, but so is feeling the good feelings.
There is a wealth of healthy coping mechanisms that help me through hard moments and hard times. I don’t have to suffer quietly or white-knuckle through pain. The tools that are helpful to me include: supportive community, meditation and breathwork, exercise, reading, writing, spirituality, and so much more.
Leveraging my self-awareness and listening to my intuition are my essential guides for living my values. Without them, I find myself unhealthily people pleasing and thus compromising myself. With self-awareness and intuition as my guides, I am confident in doing what is right for me, even (especially) if I am going against the status quo.
Identifying, communicating, and holding boundaries for myself is an essential part of my wellness. As a life-long people pleaser, this is not an easy one for me. However, I also recognize that having little-to-no boundaries has contributed mightily to my internal conflicts.
Growth is not a straight line. What feels like a setback is always a learning opportunity. I am grateful for the hard times and the setbacks, as they contributed the most to who I am today.
My drinking was not the problem, but a symptom of other issues. By taking care of myself, listening to my intuition, and giving myself unconditional love, saying goodbye to drinking was much easier than I ever dreamed it to be.
“The goal here is to create a situation you no longer have to escape, or a life you don’t have to numb. The achievement of sobriety is not the point; it’s a by-product of the work. The work is the point. Addiction is the hook that gets you in the door, and quitting is the catalyst to heal deeper wounds.”Holly Whitaker, Quit Like a Woman
I am beyond excited to continue my lifelong journey of learning, growing, and creating a life I don’t want to escape. I am forever grateful for the journey that brought me here and for what the future holds.
If you have ever questioned your relationship with alcohol, I encourage you to take a closer look. Your intuition may be trying to tell you something.
Namaste and Happy New Year, friends.
“When I was a child, I felt what I needed to feel and I followed my gut and I planned only from my imagination. I was wild until I was tamed by shame. Until I started hiding and numbing my feelings for fear of being too much. Until I started deferring to others’ advice instead of trusting my own intuition. Until I became convinced that my imagination was ridiculous and my desires were selfish. Until I surrendered myself to the cages of others’ expectations, cultural mandates, and institutional allegiances. Until I buried who I was in order to become what I should be. I lost myself when I learned how to please.
Sobriety was my painstaking resurrection. It was my return to wild. It was one long remembering.”Glennon Doyle, Untamed
“When your soul awakens, you begin to truly inherit your life. You leave the kingdom of fake surfaces, repetitive talk and weary roles and slip deeper into the true adventure of who you are and who you are called to become. The greatest friend of the soul is the unknown. Yet we are afraid of the unknown because it lies outside our vision and our control. We avoid it or quell it by filtering it through our protective barriers of domestication and control. The normal way never leads home.
Once you start to awaken, no one can ever claim you again for the old patterns. Now you realise how precious your time here is. You are no longer willing to squander your essence on undertakings that do not nourish your true self; your patience grows thin with tired talk and dead language. You see through the rosters of expectation which promise you safety and the confirmation of your outer identity. Now you are impatient for growth, willing to put yourself in the way of change. You want your work to become an expression of your gift. You want your relationship to voyage beyond the pallid frontiers to where the danger of transformation dwells. You want your God to be wild and to call you to where your destiny awaits.”The Question Holds the Lantern, John O’Donohue