As I quickly approach the milestone of one entire year sober, I want to share how I got here. Hard to believe I have made it nearly 365 days not drinking alcohol, 52 weeks of choosing not to imbibe, 8760 hours of saying NO to the Booze Bitch. I long to share what has worked for me. The incredible pride and joy I feel about the decision to be alcohol free is something I wish for anyone who is questioning their relationship with alcohol. Let go of questioning whether or not you are an “Alcoholic” (oh how I loathe that label and the stigma associated with it!). Instead, ask yourself, “Would my life be better without booze?” It was an instant answer for me when I honestly evaluated my own relationship with The Booze Bitch. I was averaging three glasses (big glasses) of first class wine about 4 nights a week (some weeks saw 5, 6, or even 7 nights), or 3 strong cocktails. I never drank in the morning, I rarely drank before a semi-acceptable 4 PM, but my body, my brain, my spirit, and my psyche were suffering in a multitude of ways.
I was incredibly lucky to not ever have had to deal with anxiety throughout my life. I have, for the most part, been easy going and free spirited, not anxious, not a worrier, always trusting the Universe because everything always works out for me. For the vast majority of my life, things have flowed pretty smoothly, even with lots of bumps (sometimes enormous pot holes!) along the path. In 2020, everything changed. My drinking habit combined with a worldwide pandemic, forced closure of my business due to canceling all the retreats and workshops I had scheduled, intermittent unemployment, isolation, financial lows, the single life, social distancing including the forbidden act of physical touch and hugging, lack of connection with others (what feeds my soul the most!), fear of losing everything, drowning in uncertainty caused by the circumstances of COVID – all those factors combined led to the most excruciating anxiety and subsequent depression I have ever experienced. It was time for me to make some changes.
I drank for four decades, maybe slightly more, but I never really felt I had a problem with drinking. I was the life of the party most of the time. I was the one initiating the inclusion of wine or cocktails to ensure everyone would get loose and laugh a lot, relax, open up, get silly, have fun. I associated booze with a good time. In the last decade, I started noticing how many times I pushed the limits of safe driving, made bad decisions while intoxicated, purchased items impulsively, sent texts I later regretted, said things that were hurtful or inappropriate, and most of all, how I started feeling physically and emotionally drained after a night of drinking. I thought about taking breaks from alcohol, I really tried hard to moderate ( told myself I’d only drink weekends, take the month of January off), and I was successful sometimes. But the break from alcohol would be filled with anticipation of how great that first glass of wine was going to taste. I was impatient waiting for the weekend to arrive so I could escape into inebriated numbness. I became dependent on alcohol without realizing it was happening. I have no genetic tendencies toward addiction, no one in my family lineage ever became addicted to drugs(alcohol IS a drug), so I felt immune.
When I worked at a world class winery and was able to bring multiple open bottles (partial bottles were married together making them nearly full) of incredible wine home at the end of the work day, my wine habit became an addiction. I noticed that no matter how many positive ways I fed my body try to make up for poisoning it with booze (lemon water first thing, green smoothies every morning, super healthy salads every day for lunch), I still felt tired. I dragged. My head felt heavy, my eyes were puffy, I was bloated, and I knew I wasn’t treating my body the way it deserved to be treated. I was putting toxins into my body temple that has served me so well all my years. I was depleting my system and expecting it to overcome the poison I so enthusiastically poured into it. I was not living by my personal creed of being IMPECCABLE. I was not “doing my best”. I had to be brutally honest with myself and vulnerable about the possibility that giving up drinking was a decision that would greatly enhance my life. I truly never imagined I could be a non-drinker, gasp! I needed to believe that I would still be able to feel happy without wine, cocktails, or booze of any type controlling my life.
Looking back on this almost-year of being alcohol free, I feel incredibly proud, blessed, thankful, and passionate about supporting and inspiring others to follow this beautiful path to alcohol-free living. I started writing this blog early in my journey. I was deeply inspired by others who had shared their journeys from addiction to freedom, and I knew writing about what I was going through would help keep me accountable. Let me be perfectly clear; tee-totaling is not for the faint of heart. It takes an enormous amount of courage to choose the road less traveled in a culture that worships alcohol. Booze is everywhere and we are brainwashed to believe that it enhances our lives. We are constantly influenced by the bombardment of advertisement (funded by the alcohol industry) to convince us that we will be sexier, funnier, more desirable, happier with booze. I have learned so much about how influential the alcohol industry is politically and socially. The profits gained from sales of alcohol have created an unbelievably powerful beast, and until enough brave souls step away from the hype, nothing will change. We have to want what we want (in my case vitality, alignment with my values, full integration of optimal health and happiness) more than we want booze, and we have to make the decision to stop drinking. No part of this is easy, but the rewards are immense, even beyond my ability to describe. I made it through withdrawal boot camp (40 days of exhaustion), three months of floating on blissful Cloud 9, and four months of excruciating depression, and I am here to say it was worth every minute. Here’s what helped me the most:
- Find a Mentor. You already know I am not a fan of AA, but I was fortunate in having someone I worked with, the Wine Advisor no less, who was a few years sober while working in the industry. She was the example I needed to see it was possible to work around wine and not drink it. She was outstanding at her job, highly accomplished, big hearted, super healthy and happy. She encouraged and congratulated me, and was my role model. It is crucial to find someone who can be your mentor, whether you know them personally or not.
