Things that I discovered after giving up alcohol
I was always a sociable person and had many friends. From an early age I was often invited to parties and I really enjoyed it. During my teenage years alcohol started to be a part of what I consumed at parties and I enjoyed it, but not overly so. But drink alcohol is what we Swedes do when we want to celebrate. With time I started to think that I needed alcohol to enjoy a party, even though I had always enjoyed parties as a child. My preferred tipple was Champagne and Chardonnay. That was what the beautiful women on TV consumed and I wanted to be the same. It was a part of my personal brand.
I drank alcohol for about 25 years but for some reason I never turned into a glamorous woman like Joan Collins in Dynasty. I turned into a bloated, red-faced, self-pitying person who lost control over her emotions. After my drinking sessions I suffered from guilt and anxiety since I did not remember what I had said or done. It was horrific.
I never lost my job, my marriage, my children or my house due to my drinking, but I lost my self-respect. And I knew that this was not sustainable. There are loads of drunkards in my family so I knew that things could get a lot worse if I did not pick myself up.
Being a professional woman with a high-flying career I did not feel interested in going to AA. Instead I joined an online community, Soberistas, where I could be anonymous. I had a couple of false starts, but when I combined the Soberistas membership with therapy with Sarah something clicked in my head. I am now well into my fifth month alcohol-free and I have not felt so good in years. It also helped that I moved to California where people don’t drink like they do in the UK.
So what have I discovered in my journey? Quite a few things actually and some of them surprising;
– You do not need to drink alcohol to have fun at a party. I have now been sober on many social occasions and I am having just as much fun as I did when I was drinking. The difference is that I now remember everything that happened and I don’t get overemotional and insincere.
– When you are not experiencing the ups and downs of being drunk and hung-over you get much more mental clarity. With mental clarity comes insight in how you want to spend your time. I have come to realize that I don’t want to spend my time in a toxic work environment anymore so I am looking for a role in a company with a strong team spirit and sense of purpose.
- Your patience increases tenfold. I used to try and rush my children at bedtime so I could go downstairs and drink chardonnay. Now, I am enjoying our conversations at bedtime and I feel more close to them than ever.
- Intimacy with your spouse becomes different. Alcohol can sometimes make you look for sexual kicks while you are on your drunken high, but there is no intimacy in that. Just release. Now when I am initiating intercourse with my husband it is much more intimate since it is a genuine connection that is being made.
- I find it easier to handle relatives and difficult situations with calm and presence. Every year there is so much stress surrounding Christmas and who spends it with us. This year I have already had those conversations in October and even though all relatives got upset, I was not half as bothered as I have been previous years.
- I have an easier time to set boundaries and saying no. People pleasing is quite common among women who misuse alcohol. Initially alcohol provides the relief from trying to meet various demands. It is at wine o’clock you anesthetize yourself from everyone else’s demands. Now I have started to say no and consider my own needs. And that does not include wine.
- I don’t procrastinate anymore. I used to think that I was a procrastinator, but it turns out that without alcohol I am not. In fact I am person who gets things done. Who knew? I didn’t because I was so focused on handling my life whilst drinking unhealthily. Since I now don’t drink poison disguised as a treat, I am in a position to be myself and sort things out.
- I am getting my self-respect back. Slowly I am building myself up and showing myself care and consideration. When I was drinking I was always feeling guilty about someone else and never prioritized myself. I felt I did not deserve that, but now I know that I do. I have a right to say no and to take care of my own needs.
In sum I think women today are socialized into thinking that they are responsible for everyone’s emotional needs: family, relatives, colleagues whilst at the same time they have been led to believe that they can have it all. These unrealistic expectations are making women push themselves to hard and if you combine that with alcohol you have set yourself up for a burnout.
I am so glad I stopped drinking alcohol. My life is fuller, more satisfying and I am starting to trust my own judgment again. In this culture you need to be in touch with your inner self and your values. That is not possible with wine in your life as it distorts your inner life. The only thing I regret today is that I did not give up alcohol sooner. What a waste of time wine drinking turned out to be. And while I still don’t look like Joan Collins in Dynasty I am happy to look like me.