On July 18th, 2015 I set out to attend one of my favorite annual events, Pig and Whiskey Festival. Barbecue, Beer and Whiskey and fantastic music make this event a lot of fun. This particular year I had been eagerly anticipating seeing one of my favorite bands of nearly a decade.
The day of the festival I developed a sinus infection. I was not going to let it keep me from a good time. Usually, I’m the last person to reach for anything over the counter. However, I knew that natural remedies took time to provide me relief. I was impatient. I purchased a Day/Night multipack and started consuming as directed. I felt enough relief that I knew I’d make it to see my band.
Before we set out for the festival I looked at both of my partners and said,
“Please don’t let me drink tonight. Don’t buy me drinks tonight. I am on cold medication and it alone really messes me up.”
Within minutes of arriving at the festival, I had a beer in my hands.
That night became a hazy blur. All in all, I consumed 4-5 beers that were in the 7-9% range. I was heavily intoxicated. Sadly that amount of beers was “nothing” for me at the time. I still continued to take my cold medication. Eventually, the combo caused me to black out and have very few memories of that night after seeing the band.
When my husband and I awoke the next morning, he turned over to me and suggested we take a break from drinking. I couldn’t have agreed more.
This wasn’t my first blackout. This wasn’t my first rodeo. It was my second or third in just weeks.
I’ve been struggling with alcohol since it was first seriously introduced into my life around the age of 18. I struggle with moderation and in a weird way, I’m like this with all liquids. I tend to quickly power down tea, coffee, or juice. Alcohol was no different.
Combine my ability to drink mass amounts of liquid with an addictive personality, and you can see that alcohol was an easy drug for me to reach to. It’s everywhere. The grocery store, pharmacy, the zoo, airplanes, limos, party buses, every restaurant, special event and even the home. It is normal to consume alcohol daily, weekly, monthly, yearly. It’s encouraged to be consumed. It’s glorified.
As a society, many of us know and are well aware of addictions. We are almost all addicted. We are addicted to drinking alcohol, coffee, sugar, cigarettes, sex, and even social media. We are addicted to doing things under the influence. No longer is going to a concert, special dinner, or event be enough. Instead, we MUST drink to fully enjoy it.
So here my husband and I laid in bed, talking about why we needed to stop drinking and formulating a plan. We agreed upon a 30-day break from drinking alcohol.
No big deal? As it turns out, it was a really freaking big deal.
Three days into the challenge I noticed physical withdrawal symptoms. Headaches, irritability, cold sweats, and muscle pain. Those 2-3 beers a day had invaded my system more than I’d given them credit for. I knew at this point, 30 days wouldn’t be long enough and added 10 more days to my challenge. I felt like maybe 40 days would give me an opportunity to break the cycle of addiction that existed.
The temptation over the first 10 days was the absolute worse for me. I was constantly surrounded by alcohol and it started to make me question my choices by feeling so alienated.
In the same breath, out of that feeling, it eventually became a mission to experience the things that had once been a reason or excuse to drink, without that influence. I have attended concerts, parties, special events, fancy dinners, a Major League baseball game, even the Renaissance festival. All would have been accompanied with alcohol, and many many many many people who did chose to drink in those situations.
As I write this today, I’m 81 days sober. (Upon actually posting this, I’m almost TWO YEARS alcohol free!!)
My “30 Day Challenge” made me realize I was indeed an alcoholic. My life was ruled by alcohol. Every day I was waking up at least mildly hungover. For years. By 4pm I’d be staring at the clock, anticipating my beer. I’d drink until I felt satisfactorily relaxed.
It was liquid apathy.
My home was a mess. My life lacked so much momentum and motivation. I had no energy.
The first shift I noticed after I stopped drinking was how much energy I had. I required less sleep. I felt more energized. I didn’t feel sluggish and groggy. I had that momentum to do what liquid apathy had taken away. My thought processes became clearer. Even my gifts started to shift and change.
I started to examine how alcohol had affected me throughout the years. Sadly, almost every major poor choice I’d made had been under the influence of alcohol. I lacked judgment and discernment. I hurt so many people I loved because I frankly didn’t care. I was drunk, feeling drunk and not concerned with how my actions would affect my life and the lives of others. Apathy.
I realized how many times I’d gotten behind the wheel of a car too intoxicated and not realizing it until the next day. The risks I took. The lives I hurt. How many people who shared heartfelt connections with me, I had put the wall of apathy between us. Texts and calls never returned because I was ashamed of my behavior.
Something profound happened the longer I have spent without alcohol. I see just how much of a grip this drug has on our society. I sometimes become sad and angry. I can’t tell you how many people...good hearted, loving folks…. who have told me, “good for you! I should try something like that!” and within MINUTES have a drink in their hand. Consumption is mindless. Abstaining takes effort. Living takes effort.
Each week that goes by brings a new layer to this journey. Not every day is easy. Not every day is hard either. Some days I 100% believe that I’m done with alcohol forever. Other days I dream about having a drink. Those days I repeat the mantra and make the decision, "I will not drink today." I take this journey one day at a time. Ultimately, I can’t see myself going back to this drug. I don’t want to go back to it. I don’t want to support something that actively destroys lives and yet is totally encouraged and normal.
So each day I make the choice, “I will not drink today.” I rinse and repeat.
I struggle with the people I love drinking. I struggle with the fact that so few people care about how this drug changes lives and how the multibillion-dollar industry has taken over our society. Some days it feels like no one cares. No one wants to care. Some days I feel alone.
For the few of us “Sober Warriors”. Please don’t give up.
Please keep trying. Keep reaching out. Keep seeking to heal.
Please know you aren’t alone. It may feel like it, but I stand with you.
We are not perfect, and that too is perfect.
If you struggle with alcohol or addiction, consider joining me in a 30, 60, or 90 day + challenge. Prove to yourself that you can break free from your cycle of addiction. During this time you’ll see and feel some tremendous changes in your life. You may even ditch it all together!
This post was originally written in late summer of 2015.
I'll share more over the coming weeks on how quitting drinking financially impacted my family. It's crazy ya'll. You don't have to drink you living away!