As I near 1 full year of not drinking I am starting to think about how I will celebrate the huge milestone. Traditionally, I am the one people rely on to plan big celebrations, to acknowledge milestones that are benchmarks in our life’s journey.
I have considered a few options: a tattoo, a drastic new hairstyle, a piece of jewelry. I have committed to having big conversations with my daughters and to have a big ‘reveal’ on social media by telling my story.
And as I sit here, 22 days from 12 months; one whole year, I’m not so sure about any of it to be honest. One year is such a far away place from Day One, and yet. And yet, in many ways, I still feel vulnerable and tender. I feel unsure of how any of it will be received. I am unsure about how much to tell people, and why I would consider sharing it at all. Do people really care that I gave up wine? Why on earth would they? From what I have learned the last year, as long as I don’t make people take a hard look at themselves, they are happy that I am doing what ever I want for myself (enter patronizing head pat here).
Some days I want to literally scream it from the rooftops about how freeing giving up booze is. How much clearer the mind is, how much richer love and joy feel. How amazing it is to look forward to going to bed every night, and to feel the cathartic feeling of falling asleep within ten minutes of hitting the pillow. How it feels to be authentic; not to worry about the physical effects of wine happening inside your body. How it feels to live through the passing of a friend and to sit in every moment of the pain of loss, that enables you to also sit in the deep joy of the memory; it is a gift in so many unspeakable ways.
I was telling my dearest friend and confidante that I have learned so much about myself this last year..... It's kind of like being in a new relationship and I can't wait to get to know her more. Everything has become secondary.... my kids, my husband.... but not in a bad way. Just in a way that working on my spirit first is creating a better me to bring to the rest of them.
The thing is - by all accounts I didn’t have a drinking ‘problem’. I have a close loving family, a husband who adores me, a terrific job where I am valued. I have lots of friends who enjoy going out for wine nights and life-long girlfriends that I cherish. I enjoy working out, I love to perform; my friends are always so proud that I am such a risk taker. I am an oldest child, high achiever, extrovert extraordinaire and I have it all going for me. I didn’t ever day-drink (really). I haven’t thrown up from drinking in as far as I can remember. I only drank Baileys and coffee at Christmas. I never took beverages to the beach in Maui. And yet.
Over the last year I have learned there is a whole new abstinent culture out there: An entire subgroup of people, young and old who define themselves as having a ‘high-bottom’ (as opposed to rock bottom). Literally millions of people who have given up drinking not because they had to, but because they wanted to. People who have changed the way they view alcohol in their lives and took control over how much they drank. These people have realized they can drink as much as they want, and they basically don’t want any. Grey area drinking, sober-curious, alcohol free - new words for a new age. People who simply acknowledged alcohol for what it really is: A flavoured poison that is a depressant and an anesthetic. People who simply realized this substance was taking away more than it was giving and so have decided to remove it from their lives. And I have joined this group of millions.
Most of the ‘high-bottom’ drinkers reject the label ‘alcoholic’. People that give up carbs aren’t ‘carbaholics’. People that give up smoking aren’t ‘tobacaholics’. There is a movement of non-drinkers who take responsibility for their choice to not consume an addictive poisonous drug and simply recognize it for what it is. The disease model for many takes away the empowerment of knowing they have control of taking the first drink. And they have the choice of stopping. The more frequently someone consumes a drug, the more the chemicals in the brain are altered and the habit of drinking becomes more of a need than a choice. It’s as simple as that.
I have read literally dozens of books over the last year. Many were memoirs of people I couldn’t relate to: Blackouts, lost jobs, lost families, serious health complications. Then there were the others that really got me started on this journey: Books about the physical, mental and emotional effects of alcohol. Books that talked about the chemical reactions that take place when we drink. Books about the marketing of alcohol to young mothers, with intentional campaigns directed solely to have them think they need alcohol to parent better. So utterly fascinating, and yes, enough to really make me take a look at my own habit.
I suppose I am risking judgement by putting all this out here. My intent is not to boast, finger wag or lecture. I’ll be completely honest; I’m not sure I’ve given up wine forever. I think it would be nice to toast at my daughter’s wedding, or sit on a patio on a hot summer day with a nice crisp, sweaty glass of Kim Crawford. At this point, I recognize that I don’t think I’ve ever had just one glass of wine, and any wedding is years and years away. I have time to think about that I guess. But in the meantime, I will continue on this journey of self-discovery and renewed health and mental clarity.