One day I just gave it up. For years, I struggled with alcohol use. While not considered a heavy drinker, my use was consistent from my early 20’s until March of 2020. Sunday March 15 was my day 1 on this new path.
It used to be that I would drink, just on the weekends, maybe Friday night and occasionally on Saturday, but by Sunday, I knew that to be sharp for Monday, I needed to abstain. Then I started to dread my job and just didn’t care anymore. I saw people around me treating Friday like a weekly holiday, so Thursday nights became fair drinking territory, because no one else was of much use on those days, so how I showed up wouldn’t matter either. Then in order to get my head right about going to work AND to congratulate myself on another intense long run on Sunday, those nights were in the mix as well.
Drinking came more nights of the week than not n my late 40’s. To relieve stress, to assuage the pernicious loneliness, to ease boredom, to avoid facing the work that really needed to be done. It was hardly to be social, nor to fit in, but more of a way to run away. When I began looking at why I drank, I saw how toxic the habit had become. In fact I drank alone most of the time and set obsessive boundaries on my habit. Never before 5 pm. The words my dad repeated at social family occasions about “the bar opens at 5” playing like an old movie in my head. And just one drink before dinner to help me cook | relax | celebrate | soothe the loneliness | comfort my sadness. Just one drink, but in the about the biggest glass I could find. I knew my Tequila pours were not one ounce, but many and my wine glass held about 3 you’d get served at a bar. But to me, it was still “just one” Because my family drank and my husband drank and it was just accepted and expected to fit in to the norm. Already so picky with food and clothes, hair and exercise, this one thing I could do to fit in.
I lied. To myself and to others about my need for a drink. Owning a yoga studio was an emotional demand that I had not recognized before I opened the doors. I thought the pain I felt in my body was all due to the years of competitive sports and long distance running and that with my age, it would never go away. I couldn’t accept that the aches were due to stress and instead numbed it all away most every night. When I rushed home after teaching, I claimed it was to eat dinner, and yet I knew I’d drift off into a drink before anything else. Masquerading as healthy for so many years, prevented my from showing up as who I really am.
At the time my drinking became more regular, other responsibilities started to fade. I didn’t have to get up early, so I didn’t, sleeping took priority and yet I still awake hazy and tired. It tool me the better part of the day to feel “right” again. Usually in the early afternoon, I’d start craving it and would tell myself that at 5, I could have a drink. I’d do most anything to be home and done with all heavy brain activity by 5.
And then, one day, I wanted to be done with it. I decided to quit once and for all and made it public, telling friends to make me accountable. After about a week, I still craved a drink. After a month, I still craved a drink. I started looking deeper at why I was drinking at all. It wasn’t to drink, but to numb. To soothe and to hide from what was really going on. I started replacing the act of drinking with another activity. Meditation, a walk, a short yoga session. It all helped. What helped the most was talking about it and making my progress known to everyone. Many shunned me and told me not to judge them. Some asked me privately about my journey. I shared more.
What has been the most disturbing to me in my journey is how endemic alcohol is to our society. It’s built in everywhere. I can’t change that, but at least I am aware. I can only change myself and my attitudes and beliefs about myself. It’s hard until it isn’t anymore.