If you would have told me back in December that I wouldn’t have a drink for four months, I would have laughed. After all, I didn’t have a drinking problem.
I have been putting off writing this post because I don’t want to step on anyone’s toes, offend anyone or make it seem as if I’m judging anyone. As a collective group, alcohol is so tightly wound into our culture, so I know I’m taking a risk in sharing this. But often the things we’re most afraid to say, are the things we must. So here is my story.
Like most I perceived around me, I considered myself a “social drinker”, whatever that means. A great bottle of wine over dinner, a spicy margarita on our patio with JP. And every once in a while, having one too many with the girls on a rare Saturday night out. That was about as wild as my story got.
But a drinking “problem”? Never.
As I look back on my relationship with alcohol, I can see now that it was always around me. At every family holiday, at every celebration, marking every occasion. It was (and still is) everywhere, what everyone did. So it quickly became what I did. For over two decades.
This year I celebrated my 42 birthday, sober. And I think this was my first time in 22 years celebrating a birthday sober.
Up until now, I don’t think there was ever one milestone, one occasion, that wasn’t shared hand in hand with a drink. And I NEVER even thought to question it. It was just “what we did”. It’s what everyone did. So it’s what I did.
To add to it, I became a mom as wine culture was at its peak (and I think probably still is). A bottle for baby, and a bottle for mommy.
Even now I hear moms on social media and in my circle joke about how they need a glass or two of wine to relax after a hard day with the kids. That was me. I cringe now every time someone jokes about needing wine after being with their kids. Not out of judgment of them. But out of judgment of ME
I spent YEARS in my motherhood journey, and my adult life in general, with a glass of wine in my hand.
It heightened my anxiety
It robbed me of my sleep
It made me feel lethargic, puffy, and irritable.
It affected my health, my mindset, and my relationships
I was the worst version of myself when I drank. Always. It didn’t matter if it was one glass of wine or three margaritas. Alcohol was, and is, not my friend.
But I had become so accustomed to this watered-down version of me, so surrounded by “social drinking” everywhere I looked that I never even saw the problem.
In the past, I had taken some time off of drinking. A dry January here, a detox there. I had toyed with sobriety, but never truly understood the depth of how alcohol was holding me back until I stopped for more than just a month or two.
For a few years, I had been hearing this voice inside of me each time I drank. I KNEW it wasn’t serving me. I knew it wasn’t helping me. But I let myself off the hook every time. It’s just this one night, or it’s Christmas, we’re on vacation, it’s my birthday. There was always a way I could justify returning to just one more glass of wine here or there. Maybe I was overthinking it. It’s just a few glasses of wine.
This January I had started another round of “detoxing” (or whatever we’re calling it now) but I could feel it was different. It was my time. I shared with JP that I was going to try and go “a little longer”. Maybe an extra week or two. “We’ll see”, I said.
But I think deep down I was too scared to make any bigger commitment. The idea of being “sober” just felt too big. Too daunting. Too overwhelming, and too hard. And to be honest, still a word I couldn’t identify myself with.
I didn’t want to make any commitments.
I was just going to take it day by day.
Zero pressure. Nothing black and white. Just “playing” with it. Seeing how I felt.
A few weeks in, JP gave me a book that would unknowingly, change my life, “Quit Like A Woman”, by Holly Whitaker.
It was the first thing I had ever read that explained things so clearly. That didn’t use the term “alcoholic” or make alcohol seem like it was a “problem” we had to have in order to quit.
It was the push I needed. I was ready.
And I’ll be honest, it’s hard. There are a lot of days I want to have a glass of wine. And lots of firsts. The first adult overnight stay downtown, sober. The first birthday, sober. And the first warm-weather vacation, sober.
And with each one, I go in telling myself it’s ok if you “have a drink”. Knowing that it is. The world will in fact not end.
But, when that experience, or milestone, or dinner arises, I find myself in that moment, taking a deep breath, checking in with myself and then from a place of authenticity, saying “actually, I’m ok”.
And somehow, “one day” turns into another day, and another week, and another month….and I hope….another year.
The first, immediately questioning me (almost assuming I’ll fail). “Well, don’t you think you will this summer?” Or “What about your girl’s trip?”
Or the second reaction, rationalizing their own story with drinking (whatever that might be). Feeling a need to explain how/why they’re “different” than me.
There is nothing scarier to a person who drinks, than a person who quit. It brings all of their insecurities to light. Whether they realize it or not. They aren’t actually explaining their behavior to me, they’re rationalizing it to themselves. And that’s ok. That’s part of the human experience. We all do this (me included). We see ourselves reflected in each other and it brings up parts of us we may or may not be ready to deal with.
This has been me many times over the years. And not just with drinking. Anytime I find myself needing to defend or justify or explain – it’s usually because something is off. And in this case, for me, it was drinking.
I’ve only been sober now for four months. It feels like a millisecond. And in many ways, like years.
I don’t know how much longer I’ll keep going. But I can say that I hope for a while.
There are too many things I’m feeling now that I’m not ready to give up, and also not quite ready to talk about. Too many changes that I’m just now getting used to.
The days seem brighter, the possibilities seem bigger.
Feeling emotions I haven’t in decades. Dealing with things I probably haven’t in decades. And for the first time showing up to my life raw and awake. It’s amazing and terrifying all at once. There is nowhere to hide when you’re sober.
As I sit here and write this, I’m scared I’ll fail. That I’ll start drinking again. And I know that’s a very real possibility. But I also know that there’s a possibility that this is just the beginning.
I don’t know how I’ll feel about alcohol a year from now, or even a month from now. But the good news is, I don’t have to.
What I do know, is that I’m not drinking TODAY, and that’s good enough for me.