When I tried Dry January in 2020, I counted the days till I could drink again. After enduring rules, regulations, slips, and slides galore (i.e. moderation), I came back and tried again … but for three months. I read somewhere that you need at least three months to get the full benefits of sobriety. For me, this was absolutely correct. And life-changing. After a longer time away from alcohol, I started digging deeper, feeling better, and gaining momentum.
Thanks to the book This Naked Mind by Annie Grace, and support from the BOOM Rethink the Drink community, I launched my escape plan from the alcohol prison. My biggest breakthrough was discovering alcohol is made from ethanol and is a known human carcinogen. What? Apparently, it’s not the hip, trendy, heart-healthy luxury I believed was making life juicy and fun. Thankfully, this clicked for me, and I started seeing alcohol as poison. Sometimes even visualizing it as rat poison.
For decades, I bought into the big lie that I couldn’t celebrate, relax, connect or enjoy anything
but my brain finally got the memo.
No amount of alcohol is safe, much less GOOD
for my mental or physical health.
I wanted to remove alcohol from my life. Completely.
I learned alcohol was actually making my brain crave more alcohol. Alcohol was causing the anxiety I drank to escape. Alcohol was robbing my body and brain of sleep. Alcohol had me trapped in a lonely, daily party for one. Alcohol was a temporary, elusive escape with damaging effects … and required more and more of its ugly self to maintain those awful effects.
My brain had a big breakthrough in finally realizing alcohol is not good for me, and the real work on this sober journey continually happens in my head. The first few months were basically retraining my brain to enjoy the reward of anything BUT wine, whether slipping into cozy sweatpants and enjoying a delicious mocktail at 5 p.m., hiking in the woods with my dog, zenning out with yoga, munching on popcorn, devouring chocolate, binging on Netflix, or treating myself to anything other than alcohol. And guess what? It worked. Creating new neural pathways meant I no longer looked forward to a glass of wine at the end of the day. After decades of daily drinking, it was nothing short of a miracle.
This journey is not always easy, but it is always simple. Every day I just don’t drink. Nope, no drinking today.
But for this to work, my brain needs to support my new mindset, often needing to reboot, recite, repeat and remember these affirmations:
Sobriety is possible.
Sobriety is a choice.
Sobriety is a gift.
Sobriety is freedom.
For me, momentum started small and eventually led to a huge mindset shift. I am taking control of my health, my happiness, my present and my future. This is a privilege, not a punishment. My thought process shifted from “I can’t
drink” to “I don’t drink”, and now after 500+ days, it’s “I don’t want to drink”.
In shifting my mindset, sobriety not only feels possible, it feels good! I started loving myself. I am getting to know myself. I am connecting to family and friends on a new level. I am relearning how to enjoy life without booze. It feels like I’m slowly returning to my beautiful, original self … the pre-drinking person I was meant to be. Self-care now means I am nurturing and creating a life I don’t want to escape. Sobriety now feels like my superpower.
A final word … on words.
I challenge myself daily to remain aware of words and thoughts that affect my perception of alcohol, and have the potential to hinder my momentum. I cringe when starting to romanticize about or resent “normal drinkers”, because nobody knows what those drinkers do at home after the party. And even if a perceived normal drinker partakes long enough, that drinker will naturally develop tolerance. So even a so-called normal drinker is always at risk of becoming a problem drinker, or sliding right into the downward spiral toward alcohol dependence. In my world, there is no normal where alcohol is concerned. Alcohol is an addictive poison, and any normal human brain will become addicted to it, if given the chance.
People probably thought I was a normal drinker, and for years I drank socially with normal hangovers, privately puking my guts out in shame and regret. I started out with a fully functioning off switch, but even the responsible, social drinker can wear that switch out over time. I no longer envy the one-and-done, occasional drinker, because every drink is still poison. We don’t refer to people as normal smokers or normal heroin users. We don’t envy someone who dabbles in normal cocaine use.
is your brain on drugs.
Alcohol is a drug, and every time I say the words “normal drinker”, I’m normalizing poisonous drug use.
I don’t envy friends who go out to dinner and have a few glasses of wine, no matter how expensive the vintage or fancy the bottle. Most of all, I don’t envy the fact they believe they can’t enjoy a night out without alcohol. I don’t envy knowing they won’t sleep great that night, and most likely will feel a little off the next day. I no longer fantasize about being any kind of drinker. I am blessed with an amazing brain that naturally produces endorphins, and does not need to be anesthetized with alcohol. Advertisers, social media, and friends may say otherwise, but I believe the benefits of alcohol are non-existent. And maybe being a non-drinker will become the norm one of these days?
We’re all on different paths toward freedom, and it’s okay to grieve the loss you may be feeling right now. My hope is that you can just not drink today (okay, tomorrow, too). Distance, mindset, and momentum are friends on this journey, and powerful weapons when needed. My hope is that you build enough distance and sober momentum that one-day alcohol becomes so unimportant, you’ll realize you didn’t think about it for one single second today. And you surely didn’t miss it. I want you to live knowing you are empowered by your freedom from alcohol, and not missing out on anything life has to offer.
I hope you can see sobriety as the huge,
mother-of-all gifts it is.
A tangible, transforming jackpot you can win today,
with the simple power of two words.
NO to alcohol. YES to me.
Will you join me today
Just a huge celebration of YOU loving life.
With sprinkles on top.
I choose freedom today,
because I choose life,
I choose joy,
and I choose fabulous.
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