Day 0: Living Sober
(Tonic and lime: my new replacement drink)
You may not like this post. That’s OK. You also may not understand this post and that’s OK too. It’s more for me than you, but if it also speaks to you, I’m glad. That means I’m not alone and neither are you.
Maybe you think this is too personal and I shouldn’t be laying my sober journey all out there for the world to see. You might even be embarrassed for me. That’s hogwash. I’m not embarrassed. This is real life and if I want to put my guts in black and white, it’s my life to spill. You don’t have to read it. It’s OK.
Warning. I might use ugly words here.
By the way, I don’t use “foul language” or cursing or “dirty words” in any other part of my blog or in my daily life actually. But this particular issue is dirty, messy, ugly, and HARD. So sometimes it needs more graphic language.
I apologize if that’s offensive. I really do, because it’s not my normal M.O. I realize that. If you can’t handle it… again… just move on. There are lots of other beautifully written, lovely words on this website and you can pretend that that makes up all of me and none of this messy stuff exists. It’s OK.
Today is the day. The last day. I’ve been thinking about it all day. I will have a “last drink” tonight. Maybe two. I’m looking forward to it and yet not. Because I’m SO ready to quit. I’ve been psyching myself up for it for a couple days now. Reading Tired of Thinking About Drinking. Getting ready so I’m prepared.
It’ll be hard, I know, because I’ve tried many times before. But I refuse to let this control my life anymore. I’ve gone 120 days before, years ago, and then could not keep counting. Living my life in numbers.
So I’ve got to come up with a new plan to keep me going this time. New tricks and treats to help me stay motivated.
My First “Trick”
This is one of them… writing about it openly and honestly and very publicly. Writing always helps me hash out my thoughts and feelings and place all those thoughts that swirl round and round onto paper to get them out of my head.
Why publicly? Maybe it will help someone else besides me. That’s not my goal but it would be an awesome bonus. But I also need to be accountable to someone… even if it’s to myself and the universe.
Also, I’ve seen our culture take a scary dip into a trend where alcohol is necessary at every single event. Even casual ones. It’s become a given.
When I was growing up, I was part of a culture where alcohol was considered a sin. Literally. Have a drop and go straight to hell. Oddly, that same culture has now embraced alcohol and eased up on the idea that it’s a sin. To the point that it’s now become a given even in this very “traditional” culture. The problem is the pendulum swings. And in this case, the swing is really unhealthy and starting to cause lots of problems for lots of people.
But that’s for you to decide. This is just about me.
You may be a “normal drinker”
You may be a “normal drinker.” What does that mean? That means that you have a glass of wine during a girls’ night out. Maybe on your anniversary with the spouse. Maybe a couple more than normal on vacation. You might have a really hard day at work or with the kids and think, “Man I’d really like a glass of red right now!” But you wouldn’t actually take the time to go get some and you wouldn’t have any randomly in the house.
Not Normal Drinkers
The other people? The non-normal drinkers? We’re different. We struggle to not have alcohol every single night. And if we’re not having it, we’re thinking about it. We may not be labeled “alcoholic”. We’re completely functional. Not drinking at work or anything like that. But we sit around and wonder when it’s too early to have our first drink. We wonder how much is left in the bottle after a couple of drinks and who’s going to get the last glass. We take sips from the spouse’s glass when they’re not looking.
That’s not normal. It’s consuming and exhausting. Not to mention very unhealthy.
I haven’t had a good night’s rest in years. Literally years. And I’m a light sleeper to begin with.
I’m tired of feeling guilty in front of my kids, and when I hear them talk about alcohol nonchalantly, I freak out inside. I want them to have a healthy relationship with alcohol… whatever that means! But that’s not what I’m teaching them at the moment.
So, I’m going to do Belle’s 100-day sober challenge.
Once Upon a Time… I Quit Drinking. Then I Started Again.
I had the privilege of helping edit Tired of Thinking About Drinking back in 2015 or 2016 before it was published. To say it was a godsend would not be an exaggeration.
I’d been looking for a reason and a solution to quit drinking for a long time. Things had gotten so bad that I’d start eyeing the bottle of wine on the counter at 10am, wondering when it would be too early to dive in.
