I vividly remember tears dropping down my cheeks as I had a conversation with my coach in the summer of 2018. I was feeling something so profoundly painful, and it had taken months to put words to it. Finally, the clarity had come.
“I feel so disconnected,” I said. “I feel like I’m living in this thick fog. I have a hard time connecting to myself. I have a hard time connecting to my intuition or highest self. I know the things that create the fog is also what disconnect me from my loved ones, from nature, and from (for lack of a better word) God.”
“What things create the fog?” she softly prompted. “Do you know?”
In fact, on some level, I’d known for years. There were a few things on the list, but the big one was alcohol.
In my late twenties in Denver, I was doing improv acting during my free time. After the shows, I’d hit up a bar with the other actors. One of my friends, an older gentleman who literally lit up any room he was in, would always order a Diet Coke while the rest of us imbibed. One night, he told me that he had hit a certain year in his life (I believe it was in his early 40s, where he just knew that his life would be better without alcohol. It was no longer something that brought more good than bad into his life. So, he stopped. He had spent decades sober.
At the time, I marveled at his will power. I wondered how he could be around it all the time and not be tempted. I probably even felt a little sad that he wasn’t part of the “party”. But, more than anything, I looked up to him. He knew his truth, and he was living it. In an environment that was oozing booze, he abstained…and he radiated. He was deeply comfortable with himself, and so genuinely interested in each person he came into contact with. He was a person I wanted to become.
That night, a seed was planted. That seed whispered to me for the next decade. There will come a time when your best life will be a sober one.
I knew that time was coming, but that didn’t stop me from including beer or wine or tequila multiple times a week for years to come.
By the summer I was in tears with my coach, despairing the fog that enveloped me, my relationship with alcohol had gotten more complicated. It held such a strong allure. It was seamlessly interwoven with all celebratory events. And all bad/sad/mad events. And all tedious events. It always signaled “time to connect and enjoy” at social events and “time to unwind” at the end of many days. Reaching for a drink had gone into autopilot.
That summer, I named the primary culprit for my pain. And, yet, I didn’t do anything about it. I wasn’t sure how to go about giving up this part of my life. How to suddenly let go of a substance that had been at almost every hard and beautiful moment of my adult life.
So, I sat with the knowledge. I observed myself and my behaviors. I tried to be kind to myself. And I trusted that even if I didn’t see change externally, I was in process.
In early November, 2018, I was in Austin, Texas for a coaching conference. I was sharing a room with Savanna, a woman I’d come to know and love through our many video chats and phone calls. She was radiant. Brilliant. Deeply empathic. Incredibly health conscious. I was intimidated. And completely affirmed in why I had grown to care so much for her.
She was my right person/right time.
You see, I’d been journaling, contemplating, observing, and meditating/inquiring around my alcohol conundrum. I was still in the pain of disconnection. I had been asking for help. For direction. For a path forward.
Savanna told me her story, explaining why she chose to be alcohol-free (AF). She was so passionate that I couldn’t not listen. Then, she gave me a book that changed my life. [This Naked Mind by Annie Grace] I read it all the way back to Colorado.
And the switch flipped. Effortlessly. I went from desiring a drink almost every day, to truly wanting no drink at all. It was the right resource from the right person at the right time.
Since then, I’ve researched, read, and listened to everything I can get my hands on about alcohol, especially content that addresses the relationship and journey in the “grey zone”, meaning not black or white (alcoholic or not). There’s more content than ever for people who don’t identify as alcoholics, who’ve never hit a rock bottom, but are questioning their relationship with alcohol on some level. This is the content that interests me — ways for me to continue engaging with and learning about the complexities of humans and alcohol.
In the last year, I can count the number of times I’ve had an urge to drink on two hands. I’ve had 3 separate drinks on 3 separate days, very consciously. Each time, I’ve had an inquiry in mind, and investigated if it was “worth it” to me—measuring the temporary high against the next day’s lowered mood/energy/etc. Once it was. It was a strong IPA with a dear friend, on a rooftop patio in the mountains, on her birthday, after a half-day snow shoe. It was sublime. (However, I’m not convinced the experience wouldn’t have been equally sublime without the beer.)
So, where am I now? After 11 AF months, I can’t say my body composition has improved all that much or that it cured my other vices (gummy stuff, potato chips, and reality tv). I can say this is the most aligned, connected, confident, and content I’ve felt in years. I am so grateful for the internal and external forces that came together to make this decision an easy one for me. (I am certain it would’ve become a harder one down the line.)
I am intentionally and happily living a 99% AF life. I still have little sips of things from time to time — curious if it will taste like the magic I remember (it never does). I am not 100% sober at this point. I am conscious and intentional about when, where, with whom, and why I might have a drink. I don’t say I’ll never drink again. I do say that I drink as much and as often as I want.
And it’s absolutely true.