Updated: Aug 29, 2021
Hi, I’m Brit. I’m a former grey-area-drinker who recently decided to adopt an alcohol-free lifestyle.
And you’re probably wondering why.
Ultimately, it came down to the realization that after years of trying to force drinking to be a ‘normal’ part of my life, I couldn’t. I came to this conclusion because what I was doing was essentially that – trying to force alcohol to remain a part of my life, even though I had grown to hate it. I realized that alcohol wasn’t benefiting me in the ways that I senselessly believed it had for so many years. Still, I was apprehensive and downright scared to quit.
Since the very beginning of my drinking career, alcohol and I had a love/hate relationship…
I loved how drinking freed me of my shyness and inhibitions. But I hated when I became loud and obnoxious or did something regrettable.
"Alcohol and I had a love/hate relationship."
I loved how it helped me relax after a stressful day and allowed me to forget my worries. But I hated the ‘hangxiety’ and depression that always followed a night of drinking.
I loved looking forward to evenings out with friends. But I hated the anxious mess I’d become before going out. I’d find myself consumed with worry, stress, and fear over potentially over-drinking, embarrassing myself, and dealing with a shit-tastic hangover.
Finally, above all else, I loved what (I believed) alcohol did for my anxiety. As someone who has suffered from a life-long anxiety disorder, I truly allowed myself to believe that alcohol was the only cure. After all, I had tried so many medications, techniques, therapies, exercise regimens, self-help books, diets, supplements – literally everything you can name. And yet, I couldn’t get a handle on it.
If you don’t already know (or haven’t guessed yet), alcohol only worsens our anxiety and depression. So, I found myself trapped in an endless vicious cycle revolved around trying to make myself healthy while quite literally making myself sicker.
I wish I could tell you that I was none-the-wiser. But that’s not true. I knew firsthand how damaging alcohol could be. It’s awful to think back on how much I did to try and ‘balance’ out my drinking. I finally started to ask myself, “Why am I doing this? Like seriously, why the fuck am I doing all of this to keep one thing in my life? What would life be like without it?” I seriously didn’t know.
Do many people know what it’s truly like to not require alcohol…ever? To go through days without even thinking about having a drink, or missing it, or craving it, or needing it? I honestly didn’t, but I was ready to find out.
But I guess what held me back was the fact that it was truly easier to continue to drink. I mean, no one had questioned my drinking or told me it was a problem – at least not to my face. If anything, I felt inclusivity and comradery with others because of drinking. I worried tremendously about being judged for giving up alcohol. And I wasn’t really wrong for thinking that, because it’s actually more socially acceptable to be a drinker than it is to be sober.
In reality, and Saskatchewan especially, so many individuals are suffering in silence. We’ve come through a global pandemic in the past 1.5 years only to find the same drug and alcohol epidemic that we’ve been facing for years has only worsened. But why is nothing changing? Mothers, fathers, grandparents, mentors, teachers, healthcare workers, teenagers, people who you’re convinced ‘have it all figured out’ are silently struggling with addiction. And when faced with thoughts of sobriety, most have no idea where to begin. And what’s worse, many continue to hide for fear of being judged or being outed as an ‘alcoholic’ or ‘addict’.
I want to make a point of saying this right now. Whatever your shortcomings in life may be, whatever vice it is that you struggle with – know this. Your struggles do not define you as a human being. Struggling with addiction doesn’t make you less worthy of a person. It doesn’t mean you’re weak-willed or a screw up. What it does mean is that you’re likely hurting, lonely, and trapped. What it doesn’t mean is that your life must remain this way or that it’s better off this way. Addiction doesn’t have to be a life-long sentence.
"Struggling with addiction doesn't make you less worthy of a person."
Trust me when I say that true happiness is usually found when we surrender to ourselves. In sobriety, I’ve found happiness (and much more). And what remains totally arbitrary is coming to the realization that I spent years assuming my life would be much worse without alcohol in it.
Because in an age hellbent on autonomy and self-preservation, we’ve somehow come full circle. We associate alcohol with power, freedom, independence, fun, feeling ‘sexy’ and in control. In actuality, many of us are drowning trying to maintain some sort of romanticized reality revolved around being the epitome of health, wealth, and happiness – but with a side of booze added to quite literally everything we do.
