Hiya friends, welcome back. March is totally a celebration month for me, let’s see…my dad’s birthday, Hobbs and I celebrated 10 years (I wrote a blog post about this one, check it out here), and I get to celebrate two years of sobriety. Oh, and if you’re wondering because you read that post, yes, I will have a cheeky glass of alcohol-free wine every once in awhile. Trust me, those two bottles Hobbs brought home Wednesday are now at a bottle and a half.
That’s right, my friends, I quit drinking alcohol two years ago today. It was a decision born from a few really bad months of nonstop panic and anxiety attacks, and a very personal conversation with a family member. I figured in celebration I would give you a little explanation of my decision, the hell that followed, and the realizations I found out of the bottle.
I’m not going to say this was easy by any means because holy shit it was hands down the hardest thing I’ve ever done in my life. This story is full of anxiety and uncomfortable emotions and in the end a deep sense of accomplishment. This is the story of how I quit drinking.
Two years ago, I was drinking probably a bottle and half to two bottles of wine a night…alone. If we went out with friends and my anxiety got the better of me I could put away quite a few rum and cokes in a night. In turn, I woke up every morning with a hangover that always prompted me to say, “never again.” Ultimately never again never happened before this night.
It was about 10:30 and I had been drinking since noon (wow that sounds bad to say). I got a phone call from a family member and I just remember hanging up and vowing to never drink again. I looked at Hobbs and told him that no matter how much I begged he was not to buy me anymore. I also made the decision to hole up in my house until I was certain I could be trusted around alcohol without temptation sneaking in.
The first few weeks were…rough. I felt horrible and my anxiety was at an all-time high. I barely got out of bed and when I did it wasn’t for very long. My head was spinning, my heart was racing, I felt sick every day, and I was barely sleeping through the night, but I had made a promise to myself to stop and there was no way I was gonna let myself down.
Within two weeks I had made my decision known to everyone in my life who mattered. I kept thinking that by doing this I had not only more support but also people to call me on my bullshit. I knew by having Hobbs, my parents, and my closest friends in on my new journey they would keep me honest and accountable. Looking back on this now I can remember being really proud every day that I wasn’t breaking. I took the embarrassment out of it and I was really open with people. “I don’t know if I’m an alcoholic, but I do know that I have a problem with drinking.” See, my grandfather was a drunk, so people would tell me that it runs in the family, but I knew I couldn’t let it get to the point of no return.
Inside of six months, I was feeling better, I didn’t think about drinking and I honestly didn’t even miss it. It was right around this time that I did have the thought that I could drink and never let it go there again, but I never did, I didn’t trust myself. After some research, I found out that this is what recovering alcoholics call the “Pink Clouds.” You start thinking that you can drink without going back to that place, but when you do it’s a slippery slope. I decided to stay away from it altogether.
I was also still struggling with these bouts of feeling great and then going right back into feeling shitty. My anxiety was still being a dickhead, I was panicking at least once a day (and that was a good day). I came to this sudden realization of why I drank like I did, I was coping. I was using the alcohol to be “normal,” letting my brain take a break by getting drunk. If the brain was pickled no one could see my struggle. If I dumped enough alcohol down my throat I could mingle and talk without this nagging feeling in the pit of my stomach that at any second something could go terribly wrong.
I had a shrink tell me once that everyone has coping mechanisms, it’s just some of them are better than others. She then told me that I was the proud owner of two, a good one and a bad one. On one hand, I was never really uncomfortable making jokes at the expense of my anxiety, I used then – and still use now – humor to keep people at a distance. I figure if I make the joke before you can, I win and no one will ever know how anything is for me. Humor became my escape and ultimately became the “good” way to cope. On the other hand, I drank like a fucking sailor during Fleet Week. (For those playing the home game, if you don’t know what Fleet Week is, it’s a week when the Navy, Marines, and Coast Guard dock active duty ships in a port and spend the week ‘sightseeing’ which is code for drinking.) And in case you haven’t figured out where this one falls on the spectrum of coping mechanisms, it’s a bad one.
I knew drinking gave me a sort of false bravado, to be the person everyone knew, the girl who wasn’t afraid of a racy joke or who wasn’t afraid to tell someone to go to hell and the quickest route there. But underneath that was just me, the girl who was both of those things but just wasn’t sure if it was alright to be. I had been through some shitty things in the years leading up to the anxiety and drinking and it definitely changed my perception of the world and I can say with all certainty it changed who I was as a person. Now don’t you go feeling bad for me, this isn’t a sob story, and we all have some shit in our past that changed our future, but I digress.
When I quit drinking I also realized a few things about me that my pickled brain hadn’t really had time to see, mainly because I didn’t give it the time it needed before my next drink. The biggest thing I learned was when you change, people change. I made this decision for me and my life, I don’t know if I expected everyone to jump on the new bandwagon but I definitely didn’t think they’d all jump ship together. I guess I’m not too shocked, sober me is quite different to liquored up me. I have less tolerance for ignorance and stupidity, I’m also an adult sober so there’s that. The next thing I figured out was that I like me, granted I can be difficult and I never turn down the opportunity for a pun, but I like being me, anxiety and all.
I think something that really did shock me was just how much booze can cover. It’s a liquid, but damn, you pour enough of that on and you’ve got yourself something of a buffer. Being sober made things clearer, I saw the good and the bad in my life and I set about finding a way to actually fix it. Bandaids weren’t working anymore, I needed to dig out the infection and clear the wound. (Gross analogy, but you get the picture, right?) In the end, I learned that I was tougher than I thought. I learned to face things that I was too afraid to deal with, and I stood toe to toe against them and sometimes I failed. But a lot of times, I walked away the victor with the battle scars to prove it. I’ve never regretted my decision or the things and people I lost because of it. I mean, I still have my humor to get me through such traumatizing events as losing a few fake friends because I don’t drink anymore.
Well, there you have it, my friends. That is the story of how I quit drinking. Please feel free to ask me any questions you might have. Until next time…