On the way to the vet yesterday, Bentley the wondernugget and I hit shuffle and Vampire Weekend’s “Harmony Hall” came on.
“…Now we find ourselves in late December I believe that New Year's Eve Will be the perfect time for their great surrender…
And the chorus:
“I don’t want to live like this, but I don’t want to die.”
Before the song even ended, Bentley and I gave each other a knowing nod. Both of us knew what needed to be done. I needed to share my story about surrender in December. My story about living and dying and living again. My story about giving up alcohol this time last year.
Those who know me well know that I’ve given up drinking. I’m not embarrassed by it nor am I shy about telling people why I did. But I have never publicly written about it until now for several reasons. First, was my association with a Christian school and the fear of judgment and repercussion from my transparency. An unfortunate but real byproduct of religious institutions.
Then for a time, I wasn’t sure that I wanted to quit for good and therefore wanted to keep the option of having a glass or three of wine in my back pocket. Once that desire subsided, I guess I held on to some element of shame or worry about what people would think. Now that that’s gone, I have no reason not to share something that may actually be helpful to anyone reading this. Don’t get excited, there are no lurid details to include or rock bottom experiences. Just a slow, painful slope into “blehhhhhhhhhhh”.
About four years ago, I recognized that I didn’t like my relationship with alcohol. It was becoming more and more regular, more and more normal, to end each stress-filled day with a glass of wine. Which usually turned into two. And sometimes three. Ok, often three. And it wasn’t making me happy. Or even relaxed. In fact, I was becoming more and more anxious and less and less satisfied with my life.
Thus began the Twilight Zone of experimentation for me. Stop. Start. Stop. Start again. Stop. Start again. Give up on giving up. It was a messy process of self-doubt and questioning. I let very few people know what was going on while internally most evenings, I was saying to myself the same line Vampire Weekend says in their chorus, “I don’t want to live like this, but I don’t want to die.”
Not dying in the literal sense, although with my history and the known connection between cancer and alcohol, I was increasing that likelihood as well. But I wasn’t ready to kill what I still thought was “life”: connecting with people over a glass of wine or a beer. It was such a part of my social circle and extended family life that I worried I would be living in greyscale while everyone else was in full technicolor.
I got increasingly curious about people whose lives didn’t include the juice. I started listening to podcasts and reading books about what people experienced when they quit. It was so uplifting to hear all sorts of stories, not just the ones with a rock bottom.
I started noticing people in the public eye who were brave enough to say in real, public spaces that they had given up alcohol and their lives weren’t boring or sad because of it.
To Brene Brown. JLo. Bradley Cooper. Anne Lamott. Thank you for sharing your stories.
I found real people who have created real movements and supportive communities.
To Kevin O’Hara. Annie Grace. Holly Whittaker. Thank you for sharing your stories and giving a space for others to do the same.
And the more I heard, the more I became convinced that alcohol was holding me back from feeling as good as I could. I read Annie’s book, The Naked Mind, and joined her online community that was, and is, tremendously inspiring. No judgment, just support. Their attitude and approach wasn’t shame-filled or aggressive. It was inviting.
It was simply, “Hey. It’s ok to re-evaluate your relationship with alcohol. There’s nothing embarrassing about wanting to reduce or work on a bad habit like eating a crap ton of sugar. Why should there be a stigma around doing the same thing for alcohol? You aren’t morally bankrupt or evil. And it doesn’t matter if other people would never consider two glasses of wine a night problematic. Just trust us and take a break from it for 30 days. See how you feel.”
So I did. I took my first real break from the sauce. And it was awesome. Then I did another. This time I told my husband and he was amazingly supportive. At the end of that one, after moderating but not really enjoying anything about the process, I added another. And another. Each time, I extended my stretch. And each time, I felt better and better and better. Until one day I just knew and accepted my truth. I am a much happier person without alcohol in my life. I sleep better. My skin looks better. I’m not as defensive. I feel more confident. Open. Happy. Brave.
I’m just a better me. And that “better me” is way more valuable than a glass of Prosecco or three.
I still hang out with all the same people. I lost not a single friend in the process of quitting. In fact, I made several new ones because of my new ability to be vulnerable. I don’t get bothered in the least by people drinking around me and I don’t need anyone to have a “mocktail” ready for me at their house. I’m good. Through and through.
I share all of this because so many people were brave enough to share their story with me. This includes several very close friends and family members who have come to the same conclusion. I don’t mention them by name because unfortunately, our society still thinks we’re the weird ones for not drinking. Besides, their stories aren’t mine to tell.
If you sometimes have the sneaking suspicion that there’s more to life than you’re experiencing…you’re right. Trust yourself. Trust that you’re not broken or beyond repair.
There are so many resources to help lift you out of the pit and into the life that is waiting for you. If the first one you try doesn’t sing to you, keep looking. The variety is astounding:
The Alcohol Experiment – Annie Grace
Sober Sisters Movement
Sober Girls Society
Hip Sobriety – Holly Whittaker
Alcohol Mastery – Kevin O’Hara
Craig Beck Podcast
….just to name a few.
I’m not at all nervous about sharing this part of my story. I would have been, even six months ago. I genuinely believe that all stories, both the stories of others and our own, help us find our voice. This part of my story has changed my life in so many amazing ways. It’s is the heart and soul of what has made the last year so remarkable for me. And now it’s yours to do with as you please. You can reject, respect, dismiss, disagree, put aside, or value. I’m good with any or all responses. I have total peace that “dying” to the lie that alcohol is the only way to have fun and connect has been my key to living and I know I’m not alone.
If you want to talk, hit me up. There’s a whole community of people who can relate to wherever you are right now. I hereby empower you to take a break if you want. And when nosy folks make a fuss, you can just say, "No thanks. I'm good." or "None tonight. I'm saving room for the figgy pudding". It really is as easy as that.
If you’re happy with the role of alcohol in your life, good on you! But please be mindful that many people aren’t happy with theirs. And just as you wouldn’t want them pushing their beliefs on you, be sure that you aren’t unwittingly, with off-hand comments and questions, doing the same to them.
Happy Holidays everyone! I sincerely hope that you create amazing stories during this holiday season. May your time spent with friends and family be rich and warm and sweet. Just like that delicious hot chocolate calling my name right about now.