I can't believe I quit drinking
My name is Laura and I am 31 years old. I am six weeks into a year without alcohol.
I'm not an alcoholic but I do have a drinking problem. I'm not a blacking-out falling-down drunk, a crying drunk or a mean drunk. In fact, I'm no more a drunk than most people I know. I don't drink in the day, I can go to bed while there's still booze in the bottle and I have healthy relationships with my friends and family.
I didn't have a rock bottom. More like a constant, low-level mid-bottom. I felt like I was supposed to be achieving great things as I lay on the couch hungover, eating pizza and binge watching whatever Netflix sitcom had a laugh track. I felt nauseous as people surpassed me in their careers and I would think, "Oh. Well they don't drink."
I had it in my mind that there were drinkers and non-drinkers and I was a drinker and that was that. Getting drunk has been a primary motivator for me since I was 14 and this is the longest I've gone without alcohol since then.
Sober people were boring and I was fun. That was the party line.
And then, a few months ago I was eavesdropping on my own internal dialogue and I overheard "I should make another movie." My response was: "I don't have time."
What. The. Hell.
I don't have children, I work part time and I'm supposed to be an artist. So I had to admit to myself that I couldn't do the things that supposedly define me because I was always either drunk or hungover. This small but clearly articulated realization was the beginning of the end.
And the end was the beginning of the beginning. Productivity wasn't the only casualty of my lifestyle. I was slowly but surely gaining weight and living paycheque to paycheque. Was I even having fun?
I've done "dry" months before. I usually make it through most of January without drinking, or this past year my boyfriend and I invented "just say NOvember." These little breaks made it easy for me to say to myself (or my doctor) "I can stop any time I want."
But what they were really doing was proving how central booze was to my lifestyle. From day one I would be counting down until I could drink again. I was bored. I was cranky. I wanted a big old glass of magic water.
So I decided that I would quit. For a year. The initial terror at the very thought wore off a little more each time I said it. I convinced myself it was going to be fun. I felt powerful just thinking about it. I prepared my mind. Then, after a sunny, rum-soaked three-week vacation I landed back home and have been sober since.
In my substantial new spare time I've read many accounts of quitting drinking. Google has been my AA and I feel like it's my turn to speak up at the meeting. I am especially fond of lists so here is mine:
1. The Beginning
The beginning is full of unknowns and physical withdrawal. People talk about high-energy first days without hangovers but I know from my past forays into sobriety that the first weeks are a fog of grog for me. I have a bad habit of over-resolving so I decided not to worry about productivity, exercise, diet or any other lifestyle changes for the first month. All I had to do was not drink.
2. Social Life
"I'm not shy!" a friend who also quit drinking recently texted me. It's very surprising to discover we've been leaning on a social crutch when we could walk the whole time. After the initial nervousness of going to a party sober I had no problem laughing loudly and oversharing like I always did.
I was nervous about having to explain why I wasn't drinking until I realized I simply don't have to anymore than I had to explain why I was drinking.
However, I have much less desire to go to parties and if I do I leave (a lot) earlier than I used to. I have nothing to prove by sticking it out and I know from experience that drunk people become self-conscious with a sober witness anyway. It's not that I'm too tired to stay though. Despite all predictions, I am still a profound night owl and I still sleep until like 2 p.m. The difference is that now I wake up clear.
People rave about how the "weight just slipped off without trying" and "get used to hearing compliments about your skin." I am not miraculously better looking. I have, however, lost eight pounds. This may not sound like much in six weeks but my clothes hang better and I feel less like a puff pastry. Eating well is easier but even when I eat poorly I remember that a bottle of wine has like 550 calories and that hangovers beg for pizza and render you too weak to say "no."
What can I say? I am saving so much fucking money.
I have accomplished more in the past six weeks than the past six months. Lists used to be a thing I made to feel like I was getting stuff done. Now they are a thing I cross shit off of. I organised all the closets. I painted my bedroom. I make pies. I bind books. I started a pottery class. I update my movie review blog. I made three new paintings and finished some old ones. I planted my garden. I illustrated a kid's book and finally updated my website. I see time in this whole other way now and I am excited. Cheesy? Yes. True? Yes son!
I don't feel guilty or ashamed which makes me realize I used to feel that way.
I feel like it's cocky to write about quitting for a year so soon. I feel afraid the summer will come and I will get bored or feel like I've conquered this and I will find a way to justify drinking but I also feel like I am not going to let that fear be right.
Mostly I feel really powerful. Three months ago I thought I was incapable of this. I was scared of it and frankly out of control. It is a lot more peaceful inside my head. Aspects of my thinking that I thought were me have turned out to be a result of my lifestyle and in fact not part of me at all.
The other day I overheard myself say to myself "I love you," as easily and genuinely as I say it to my boyfriend. I was shocked.
I never used to talk to myself like that.
There are difficult moments of course but they pass quickly and they can't hurt you, which is why I'd like to finish by saying that if you are thinking of quitting drinking: YOU CAN. You already know what you're like when you're drinking. Go ahead and find out what you're like when you're sober.
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