last night i took the vulnerability plunge (thank you ashley from daring women) and spoke at the daring women’s sober october event. it was a surprisingly great turn out with about 20 brave ladies. i’m so inspired to know there are some great women out there wanting to speak about such intimidating matters and to push themselves to be sober curious.
in case you missed it, here was my little speech…
i am on a one-year long journey of sobriety.
have you ever said that you just drink socially?
do you only drink on the weekends?
maybe you drink just for special occasions?
i used to be the same way. i used to think if i don’t drink all week, then i can let loose on the weekends. but then the weekends couldn’t come soon enough. i was living for social gatherings and all those special occasions (and let’s face it, there’s always a reason to party). it’s so easy to make friends with a little liquid courage. you instantly feel like you just met your best friend and regret later all the “cool ideas” you came up with half drunk. and no fun story starts with “i was eating a salad”. life is dull without all those things! right?
i got drunk my first time in 8th grade. my step dad’s rule was “as long as you keep your priorities straight, get good grades, and don’t get caught, you can do what you want.” i lived up to that rule and graduated high school with a 4.0 gpa then went to college. i did my fair share of partying in college, throwing up, blacking out, running from the cops, losing my phone, dating losers, doing drugs, but hey, i graduated college with a 3.8 gpa all the while having a full time job!
the partying continued throughout my 20’s because apparently that’s what you do when your young and not tied down with a career or children. and it’s weird because the drinking never really slowed down, it just seemed to normalize. when i moved to aspen, drinking was the activity: beer festivals and wine events every weekend; it’s classy as long as its craft beer or fancy wine. it doesn’t feel like an issue when you’re out on the river rafting with your friends or enjoying a free concert on the mountain. i always found myself trying to keep up when everyone was ready to go grab another drink, so down the hatch goes that round, it’s your turn to buy. and maybe you double fist it so you don’t have to go wait in line again. it started to seem like it didn’t even matter what the activity was as long as there would be enough booze.
my drinking increased after i went through a tough break up and i made some serious mistakes. with no one to go home to, the bar sounded more fun and my filter was gone. i thought the girls i was drinking with really understood what i was going through, come to find later they were talking behind my back and hanging out with the ex-boyfriend.
after doing some therapy and intense inner work, i felt like i had a fresh start. i fell in love with john, who was my boss and is now my fiancé. but he doesn’t drink. at all. in fact, he is a doctor and an extremely fit athlete. drinking around him isn’t fun. at the beginning of our relationship, i continued partying pretty hard and blacking out, making him carry me home on several occasions. i always wondered what he saw in me. i was a party girl, he was a granola. he hated my drinking habits and i was hating myself for it. but once the hangover washed away, i was back ready to go out with my girls. i felt like i was just living life! i’m in my 20’s, he’s older, he’s just at a different stage than me. and everyone loves “party megan”.
everything seemed better with alcohol. i iooked forward to a glass of wine, everyday. it got me out of my head. i enjoyed cooking with it. my art was better. i was more sociable. but then i felt like i needed it to do my art. needed it to socialize. i had to have alcohol before meeting friends, going to parties or events, or even before john got home. pre-gaming happened before just about everything, except for work. i thought if i had to go to work with a buzz, then i really had a problem. but then there were drinks while out to lunch during work. and the mornings after a night of drinking, needing a drink just to feel normal again.
society makes this seems normal. and maybe it is because 90% of americans drink alcohol. and most people who drink alcohol get drunk. but is this what i really want in my life? this crutch? with nights i don’t remember? mistakes? hangovers?
the last time i drank was february 4th. the next morning, john told me one of us had to move out. that was it. i had lost him to alcohol.
we had countless conversations about my drinking and i always said i would change. but the only way i knew how to gain his trust back was to vow take a year of sobriety.
of course, the first 2 days after my “last night” was easy to say no to alcohol. i had a 2 day hangover and shame written all over my face. i never wanted to drink again. but then as the days passed i thought, “oh i can just have one or two drinks…”. but why? why do i even have to have a drink in the first place? to let loose? to relax? how sad. how sad is it that i have to have alcohol to enjoy my life?
so i signed up for therapy again. my therapist gave me the confidence i needed to take this head on. saying no to events that my friends and i hold every year, staying in on the weekends, going to bachelorette parties where the themes were “bubbles and brunch” and being dd. alcohol was everywhere! and every time i said no, my confidence grew. i felt taller. healthier.
as time went on, i started sharing my journey with friends and family. at first i felt ashamed at saying i needed to take a year off of alcohol. when i would tell people, some would say, “i just drink on the weekends”. but what if you skip a weekend, do you feel the need to catch up? if you have to limit yourself to the weekends, then doesn’t it sound that alcohol has some sort of hold on you? don’t get me wrong, having a nice glass of wine or champagne during a ceremonious event has been around for centuries, and i condone it. but why has it become this crutch, even for the weekends? what happened to exercising, going on adventures, or simply doing some art or reading a book? now everything has to be paired with alcohol.
i came up with the great idea to go on a diet right after i quit drinking. it gave me something healthy to focus on. and it worked for some time. then i became a coffee freak. then i was obsessed with tea, chocolate, then kombucha. i kept replacing this craving with something else. and it all kept me away from alcohol. but was i really digging down into why i craved this liquid so much and why i felt the need to “let loose”?
so then i decided to take a 10 day solo trip back east where we have a vacation home in the mountains of south carolina. i’ll admit, traveling was one of the hardest times to avoid alcohol. for me, it was a tradition to get a drink at the airport before going on a vacation, and let me tell you, those airport beers were begging for my attention, but i walked quickly past them with my coffee in hand. during my 10 days alone, i did more internal work than any therapist could have provided. it was a raw experience that i highly recommend. no social media, no contact with anyone (except my fiancé), only home cooked meals, exercise, art, and myself.
that was about 6 months ago and i am now 8 months sober.
yes, i am still detoxing from alcohol and i still notice it everywhere i go. but saying no has never felt so good. physically, i am more fit to do the things i want to do. i am no longer sluggish or craving foods that are bad for me. i am sleeping soundly. i’ve taken up new activities, enrolled myself in classes at cmc, and have found new passions. my fiancé and i are learning about each other on a deeper level than i ever thought possible.
but most importantly i have forgiven myself for my mistakes. i have developed a sense of self. i am completely and utterly present. i know who i am now, what i want, and who i want to share my journey with. i have found that my life does have meaning. i am enough and i am giving back in my own way. i am confident, more outgoing, and happier than i have ever been my entire life. i feel like i have a true connection to the world around me. i hear more. see more. feel more.
now, you may think you don’t have a problem with drinking and maybe you don’t. no one’s ever said, “man i should have drank last night”. but if you’ve ever wondered if you should or shouldn’t drink but you do anyways, if you’ve ever felt guilt or shame after drinking, or if you ever felt like you could cut back, maybe it’s time to give it a break. see who you are without it. even if it’s just that one drink that you have on the weekends. try it cutting it out. you may be surprised with what you discover about yourself.