The bottle started talking to me. Literally. And I knew something had to change.
It’s creepy when inanimate objects start talking to you.
I had tried everything under the moon and was failing miserably. Everyone said I was fine. No one thought I had a problem because they couldn’t see inside my brain.
At the same time, I had been trying to get some editing gigs through Upwork and wasn’t having much success. Cause, you know, you have to edit something to be an editor and for people to trust you to edit their books!
But for some reason, and this is where God comes in, Belle found me and chose me and trusted me to help her with her book. (I’m not the only person who helped her with her book, obviously, but just wanted to make sure that was clear!)
And it changed my life. While I was editing I was reading and devouring her words. It was exactly what I needed at exactly the right time. Because of that book, I was able to quit drinking and kept it up for 120 days. It was hard. It sucked. I hated it.
This is Where I Failed
Unfortunately, I didn’t use all of the tools and tricks and support that she recommends over and over in her book. Being an introvert and a fairly self-confident one, I thought I was just fine on my own. Eventually, I got fed up with counting days. I hate numbers. Words are my jam. So I gave up.
Playing all the mind tricks… “I’ll ease back in. It will be easier now that I know I don’t ‘need’ this to survive. I feel so much better, there’s no way I’d start drinking so much again.”
But as Belle says, the alcohol elevator either goes up or down. And I returned to that slow descent.
Here We Are Again
Fast forward four, five years later (remember I don’t like numbers), and here we are again. In the same exact place wondering when and where my next drink will come from and how much. Sleeping poorly. Disgusted with myself on a daily basis. Numbing my life instead of living it.
Also you should see my gut right now. I’ve never had one before. Now I do. Gross.
There’s No Time Like Today
I’ve had enough now. It’s gonna be hard as hell. We’re moving soon. Stress. We’ll be trying to meet with friends and have dinners and parties before we go. Stress. We’ll be having welcome back get togethers when we return. Stress.
So I could wait till all that’s over. But there will always be something else around the corner that makes it a bad time to start.
This time I’m going to be ready. I’m going to have treats and replacement drinks and support in place. I’m going to visualize what I will drink in social situations and maybe take my own drinks with me so I’m not stuck.
Regardless, today is the day. Today is day zero. And tomorrow is Day 1. I can’t wait actually.
This is for my health, for my children, for my skin, for all the hopes and dreams I want to fulfill but keep numbing myself against. This is for staying awake and enjoying my life, seeing it, paying attention.
If I have to numb my life to survive it, then I need to change my life.
And this is where I’m going to start: with sober.
***Affiliate links used throughout
“if I have to numb my life to survive it, then I have to change my life.” I just found your blog last night. I am you. In my 40’s. My husband Jay and I have been together for 21 years. Been drinking together for just as long. We’re both struggling. Today is day 2. Again. Please keep posting. I’m sitting here crying at breakfast because I feel less alone today. Thank you for sharing your life. I set out to do one year sober 4-5 years ago. I said I was going to write a blog but never did. I lasted 4 months and convinced myself I could handle it. And here I am again. I feel like you are writing my life. Again. Thank you. I get you. I am here for you too.
Julie, thanks so much for sharing and being vulnerable with me. This is a very hard journey. That’s awesome that you went 4 months before. That proves that you can do it. You just have to find the right tools to conquer each day. I have failed miserably on this journey… so many times. Including this one. We are going through a huge international move and the situation hasn’t been easy. Each day is a challenge. So I’ll be honest. I’ve given up for the moment. I do believe you can give up drinking at any time. I went for 9 days even in this extremely stressful season. And I will try again when we get moved and settled. Where I am in a space that I can say no to get togethers so I am not tempted until I feel strong enough. Please keep trying and most of all… don’t beat yourself up! The fact that you want to try is a huge first step! So be proud of yourself for recognizing you want and need change. I don’t know how much you’ve read so far, but I would really highly recommend a book written by Belle Robertson. She has several now. If you’re not much of a reader, then just check out her website. She is such a wealth of encouragement and support. Please keep in touch. You can contact me at email@example.com