Oh boy, did I feel a lot of resistance while I was trying to write this post. I was so tempted to hide it away, leave it unsaid, just move on…
But more than that, I wanted to reach out to anyone who might be struggling with the same battles and demons. This is for you, angel-face. You are loved, and you are not alone.
How It All Began
When I discovered, at age 16, that alcohol could magically transform me from shy and introverted to confident and outgoing, I fell in love with the stuff. Never mind that it regularly kicked my ass, made me do and say stupid things, and stole my self-worth. For most of the time (okay, at least half the time), it made me feel glamorous, fun and hilarious. Before I’d even turned 18 I couldn’t imagine a social life without it.
There was just one teensy little problem. My ‘off’ switch doesn’t work. I’ve never felt ill while drinking, or thrown up, so there was never a point in the night that signalled I should stop. Well, besides slurred speech and errors in judgement, of course, but nothing that was awful enough to make me immediately put down the glass. While I was drinking I always felt like I was having the time of my life, so I did what any party girl would do – I kept going. The next morning I always felt like death warmed up but I shrugged it off.
Oh well, what’s the big deal? Everyone in Australia binge drinks. It’s just a bit of fun.
Until, of course, it isn’t.
Really this whole nonsense should’ve stopped in my 20s. In an ideal world I would have woken up on my 30th birthday and thought ‘Wow, that was a blast but I’m so glad I’m mature and sophisticated now. I’m excited to see what comes next, and am so relieved that I can just enjoy a single glass of icy cold Sauvignon Blanc at a dinner party and leave it at that.’
But no. It carried on wayyyy too far into my 30s.
I always drank more than I meant to. That first sip was oh-so seductive. If I was out with friends, it made the night feel more exciting. If I was at home, I loved the way it made my worries just melt away. It felt utterly delicious and I didn’t want it to stop.
Another glass, please! Keep ’em coming!
Deep down I knew it was a problem but, like so many friends I see white-knuckling their way through ‘Dry July’ in my Facebook feed, I was scared to think about what that might mean. There’s no way I could give up booze forever. It would be like every day was a weekday! I’d never have any fun. I’d be forever missing out. No-one would ever invite me anywhere. How would I live?
So I tried the set-number-of-drinks rule. I tried the drinking-water-every-other-drink rule. I tried the only-drinking-on-Fridays rule. And they all worked. For a while.
But every few weeks or so I’d end up drinking that one wine too many and not remember the trip home. And the more I tried to focus on not drinking, the more it happened.
I’d spend the next day in a downward spiral of anxiety, shame, and nausea. I’d argue with my love. I’d feel cranky and frustrated that I couldn’t drink like ‘normal’ people in their 30s. And then I’d sob. Heartbreaking, racking tears of sadness for getting myself stuck in this mess. I was supposed to be a Health Coach! Why couldn’t I control this thing? I felt sick with fear at what it would mean if I had to stop drinking completely.
I was afraid that I’d never have – or be – fun, ever again.
How had it come to this? How had I trapped myself in this ridiculous pattern? I know alcohol is used a social lubricant, but when had it become such a self-esteem crutch for me? How is it I couldn’t even imagine a joy-filled existence without alcohol?
The Breaking Point
One day one of my beautiful clients confided that she drank to make herself feel less lonely, and to my sheer horror I heard myself say “That’s okay.”
I felt sick the second the words left my lips, because I know in my heart that it’s not okay. It’s never okay to use alcohol (or food or drugs) to numb ourselves or avoid what’s really going on in our lives.
I felt disgusted with myself. I owed my clients more than that and most of all, I owed it to myself. In that moment, I vowed to be a better example and sort this shizzle out for once and for all.
Why on earth was I self-sabotaging, anyway? I was this close to living my dream life, with a career I was so passionate about and with the love-of-my-life by my side. Was I really choosing wine over happiness? Vodka over vitality? Tequila over tranquility?
I had a sneaking suspicion that it wasn’t merely coincidence that my best writing sessions of the week just happened to fall on the day furthest from my last drink. All writers drink, don’t they?
I didn’t want something so stupid to hold me back. I didn’t want to feel upset if I didn’t have a drink on Friday nights. I didn’t want to keep falling into the binge drinking trap. I was sick of the anxiety, the shame, and the horrific hangovers slowing me down and keeping me from rocking my passions.
I wanted freedom!
I wanted to feel playful, with confidence that was authentically me, not poured from a bottle. I wanted deeper connections, less anxiety, more space, more love, more potential.
I wanted transformation, dammit!
And so, tears running down my face and hands shaking, I stuck this quote to my vision board, and set out to answer the question: can life be sober and sparkly?
If you don’t change anything, you don’t grow.
If only I’d known what I was about to discover…