Eleven months ago today was the beginning. A radical decision was instigated which would potentially forever change the course of my life and allow me to evolve into the person I so desired to be. Eleven months ago today was the first day I chose a sober existence. And now, 335 days later, I still choose it. Every single day I recommit myself to my choice and marvel at what I’ve gained on this new path.
I’ve been floating around lately, a little lost professionally, I suppose. My head swirls with ideas for stories, articles, essays, and the like but I’ve had a difficult time focusing my energy and effort on any of them. I thought this week would be a good week to sort through some projects I’ve started over the course of the year. To bring it full circle, I unearthed a folder of essays I began writing in the beginning stages of my new booze-free life. Since I have no plans for the small collection, I thought I’d share one of the short essays I wrote early on.
My intention is not to shame my family, friends, or readers who drink; we are adults after all and I truly believe “to each their own.” I would, however, like to offer some insight regarding my choice to remove it from my life with the hope that it might help someone else who is examining their own relationship with alcohol.
A couple of days ago I had one of those days. Prior to five months ago, it would have been one of those kind of days in which I would have tried to remedy the onslaught of emotions and angst with a glass, or six, of wine. In fact, I spoke with my mother-in-law a few hours after the incident in question and told her what had happened. She said, “Oh, girl, you need a glass of wine.”
The old me would have agreed with her wholeheartedly. In fact, by the time I would have spoken to her, I’d already be half a bottle in. But the new me? The sober me? Well, the last thing this girl needs is a glass of wine.
I’ve spent a number of years drowning my sorrows and coping with life’s challenges and discomfort by self-medicating with alcohol. In fact, my husband and I even shared a hashtag (#needadrinkstat) that we’d send one another whenever we were feeling the need to escape; when everything just seemed too much. Alternately, I’ve also used it to celebrate anything and everything. New job? Check. Made it through Tuesday? Check. Birthday? Anniversary? Christmas? National Haiku Day? Check, check, check, and check.
After a while though, I hated to think that I “needed” a substance to deal. I was very much aware of the fact that I didn’t need to drink but rather chose to. Rather than taking some time to sit with how I was feeling and figuring out how to create a strategy to rise above whatever was conflicting me, I’d try to ignore it by numbing it temporarily. Most of the time, it would make me more emotional and feel worse the next day. For the record, trying to get your shit together seems a zillion times more challenging when you’re hungover.
The lesson here is that I’ve learned what I do need to cope when life throws a bushel of lemons at me. It sure as heck ain’t a margarita. Rather, it’s a hug, a nap, or a hot bath. It’s a cup of coffee or tea accompanied by a small chocolatey treat. It’s a workout, a walk, or a few minutes submerged in a good read. It’s a quiet space to clear my head, light some palo santo, and take a few deep breaths. It might include scrolling through a few inspiring Instagram accounts; especially ones that belong to my sober sisters. It’s learning to let go of the negative shit and remembering that whatever sparked my distraught will pass.
We don’t need alcohol but we choose it above other remedies because it’s what we’ve been programmed to do. I don’t need alcohol to celebrate or mourn or unwind at the end of a rough day. I need to nurture my spirit in the most compassionate way possible, not poison myself with intoxicants that temporarily blur the lines. I’m hoping next time I run into a similar scenario, my well-meaning loved ones will say something along the lines of “oh, girl, you need a bath!” or I shoot a message to my mister that says something like #needsomepalosantostat.