Alcohol has been ingrained into the fabric of my existence.
Celebration, triumphs, uniting with friends and family; near and far away, babies entering the world, grief, loss, heartache, business exchanges, meetings, workshops, bike rides, skiing, vacations, bonfires in rural fields, college dorm parties, the list is endless. I remember the first time I stole alcohol from my parent’s cabinet. It was some crappy whiskey that I ended puking up near the park where I played tennis. This marked the beginning of my buzzed state of mind for nearly three decades. I could write a book about all the times I was under the influence and the damage I did to myself and my relationships (breaking my face, going over my handlebars, riding on hoods of cars, picking arguments, wondering how I got home….) anyways. Point being, alcohol to me was like drinking coffee. It happened daily, regularly and I never thought it an issue. Until 2016.
I became aware of its power when I started drinking in the afternoon. We had just moved to Maine after living in Vermont for well over a decade. It was a huge disruption and change in my life. I was still feeling the impacts of postpartum even though my son was almost two years old. I left my friends, my home, my roots, my gardens, my LIFE. We moved to a coastal town five minutes from the ocean. As much as I loved the sea, the area, and our new home, I was unsettled and felt completely isolated. That is when I started numbing out those feelings. It began with a drink around 4:30-5 which I used to refer to as ‘transition time’. Then it started creeping back into the afternoon and after awhile I would have a drink after lunch. By the time my husband would come home from work, I was loaded. This was a daily re-occurrence in my life until I fried my adrenals by drinking too much alcohol, over caffeinating on coffee, and over exercising. All because I refused to ‘feel’ the emotions that were bubbling up in my mind. Instead I shoved them down with pleasurable substances and external things. The irony is that I never really felt better. I always felt way worse.
Flash forward to the Fall of 2018. While my alcohol consumption dramatically decreased, I was still waking up feeling hungover and grouchy. I did my favorite vegan cleanse for 21 days and felt incredible… of course I immediately went back to drinking wine. No matter how much chatter I had going on in my head that I didn’t need alcohol to have fun, relax, survive the holidays, I craved it every night. After all, it was the holidays where my calendar was full of gatherings, parties and time with friends and extended family. I was talking with one of my girlfriends about the idea of starting 2019 alcohol free. She planted a seed in my mind. I immediately asked myself, can I really do this? I thought about the possibilities that could open for me if I was clear throughout my day. The intoxicating sleep. More motivation to do the hard things that I have been putting off with my coaching business. Finishing my personal training certification program and becoming a personal trainer. Not to mention the number of calories I would be saving! I decided I needed to make this happen. This was going to be my #1 goal for 2019 – going alcohol free for 80 days. Why 80 days? It seemed like a good number – long enough to really get into my objective and assess how this change is impacting my life.
Today is Day #62 of my alcohol-free journey. I haven’t had a sip of wine, tequila, beer or any alcohol. There have been days when I deeply struggled. Early in January, I came home and opened my wine fridge and just stared. I wanted to pop the cork and enjoy the pleasurable moment when everything is calm, quiet and blissful. I could drown out the yelling, crying, and the bickering. I would laugh and be ‘happy mommy’ and everything will be okay. Fortunately, I didn’t act on the temptation rather I sat with it and let it be. Those thirty minutes absolutely sucked. I immediately reached out to my Sober Girls Society and had an outpouring of support, and that is it. Support. You have probably heard and know first hand how critical it is to have support. Surrounding yourself with people that will listen, pump you up, and give you a swift kick in the behind when you need it. If you are thinking about taking that big step into the unknown world of change – find a friend, a coach, a support group. No one should ever have to do these things alone. By the way, a BIG shout out to my Sober Girls Society friends – you are all AMAZING.
Another big note to self is that alcohol gave me this false sense of security and my beliefs that I can’t go to social functions without it. Old beliefs were something like this…I will be more fun, I will experience more joy, I will feel better, or I will have so much more to say, aka – liquid courage. The complete opposite has been true. Under the influence, I was unable to be my true self and show up for the people that are important to me. While I’m naturally happy/optimistic (when I’m sober), alcohol sent me on an emotional roller coaster. I started off as the happy girl usually hugging and laughing, then spiraling into the black hole of forgetfulness followed by shame and worry. I couldn’t turn it off and I would keep drinking to get back that initial buzz from the first glass. The day after was always the worst. For obvious physical reasons, but also piecing back the moments of forgetfulness of what did I say? Was I obnoxious? Did I make sense? Was I repeating myself? Did I make a fool out of myself?
Best of all….I feel so damn good. I wake up with a clear mind. I have consistent energy throughout the day and my workouts are amazing. I have uninterrupted sleep and wake up an hour and a half earlier than I used too. I am motivated to do the hard things that I have been running from. I have so much more patience with my kids. My skin tone has improved, and I finally stopped obsessing over my nutrition.
I’ve been out for dinners, cocktail hours, dinner dates, and girl gatherings without the need for the buzz. It begins with my thoughts. If I go into any situation telling myself this is going to suck or its going to be hard or boring, then it will be! Energy flows where intention goes. Instead, tell yourself you can do this and you are willing to do the hard work. Think about what your future self would want, picture her or him and how you want them to show up in the present and tomorrow, the next week and the next month. It may surprise you what you come up with!
This challenge hasn’t been easy and I have had my days when I’m ready to quit. Finding my new happy hour has been an adventure – I practice more yoga, hike with my dog, and drink a lot of seltzer and tea. It may sound boring but quite frankly, I am savoring these moments because it’s a time when I can reflect and tune into what I really need in the moment. Like any kind of change you are trying to implement, it’s going to test you, turn you upside down and spin you around. I promise you, if you can ride out the stormy weather and remember WHY you want the change, the outcome is worth every ounce of pain endured and the transformation will be phenomenal.