I decided on March 14, 2023, that I’m finally done drinking alcohol.
I have wanted to stop drinking for years after 16 years of pretty consistent alcohol use. But I’ve only actually given up for a period of about three weeks in 2018 after a particularly bad run of drinking too much after getting married. And my pregnancy is the only other time since the age of 16 that I haven’t drank on a regular basis.
It feels quite sad to think about because I know the negative effect alcohol has on my mind, body, and spirit, and it feels like so much time and vitality wasted. But I’m in a place at this moment to orient myself to the benefits and possibilities that have opened up to me from cutting alcohol out of my life.
Most people would look at my drinking habits and think I was completely overreacting, especially considering the culture we have around drinking here in Ireland. That being said, it’s clear that a lot of people don’t have a distorted relationship with alcohol and can drink moderately and not have it affect them negatively. I would consider myself a moderate drinker. I definitely used to binge drink too often before becoming a mother, and I could count on one hand the amount of times that I have binge drank since having my daughter, which, in all honesty, still feels like too much for me.
If you felt hangover guilt and anxiety before becoming a parent, my god it’s amplified tenfold once you have kids.
The issue for me with alcohol is that I never had the opportunity to have a healthy relationship with it. Even if I was to drink one glass of wine per week, which would usually be the case for me nowadays (unless there was an event), it would still be too much due to the fact that it takes up too much of my brain space.
You see, I think about alcohol much more than an average person might. I think about when I might drink it, and if I do, what it will be and how it might make me feel and what it might affect the next day and whether I have the drink I want in the house and if I don’t, when and where I’ll get it from. I think about how it might affect my body and what I might need to do to counter those effects the next day.
I experience all of this ruminating for the sake of one drink per week. Which, in my opinion, is a distorted relationship with drinking. Perhaps it’s more of an “alcohol use disorder,” a term I learned about recently that resonated with me.
Coming from a family that has a history of alcoholism on both sides, much of my childhood was surrounded by drunk people in pubs and at home, and I experienced the breakdown of my family because of alcohol. So I was destined to have a warped and troublesome relationship with it.
It literally lands in my body like poison (because it is) as soon as I begin to drink. It affects my digestion, it triggers peculiar muscular pain, it hurts my teeth, and for about a year, it gave me this strange itch on my arms that felt like something was attacking me from the inside.
It also, as it does for many, greatly impacts my mental health. Taking just a two-week break from it has a profound effect on my head space, an opportunity so many of us just don’t give ourselves the chance to experience. And then we wonder why we feel so depressed and anxious all of the time. (And I’m not speaking about people who genuinely have a non-alcohol related mental illness here.)
So why now?
Well about two weeks ago, I went to a friend’s gig. I hadn’t been out to an event in quite a long while before this, and hadn’t at all since I began night weaning Connie. It was a Jameson’s sponsored event and I got two free drink tokens on arrival. I quickly downed those two drinks and then went to the bar to buy a third. After that one, I told myself it was enough. I felt sick and was definitely intoxicated enough (all they had at this event was whiskey), but I still found myself at the bar buying a fourth drink.
After drinking the last drink, I stood watching my friends play a beautiful show, and the front woman, who is one of my closest friends, had a really vulnerable moment on stage as she shared about her recent loss and let her tears flow. I live for these kinds of vulnerable, brave acts of transparency and emotion, and this would absolutely be something I’d feel a sense of expansion and teary-ness watching in a sober state. But in my drunken state, I felt nothing at all, and to add to that, I noticed at one point that I was completely dissociated and kind of floating above my body watching but not connecting or feeling anything at all.
This freaked the sh*t out of me.
The next morning when I woke up feeling shaky and tired, I just knew I was done. That day, I drove to the spa by myself and unexpectedly had a huge release of emotion as I drove past my grandparents’ old estate. I felt so much gratitude to be able to feel my emotions.
I want to feel it all: the grief, the sadness, the anger, the love, the awe, and beyond. I’ve always known that alcohol numbs us out, but feeling it so viscerally was enough for me to want to draw a line under it and stop. Because I don’t have a life that I want to numb out from, only ingrained habits around reaching for booze on Every. Single. Occasion.
And this is the moment those habits are brought to the light out of the hush of darkness. The kind of darkness that has created so much pain and suffering in my life and family and the lives and families of so many others.
I’m aware that I’m a newly sober person and that some might be annoyed and judgmental about my sharing my story, but I feel I have a right and responsibility to talk about this as much as anyone else does. I have been “sober curious” since I began drinking as a teenager; it’s only now that I can finally feel in my bones that being sober is the only option for me to break my family cycle and live a truly embodied, joyful, and successful life. My daughter deserves it, my husband deserves it, and I deserve it.
That being said, it’s also important to take this journey step by step, one week at a time. From my research, this seems to be common advice for actually sticking to a commitment of sobriety. I’m really proud to say that I went to a hen party last weekend and was sober the whole time, something I never could have anticipated I could do with relative ease and without any desire to drink.
Something I’ve done differently this time that I didn’t do on other failed attempts to be sober is to arm myself with support. Making sure I have non-alcoholic alternatives on a night out is crucial. There are so many delicious non-alcoholic beers, ciders, and wines that taste almost exactly the same.
I’ve also been listening to lots of sobriety podcasts. Two of my favourites are “Sober Awkward” (some of the episodes are hilarious), and “Creative Sobriety”. I’ve learned about a whole genre of literature called “Quit Lit,” which I haven’t delved into yet but I’m seriously excited about doing soon.
And I’ve been talking about it. I’ve let the people in my life know I’m sober and I discuss my process with anyone who’s curious. Of course, some people need more support than this for their drinking but I, like so many others, fall into the category of “grey area drinkers,” and wouldn’t be considered problematic enough by those in our lives or even ourselves to warrant Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) or other forms of rehabilitation or addiction counselling. This doesn’t mean that drinking isn’t having a profound and damaging effect on our lives though, so I would reach for the support and take the process seriously, if it’s something you want for yourself.
Sobriety lets me feel the fullness of my life, it lets my creativity flow, it helps me connect better with others, it gives me clarity for important decisions, and it’s the only way for me to take full responsibility for my life. I’ll be over here dreaming up ways to create more sober fun going forward—let me know if you want to join me.
Thankfully, I captured a picture of myself the day I chose to start my journey of sobriety. I’m tired and hungover but really at peace for having made the most important decision I’ll ever make.