Featured in the Lakeshore Weekly News
I’m celebrating 365 days of being sober. That’s 525,600 minutes without alcohol. I stopped drinking because it was making my auto-immune issues worse and because I felt I indulged in consuming wine and vodka a tad too much. At the time my over-indulging was a secondary reason for quitting.
When I first stopped drinking I wondered if I was an alcoholic. I come from a long line of them on both sides of my family, so it was very possible. There were several times I would lay awake at night and google “How do you know if you are an alcoholic?”
Several months into my sobriety I realized I was an alcoholic. I think most people realize they are an alcoholic and then stop drinking. Not the case for me. My reasons for quitting at the time had more to do with how alcohol aggravated my Grave’s and Hashimoto’s diseases. My hair was falling out. I was putting on weight, and my fatigue at times was so bad I could hardly make it up the stairs. At that time, I felt I drank too much, but like many alcoholics I didn’t think I had a drinking problem. I actually laugh out loud when I think about that today.
I started drinking when I was about 13 years old, and I did so excessively. I stopped when I was living with a different family at about 17 who wouldn’t allow it. I was barely 20 when I had my first of three children. For the next 20 years, I would hardly drink at all.
When I got into my 40s, I started drinking wine. I can remember thinking I was drinking too much when I had one or two glasses of wine three times a week. Turns out that was closer to drinking in moderation. It didn’t take long for a few times a week to become nightly. Eventually happy hour came earlier in the day during the week but still in the afternoon. On the weekends I had Bloody Marys and mimosas in the morning, wine in the afternoon.
Eventually mimosas became prosecco with the orange juice on the side, which I didn’t drink, and my Bloody Marys always had a double shot of vodka. I even kept emergency travel-sized bottles of vodka in my freezer the way some people keep emergency supplies of food, should the zombie apocalypse break out.
I used alcohol to make the intolerable tolerable. There wasn’t anything I couldn’t sit through or experience if I had a cocktail or a glass of wine. The truth is it put an artificial barrier between me and the world around me. I wasn’t truly experiencing anything. How could I? When you are drinking, you are not present.
It wasn’t until I started to live my life without alcohol that I realized how dependent I had become on it. It’s so socially acceptable to abuse alcohol. Fail to pick up your dog poop on the trail and people have a fit, but drink a bottle of wine on your own at happy hour and no one blinks an eye or questions you.
Because I had a high tolerance for alcohol, I could drink quite a bit without getting sloppy. Trust me, I had many sloppy moments as well that I’m not proud of. Having a high tolerance just means it costs you more to drink and you are destroying your liver faster in a less-obvious way.
Obviously not everyone who consumes alcohol is an alcoholic or has a problem. I’m in awe of the people who can drink in moderation. I’m not one of those blessed individuals. For me, if one of anything is good, five must be great! Despite my best efforts, I can’t get my addictive mentality to translate to exercise. If I could channel my passion for vodka sodas into a passion for cardio, I’d never have to diet again.
Something interesting began to happen in my life when I could no longer lean on my friends’ sauvignon blanc and vodka. I stopped tolerating the intolerable and started to design my life to better suit me.
If I didn’t like a situation, I took action to improve it. If I had someone in my life who brought more drama than they did joy, I distanced myself. As a pleasant side effect I lost and kept off 20 pounds. Ditching alcohol resulted in me becoming more present in my everyday life. Sometimes that can be uncomfortable, but there is beauty in that discomfort. You wouldn’t appreciate the sun if it never rained.
There is something so cathartic about feeling and experiencing life as it is happening, good or bad. I’m far from mastering life and livingness, but I’m much more equipped to do so today than I have ever been. It turns out, I do a better job at dealing with my life than vodka ever did. All vodka did was trick me into believing I was great at karaoke and a skilled dancer.
My health has improved tremendously as have my relationships with the people I care about and even with the few I don’t like so much. My life is not perfect, but it sure is real. Though I no longer drink alcohol, I still really want to at times. I don’t know if that will ever change. What I do know is that I’m a better person for myself and for others when I’m sober and that is what keeps me sober. Life is much to short to not be present for it.
My adventures in living life perfectly imperfect are featured in the Sun Sailor, The Lakeshore Weekly News and South Lake Neighbors Magazine.