The Universe has a funny way of showing you what you need even when you might not realize it. Last Thanksgiving, unbeknownst to me what was lurking around the corner that was 2020, I voluntarily decided I was going to go a full year without alcohol.
My relationship with alcohol has been atypical but still not unheard of. Very early in my teens I knew that we had a several alcoholics in our family from past to current generations. We had an alcoholic living in our home throughout my adolescent. Alcohol was mysterious and dangerous as it sat in our ill-guarded “liquor cabinet”. My family loves re-telling stories about rubbing whiskey on my gums when I was teething to soothe my “pain”. I can definitely remember on more than one occasion growing up being given a sip or two of beer by well meaning aunts and uncles. Even though alcohol was not consumed much within my home (to my knowledge), it had a place at every family gathering, vacation, celebration, impromptu party, or holiday affair. I clearly didn’t have the full scope of what alcohol would mean in my life and those around me.
Because I was such a dork (i.e. scared out of my tween brain), I didn’t really drink alcohol when all my friends were “sneaking” it from their parents. The smell alone put me off — but that didn’t stop my friends from egging me on. Peer pressure at its peak in the 90s. Finally, I caved and tried my first hard liquor in the form of vodka. Not gonna lie, it was awful. I hated it. It burned, it smelled bad, and did I mention it made me feel like my body was dying? I swore it off at 13 and didn’t personally consume the substance again until I was in college — Zima doesn’t count right?
This is where my story takes the typical turn — alcohol became the main attraction to any social gathering on or off campus. It was the friend that everyone knew and introduced to anyone within earshot. I partook almost weekly with friends. Wanna guess what happened? Blackouts, hangovers, extreme obnoxious attitudes clashing, falling down, no filter conversing, lowered inhibitions, nausea and vomiting…shall I go on? I didn’t see anything wrong with what I was doing, I was ‘just having fun’, or so I told myself and then I fell deeply in love with someone who had an alcohol dependency. I didn’t like what I was seeing play out in my life and the situations I was being engulfed in.
Slowly but surely I started to take stock in what alcohol meant to me and my life. I have taken months long breaks from alcohol every year for the last decade. I declined refills after I started to feel fuzzy-headed rather than throwing another back. I told friends that I appreciated their company and didn’t need alcohol to fill in the gaps. Did it still have a place? Did I still want to be that girl who was getting in verbal altercations in strip clubs that required security to intervene (yep, that happened) or inadvertently hurt someone’s feelings due to my non existing social-filter? Was I using alcohol in a purposeful way? Was alcohol really a part of my wellness program? Could alcohol be holding me back from addressing internal dialogues I needed to have?
The answer was simple: I needed to stop drinking alcohol altogether.
And I did. What I hadn’t accounted for was the pandemic. This is my longest continuous streak without any alcohol. Will I fold under the pressure and utter those four little words: I need a drink — or will I stay true to myself and my own personal promise?
333 days later and I can’t say I miss it one bit, well okay, I do miss champagne. Maybe I’ll have a glass to celebrate my year of sobriety just before I start my next one.