COVID changed the world and it changed something in each of us. How we work, what we deem important, how we treat our bodies and reprioritize what “health” means to our families. One personal, mental, and emotional change I have this whole two-year saga to thank is becoming sober. Actually, “sober” isn’t the right word…I identify as a “non-drinker” or living an “alcohol-free” lifestyle. “Sober” implies a journey that doesn’t exactly describe my truth.
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Even though I made the radical choice to give up alcohol cold turkey, I never did rehab, never hit rock bottom, never attended an AA meeting. People think things have to get to a dark place before a lifestyle change of this magnitude is warranted. Now, I’ve certainly had my moments of shame, things that went down while drinking or the aftermath of a night out that haunt me. But I would argue that most of us aren’t picking our kids up from school tipsy, most of us haven’t gotten in any real life-altering trouble while intoxicated, most of us are hyper-functioning moms makin’ it work…not the red-faced, teetering off balance, hiccuping old man, stereotype drunk.
What I’ve come to realize is that our ego pre-programs the prerequisite of a motive when making tough, radical, sacrificial decisions. As if we’re allowed to change only when situations become dire/black & white/life or death. However, the real truth is: no strong justification is required, only your choice to change. It doesn’t need to take a divorce, a DUI or a diagnosis in order to give up something that is no longer serving us. I concluded that I have the freedom to course-correct anytime for any reason — even if it’s habitual, even if it’s hard, even if it’s a ritual so engrained in modern society that people will ask why or even be offended if you’re not participating in it.
Many months into the whole COVID thing, on Dec. 4th, 2020, I decided to quit drinking after years of thinking about it and never taking the plunge. When the world shut down, imbibing went from weekends to, “well, it’s a Tuesday, let’s pour one…because what else is going on tomorrow.” Eventually, the two nights a week of drinking flipped into two nights of taking a break. I knew something needed to change, wanted to break the habit, and I felt like the universe was sending signals, too: I broke my ankle that Thanksgiving and ran into a car while backing out of my own driveway –both incidents occurred completely sober, thankfully– but I felt out of sync with the purpose, direction, and flow of my life. I sensed God was whispering, then tapping me on the shoulder, and finally shaking me by the shoulders to get me to listen. Thanks be to Him that I never had to get knocked down completely in order to receive the message.
Over the next 6 months, I went stretches of a month or two sans alcohol. But Spring Break vacation rolled around, “why shouldn’t I have a frosty cocktail on the beach?” and then date night, “you can’t share a bottle of white with your husband?” and then on my birthday, when we were at a health & wellness resort (of all places!) they sent a complimentary bottle of champagne up to the room. I felt tested but relented, and toasted my 39th year with a flute of champs. Let me tell you: during and after each & every incident of breaking that promise to myself, I regretted it. Alcohol changed my mood, effected my sleep, and made me feel shitty the next morning, both physically and emotionally. That day, I decided to celebrate my next birthday differently, by marking two major milestones: hitting the big 4-0 and having made it one year without alcohol.
264 days in –yes, I keep track with this free app– I am immensely happy in my decision. Now, it’s not a happy feeling in a ‘sunshine & roses’ kind of way…it’s a deep satisfaction in the knowing that I’m doing what I’m meant to be doing. Sober life has some tangible benefits, of course: glowing skin, better sleep, less cellulite, no hangover-induced headaches & nausea, etc. But more importantly, not even one year in, my mental health and spiritual journey has changed in so many positive ways. I’m a more peaceful parent, have a greater meaningful connection with friends, am living in alignment with my values, and leveling up toward my highest self.