As I just hit four months of sobriety, I realized that I haven’t done a check-in lately on what life without alcohol is currently like. Over the span of four months, I’ve had a vacation, outings with drinking friends, entertaining in my home, I attended a wedding and experienced my annual company meeting/party, all while remaining alcohol-free. Moments have sometimes been overwhelming, enlightening, freeing, stressful or a combination of all of those, but I wouldn’t change a thing. Here’s a little look at where things are today.
The days and hours have grown so much easier than they were in the early weeks of sobriety, easier than even just one month ago. The obsession over alcohol that I never thought I would escape has visibly loosened its grip. I no longer come home after a long day of work and worry about how I’m going to avoid drinking. It’s not even a thought in my head, which catches me by surprise when I stop to consider this while in the midst of more productive tasks. The relief of no longer having the immediate inclination to reach for the bottle is as soothing as aloe on a fresh sunburn. Then there is the physical piece, which has me feeling so much better. While replacing the wine with sugar is still playing a small role, I’m finally trying to take that down a notch (disregard the half-gallon of mint chocolate chip I just put in the freezer). In general, I pay more attention to what I’m putting into my body now. Morning smoothies and long walks have become my new obsession.
I was constantly living in a state of threat level orange.
Besides my diminishing drive for the drink, the number of times I notice people talking about alcohol has also lessened. While I wouldn’t say the amount has actually changed, it seems that the way that I process hearing about it has altered. Every excruciating moment that the topic would come up during the first couple of months left me cringing. Even though I much preferred having a discussion about my sobriety as opposed to dancing around it, it was my awareness of the subject that was on high alert, particularly before I came out in the open with my new lifestyle choice. Until that day, I was constantly living in a state of threat level orange. Now when the topic comes up I don’t pay it much attention; if the discussion carries, if warranted, I simply say “I don’t drink.” The surprised looks and stammering at that response haven’t changed much. People don’t usually ask about the reason, but sometimes they do and I’m happy to tell them. The awkwardness of that conversation has toned down as I’ve grown more comfortable with my story.
Now that the obsession has calmed, I’ve never been busier. I’m not talking about day-job busy, although there will always be that piece to balance, this is about all things related to creativity, sobriety and self-care. My head is clearer and with that, time seems to have expanded exponentially, as have my interests. Well, many of the interests were always there, I just didn’t have the drive to follow through with them. I blame that on the alcohol numb-out. It’s the gift that keeps on giving until you shut it down. These days, I’ve developed a bit of what I refer to as shiny object syndrome. It’s as though my brain has expanded and is absorbing all the things that alcohol didn’t allow the capacity for previously. With that, it can be a challenge to maintain focus, but at least it’s no longer a result of being in a booze-laden fog. What I have learned very recently is that I must slow down and set small goals for myself at the beginning of each week. If I don’t do this, I would have my hands in a thousand things without making much progress and with very little sleep. Both are essential for working towards what I consider my greater purpose.
It’s time to stop living like I’m always just standing on the edge looking in at what my life could be.
The bottom line is that what stopping drinking has opened for me is like an awakening. It’s part of a tremendous transition in my life. I had a major shift and completely changed my life when I was 30, and here in my early (almost mid) 40s I’ve been experiencing what Brené Brown refers to as the mid-life unraveling. It’s powerful. My creativity is coming alive, I’m exploring spirituality, expanding my knowledge at every turn, building a tribe and I’m slowly taking off the armor that I’ve been wrapped in for my entire life. It eventually grows tiring to live life the way you think others expect of you. For me, I didn’t recognize that this was what I’d been doing until these recent months. There are parts of me that have always existed but that I was afraid to explore or let shine because of what I thought others might think. It’s hard to be vulnerable, but it’s time to stop living like I’m always just standing on the edge looking in at what my life could be. My husband tells me I’ve gone crunchy granola, I say I’ve gone a little woo-woo, but I love every minute of it.
This light has always existed inside of me, but it never had the chance to shine until I took away the one thing that was dimming it. On the day that I quit, I told myself that alcohol was doing me a disservice, I had no idea at the time just how accurate that was.