My body has been calling Mayday for a while now. It’s not that I wasn’t listening. I definitely felt the pain, the sickness, the anxiety. I’m not someone who can ignore my body. I am vigilant and alert to any sign of being “off.” When I got pregnant both times I knew right away, even though both times we weren’t trying and my doctor said I couldn’t get pregnant. So how does someone who listens to their body and values their health, continue to pour a carcinogen onto all of the major organs they need to survive AND not connect the distress signals to the poison? Denial is powerful. I think that on some level I did connect the two, that I did know I needed to stop drinking poison. I simply didn’t want to quit drinking.
Now don’t get me wrong, I don’t think wanting to quit solves the issue at all. I do think it’s an excellent start. Without the desire to quit the uphill battle becomes a rock-climbing expedition with no training. It’s not impossible but will probably require experts, a lot of learning, and a ton of determination. Before I finally quit drinking I didn’t even have the desire though. If I did start to question my drinking it was much too easy to find examples of people who were worse off in their drinking and still outwardly successful.
They’re fine, I’m fine, we’re all fine.
So why did I feel so bad?
The one person who told me I needed to quit drinking was my naturopath. She said I should stop and I told her that wasn’t happening. She said, “OK just keep it to under one bottle of wine per week.” I told her I would do that, and in my mind plunked her into the category of “other.” Meaning those “others” who weren’t as fun or complex as me and my friends. Yeah, they could handle a simple, boring life. Not me. I was layered. I’d been through so much. I had stories to tell and an interesting edge. I didn’t understand her world and I didn’t want to. It’s like we were from two different planets as far as I was concerned.
But the distress signals increased.
My body was shouting at me so much that it got my brain involved. Cognitive Dissonance set in. One of my biggest values was, and still is, my health. My favorite quote by Oprah Winfrey is “With age comes the understanding and appreciation of your most important asset, your health.” I felt that with all of my being yet there was this one thing that didn’t fit. I kept trying to moderate my drinking and make it work, but it wasn’t adding up anymore. Nights were fun and seemingly interesting. It’s not hard to be interested when you’re drunk. Everything is fun and funny for a bit. But the nights were also a blur, and the days were getting harder and harder.
When I finally made the connection between my body feeling so bad, and alcohol, I decided to go for some truth. Up until that point I skimmed over the warnings, and I purposefully didn’t measure the alcohol I was drinking so I could roughly call it an average of two drinks a night (a lie and a joke).
So I started to read.
I started to listen to podcasts.
I decided I was going to know the truth and then see what I should do next.
When I took a real look at how much I’d been drinking the past 25 years, what my patterns had been, and what the studies showed about them, I knew why I was so mixed up. Alcohol had to go and I had to accept that. It was a sad day. It wasn’t the answer I was looking for. So I decided if I was going to do this, I was going to look at all the ways it would help me and fix my sights on what everyone in the podcasts I was listening to, and books I was reading, were saying about life after alcohol. I believed them, and despite the sadness at saying goodbye and all of the hard work I was about to have to do, I set out to find a support group and went for it. I found the Boom Rethink the Drink community online, and I began to try for a better life.
We all know this process when we finally quit drinking can be excruciating, but my body was relieved right away. If I just focused on my body and the rewards were immediate. Working through my emotions was hard, and some of the early physical symptoms with sleep and headaches were tough. But even still my body was cautiously happy.
After a month my anxiety went way down and continues to. My skin and eyes look much brighter; I look younger. My gut issues have disappeared. My sleep is downright glorious. I’m always well-hydrated now and I can’t wait to see my naturopath to see where my nutrient levels are. I got to a point while drinking where even though I was eating incredibly healthy, my body wasn’t absorbing the nutrients and I had a number of deficiencies. I have a feeling I am going to be saving money on supplements very soon!
Although I do still have guilt about how long it took me to quit drinking, how I have treated myself all of these years, I am focusing on a new vision and a new future for myself. I don’t have to continue to hurt my body willingly. I don’t have to feel sad all the time and I don’t have to live with crippling anxiety constantly. Now that I am not adding to my issues, I have a shot at fixing what might need some extra help and at the least not cause myself more issues. I have a shot at living out my values for real, and being a good example to my growing kids. My future self will still have problems, but I will be open-eyed and primed to deal with them as they arise. Someday the years that I abused myself and ignored all of the distress signals will be behind me, a distant memory. And the thought of that keeps pushing me forward.
Now that I have finally listened to that Mayday distress call I am present, aware, and connected.
I’m not looking back.
Will you join me?
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