And who can blame us? We’re surrounded by beautifully packaged, fiercely marketed ethanol. We finish marathons with champagne toasts, we play sports with beer in hand, our workouts are followed by drinks – even many gyms are licensed! Now more than ever before, there’s a never-ending supply of ‘low-cal’, ‘sugar-free’ seltzers, wines, beers, and cocktails to choose from. We, especially women, do everything in our power to be health conscious. We starve ourselves, spend thousands of dollars on gym memberships, supplements, beauty, exercise equipment, etc. But give up our wine or our seltzers?? Well, that’s just crazy talk.
I think everyone can agree that our culture is obsessed with alcohol.
And why? Because we’re stressed? Because ‘Mommy Wine Culture' says it’s okay? Because what’s a celebration without alcohol? What’s date night without wine? How do we have fun or cut loose without a free-flowing supply of booze? What do we pair with our meals? How do we socialize? How do we sleep at night? How do we cope with the full spectrum of human emotion? How do we live without it, and who the hell would want to anyway?
I asked myself this and more for years before deciding to stop drinking. When I finally did, it all became clear.
Alcohol provides us with so much. It truly does seem to fix everything!! It rights every wrong, numbs every pain, drowns every sorrow, masks every insecurity, and makes what would otherwise be dull, torturous experiences fun (or so we assume).
What alcohol can’t fix is all that it breaks. First of all, it’s expensive – not just the booze, but also the poorly thought-out purchases made whilst drinking (Amazon should require a breathalyzer). And then there’s the hangovers (three days long if you’re in the 30 plus club). And again, ‘hangxiety’ or post-booze blues. Not to mention the unintended blackouts, stupid decisions, dangerous situations, and embarrassment so bad that it makes you wish you could hide under a rock for weeks after.
And we can’t go without mentioning the heavy stuff that it destroys too: our health, bodies, friendships, marriages, financial wellbeing, careers, and innocent bystanders like our own children.
The problems it creates paradoxically strips us of our self-worth, confidence, and happiness – the same reasons we sought out booze to begin with.
Trust me, I’ve been there and done that. I’m not, by any means, writing this from my theoretical high horse. I don’t relish in admitting that I’ve done a lot of stupid things as result of drinking. But I do find solace in knowing that there are a lot of others out there just like me – who have also let alcohol reign supreme, and much (if not all) of the time, regretted it.
Figuring out that I wasn’t alone in all of this was one of the first realizations I made when choosing to go alcohol free. By the way, doesn’t that sound way better than, “I’m an alcoholic” or “I suffer from the disease of alcoholism”. That shit sounds dark…and sobriety is just the opposite. “I’ve decided that alcohol doesn’t serve a purpose in my life anymore” sounds much more empowering, and it’s the honest truth. It's unbelievably empowering to not have to drink! Furthermore, it’s a choice that only you can make for yourself. A person doesn’t choose to be an addict/alcoholic any more than someone doesn’t choose to have cancer. No one wants that garbage in their life, but it happens and it sucks. The difference with addiction is that the choice to not suffer is wholly your own – and there’s so much beauty in that.
"It's unbelievably empowering to not have to drink."
So, if this is speaking to you at all, my advice is to first and foremost remove the thought in your mind that tells you you’re somehow unique (i.e. different than everyone else). Because often, it’s our messed-up perspective that absolutely ruins all good things. We begin thinking that we’re the exception to some unspoken rule. That we’ve had it ‘rougher’ than everyone else, that our problems are more substantial, that nobody understands us, or that we ‘deserve alcohol’, or ‘deserve misery’ – it really can go both ways.
I’m here to tell you that if you’re stuck or feeling hopeless right now, recovery is possible.
Maybe you’ve read this far and none of this has resonated with you. Maybe you don’t have a problem and you’re great at moderation. Good for you - I am sincerely happy for you. And I hope that regardless, you’ll keep reading these posts, if for no other reason than to learn more about addiction and recovery. 1 in 8 people suffer with addiction, and you’ve likely been affected by it personally in some shape or form. The more we talk about it, the sooner we can unravel the hold alcohol has on our society.
Finally, maybe something I’ve said so far has reminded you of yourself. Maybe you’ve tried to moderate in the past and failed. Or maybe you’re too scared to try, for fear that you’ll find that you can’t ‘have just one’. Maybe you’re ready to take a break from alcohol but have no idea where to begin. Maybe you’ve rationalized your drinking habits and surround yourself by people that do the same, but underneath it all, you know it’s hurting you. If this is you, please don’t hesitate to reach out when you’re ready. There is no judgment here.