Yes, a full year. Looking back at some of my previous posts I can see how far my attitude has shifted about alcohol and its place in my life. When I first started this challenge I was terrified. I worried that I was heading towards a rock bottom. All the signs were there: I was hiding my drinking from my spouse, my end of the work day routine revolved around going to the liquor store, all my social events were geared around being able to imbibe, and I was dismissing other things in my life (like exercise) in order to get that drink in me. I was the life of the party, people gravitated towards me and invited me out often, I was confident in myself as a social butterfly, BUT! I was also miserable, upset with how I looked, starting to get two day hangovers, and trying to sidestep the massive feelings of guilt and depression I woke up with every single morning.
The first month was very hard, but I got through it one day at a time. I’ve done sober challenges before, but those were always countdowns to when I could go on a bender again. This time there was no firm end in sight, and I had to focus on simply getting through a day without the need to drink. I remember having very vivid dreams at this time, and I was probably going through withdrawal. This was a really good time for reflection, and I realized that I had been drinking hard for fifteen years in a row. It’s a complicated realization, because honestly without the alcohol I would not be who I am today. It gave me the confidence I needed to meet new people, to realize that I can be funny and interesting. So I don’t regret my past ways, and am actually grateful for them in some sense, but recognize that I am moving on to a new phase.
The benefits have been huge: my health goals are easier to reach (I am way slimmer and more muscular now), I feel fantastic, my face is not constantly puffy, I wake up with a clear head, my finances look very healthy, and I am more emotionally aware than ever before. I think a lot of my true feelings were buried under the haze of alcohol, but without it I can now work on addressing underlying issues rather than hiding from them. A really big part of this journey has been to find out who I am socially without such a social crutch. Turns out I am just as funny, just as much the life of the party. The only difference now is that I tend to want to go to bed earlier, but in general I’ve noticed I still get caught up with the energy of the group and I am very comfortable being there sober. I’ve also found out that my friends are all wonderful people who don’t give a shit whether I drink with them or not, which was a huge relief. When so many friendships were founded on going to the pub to bond it is terrifying to take that away from yourself, but I’ve found that my friendships are genuine.
At the start of last year I had the idea that maybe after a year I could go back to drinking. Now that I’m here, I’m not sure. I have no plans right now to start back up again, and while I never want to rule something out, I can’t see any benefit to drinking at this stage in my life. My goals have shifted and alcohol really doesn’t have a place in them. I guess it will continue to be a day by day process, but now I know that alcohol does not control me and I have no need for it. That is a really beautiful feeling.