It’s been four years since I made the decision to find my way back to myself again by giving up alcohol. I’m not an alcoholic, but alcohol was keeping me from living my best life. And I didn’t realize how much of my potential I was leaving on the table until I stopped drinking. Here’s my story.
I woke up on an air mattress on my friend’s floor with a throbbing headache, the morning after what had started as an innocent girls' dinner at a raw vegan restaurant. During the meal, we sipped on artisanal cocktails and Champagne—pretty harmless, right?
And yet, somehow, the night ended with me doing bumps of cocaine in a stairway, smoking cigarettes (which I never did while sober), and making out with a total stranger 12 years my junior.
Everyone has to make their own decisions about what lifestyle works for them, but what I felt that morning, more than anything, was that the choices I made while drinking weren’t authentic to the person I wanted to be.
I felt sick, and it wasn’t just the pounding headache sending waves of nausea through my body.
I felt sick from the shame and remorse of letting myself down—again. From realizing how far I was from meeting my own expectations.
At that time, I was a few months into my certification as a holistic health coach; I’d declared my focus to anyone who would listen. I was going to coach women who wanted to redefine their relationship to alcohol.
The irony is not lost on me.
I was completely unable to have a healthy relationship with alcohol, repeating the same patterns I had been in for years—if perhaps slightly less often.
That September morning four years ago was my inflection point. Something deep inside me shifted.
I was finally ready to redefine my relationship to alcohol—to become the person I wanted to be. To live up to the expectations I had for myself.
In the past four years, I’ve spent extended periods entirely alcohol free, the longest being a little over a year. I also chose to drink consciously during certain periods. I’ve been tipsy a handful of times—but the point I allowed myself to reach was a conscious choice I made before imbibing.
I’ve created guidelines, specific to me, about when it’s safe for me to drink and when it isn’t. For me, it’s never safe to start drinking when I feel like I "need" a drink, when I’m tired, when I’m stressed, when I’m lonely, when I’m sad, or when I’m angry.
I’ve experienced a variety of challenges that have taught me all kinds of things about what I’m capable of and what I can handle. I’ve launched a business, written a book, survived a high-risk pregnancy, raised my premature newborn into a thriving toddler, and become stronger through heartbreak.
And yet, through the process of redefining my relationship with alcohol, I’ve learned more about myself than I learned from any of those experiences.
My relationship to alcohol was one of the longest (and most dysfunctional) relationships of my life. I’d been in a codependent relationship with booze for over 20 years before I was motivated and strong enough to change.
Here are four of the most unexpected, life-altering things I’ve learned in four years without getting drunk: