I started drinking my freshman year of college, fall of 1992. That word “drinking” means a lot of things to different people but my version was the sober-all-week-party-all-weekend-Sundays-are-for-hangovers kind of binge drinker. No social event went without an alcoholic beverage in hand. As soon as that warm, intoxicated, pain-free blanket of escape was wrapped around me, I only wanted more. One of my most epic drinking days started at 10am with vodka smoothies, followed by mimosas, margaritas, lots of beer and tequila shots, and then of course red wine once the beer ran out. By 3am I attempted puking/sleeping only to get up at 5am to run a half marathon. (Said half marathon had me vomiting at mile 1, 6, and 9, then walking/ crawling/ cursing the final 5K only to grab a glass of champagne once I crossed the finish line. Yeeeeaaaaah.)
Drinking in college, makes sense. Post-college, I continued my weekend partying ways. Stopped drinking when I got pregnant, had both of my children back-to-back and once I stopped breastfeeding my second, I went back to drinking but this time it was different… the Mommy Wine Culture was very real and I jumped right in (as evidenced by my shirt in the above photo). Met a great group of like-minded moms who also loved to party and we took turns hosting “play dates” which amounted to us drinking and chatting while the kids occupied themselves. We insisted on our Moms’ Night Out every month, wherein we would go out to a fancy dinner, indulge in the best-of-the-best, and go dancing all because we sacrifice and work so hard as stay-at-home-moms, we felt we deserved these nights to ourselves even if we blacked out and couldn’t recall any of our “good times” the next day.
So what changed and why did I decide to stop drinking? I am not sure what the exact moment was but something in me just said, “I don’t want to do this anymore.” The older I get, the higher my tolerance builds and the longer it takes to recover- I can drink more and drink longer than nearly everyone I know and finally viewed that as more disturbing than a badge of honor. Watching an episode of SATC, I picked up the same book Miranda did- as did millions of other female SATC fans- and it changed my life. (Ironically, this being the same show that got me hooked on cosmos now also responsible for me giving up all those ridiculous pink drinks!)
Holly Whitaker’s Quit Like a Woman is more than just a book about quitting drinking, it’s part addiction history, part memoir, part feminist rally cry. Her voice is honest and real and turned me into more of an informed consumer than I have ever been, helping me realize that I was playing right into Big Alcohol’s scheme: not only was I a full-fledged participant, but I was even their free marketer and PR rep, blogging and posting all about my Instagram perfect cocktails, swoon worthy trips to wine country, and the alcohol-laden fun social events had by all- it looks so nice on the Internet’s surface but Holly’s words got me seriously thinking about what lies beneath; how I am choosing to, or not to, spend my time and live my life.
I started asking myself, “Why? Why did I even start drinking? What does drinking represent to me? Why do I continue? What am I feeling when I open that first bottle of wine? Why can’t I just moderate?” I didn’t like a lot of the answers to those questions but finally seeing things as they are and realizing the power that alcohol had over me, my choices, and relationships only strengthened my resolve to quit.
Alcohol represented maturity, belonging, and status. I drank when I was happy, sad, angry, stressed. I drank to make friends. I drank to avoid. I drank to feel free. I drank to escape.
But life is beautiful and short and I do not wish to escape it any longer. My reasons behind quitting drinking are sundry but primarily, I want to live this life to the fullest and not lose any more memories to black outs nor time to nursing hangovers. I want to keep the commitments I make to myself, my friends, and my family. I aim to take back control over my life in order to be on this earth as long and as healthily as possible.
These 208 days haven’t been all easy. At first, I couldn’t even be around alcohol I felt so triggered but now I am in a spot where I am completely committed to this decision that it doesn’t bother me even one bit if you are drinking and I am not- that’s your choice, this is mine, and it is alllllll good. That first concert, that first wedding, that first holiday were nerve wracking but I got through and had more fun 100% sober than I’ve ever had drunk. I’ve lost friends along the way, but I’ve strengthened the bonds with those that remain. My kids hated seeing me drunk, now they see me setting an example for positive change instead.
Of course, I still have lot more work to do and a lot more demons to face but I am ready for it all and constantly grateful for the opportunity to be on this earth and share my story. If you are on a similar journey, I would love to hear yours…