On April 17, 2021, I celebrated one year of being alcohol free. I've spent some time reflecting on the past year, how an alcohol-free version of me even came to be and why my alcohol drinking days are behind me for good. If you've considered a life without alcohol, have been questioning your drinking or if you're ready to abstain and are in the research stages, please read on, because within this story is some information that you may find valuable.
Breaking up with booze. Again.
Rewind to early 2020 before the covid-19 global pandemic. Cutting alcohol out of my life had been something I had been considering on and off for a few years. I had taken 'breaks' from alcohol lasting up to six weeks and noticed that I felt better and was more productive. This shouldn't have been a surprise, right?
Despite the good feels, increased productivity, better sleep, skin and literally everything else would end by me going back to drinking alcohol. Somewhere in my subconscious, that thought of not drinking would keep slowly bubbling to the surface and the cycle would begin again.
After a trip to Puerto Vallarta in January and then a 4-day trip to England in February for a funeral which was comprised of a 9-hour flight, a total of 8 hours on a train, a funeral service and wine-soaked wake, I was exhausted and upon returning home, I broke up with booze. Again. Then the coronavirus happened. And I had a glass of wine.
By March 2020, life had changed a lot. There was so much uncertainty. Jobs were in jeopardy and nobody knew with any what the hell was going on. After a particularly rough hangover on April 16, I decided that I was done. Again. This time, I set some goals and a simple morning routine to help create an anchor and I downloaded a sober counter app because I had a feeling I wouldn't be drinking alcohol anymore and wanted to keep track of my progress.
That first week gave me some time to think about my life situation - what it had been like to this point and where I felt I was heading. Everyone operates on autopilot to a certain extent every day - brushing one's teeth, getting ready for the day and so on. I had started to feel like I was missing out on something that I couldn't put my finger on. Like there was some kind of parallel universe that I should be in but was not. Something kept calling me and even though I wanted to have a glass of wine that first week, my curiosity won. The entire first week was a win. I felt like I was living congruently and even though I thought about wine at supper, the draw to drink wasn't as strong as I thought it may have been. And I felt like the door to that parallel universe I had been thinking of opened up for me just a little. I could see a light in the crack of the door opening and I wanted more.
When is drinking a problem? Is during a pandemic the right time to stop drinking?
Anyone who asks themselves that question probably already knows the answer. I didn't think that I exhibited what I would consider super problematic behaviour - I didn’t' drive drunk, I didn't get into fist-fights but inherently, I knew something was off and in the last few years had begun to question why drinking was even a thing for me. I read Annie Grace's Naked mind in 2019 while taking a 30-day booze break and a lot of the points in the book stuck with me. Alcohol didn't taste great on its own. Did I actually even LIKE my favorite alcohol which was wine? Did it REALLY taste good? Was I really more FUN when I had been drinking? Did it 'bring out my personality', or was I just less inhibited and annoying? Did I need my daughter to see her dad fireman carry me into the house and up to bed after getting trashed at the neighbour's house during a firepit? It was suggested that stopping drinking during a pandemic was a difficult thing to do, but for me, it seemed like the best possible time. I had a LOT of quiet time. No friend's houses, no parties, no hanging out at the local watering hole for appie Wednesdays with a 9-ounce glass of house red, no ice-cold Jager shots. I was able to delve deeply into what I needed to get done. To be mindful, to journal, to read, to listen to podcasts and to decide if this was going to be another 30-day break or something more permanent.
It's not something that I talked a lot about with people. It felt a bit like imposter syndrome because I didn’t' feel like I was an alcoholic and didn't feel right using terms like 'being in recovery' mostly because I didn't think it pertained to me. and Sober curious didn't sound serious enough. I didn’t' feel like drinking was ruining my life. I still had my job, my home, no DUI's, I reserved the bulk of my drinking for days off of work and while travelling, so it felt flippant and ignorant to proclaim a life of sobriety. I also didn't want to look like a clown if I decided to start drinking again.
What's happened since then?
I feel better about life. When I stopped drinking, I rediscovered my love of writing, reading and running. I live more in the moment and experience less reminiscing and ruminating about the past and get less caught up with the anxiety that comes from living for the future. Things that seemed out of reach now feel within my grasp. Sleeping and eating better extends to every other part of my life and I feel more compelled to work out, hike and make every part of my life really good.
Hiking has given me a chance to reconnect with and enjoy solitude. It's taken me outside of my own comfort zone. It gave me a goal and purpose. Don't be mistaken. Life wasn't or isn't perfect, but it is better and I handle the bad days better than I ever did when I was drinking.
Today, I am good. I don’t' want to drink, I don't get tempted to drink and I nothing (that I know of yet) is a trigger for drinking. Many of my friends and family members drink alcohol and sometimes if I overthink it, it can feel a bit lonely when I’m the only one who is not drinking but for the most part, I don't seem to pay much attention to it and neither does anybody else outside of the odd "Oh, you're still not drinking?" or "Why don't you drink, did you have a problem" type of comment or question.
The fact that we've got restrictions for gathering makes it easy to avoid parties and of course, I wonder what it will be like to head back to Ibiza and Las Vegas as a person who does not drink as those places are pretty notorious party and drinking spots that I also happen to really enjoy visiting. I think that living in the present and not overthinking and forecasting too far into the future helps.
Are you curious or considering going alcohol free?
1. Just try it. 30 days isn't going to hurt you. Don't be afraid of trying something different. Worst case scenario is you don't like it and go back to drinking. On the flip side, you might just discover something about yourself.
2. Download a sober counter from the app store to keep track. For me, there was something about seeing those numbers add up that got me excited about staying the course.
3. Get reading - you'll learn something and keep your mind on something constructive instead of drinking. Pick up a copy of Annie Grace's The Naked Mind or David Carr's the Easyway to control alcohol, or check out your library's website to find books that might be of interest to you.
4. Listen to sobriety podcasts. My favourites are the Seltzer Squad, as well as the School of Greatness, Quote of the Day, Black and Sober. There are a LOT out there. Be open minded and listen to a few until you find what resonates with you best.
5. Check out online sober communities on Facebook, Instagram, meetups or AA meetings . Due to restrictions, it may be hard to meet up in person. The online community helped me greatly. I have formed friendships with people with a similar mindset.
It goes without saying that it's easy to get complacent and comfortable in the routine of life until you lose the ability to see beyond the day to day. Lost is the sense of wonder and adventure. Taking a break from drinking or pausing anything that might not be bringing you joy can be a good way of opening your eyes to the things that have been buried in your subconscious. Life is an adventure. Don't be afraid to deviate from something you've always done, just because you've always done it. Be open to possibility, in whatever form or shape it may present itself to you.