When I tell people I don’t drink anymore, the first reaction they have is, “what happened to make you quit?” It’s a loaded question. I usually respond with, “nothing happened, I wasn’t comfortable with my drinking patterns.” When most people hear that I didn’t have a destructive, crash and burn rock bottom, then the response is, “oh, well you weren’t that bad!” My issue with this response is, why does something bad have to happen in order to quit drinking? My issues with binge drinking were mostly internal with a few external consequences. Drinking triggered anxiety and depression. The cycle was vicious. I would drink heavily, making my anxiety sky high then I would drink to numb the anxiety. I drank to self medicate and to stop feeling depressed. Isn’t participating in internal toxic behavior enough to decide to remove the problem from my life?
I was hesitant for a long time to decide to remove the booze because of what people would say and how they would react. We live in a world where drinking is saturated everywhere. Making a decision to quit drinking was going to go against the grain of the world around me. Pretty terrifying! I bet I am not the only person who binge drinks and feels uncomfortable with it, yet is afraid to let go of the booze because people will look at them differently. Alcohol is the only drug you have to justify NOT doing and the stigma around not being able to handle your liquor is real.
But alcohol abuse is not black and white. I was guilty of looking at alcoholism at its most severe; multiple DUI’s, alcohol related accidents, losing your earthly belongings, losing your family, or dying. I now understand a bottom doesn’t have to mean you hit the rocks to quit drinking. To be honest, my “bottom” was anti climatic. I think I had a million bottoms before I finally quit drinking. I woke up almost every Sunday vowing to myself this will be the last time I binge drink, only to drink again by Wednesday. I spent two years of my life debating on if I had a problem with my drinking. Almost every time I contemplated putting the bottle down, I thought about the picture society painted of an alcoholic and I didn’t fit that mold.
As I settled into my 30’s and began laying down the foundation for our family dynamic, it became evident that alcohol was not positively contributing. Growing up with many alcoholics and addicts within my family, I vowed to never have the same kind of environment for my daughter; however, I was headed down the same toxic path. Looking back on the last year of my drinking, I can see clearly what instances led me to quit like thumb tacks on a road map. The time where I was hungover in the parking lot talking to my husband on the phone crying because my anxiety was so high from bingeing the night before, the time when I partied too hard the night before I went wedding dress shopping and couldn’t fully enjoy the moment because I was fighting nausea and a headache, the many Sundays spent being unproductive and self-loathing.
Alcohol stopped being light and fun and I became afraid of what the future would look like if I kept drinking the way I did. The physical pitfalls were happening as well. My kidneys would ache after a hard night of drinking. My skin was blotchy and inflamed. I gained weight. The rings under my eyes were dark. Fine lines and wrinkles seemed to appear faster than they should. I knew it was all because of not taking care of myself and drinking too much.
The blows to my spirit were what ultimately led to my decision to quit. I felt completely detached from who I knew I was supposed to be. At the height of my drinking, I was so unhappy and miserable. I released toxic energy every day to anyone who would listen. Without realizing, I adopted the victim mentality. I was in a cycle of poisonous thoughts and poisonous drinking. When I decided to quit, the decision was more about taking my power back and creating a life I was proud of living. It just clicked in me that I needed to stop looking around for the answer that was in me all along. I stopped overthinking about the social situations I would participate in without a drink in my hand. The reactions from friends and family didn’t matter anymore. What mattered was finding the woman who I knew I could be.
These last 9 months have felt like coming back home. If someone was outside looking into my life, nothing looks different. I have the same job, the same home, same family and friends. The biggest shift in life is what has happened within. My anxiety is minimal now and if the feeling of unease creeps in, I am able to articulate how I am feeling, honor those feelings and release it. My skin looks healthy again. I am able to be more present with my family. We have more money to have experiences like taking our daughter to the children’s theater and going on family dates. The connections with the people around me are much stronger because I’ve become better at managing my own emotions which allows me to openly communicate my authentic self.