Exactly a year after I ditched the drink I wrote a “Goodbye to Alcohol” letter. You can hear me read it out on Eusebius McKaiser Show HERE
As I said in my letter, that first year was tough but yes it got easier as alcohol gradually loosened its grip.
So now that I am on the homerun for my third soberversary and have clocked up a staggering 1,000 days without a single glass of wine it seems about time to check in again.
Let’s rewind to early 2015. Still very much a “functioning alcoholic” I was (just about) holding it all together. Living in my beloved Cape Town, lovely family, nice home, good friends etc. Trying hard to “make a difference” by volunteering at a business school but something was “off” – something just felt wrong…
I had managed to integrate Sauvignon Blanc into my life to such an extent that the first drink would often be just before midday when it was time for an “apéro” – which would then morph seamlessly into a couple more large glasses with lunch. By the time 5pm came around another cork would pop to see me through the (early) evening.
This was just a quiet day at home, the evening may get a bit blurry and there would be the inevitable 2am wake up call which would find me full of anxiety but there was rarely any alcohol related drama.
If I had succeeded in engineering an evening out then the drinking would step up a notch. In the restaurant I would pay more attention to the waiter (source of more wine) than my friends. I would get irritated with anyone unable to keep up with my enthusiastic drinking pace.
Always the last one to leave any social event I felt like I was “living the life”.
I was, of course, completely fucked but back then it didn’t feel that way.
It felt pretty damn good actually.
Of course were the blackouts, the injuries, the dramas and the horrible depressions – but everyone got those that when they “overdid” it – didn’t they?
Of course I was not an “alcoholic” – those were the homeless guys down by the beach…ag shame.
Of course this was not going to end well…
The end came in the form of a “rock bottom”
And I am truly grateful for that “rock bottom”
“Rock Bottom” took place during a weekend away with some lovely friends – friends who all liked “a drink” but I was the only one who had a “walking, talking blackout” with absolutely no recall of an entire afternoon – even though allegedly I had been functioning in a relatively “normal” way.
After that weekend I just knew I was “done”.
What the actual fuck was wrong with me?
I was so privileged, so blessed in my life – what possible excuse did I have for drinking myself to death.
After all a blackout doesn’t mean you’ve “forgotten” what happened – it just means that the brain is so soaked in alcohol that it cannot make any memories in the first place!
Did I really want to be messing with my brain like this?
I don’t think so.
So I did it – I ditched the drink!
My greatest achievement in life – what a ride it has been!
Year one was tough, very tough. Convinced I was in for a life of deprivation – the fun times were over and now I would be leading a quiet and dutiful life. (yawn)
The benefits came in as promised – yes I lost weight, slept better, my skin looked great, eyes were clearer – I saved money – and yes I even learned to love mornings.
In spite of all that good stuff, life felt just a little “flat” – now that I wasn’t planning my drinking, doing my drinking or getting over it I seemed to have a lot of time on my hands – time I wasn’t quite sure what to do with.
I felt like I was facing a bit of a “void” and got rather depressed – no doubt my body was so used to letting alcohol make me feel good that it had forgotten how to produce the dopamine which would give me some “natural highs”..
True there were no massive “lows” or 3am despair fests – but there weren’t any highs either.
Everybody was so “proud of me” that I would never have admitted my moments of doubt – my moments of wondering if I had done the right thing – what if I had “lost more than I had gained” here?
I hung in there, mainly because I couldn’t work out what else to do – just as I had been “trapped” in my drinking I now seemed to have painted myself into a corner and “trapped” myself in sobriety…
Things slowly got better. The mists began to clear and I could sense a whole new life on the horizon. I got “glimpses” of how my life was meant to be…
One day I realised that the little knot of anxiety that had resided in my stomach for decades had moved out…giving me courage to try new things, to meet new people, to start a new business.
Year two was about getting out there and “doing the work” – developing “sober skills” as I began to navigate our alcohol drenched society.
No longer fazed by parties I learned the art of listening to other people rather than hiding in a corner clutching my AF drink and feeling awkward.
I could feel my courage and confidence growing, day-by-day.
I realised that many people were rather intrigued by us non-drinkers so I began to have fun coming up with increasingly bizarre reasons why I didn’t drink.
I realised that there would always be a tricky moment when the wine arrived in a restaurant but I also realised that the moment took about 30 seconds to pass – and then I could just relax and enjoy the meal and the conversation.
I had spent so many years using booze to “take the edge off” that I had made myself numb. Just as a dental injection gradually wears off I could feel my mental numbness dissipate as the synapses started firing again.
Best of all I kept having ideas and wondered if it was “normal” to keep emailing myself with yet another bright idea?
Then it came to me.
My brain was no longer anaesthetised and my creativity was returning – big time!
This was exciting stuff.
Here I am just a few months away from my third Soberversary and I feel like a completely different person.
My self-esteem is back as I no longer have to agonize about my lack of “willpower” as yet another attempt at “moderation” comes crashing down.
I now realise that giving up drinking is a hundred times easier than trying to “moderate” and truly regret that my “fear” of living in a world without wine held me back for so many years!
I now realise that all those years hopping on and off the wagon meant that my subconscious mind was registering that sobriety was miserable and difficult.
I now realise that all those years hopping on and off the wagon meant that I never actually broke through to the “other side” – to experience the joys of an alcohol free life!
When I spot the title of a new book “The Unexpected Joy of Being Sober” I have to smile – that more or less sums up how I feel these days…
I used to daydream about “retirement”. I knew I would live in a hot country and was pretty sure my life would involve a fair amount of sitting down in a garden with a large glass of wine in order to “wind down” and “chill out” as a reward for a lifetime of hard work.
Well how wrong I was.
Rather than “winding down” I feel as if I have embarked on some kind of spiritual journey as I find my purpose and work harder than ever before!
They say the opposite of addiction is connection..
I have a deeper connection with my husband and son.
WorldWithoutWine.com has connected me with sobriety advocates from all over the world.
It has connected me with people coming through our workshops and signing up for recovery coaching.
This work is incredibly rewarding.
After all as #sobersister and author Clare Pooley says in a recent blog “ex-drinkers rock”
Well yes Claire – actually we do 😉