Given the festivity pictured, you would think that that was my last drink. It was not. It was actually the fourth to last but the events that occurred the night of 12/18/21 certainly propelled my decision to quit.
I love a good theme and this Christmas explosion of a bar was a perfect backdrop to don our merriest apparel in celebration of hubby’s birthday. Once the drinking buddies arrived, our drunken antics began. The menu included an array of Xmas-crafted cocktails at $15 a pop. Not kidding. $15. Each. And when you’ve got an open tab plus “friends” who take advantage of said open tab plus you’re at this freaking place for 8 hours straight, that tab adds up. And add up this night it certainly did- in more ways than one…
I do not recall the end of the evening nor getting home nor changing my clothes nor getting in bed that
night morning. Upon waking the next day later that morning with- you guessed it- a hangover from the depths of jingle bell hell, I asked my husband, “What happened???” And he filled me in on details that, to this day, I do not recall. I drank my way through the entire menu as evidenced by all the Christmasy barware found in my purse. (Yes, those items were available for purchase but Drinking Laura preferred the 5 Finger Discount as she thought she was being oh so clepto clever- truly sorry about that, Xmas Bar That Will Not Be Named. Thanks for the cute cups, though.)
Once everyone had arrived, the drinks started coming fast, and the friction began. One person was being rude to another person so let’s avoid and drink to that. Then one person said something that pissed everyone off so let’s ignore and drink more. Then another person acted like a total jerk so let’s avoid confrontation and runaway to the bar for another round. On and on through the evening.
Somehow I managed to order pizza for everyone but one friend didn’t want pizza (more friction) so ordered a huge feast from a restaurant nearby- thank you DoorDash and thank you hungry friend! As soon as everyone got some food in their bellies, you would think we would calm down a bit but apparently- again, I recall none of this- one friend attempted to take more of their fair share of the food (that they didn’t pay for), another friend (the one who did pay) called that person out and a heated argument ensued. Back comes the tension, so back to the bar for more drinks we go.
If you drink, you know this moment- that day after text from a friend, “You were crazy last night!” and you have zero knowledge of what she is referring to. “What did I do???” As the story goes, once I signed my bar tab and retrieved my credit card, I began screaming at the bartender, making a fool of myself in an at capacity bar, yelling that he still had my credit card and was trying to steal from me so much so that security was escorting me out at same moment hubby was exiting for our Uber so he had no idea this occurred either. Blacked out and yelling at hard working strangers. Fabulous.
And then, my behavior in the Uber… well, let’s just say ’twas not a silent night. The anger remained, the yelling continued, and I resumed drinking when we got home. Not fun for my family, certainly not fun for the unsuspecting Uber driver.
Cleaning out my Christmas, now craft cocktail stained, present purse I find the bar receipt- my jaw hit the floor. I spent a small fortune for overpriced drinks I barely liked and for an evening where I acted a mess and barely remember. Not to mention the way my friends had behaved- was this really what we consider “fun”?
I felt ashamed, embarrassed, disappointed, sad, and angry at myself for such careless conduct. Between wasting all that money on ridiculous drinks and wasting all that time with ridiculous people, it all fell on me in that moment, staring at this receipt, the inescapable truth I had been ignoring for decades. What was once a whisper finally turned into a scream: something HAS to change. I HAVE to change. My life IS GOING to change.
Through Christmas Eve, Christmas Day, New Year’s Eve last year I continued drinking. I couldn’t see myself getting through the holidays without alcohol. Then, as a new year treat, I planned a little getaway for hubby and I to wine country. We day drank in our typical, over-indulgent fashion. I didn’t tell hubby that I had already made the decision that this was it and, even in yet another tipsy stupor, I was not swayed. This was truly it, the farewell tour, if you will- I was done with alcohol.
The next day, I emailed all the wineries where I was a member (this is a copy/paste of the actual email I sent), “I am writing to sincerely request an early cancelation of my membership. I recently made the decision to stop drinking alcohol in order to live the rest of my life in the most healthy way I can. I love wine and your winery and hate that this is my new lifestyle. I am deeply sorry. I understand your decision either way, I just had to try.”
I can’t believe I apologized! For what, exactly??? For changing my life for the better? For saving thousands of dollars and millions of calories? For no longer buying into the romanticized, privileged lifestyle they’re tying to sell? For absolutely loving this new, alcohol-free me? I AM NOT SORRY EVEN ONE IOTA! If I wrote that email today, it would be a little something like, “Hi, I ask that you please allow me to cancel my subscription. I understand your decision either way. Thank you.”
That’s it. I owe no one an explanation of what I do or don’t chose to consume and I don’t need outside validation for my decision not to drink- it is the best choice I have ever made and I only wish I had this knowledge sooner. Each winery responded very kindly and all allowed me to cancel my membership, a few even responded, “That’s such a brave decision, I wish I could quit drinking too. Much luck to you.”
Later that morning, I attended a beach yoga class with a good friend, RB. We planned a picnic after but, in my hungover state, it was a miracle I made it there at all and had completely flaked on bringing any snacks- RB, because she is awesome like that, brought enough to share including a few canned cocktails. Still new to this decision and feeling too embarrassed to say the words out loud that I quit drinking, I told myself, “Okay, this is truly it.” Cracked open a can-o-margarita, said cheers, and gulped it down.
Stumbling back to the car a little later, I had RB take the above photo- I haven’t had a drink since that day, and I don’t miss it one bit. As I write this, I am 320 days sober.
When I told RB several months later that she was the person I had my last drink with, she said, “What an honor!” which I found strange at the time. Since then, I’ve figured it out. That Last Drink was significant in that my life completely changed that day. I see it now as taking a big leap of faith, I believed in myself and chose the harder path, because of that, I’ve learned so much these now nearly 11 months without alcohol, my values have shifted and my priorities have completely changed- all for the better.
I read once that getting sober does not change your life, it gives you the opportunity to start doing the work to change your life. Very true. Removing the crutch that was drinking forced me to see everything as it truly is, there is no more running away when you’re sober. You’re only running towards. Towards the truth, towards the feelings, towards yourself, towards happiness. This series of events may not seem like that cliched “rock bottom” but that wasn’t my path. My path was a revealing night out that I never want to relive and being sober gives me the strength to choose otherwise.
And this holiday season, I choose for myself the same the gifts I wish for you: family, health, joy, and comfort. Quitting drinking is not easy, I still have some moments where I want to drown out life with red wine but I am standing by this promise to ride the waves of life, love myself, and do the work it takes to heal; I am becoming a better person for it. The more the compassion for myself grows, the more it grows in those around me as well. I love this new life and am beyond grateful I made the choice to change.
We all have this within, this capacity to change and to choose the path that leads to awareness, understanding, and gratefulness. Yes, the choice is within you, too- which path will you choose?
“I believe this: We have only today; yesterday’s gone and tomorrow is uncertain. That’s why they call it the present. And sobriety is a gift… for those who are willing to receive it.” -Ace Frehley