5.9
July 8, 2020

I Quit Drinking in Quarantine—It’s been F*cking Hard (but Worth It).

Angela Meyer

*Warning: naughty language ahead!

 

If I told my seven-year-old self I would one day write a story about “coming out” of a pandemic in my early 40s, I may have been slightly concerned, terrified, or even mildly traumatized.

Add in the details…

“You will also live alone in a one-bedroom apartment, navigating heartbreak, moving through recovery, consolidating massive student loans, feeling the heavy weight of injustice, and unsure where you will work in three months.”

My little girl brain may have exploded.

Where can I purchase a one-way ticket back to my mother’s womb?

And yet, here I am, tucked away in Washington D.C.

Waiting.

As the world reopens.

I risk sounding cliché, but I feel akin to a caterpillar protected by a cocoon, undergoing radical transformation not visible to the public eye.

A piece of grieving art. “Memories of what was” rising from my chest, over the lump in my throat—creating portraits of tears.

Dear God, will this one day make sense?

When will I be ready to leave the chrysalis and spread colorful wings, declaring:

“Hello world, I am a butterfly.”

Am I a butterfly?

I do not feel like a butterfly.

But there are simple moments I feel home.

Running through the sprinkler with my niece and nephew, body-quaking laughter, hearing voices of old friends, or my mom.

Getting lost in the woods, a graveyard, or early mornings when night turns golden once again.

Silence.

Hey Butterfly Girl, come out and play.

I’m not strong enough yet. It’s too risky. I don’t want to fall, fail, or fuck up my metamorphosis process.

How will I know when I’m ready?

To integrate back into a culture that revolves around cocktails, beer, and wine, when I chose to stop?

To come out, dressed in skin that feels raw, unprotected, and vulnerable?

To fit shattered pieces of “what was” into new shapes of “this is how it is now.”

I am teetering on a brand new edge.

Jump Butterfly Girl, you were born for this.

Pre-COVID-19, I was traveling the world, teaching, public speaking, always on stage and around people. I was happy, vibrant, alive, and ready for more.

But was I? Maybe “more” didn’t live out “there.”

I needed to return.

Home.

To her.

To remember.

Why she loves what she loves.

What makes her laughter shake a warehouse.

And to whom she belongs.

Herself.

I quit drinking alcohol in the early days of quarantine.

The question had been lingering for years.

Is this a healthy relationship?

Could life be exciting without it?

What parts of myself had I lost because of it?

Could I actually stop?

Alcohol: the magic elixir of freedom, creativity, spontaneity, intimacy, and aliveness.

But was it?

I felt fearless, armed with a strong IPA, black boots, and red boxing gloves.

Come at me boys, I can drink you under the table any day.

Did I really think feminism could be expressed through “out-drinking” men?

I stood proud with my high ABV six-packs, looking down on claustrophobic morality. Good girls don’t get drunk, and this girl could drink.

Anytime.

While celebrating, grieving, playing, creating, socializing, relaxing, or just feeling bored.

Many afternoons were spent writing at a local coffee shop.

I’m a creative—it’s my birthright to booze, right?

I’d lock my bike, slide onto a barstool where I claimed to have all my “revolutionary conversations.” Open my laptop and within minutes a barista would ask, “The usual?”

Sometimes I would pause, like I actually had to think about drinking Irish coffees with a side of Baileys at 12 p.m. on a Tuesday, but always responded with a smile, “Yes, please.”

Fifteen minutes later, “Would you like another?”

Again, a pause of fake consideration.

I guess I’ll do one more.

Three Irish coffees (with three shots of Baileys) later, and I would need a nap before evening teaching and training.

I’d wake up disoriented, thirsty, and foggy. Not ideal, but I was resilient. I could do anything.

I always got the job done.

A confident presence, motivated by a later night of happy hour margaritas and two-dollar tacos.

I was a machine.

Or was I?

Is this what I wanted for my “one wild and precious life?”

I often asked my yoga students to consider this Mary Oliver quote.

I preached about living a life of vulnerability, realness, and authenticity, but spent hours padded with a cushion of alcohol.

How could anyone really see me?

How could I really see myself?

I knew something had to change, but my usual bulldog mentality wouldn’t win this time.

I was not going to wrestle, willpower, or control my way to liberation.

The more I thought about “quitting,” the more my inner teenager threw tantrums.

Fuck that. I have a “right” to drink alcohol. No one can tell me what to do.

But who was really in control and what was at stake?

Was pouring ethanol down my throat a “right” I actually wanted?

As I dug deeper, I recognized incongruence in my logic.

Did alcohol make me a badass, fun, and free-spirited?

Evidence of drunk night pictures, videos, texts, or blowups with my partners did not support the above hypothesis.

Did alcohol make me feel relaxed, creative, or intimate?

I thought so—until I risked touching the world with bare fingertips and remembered the terrifying ecstasy of sweet, simple moments.

How did I forget?

These passions were inherent in my nature. I didn’t need “liquid courage” to make me brave.

I just needed my own hands to shake the rope around my neck and realize it was not a snake.

I knew how to climb.

My fire was raging. I danced around the edges for too long.

Sat quiet, caged, and sorry for taking up space. I was ready to let my roar run wild.

But the student warrior had more to learn.

I was afraid of my own power. To be seen. To stand alone and belong to myself. What if the intensity destroyed me?

Just like they all said, “You are too much.”

I was too sensitive, too angry, too happy, too sad, too excited, too extreme, too afraid—unsafe with myself. Not even the strongest men could save me, and they tried.

So fuck it.

Pass the bottle and I will tame the Savage. Hours became days that turned into weeks, and fifteen years later, in the middle of a pandemic, I said “enough.”

The butterfly girl broke out, unsure of her wings. Unsure of everything.

A rebirthing orchestrated through sad songs, fetal positions, and desperate prayers, “Someone please help me.”

Years of researching, soul searching, questioning, three a.m. “not again’s”—trying, failing. Trying again, failing again.

My gut knew alcohol was dimming my shine.

My soul knew this “one wild and precious life” was born to love—starting with myself.

My intuition knew it would be a lonely road less traveled.

Something greater whispered, “I will protect you. You are safe. Stop fighting.”

While my teenage brat shouted, “This will suck. You will fail like always. Might as well crack a cold one and give yourself a break. Everyone else does.”

As my fierce feminine fired back, “Girl, if you only knew what is on the other side. Yes, it will be hard, but we can do hard things.”

Without alcohol, my life is slowly changing.

Not the “look at me,” filtered kind of change. Much more tangible, subtle, and deep.

I sleep with a sense of calm and well-being. I wake up proud.

I remember how much I love to play, be outside, ride my bike, sweat, talk to myself, listen to every audiobook ever written, and stay curious about life and people.

I smile at lightning bugs and I stop making excuses.

I strap on boxing gloves and know I’m a champion.

Healing is messy, nonlinear, and unique to each human shape.

Just like grief, there is no timeline, checklist, or “perfect” process.

Willpower, discipline, and “bootstrap” mentality cannot control the vastness of our brilliant light.

We must write our own radical story, where pages turn from the inside out.

You are the one you’ve been waiting for.

Let the silence speak and stand up with redemption.

Be kind to yourself and others caught in systems that chain our revolutionary spirit.

It is a privilege to choose freedom,

In a pandemic of hearts breaking open, patriarchal white knuckles gripped around comfort are forced to let go,

A collective rising bubbling from our untamed earth—tired of being trampled on.

The time is now, because tomorrow is not guaranteed.

Every tragically beautiful moment matters.

“Tell me, what is it you plan to do with your one wild and precious life?”  ~ Mary Oliver

~

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