- Quit Lit. I got my hands (ears actually) on all the books I could find about sobriety and the journey to get there. I started watching YouTube videos about quitting drinking. Immersing myself in this world was highly encouraging, supportive, and enjoyable. I quickly learned that sober folks are the most authentic, vulnerable, honest, real, loving people on the planet. They are supportive, empathic, understanding, and wonderful. Hearing about other people’s journeys from ‘addicted’ to ‘free’ was a constant inspiration. My favorite authors in the sober movement are Annie Grace (” This Naked Mind” as well as her fabulous “The Alcohol Experiment” ). “The Alcohol Experiment” is free online, and a great place to start!. I love Holly Whitaker and her passion and activism (“Quit Like a Woman”), Claire Pooley (“The Sober Diaries”), Catherine Gray (“The Unexpected Joy of Being Sober”), Augustin Burroughs (“Dry”- which is arguably my absolute favorite book with tons of humour, wit, and entertainment), William Porter (“Alcohol Explained”-full of great advice and facts about what alcohol does to the brain and body), Craig Beck (“Alcohol Lied to Me”), Laura McKowen (“We are The Luckiest”), and lots more. This is a link to some great ones https://www.lauramckowen.com/blog/the-11-best-addiction-and-sobriety-books, and new ones pop up all the time. Mine is in the works: “Fiercely Sober, from Wine Lover Chick to Slaying the Booze Bitch'”. Quit Lit kept sobriety front and center, and encouraged me constantly. The stories of what these brave souls endured helped me believe that I could be courageous too.
- Community. It is essential to find a sober community that works for you. Mine was FaceBook groups, where I engaged daily and found endless support. I am still a member of about 5 groups, all started by sober authors building a following. For me, connecting with so many strangers experiencing, or having survived what I was currently going through, was the support and impetus needed to keep me steady on my path. I highly recommend checking out Annie Grace’s FaceBook community (The Alcohol Experiment), and William Porter’s group (Alcohol Explained). There are many, many groups including my own, “Fiercely Sober” on FaceBook, and Instagram has a huge number of sober Creators as well.. I would be delighted if you joined our growing community at Fiercely Sober. The success of my efforts will be greatly enhanced by community building, and I am here to encourage, support, inspire, and help. We are all supportive and loving in Fiercely Sober, and that’s what is needed to get past the desire to reach for the glass of booze.
- Play the reel fast forward. I learned early on that the solution to craving a drink was to instantly play it forward to how I would feel two to three drinks in, and after. Sedative sleepiness, procrastinating on anything and everything I should do, dozing in my chair by 8 PM, eating unhealthy snacks, feeling wide awake and full of shame, anxiety, self loathing, and regret at 3 AM, with the curse of depression the entire next day(s) to follow. Positively not worth the fleeting twenty minutes of temporary relief of numbing from the drink. The pleasure I found in feeling vitality return, in looking at myself in the mirror and seeing brightness instead of puffiness, the pride I felt in successfully committing to this decision, the wonderful, sound, peaceful sleep I was enjoying, were all rewards for deciding to treat my body well by forgoing booze, and that choice was giving me back to myself exponentially..
- Find your non-drinking passions. I have always loved nature, exercise, fitness, and cooking. I laugh about how much I love to eat, and how that is probably why I became so active. Sports and burning calories helps me to avoid becoming obese(okay, maybe an exaggeration), plus I love healthy foods. I honestly eat a lot, more than most women, and flavor is key. My palate is keen, which made me a natural for becoming adept in the world of wine. I can detect lots of subtle nuances and I can describe flavors. Most of all, I am a creative cook and love to make delicious, original dishes. Lately that passion has become my daily joy. I also hike on the days I don’t work, and I read a lot, listen to podcasts, watch amazing YouTube videos on all sorts of subjects that interest me, listen to music, dance whenever I feel like it, and connect with friends as much as possible.
- Self care. Every type of self care is critical when becoming alcohol free, or free from addiction of any kind. Drink tons of water (lemon water for me), exercise, get plenty of fresh air, eat healthy foods, nourish your spirit, connect with others, do what feeds your soul. Spirituality is my priority, and my spiritual journey started in 2000. I have a daily practice of meditation each morning. I cannot imagine my life without it anymore. Lately I arise at 5, and it gives me such a sense of harmony and joy. I love my morning hours and am productive because I have a lot of energy. Believing in something bigger than ourselves puts everything into perspective. Trusting ourselves comes slowly, and builds resilience.
I could likely write an entire book on all the things that help someone let go of addiction to harmful substances. I tend to avoid the word “sober” because it is so charged with stigma, and prefer to call my state of being “Alcohol Free”, because it truly does feel like freedom once the decision and the commitment is made to give up alcohol, to Slay that damn Booze Bitch. Once we make alcohol unimportant and insignificant in our lives, the rewards are indescribable. If you are inspired by anything I have written in this blog, I would be grateful for your support, which looks like following my blog and/or joining the Fiercely Sober FaceBook group. I love this Sobersphere world, and I think you will too. You will never know if you never try. Nothing changes if nothing changes. Thank you for being here! I wish you happiness beyond your wildest imaginings, as I am experiencing. You deserve it!