Have you ever stopped to think about the moment you started drinking? Can you pinpoint it? I remember when I was a child, my father would call me downstairs to sit with him in our yellow flower wall-papered dining room. He would pour Budweiser into a shot glass and slide it over to me. In front of him, there was always a bottle of Bud and a bottle of whiskey. He would sip the whiskey and chase it with beer. He didn’t call me down to sit with him all the time, only when the yelling the night before was really bad. This was his way of apologizing.
In high school, I didn’t like alcohol. I associated it with my father’s drunken rages and thought anyone who touched the stuff was crazy… sad even. It helped that my high school boyfriend came from a good family, one with two parents who loved each other and expressed that in healthy ways. His father would always call his mom “Dear”, and even when he was just being sarcastic, it still came across as loving. It was much better than the names my dad called my mother.
My boyfriend’s family took me in. I celebrated holidays with them. They included me in family traditions, like his aunt’s annual Easter Egg hunt, which I eventually carried on into traditions with my own nieces and nephews. I still remember playing Balderdash- and winning!- with his parents, siblings, aunts and uncles. Things I never experienced with my own family. Being with them was a reliable comfort that my home life just didn’t provide.
In high school, my boyfriend and I didn’t typically drink. I remember on one occasion, we had wine coolers with friends on New Year’s Eve. The rest of the night I laid on the bathroom floor as the room spun. I swore I’d never do this to myself again. Eventually, we went on to college and began trying to figure out if a life together would work for us. During this time, I drank with my college friends before we’d go out dancing, but drinking didn’t seem to be of much importance. However, I never asked myself why something I swore I’d never do was finding its way into my life. I guess I chalked it up to, “it’s college, everyone does it.”
But then we broke up.
Alcohol slowly started becoming a daily presence in my life. I no longer had a person who I depended on to talk to at the end of each day, so I replaced the comfort of my boyfriend with the comfort of a drink. Alcohol became my new friend. It was my reliable comfort. Alcohol never rejected me.
Over the next 15 years, alcohol started changing the way my brain functioned. Alcohol took up permanent residence in my head, letting me know that he would be there for me at the end of each day, whether that day was good or bad. He’d even be there for me the next morning if I wasn’t feeling so hot from the night before.
Alcohol and my brain fought with each other a lot. My brain would tell him, “she needs to cut back, she’s not being healthy, she’s going to make bad choices,” and alcohol would say, “don’t be silly, she works hard, you only live once, grab a drink and enjoy the ride.”
Except, that “ride” only lasts for the first 15-20 minutes of the first drink. And then it’s all about chasing that feeling that never seems to present itself again. These 15-20 minutes of euphoria is when dopamine is being artificially stimulated in our brain by the alcohol, which is, ethanol; the same chemical we put in our gas tanks. Over time, our brain gets used to this artificial boost of dopamine and the things we used to find joy in like reading, talking with friends and sex, don’t bring us the joy it once did. The only thing that brings us joy anymore is alcohol.
And that’s when I knew I needed to quit.
I listened to Annie Grace’s book, This Naked Mind, on audio about four times. Then I started listening to her podcast. I joined The Alcohol Experiment, where she challenges you to take 30 days off of drinking. She sends you daily emails with loads of information and videos that reaffirm the reality of alcohol. She explains in detail the reality that the alcohol industry spends billions in advertising to make you think that drinking is a good idea.
Really, I just wanted the fight in my head to end. And even more than that, I wanted to decrease the chances that my son will endure that fight in his head some day. That constant loud voice, the one that only apologizes by handing you another drink, it’s draining. It sucks the life out of you, and it causes depression. I don’t want that for my baby. I would do anything to save him from those demons.
So, I quit. And here I am, at Day 149. Day 150 will be tomorrow, on my 36th birthday. What a great present to myself.
When I find that I’m really craving a drink, I listen to Annie Grace’s- This Naked Mind podcast. I was even asked to be a guest on the podcast where I shared my drinking story, which will air at the end of March. To fight the cravings, I also make fun mocktails, crack open a great N/A beer (there are some fantastic ones out there! Bravus Brewing- Oatmeal Stout, Amber Ale, just to name a few!), or I eat a piece of cake the size of my head because what the hell- it’s better than alcohol!
Macklemore has a great quote that always gets me- “they say you die twice, once when they bury you in the grave, and the second time is the last time that somebody mentions your name.”
I want my name remembered for as long as possible, and I want it remembered in fond memories. I don’t think that’s likely to happen if alcohol takes up as much head space as it was. That didn’t leave me much room to concentrate on or make memories with the ones I love.
Good luck to my friends who are on this journey with me or are hoping to be!
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