Updated: Jul 22, 2021
I finally did it. I made it a full year without alcohol.
Let me tell you, I’ve had a lot of starts and restarts. Not drinking takes practice. It's a little bit like the movie Groundhog's Day where you wake up, give it a try, run into some obstacles, and then the next day you try it again and keep doing it until you get it right. Groundhog's Day is a good reference if you want a comedy. If you're more into the drama or action genre then it's like the Tom Cruise movie Edge of Tomorrow about a soldier fighting aliens who relives the same day over and over again, the day restarting every time he dies. So, alcohol is the alien we are fighting. The whole point is you keep trying until you get it right.
Society has normalized drinking so I felt very alone in my struggles with alcohol. I honestly thought for a long time that AA or inpatient rehab was my only option. It's been so comforting and eye opening to know that there's a whole world out there of people like us. They say community is the opposite of addiction and they are right. The biggest thing for me was learning that I wasn't alone and there were so many people out there struggling with alcohol. It is comforting to find these sober communities on Facebook and Instagram. Finding people you can connect with who know what you're going through, even if you're not interacting with them, is so helpful.
Doing the Alcohol Experiment in September 2018 was one of the most helpful things I did. It gave me a chance to reevaluate my relationship with alcohol and think about alcohol differently. Even as a nurse I didn't fully realize the harmful effects of alcohol. I was deluding myself that red wine had health benefits. I was completely ignoring the fact that alcohol is an addictive carcinogen. I began to think about alcohol differently. A door had opened up in my brain and could not be closed again.
After my 30-day success in 2018 I felt fantastic and I thought I could moderate. Turns out moderation does not work for me. It actually makes it harder. Fast forward to more stops and starts. Joining OYNB and sprinkling some alcohol challenges in. I was making progress and could say I had more sober days than not. When I did drink, I found I just couldn't enjoy drinking anymore like I used to when I was naïve. I would have wicked shameovers. In 2020 I started the year knowing I was breaking up with alcohol. And I just kept going. Day after day.
The first few days and weeks are the hardest. (Why do we keep doing the hardest part again and again?) I’ve done them a lot! It does get better, I promise! Here are a few tips that worked for me:
EAT! When your blood sugar is low cravings kick in. Now might not be the time to diet. Treat yourself and keep that belly full.
Read. Oh, quit lit, how I love you. Before discovering these online groups of ordinary people, I had quit lit books to help me not feel so alone and give me some extra hope and inspiration.
Non-alcohol drinks. Keep the ritual and lose the booze. I found having an NA beer to be an ok substitute. Really it was the habit of going to the store, picking out a beverage, and drinking something no kid would ever want.
Exercise. Walk, dance, move, whatever. It’s a natural pick me up.
Stalk these groups. It helps to hear other people's stories. If it is triggering, then don’t.
Distract. You will find you have more time on your hands. Do a puzzle, take a class, learn something new. Keep your mind busy.
Keep a visual marker. Fill out your calendar for days you don’t drink. It’s nice to see the progress.
One day at a time, one moment at a time. Just keep going.
No matter where you are on your journey, I want to encourage you to keep practicing, keep going. You are worth it. Every day you practice not drinking is a day you can learn from.