Today marks the anniversary of one year without alcohol. And it feels big. I finally feel comfortable enough in my own sober skin to explain (or not explain, if that’s how I feel on any given day) why I don’t drink anymore. After identifying as a ‘drinker’ for all my adult years, in a culture that celebrates every achievement and commiserates every sorrow with alcohol I have finally built up enough courage to stand outside the “in” circle and be labelled a non-drinker, a tee totaller, a person who does not drink alcohol.
It’s not been easy, and it’s still not easy to be this person.
This non-drinker persona has to deal with her emotions in the raw, without letting wine numb the difficult parts of life. She has had to ‘man-up’ to the reality that while ‘some people’ may be able to have a casual drink, and take it or leave it, she can’t (or she doesn’t want to). She has had to admit to herself that one glass is never going to be enough. She must walk by the tables where people are sitting in the sun with their glass of sauvignon blanc and remember that while she ‘used’ to do that, she doesn’t anymore.
The problem with being AF is that I always perceived non-drinkers as boring. I always thought that if you didn’t drink you must be boring, right? It’s not that you can only have fun when you are drunk, but how often are the stories retold after people have done often silly or outrageous things under the influence. How many times did I think of myself as some big hero for staying up the latest, for being the one to ‘get the party started’, for being the one who could drink the most. Why, did I feel that doing this made me the ‘cool’ one? Actually, I had some pretty fun times under the influence, and while there are definitely occasions I would like to forget, mostly there are some pretty good memories.
At my 6 month soberversary I still envied those that could take it or leave it and I knew that I was still on shaky ground if I was feeling this way. In 2015 when I had been alcohol free 6 months I was sure that I could start drinking again – in moderation. But moderation took me back to often, which took me back to every day, which took me way over healthy limits. I am not a weak person – I believe I am a very determined woman, a woman who doesn’t give up, and yet I could not seem to drink within the ‘healthy guidelines’. To succeed at being alcohol free (AF), I knew I needed to do more than ‘give up’. I needed to learn more about addiction and I needed to embrace being AF.
And I guess this is where learning about yourself comes into play. I have friends and family who enjoy a drink or two and maybe sometimes they have one or two, too many – but there drinking is ‘normal’ and their brains are not functioning like an addict. Unlike me, they are not obsessing over whether or not they are drinking too much, every minute of the day. So, IF you can do this, enjoy your drink, and feel free to have your drink in my company, but drinking is no longer my friend. I don’t want to break up with my friends and family who enjoy a drink, but I needed to break up with alcohol itself. As Caroline Knapp laments in her memoir, Drinking – A Love Story, alcohol seduces you in and can be a difficult relationship to leave.
So, that is where I stand, wine and I have been separated for a year now, but I have realised that I am better off without it in my life, and if I want to stay healthy and look after my wellbeing then this is one change I am willing to make. And it doesn’t make me boring, it just makes me a person that chooses not to drink. And, I’m okay with that.
Cheers Cherie xoxo