It’s a great feeling when you walk into any fine establishment and everyone knows your name.
Except, that wasn’t my name.
I didn’t see it on my license, my billing statements, pay stubs, or medical records. So why was everyone calling me that?
That great feeling started to wane and was gradually replaced with some deep introspection. We live in a culture where alcohol is not only legal but highly desired and celebrated. There are wine brands that target moms and some that target the health-conscious. Beer commercials dominate televised sports, and we joke about the children of 2020 being homeschooled by alcoholics.
Alcohol is regarded as a valuable asset in our lives and a must-have on most occasions. Feeling sad? Have a drink. Had a tough day? Have a drink. A bit anxious? Have a drink. Won the lottery? Have a drink. Drink, drink, drink.
The pop of a cork and clinking of glasses brings with it a cocktail of feelings, including happiness, relief, and hope. With each sip, your smile will grow wider, your emotions will numb, and all the problems of the world will be solved—if only for a night.
But for some, one sip over the limit can turn the nicest sober person into a deranged lunatic. The emotions that are managed so well day after day suddenly rage out of control. There may be venomous and hurtful exchanges, hysterical sobbing, or decisions made that will feel so wrong in the morning—and these can’t always be undone. That’s nothing to be celebrated.
According to the CDC, six people die every day from alcohol poisoning. Alcoholism is the third-leading cause of lifestyle-related deaths coming after tobacco and unhealthy diets and/or lack of exercise.
There are many who are capable of enjoying alcohol throughout their lives without ever experiencing any collateral damage. There are many who abuse alcohol throughout their lives without ever suffering any destruction. There are functioning alcoholics, rock-bottom alcoholics, and binge drinkers. Some will go through life unscathed, and others will fight for their lives because social drinking spiraled into full-blown alcoholism.
When you turn down a drink, people scratch their heads and gently or aggressively taunt you to loosen up—just have one.
People are more likely to judge you for not drinking, and if you can drink normally, no judgment there—but cross that line and you’ll be the talk of the town. Your drinking will be the elephant in the room. Your behavior will be the hot topic for gossip, and few of those drinking buddies will stand by your side when you decide that alcohol no longer has a seat at your table.
I was tired of being known as Sauvignon Blanc and embarked on a sober journey to learn more about my drinking habits and to determine if alcohol was a friend—or foe.
There are many variations of how to approach this and no two journeys need to follow the same path. Some will find the fellowship of Alcoholics Anonymous to be their savior, while others may simply replace their drinking habit with something more healthy, like green tea and long walks, or yoga or meditation.
In AA, the steps are critical for recovery. But there are many steps that you can take to examine your relationship with alcohol. At the end of your journey, you may find yourself totally abstaining or have the ability to enjoy the occasional cocktail. Only time and a steadfast investment into your well-being will tell.
Honesty with yourself. If you are questioning your alcohol consumption and evaluating the behavioral changes that ensue, then you must be rigorous and committed to your self-examination. No blinders, no excuses, and no avoidance.
Try a meeting. There is no one-size-fits-all to sobriety and just because you attend a meeting, doesn’t make you an alcoholic. AA only requires a willingness to stop drinking. Take what you need and leave the rest. It may help; it may not. That’s for you to decide.
Ask for support. Find a trusted person with whom you can share, confide, and rely on as you make this journey. If that person isn’t an option for you, there are many online support groups. AA isn’t your only option and there are varied groups that help people moderate their drinking after a period of abstinence. You don’t have to do it alone.