Today I celebrate one year living alcohol-free.
You won’t find a single mention of AA in this blog post because I never went (not knocking the program, just didn’t apply to someone like me). I also won’t throw around the word ‘willpower,’ or even try to sell you on the idea that you should explore your relationship with alcohol. You’ll know, in your gut, if you need to. Trust me.
However, you will find a whole lot of honesty about what it took to get to where I am now. Please keep in mind that everyone experiences sobriety and recovery differently, and this is just my account. If you are unsure of the difference between sobriety and recovery, I like how this article on PsychologyToday.com explains it.
With sobriety being a popular ‘trend’ right now, I always clarify that there’s a big difference between choosing sobriety and needing sobriety. I decided to stop drinking when things were going well for me and I know that is a privilege. Addiction exists on a spectrum – it’s not as black and white as we’d like to think it is (hence terms like grey area drinking).
I say all of this with the magic of hindsight.
MONTHS ONE TO THREE
I felt like I was on top of the fucking world. This wasn’t my first rodeo though, I’d been sober for two months straight before in 2018. Funny enough, at the start I thought I was only going to do 30 days dry, then as the first month went on, I read Sober Curious, and decided to *see* if I could stop altogether. Guess I proved myself right!
I was in a phase where I was feeling empowered to shape my life and make it look the way I wanted it to, so I figured “why not now?”
Even though my drinking had been a lot more mindful before I decided to halt things, it felt totally different this time compared to when I knew I’d only be boozeless for a set period of time. It felt like I had closed the book on a significant phase in my life and everything felt new and full of potential.
Cue montage of me reading all the self-help books, listening to motivational podcasts, decluttering my apartment, cooking, starting to watch Grey’s Anatomy, getting up early on the weekends and working out A TON. My on-again-off-again insomnia disappeared and I had orgasmic sleeps. I tried going on my first date since I quit drinking and it was nice, but I was awkward (it was way too early). I didn’t know how much to talk about it.
I kept myself really really really occupied. Grey’s Anatomy has 15 seasons guys.
I wondered a lot why everyone didn’t just stop drinking.
The hope and excitement of this new phase helped me navigate the cravings when they did hit me.
This was all likely possible thanks to my own little pink cloud.
MONTHS FOUR TO SEVEN
This was where my quest to stay sober changed into long-term sustainable change for me.
When the pink cloud drifted away I realized why people don’t quit drinking: because if you really want to glow up you’re forced to confront your own bullshit and address the reasons why you drank in the first place. Guess what? It’s a goddam shit storm.
It felt like I had been hit by a train, but the train was my own emotions. I knew I would never let myself back down from this challenge, but my performance during this time was definitely white-knuckling at its finest.
My insomnia also came back with an evil vengeance and I started masturbating a lot. I literally was on a quest for any serotonin I could….muster? Yeah that’s a good word choice.
I was depressed and wallowing in a lot of self-pity, but also wouldn’t admit I was struggling with my new lifestyle. I felt like the people in my life didn’t understand what I was going through because none of them had done what I was doing. I obsessed over alcohol and drinking when I did go out, and often felt overly self-conscious for no good reason. I started to feel like a burden to the people in my life.
I isolated myself, and when I did see my friends I was generally a bummer to be around. Cue montage of me crying two or three times a week, eating anything that came near me with sugar in it, bingeing Grey’s Anatomy, making a playlist full of sad songs (see below), spending a lot of time horizontal staring at things listening to aforementioned playlist and spending a lot of Saturday nights with my parents.
I had a lot of undirected rage inside me about the fact that I had to go through this while other people bopped along numbing problematically without thinking about it much at all. I was struggling, and there didn’t seem to be an end in sight or a quick and easy solution, so I just held on and plowed forward.
I told some acquaintances – not just the ones in my circle but also people I would grab coffee with and coworkers – with mixed reactions. I tried to date and it didn’t work out because I didn’t know how to make it work (gee, I wonder why).
I finally admitted I wasn’t going to get over this blockade on my own so I broke down, spent the money and went to counselling.
MONTHS EIGHT TO 11
I didn’t vibe with my first counsellor but I didn’t give up. I got another one. I saw her as much as I could. I did the homework she gave me. I realized a lot of the stuff I had to deal with I couldn’t blame on alcohol or other people, and instead had to stop acting like a victim all the time – a classic codependent trait as I learned. I focused a lot of time, practically all of my free time and energy, on healing.
I avoided dating and men as much as humanly possible because I didn’t feel like I could trust myself dating just yet.
I read books written by women about sobriety. I added people to my Twitter and Instagram timelines who don’t drink. I met more and more people like me and realized I wasn’t alone and this journey comes with its own set of unique challenges. I put myself to the test and started applying some of the healthy coping strategies I’d learned. Sometimes I failed, but when I succeeded it felt so so good.
I generally leaned into the idea that it was about time to lighten up. I also finished Grey’s Anatomy.
I always knew I’d get here, but I was never sure what it would look or feel like. Are the urges gone completely? Nope. They still blindside me sometimes. But I can feel my way through them and understand them a lot better now.
For me, it looks like setting realistic goals for 2020. It looks like getting excited again about writing, giving back and practicing what I preach on Instagram. It looks like knowing what I’m worth in relationships and getting better at setting boundaries.
I feel like I have so much more growing to do, but I’m actually in the part where I feel like I can actually chill the f out and enjoy the journey.
I will tell you, beyond a shadow of a doubt, that this decision has changed my life trajectory completely.
Unsure if you are a social drinker, problem drinker or on a path to alcoholism? Read this.