It’s been six months since I’ve had a drink, which (eek!) might be longest I’ve gone without alcohol since my first drink (at age 15, a screwdriver on a high school trip in Madrid, if you must know). This is crazy to think.
Six months ago, when I quit cold turkey, I’d already spent much of 2016 trying not to drink at all. It was a rosé, with my old art director partner one balmy night in July, that set me back (worth it, if you ask me). But after that, I didn’t delve back into drinking much. I’d seen such a change in my life by letting go of this one gripping habit, and moderation didn’t feel like the move. I needed an overhaul. Come November, the haul had begun anew. What better way to start than a Thanksgiving hangover?
A lot has happened as a result of this. All of it good.
Not drinking allowed me to reconcile my life, which I had been casually strolling through, with the version of that life that I had wished for in a more innocent, less complicated past.
I’d wanted to be a financially independent woman: a failed long-term relationship and my parents’ divorce had taught me how important that was. But until I stopped drinking I didn’t have the mental clarity to really scare myself into paying off all my debt, and starting to save money by scaling back and spending only on food and shelter (more on that in future posts). Is sobriety really the reason I’m now debt-free? I think it’s partly just that one good habit begets another.
I’d wanted to be a writer, but the stress of finding and getting paid for freelance work, followed by my pivot into an advertising career four years ago, put that on the back burner. The idea of writing before or after work, which I knew I’d have to do if I wanted to succeed, was absolutely unfathomable to me–until last February, when I stopped drinking. Then suddenly I was waking up at 6am every weekday, no problem, writing stories, or running five miles in the park with my local club. In the past year and three months, I’ve written three short stories and nearly two hundred poems!
I’d wanted to be single for a year so I could focus on things that made me happy: friends, running, writing, travel, and succeeding at work. The goal was to learn how to really enjoy my own company, be secure in myself, and think bigger picture about what I wanted from my life. The lure of drinking and lure of dating were tangled up together, so it actually made it easier to just ditch them both. I almost succeeded at my goal: I stayed single for 11 months! Recently, I began dating someone who doesn’t care for drinking.
I’d wanted to be healthier, after a couple of health scares two years ago. The scares happened at a time when I was drinking several nights a week, and smoking casually too. I achieved this goal too. I have a clean bill of health now. I sleep really well, wake up fully recharged at 6, and stressors like PMS and work affect me less than they used to.
Life moves more slowly. The days are luxurious, and my last remaining vice, espresso, tastes even better now. I get my kicks from other sources, and by and large, they’re the sources I used to draw from as a kid and teenager. The effect is almost that I feel like a kid again. I’m more curious. I have energy. I spend more time outside. I don’t spend hours lying around bingeing on TV. I spend my mornings working on writing fiction, poetry, music, and this blog. I spend my nights watching movies, eating good food, hearing a lecture or music, reading, or sleeping. FOMO is no longer in my vocabulary. I’m the old woman I always wanted to be!
To quantify the past year or so a little more eye-openingly:
# of dollars of credit card debt paid off: $12,681
# of hangovers avoided: ~80 to 150
# of dollars of drinking money saved: ~$2,400 (I was spending around $200 a month on alcohol during “peak drinking”)
# of words written: ~30,000 (not including my journal, which is typically 30,000 words per month)
# of buzzed-about TV series not bingewatched: ∞
# of books read: 39
What’s your experience with saying goodbye to drinking or drugs? Share in the comments!
Image credit: Claire Z