I have a saying that helps me stay alcohol-free. “Protect Your Quit”. I think of my “Quit” as a younger, more youthful and innocent version of “me”.
I want to be sober to honor her.
I want to be sober to be a role model for my daughters.
I want to be sober so that my grandchildren remember me as a fun, enthusiastic Grandma… and this honors the younger version of me at the same time.
Living without alcohol was once unimaginable to me. As we struggle with alcohol addiction, I think there is an underlying fear that when we kick the can, we lose part of our identity… If I stop drinking, what else will change within my life? Is there anything beyond the bottle? How can I spend the rest of my life without that drink in my hand? Isn’t drinking a major part of my life? Well, yes it is, today. But it doesn’t have to be.
My first aha moment that helped me look beyond my drinking routine, to an alcohol-free possibility, happened about seven years ago. At the time, my then 17-year-old son started dating a beautiful sweet girl, and of course, neither of them drank alcohol. After about 6 months, my son let me know that this sweet young lady was (drum roll)… a Mormon. Now, I’m not sharing this to stir up a religious storm, but to put this story into perspective. I had to Google search the Mormon faith, but there was one thing I already knew: Mormons do not drink, period. It is not part of their family culture and traditions.
So, as my son and this young girl fell in love, we were invited to her family outings where everyone was there, sober. Of COURSE they were sober. This was entirely different than my upbringing. I’m from a family filled with French Canadian, Roman Catholic, and yes, alcoholic roots. Within every celebration from my past, there is alcohol in the picture; it was just part of our culture. The majority of my relatives have a relationship with alcohol- some are daily drinkers; some can moderate their drinking; some have been bitten by the poisonous snake and have sworn it off… but there is still some type of relationship with it. Within my gigantic family tree, I can only think of 3 or 4 relatives that have chosen to live without alcohol, but most of them drank before making this decision. This is not the case within my son’s extended family – there is simply no alcohol lurking in the shadows of family photos.
Until 8 months ago, I shared a relationship with alcohol. At one time, I could drink “normally”, whatever that means, but over the years, drinking morphed to drinking too much, followed by abstaining, and then moderating with defined rules which ultimately ended in failing.
It took me 30 years of drinking to finally recognize two things. I was sick and tired of being sick and tired. All of the brain power that I was devoting to alcohol was leading to decision fatigue. Thoughts of should I drink today, required a decision. How much? A decision. What am I drinking? A decision. Do I just stick to beer and wine or go the hard stuff? A decision. What rules do I follow if I drink? A decision. How many days a week will I drink? A decision. Decision fatigue.
Every time that I decided to keep alcohol in my bloodstream, there were always more and more decisions to make around it… obsessing about the rules I’ve made. When I failed in my efforts to control alcohol, the obsession resulted in shame and depression. I failed again. In those quiet, dark early morning moments, I would search my soul- WHY couldn’t I just control my drinking, and be normal, like others? Exhaustion. Sadness. Despair, even. I asked myself whether I could actually live without alcohol? Was there life beyond the bottle?
Face it: it is scary to think of a world without booze in it.
I read a story from a friend about being alcohol-free in a world where everyone is drinking, especially this summer, when private family events are happening at private beach houses, versus individual hotel rooms and sightseeing tours in New York City. Today she pointed out how pervasive the alcohol culture really is for many families: in the beach house kitchen- right next to the children’s assortment of juice boxes, there was a bigger assortment of alcohol for the adults- gigantic bottles of whisky, vodka, and rum.
Life for children, is celebrated with fruit juice and sugar; adults numb themselves with poison. While children have to decide whether to have orange or pineapple mango juice, the alcoholic adults have to decide who is the first one today to make a drink.
I’ve come to recognize that yes, there is life outside of the bottle.
Imagine having a beach house with your family, and without alcohol influencing our behavior. This really does happen in other families! Imagine the hot white sand, the smell of sunscreen, the soothing sound of the waves, and the salty cool ocean as you walk barefoot along the shore. There is no headache in the background, nor regrets from the night before….. instead, there is the laughter of young children as they discover that the tiny holes found in the hard packed sand means there are hidden clams underfoot – and as you dig into the sand racing for the clams, you celebrate the joy of today, versus the regrets from last night.
Decision fatigue is gone. You’ve taken the decision off the table. Today, I will not drink. Today I am present.
Once you admit to yourself that you are sick and tired of being sick and tired, the freedom of sobriety is right around the corner. To think about drinking all of the time – the “Decision Fatigue” – it’s exhausting. I think this may be the obsessiveness that just tires you out, and to feel better , you need it removed from your life. I think that AA calls this emotional surrendering.
It is scary to think of a world with booze, but be bold and believe: It DOES exist!
I know that one sip will transform and shift to one glass… to one bottle… to one night… to one weekend…. to one month…. to this summer…. and every time I fail, I hurt the real me that wants to be free of this vicious cycle. And it’s my choice to take that one sip.
Today, I will not drink. I will protect my quit. It may be scary to think of a world without booze, but be bold and believe. It does exist!
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