On December 5th, 2020, I had a lovely brunch at the house of one of my very good girlfriends.
We were celebrating friendship, the holiday season, and the end of the last four, horrible years. When this group of women get together, we talk about anything and everything under the sun.
And we often drink.
That day was no exception.
If you asked past me about my drinking habits, I would have for sure classified them as “moderate” and well within those recommended dosages of 1-2 glasses 1-2 times a week.
And this was, once upon a time, the truth. Throughout my 20s and most of my early 30s, I would order a glass of wine with dinner. I would have two margaritas at that neighborhood bar-b-que. And I might nurse a beer on a Sunday watching the game.
If I bought a bottle of wine, it almost always went bad before it got finished.
My drinking really was “moderate” back then. I had even spent a stretch of years from 2010 through 2013 not drinking at all.
But in mid 2014, I had an out of the blue health scare that landed me in the ICU for a week followed by surgery and another four days in the hospital. After returning home with my newfound sense of “Thank God I’m alive!” I found that I was now also fully embracing “You only live once!”
Which is true (of this life anyway) but along with the bucket list vacations I was planning for my family and the big goals I was now taking seriously, I was also letting my teetotaling habits go.
That wine looks delicious, fill me up! You only live once, don’t you know.
I don’t think an open bottle of wine has gone bad in my house in over 7 years. Furthermore, I don’t think I could have honestly, hand to heart, described my drinking habits as “moderate” anymore.
Sure, I didn’t drink every day. And could easily go multiple days without drinking at all. But the practice was certainly several days after work (1-2 drinks) and almost always on the weekends (multiple drinks).
Alcohol came to be a way to relax after a crappy day. Process bad news. Deal with stress. A reward for making it through the workweek. And most recently, manage the rising panic that comes with living through a global pandemic.
The increase in drinking didn’t happen overnight. It was a slow progression of poor choices over the past seven years. But toward the end of the Summer in 2020, I knew I wanted to make a change.
I have a huge yearly calendar on the wall in my office. So in September of 2020, I started putting a star on every day that I didn’t drink at all. To be honest, there weren’t many stars on those first couple of weeks. But there was something about seeing that on my wall, every day, data that actually spelled out how often I was drinking–it started to wake me up.
So I would go a whole week without drinking anything Monday through Thursday. Then one week I didn’t drink for Friday Afternoon Club. Then one week, nothing over the weekend. The best way I can describe it is as a gradual diminishing spotted with days in which I would have a few glasses of wine at home and occasions when I would still make terrible, hangover level choices. But week by week, from October through the beginning of December 2020, I started to have more stars on my calendar than not.
Additionally, because I would now have long stretches of days without drinking, I now realized how terrible drinking was making me feel when I did drink. I RELISHED the mornings after several days of sobriety. My sleep was phenomenal. My skin looked amazing. And I actually felt brighter, lighter, and in a good mood!
I came to learn that even on days when I only had one glass of wine, I would often wake up in the middle of the night and have a hard time going back to sleep. I would then, of course, feel sluggish and generally crappy for the rest of the day.
So by the time December 6th, 2020 rolled around, and I found myself yet again terribly hungover and feeling awful, I was more than ready for a big commitment. That was it–I wasn’t going to drink anything for the rest of December. No matter Christmas was coming. I had had enough.
And I didn’t. Every day another star got added to my calendar. Christmas came and went, another star. Cocktail night with my girlfriends, I ordered mocktails, offered to be the designated driver, and put another star on my calendar. Every day I felt better than the day before. New Year’s Eve, another star. News Years Day–I woke up feeling like a brand new me ready for a brand new year.
So December finished out, I met my goal of not drinking for the rest of the month and decided to keep going.
It has now been six weeks since my last alcoholic beverage and here is what I can tell you.
- I don’t miss it
- I sleep like a baby
- My acid reflux is gone
- I have lost a little weight (very little)
- My skin looks so much better
- I feel better and more hopeful overall
- I have energy
- My focus is greatly improved
- I laugh more (weird)
- Mocktails can be fun too
I can honestly say that now, when presented with a drinking occasion, I’m so worried about all my good feelings going away, and dreading the lack of sleep, dehydration, and crappy mood, that I don’t even want to drink.
This is why I have decided to try going the whole year of 2021 without any alcohol. It’s a big commitment, but not one I feel worried about. I’m actually pretty excited to see if there is more healing my body will do over the coming months and what other positive effects I might experience.
I will continue to update my blog with my progress and will place it under the category “My Sober Year” if you’re interested in following along.
Here’s to an amazing 2021!