Drinking alcohol is something that is so ingrained in our expectations of a normal way to live, that it takes some pretty dramatic shake-ups for us to rethink how dangerously we drink. In 2020 at the beginning of the pandemic, our governments locked us down. As we began to stay home to protect our health and the health of others, the pubs, bars, and restaurants were closed, but alcohol was deemed an essential item so liquor stores were allowed to continue sales. Drinking to de-stress, drinking away the boredom, drinking too much, and drinking alone at home, was laughed off as a normal reaction to the drama of 2020 and 2021. The ZOOM Happy Hour quickly replaced the pub and for those who ran out of booze, businesses began delivering wine, beer, and packaged cocktails right to your door.
I’d had the inkling that I was drinking more than was good for me for a long time before I quit last winter, but I squashed that feeling down. I justified my reasons to drink. I drank for relaxation, socialization, pain relief from sore swollen joints. I’d tell myself that drinking helped with my digestion and getting through social and family events I’d rather not be doing. Social acceptance was also a consideration. Even during the pandemic at ZOOM Happy Hours and socially distanced block parties! I thought I would look weird and antisocial if I was not drinking and everyone else was.
And then of course there was that old goodie, What would people think if I didn’t drink?
Would they think I had a “drinking problem” if I stopped drinking? 😯
Good grief, all those “reasons” to keep drinking sound so stupid now, but before Feb. 1st 2021, they kept me drinking on a daily basis. Finally, I began to realize I wasn’t enjoying drinking all that much anymore. I’d get that buzz with the first half glass or so, and then “chase” it all night but never recapture that initial glow. I supposed that was my realization that the Pain of Staying the Same just might be greater than the Pain of Change. ( thank you Tony Robbins) 🧐
I decided to give sobriety a try…
It has been said that COVID 19 is the straw that broke the camel’s back’ with our drinking culture. Our drinking culture became Stay home and stay safe just don’t run out of booze. The result was a couple of years of increasingly dangerous drinking by many people who were encouraged to feel it was justified. Among the heaviest drinkers, there has been a big increase in alcoholic liver disease since the beginning of the pandemic. Among many of the rest of us, the lockdown drinking culture has caused a frustrating dependence on daily drinking that is hard to break.
I didn’t “feel” like quitting last year when I started my Dry February, I decided to give it a try and see what happened. I think it takes a leap of faith, to decide; I’ve been doing things this way for so long, what if I try different, and see what happens? No lifelong commitment, just 28 days to start… and then 100, then 200, now almost a full year. One day at a time….
I joined my husband and some friends for Dry February. I was curious how I would feel not drinking every day, and especially not for 28 days in a row. I had no idea how long it would take for alcohol to leave my system, and how many changes would be wrought in my life from this one decision. This sober life is so different than I thought it would be…..I was expecting some physical changes, but not the mental, emotional and spiritual ones. I feel like I’m getting my own power back, one baby step at a time.
For those of you that are new to this sober life, I really encourage you to give it a solid try. You may not feel like it’s worth it at first, especially if you are feeling terrible, but in my experience, the better life that is waiting for you is beyond belief. The longer that I am sober, the more I am growing as a person. I was looking for this kind of personal growth for years and never imagined that cutting alcohol from my life could bring this amount of positive change.
Being sober is so much more than just not drinking alcoholic products. Sobriety affects our brain chemistry, who we really are inside. I feel like I am rediscovering myself, and I’m loving that. I would never want to trade this hard-won self-knowledge for a buzz from a bottle.
I used to run on adrenaline and then struggle with trouble sleeping. I sometimes thought I worked better hungover, probably because of that adrenaline surge. I’d be up early and ready to jump in, never wanting to look hungover or tired…never wanting to admit or show the detrimental effect alcohol had on me. To consider putting myself first seemed very selfish and wrong to me. For most of my adult life, I have been waiting for someone to tell me to stop! Sit down, rest, put your feet up, take care of yourself!
Now I try to pace myself, and my energy, and not get exhausted. I limit my engagements and social outings. I say No. That in itself is a HUGE thing for me. And so interesting to learn that most people don’t care what I do! They are thinking of themselves, not about me at all. Even my family and close friends have been very accepting of my changes, and I’ve been firm about them. This wouldn’t have been possible without all the learning and support that I’ve had.
I’m finally realizing that I am the one that has to say STOP! I have to advocate for myself.
We tend to identify “problem drinking” as something connected to “addicts” who are obviously identifiable as “drunks”, but dangerous drinking is sadly much more normalized than we are willing to accept.
16 years ago we moved into a nice neighborhood where we live to this day. We were invited to a few parties, and at the time I was glad to see that our new neighbors were drinkers like ourselves, especially the fellow across the street and the lady next door.
Over the years things gradually changed as they do….our next-door neighbors had marital problems and eventually split up. I heard the rumors that she had an alcohol problem, had lost her driver’s license, wasn’t working, seemed to not be taking care of herself, etc. So sad as she was a very vivacious and lively soul that my husband and I both liked very much. We completely lost touch, heard that she moved out of town to another province, and sadly this last January she was found dead, alone in her apartment. No doubt due to complications from her alcohol addiction.
The neighbors across the street also had their share of problems. We heard that he had a drinking problem, as well as other health issues. He went away to an expensive rehab facility for several months and seemed well when he finally returned. He also had to undergo heart bypass surgery. I was so pleased to see him survive all this and seem to regain his grip on life. Sadly we watched that all drain away when he began to drink again…. His behavior became more and more erratic, and he tragically ended his life by suicide one summer evening in his backyard in the presence of his horrified wife.
Lately, I have been reflecting on the deaths of my two neighbors and how they are connected to alcohol use. No doubt other issues were at play too, however now I have to wonder what the outcome would have been if they had both stopped drinking permanently. In my heart, I feel that they would both be alive today.
I had always seen their tragedies as “other” to me, as something that happens to people “with a problem”, not regular old high functioning daily drinkers like myself. Now I realize that there but for the Grace of God go I. I was definitely going down the path of increased consumption and all the negative impacts that go along with that. I am so happy that I am sober now and here with you all instead.
Two new families now live in those houses on my street. I carry the memories of my former neighbors, the good memories, and the sad ones. Neither of the new families seems to drink much, and now that is just the way I like it.
“Change happens when the pain of staying the same is greater than the pain of change”
Reading and posting on BOOM over these past year has helped me to feel supported and encouraged as I move along this sober path, and take back my personal power.
I learned about having a sober toolbox, and I stocked it with quit lit, AF beverages, self care, sober treats, and BOOM. I learned about H.A.L.T. and how to anticipate and prepare for triggers. I try to anticipate now what will bring “Pain” and be prepared for those times.
Will you join me AF today?
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