This is not a story of abject desperation or unthinkable lows. This is not an after-school special or even a Lifetime movie. It’s certainly not Nicholas Cage in ‘Leaving Las Vegas’ or even Meg Ryan in ‘When A Man Loves A Woman’. If anything, ‘Sobriety: A Love Story’ would be a rather unremarkable, quite boring PBS documentary. Or maybe I just think that because it’s my story.
Yesterday marked one year without alcohol for me.
When I tell people I stopped drinking a year ago, they naturally assume that there was a reckoning of sorts. ‘What happened?’ they ask, perhaps expecting to hear something dramatic that would have compelled me to stop.
I just decided that I was done. I didn’t get in trouble, wasn’t homeless, didn’t lose my job, or suffer health consequences. I was, and still am, a high-functioning business owner and mother of four little ones. I just decided that alcohol no longer served my greater goals and needs.
As the stillness of the pandemic forced me to slow my usual frenzied pace, I reflected on my dreams and I realized that alcohol really had no place in my life anymore. As a fitness professional, I knew that alcohol would slow my aesthetic and performance goals, so over the course of a few months, I moved closer and closer to cutting alcohol out of my life entirely.
I read the ‘quit lit’ books (‘We Are the Luckiest’ and ‘The Naked Mind’ are two of my favorites) and learned more about the science of how alcohol affects our brain and body and on July 5 at 8 pm, I drank a last glass of wine and woke the next morning with a commitment to not drink for at least 10 days.
Once I hit 10 days, I challenged myself to make it to 30. Once at 30, I challenged myself to make it to 100. Once I made it past 100, I had replaced so many old habits with new habits that I didn’t want to lose. I also lost a fair bit of weight when I stopped drinking and I had a CrossFit competition coming up and I knew I couldn’t wake up early and train at the intensity that I currently was if I started drinking again, so I just kept waking up and not drinking that day.
The Physical and Emotional Effects of Quitting Alcohol
Physically, it’s easy to understand how cutting out alcohol helps one achieve aesthetic and performance goals. I’m the leanest I’ve been in a decade, I’m able to compete in weekend-long CrossFit competitions performing multiple intense workouts within an hour of each other. My abs are visibly prominent now that they are no longer hidden under a layer of alcohol weight. I can train for hours multiple times a day and my blood work has never been better. I’m the healthiest I’ve been in a long time.
Emotionally, I think, is where people think the struggle with alcohol comes, and they are right. Once my body had fully detoxed from alcohol, there was no longer a physiological need for alcohol, but the loss of that social lubrication or that reassuring glass of wine after a hard day of parenting and life was the hardest to work through.
I will tell you the truth now if you’re considering cutting alcohol out of your life. It’s hard. I am a naturally shy person and have always relied on alcohol to help ease my shyness, so I initially felt awkward. The first six months tested me. Then it got a little easier. And then you stop really thinking about it at all except in those now-rare moments of sudden craving that can seemingly hit you out of nowhere.
I almost never think about alcohol. It’s just not part of my world anymore. It doesn’t bother me at all when people drink around me and there is alcohol at my house. I don’t care if people drink and I definitely don’t judge anyone for drinking. I’m just not interested in it for me.
I have never once ever said that I will never drink again.
I don’t think I will, actually, drink again, but that mind game is one I will not play, so instead, I have continued to replace bad habits with good habits and allowed the beauty of sobriety to open up possibilities in myself that I hadn’t even realized.
Because, as the title implies, sobriety is a love story, not a tale of woe and it is, quite simply, one of the greatest gifts I have ever given myself.