In August of 2015, I did something that I never thought I would do.
I stopped drinking alcohol.
Me, the girl with the Eastern European drinking gene - meaning I could drink a 250lb man under the table (and did on a semi-regular basis) - I stopped drinking alcohol.
I never thought I could do it. Heck, I never thought I WOULD do it! I mean, WHY would I do it? Our society is all about drinking!
Celebrating success = drinking (champagne).
Freaking over failure = drinking (vodka).
Work event = drinking (free booze!).
Sunday Funday = drinking (anything).
Networking = drinking (wine).
Seeing live music = drinking (beer).
A warm summer day = drinking (gin).
A cold winter day = drinking (single malt Scotch).
Apres ski = drinking (so many choices!).
Beach vacation = drinking (something tropical).
Meeting a friend for... = drinking (bartender, what do you recommend?).
So why stop drinking? Drinking got me through practically my whole life!
Drinking got me through tough times in school.
Drinking gave me courage when I had none.
Drinking got me through my first divorce.
Drinking got me through my second marriage and divorce.
Drinking made parties more decadent, dinners more delicious, time with friends crazier and time with family nuttier. Plus I could relax better with a few cocktails. Right?
Drinking made people and situations tolerable, bearable, easier .. at least that's what I'd tell myself as I ordered another drink.
I could slog through another *whatever* just by having a drink. Or three.
Waking up at 8:30am, or 9, or 9:30.. sure, that was fine too. I could always get stuff done through the headache, through the churning stomach, through the cobwebs lodged in my brain.. I was so used to it that it was normal.
I still managed to work out through a hangover, so that made it OK.
But ... the amount I drank regularly started to weigh on my mind. I mean, even I was shocked. So at the beginning of 2014, I decided to 'cut back on my drinking.'
Cutting back meant not drinking every day. That was HUGE. It was tough to decide which day I wouldn't drink.. No Booze Tues? What if there was a Tuesday-only cocktail party?
There was always some drinking event happening or about to happen: a dinner with wine pairings. A networking event. An impromptu whatever where there were tasty beverages that I could not turn down. Miss the North Shore Gin cocktail du jour? Impossible! So the Corpse Reviver became more and more true for me....
It was a rough start, but I managed to eke out a few months in 2014 where I drank only 27 out of 30 days. Or 28 out of 31 days. I felt like a champ.
As 2014 rolled into 2015, I drove myself to a New Year's Eve party, reasoning that I didn't want to deal with Uber's NYE surge pricing and believing that by driving I would force myself not to drink (too much). And at 3:30am, January 1, 2015, I soberly drove myself home.
It was novel, strange, and kind of cool to wake up on New Year's Day earlier than noon and without a massive hangover.
In 2015 I did pretty well limiting my drinking to certain days of the week. Except that when I did drink, it was a colossal binge that kept me hungover for a couple days.
You know that gross taste you get in your mouth when you drink too much? Yeah. I had that. For days.
A perfect storm of events mid-2015 helped me stop drinking alcohol:
The whole thing felt yucky.
I sat with that for a while. I felt that yuck.
I remembered eating those potato chips like I had never seen a chip in my life.
During the couple weeks between the dinner passout and the medical procedure, I really reflected on my drinking.
On how I changed when I was drinking (for the better, I thought!).
On how shitty I felt the next morning - on a regular basis.
On how drinking numbed me through so much of my life.
And for the first time in my life, I somehow knew that my life would actually be better if I was sober. I knew that I could be sober and still be happy. I knew that I would not miss out on life by not drinking.
I knew that friendships might change because I chose sobriety, and I chose it anyway.
I chose sobriety because I wanted to feel what life was really like. And to know who I really am.
I chose sobriety for me.
There definitely were some freakouts. And they did not come from me.
They came from people around me who couldn't believe I would quit drinking. "You don't have a problem!" these well meaning people said. "Why not just cut back?" "Are you quitting drinking forever?"
Then, surprising things started happening. Friends would confide that they were concerned about how much they drank, too. They asked what it was like to be sober, because being sober in our society is pretty damn rare and scary, it seems.
The craziest and most surprising thing is, I don't miss it. At all. When I walk down the liquor aisle, I actually taste that awful too-much-booze taste in my mouth. And I still have wine and liquor in my house that I am never tempted to drink.
My late nights are no longer spent gorging on food to sop up the booze. I lost my booze-induced gut.
Because my head is clear, I can get much more done in much less time.
Because I have more time, I'm able to do more things I love.
Doing more things I love means my relationships improved.
And my relationships improved because I bring my whole self into them.
One of my favorite things nowadays is going out to dinner or to a bar and when my drink order is requested, I say: "I don't drink alcohol; I'd like a sparkling water with lemon, please." I've had servers and bartenders tell me that they're sober, too. And sometimes other patrons lean over and talk sobriety with me. It's awesome!
So with my glass of sparkling water raised, I toast to you all. Na zdrowie!
©Catherine Borowski 2017
Live a wealthy life.
Catherine Borowski, life coach, knows that life can be messy. And that's what keeps it interesting.