Sobriety wasn't Overnight for Me. It was a Slow Learning Process.
Today I celebrate 8 months sober. I honestly can’t believe I made it this far. I was the person that dreaded going to the social gatherings where I didn’t know many people. Although I consider myself an “ambivert” (a cross between introverted and extraverted) my energy gets drained pretty quickly in social situations. All the more reason to numb out these negative feelings with one of my closest companions, red wine. I would take red wine with me whenever I would need the extra boost to help me survive these gatherings. At some point about a year before I chose sobriety, I remember being more concerned if I had enough wine to get through the evening than I was concerned about who would be at the party. A sure sign of my dependency on alcohol, although I wasn’t ready to embrace the truth.
Fast forward to about a year ahead. I wish I had a “breaking point” to which I felt the strong need to stop drinking for good but I didn’t. For me, it was a gradual realization over a couple of years. I remember experimenting in the late summer of 2013 to see if I can stop drinking for a month. I was going through somewhat of a shift in my life at that time and I wanted to feel more alive, more authentic in the way I was living. I stopped drinking for 22 days only to go back to it when I was out with some girlfriends on a Friday night. They convinced me at the time that I can just “cut back a little.” Of course I believed them, doubled my intuition and took the drink. This was something I needed to go through for myself, to learn the truth.
My next experiment was in August of 2014 where I intended to go for 30 days without drinking. This time I made it 28 days. It was Labor Day weekend and some friends came over to celebrate with good food and of course, mojitos and wine. How could I resist? It was a hot summer day and what harm could a few drinks do? Never mind I made a 30 day commitment to myself and I had eight drinks that night on our condo patio instead of the two I promised myself. Why couldn’t I just cut back? What was wrong with me? Why could everyone else seem to control their drinking but not me? My husband had no problem having only two drinks. There was clearly something wrong with me so screw it, I’ll just go back to drinking.
On New Year’s Day of 2015 I committed to clear up my eyelid eczema and in order to do that, I had some dietary restrictions to reduce the inflammation. I began on January 4th and this time around I decided to quit drinking specifically for dietary/health reasons. We were taking a vacation to Florida in March so I committed to changing some things in my diet and to stop drinking until our vacation (because what fun is a vacation without booze, right?). This time I made it 42 days without drinking. I was proud of myself since this was my longest period thus far without booze. I remember my husband and I were out to dinner at a restaurant for Valentine’s Day and my eyes were glued to the beautiful display of wine bottles at the bar. The server also dropped off a menu featuring a divine list of romantic red wine specials for the evening. I told my husband I was going to just enjoy a glass with my dinner. As he looked at me with a slight disbelief, he lovingly asked me if I was sure I wanted to order wine. I told him to simmer down as I urgently tried to get the server’s attention. Never mind the food, give me the wine! Needless to say, I didn’t just have one glass that evening, I had three glasses at the restaurant and we stopped off to pickup a bottle from the store (as well as some strawberries) on the way home. (I always used the excuse of needing something else at the store when I was with my husband so I would have an easy way to go out and buy more wine.) I was back to drinking.
When my husband and I celebrated our second wedding anniversary in July of 2015, we were away for the weekend and went horseback riding. I asked him if he would commit to 90 days of sobriety with me after our friends’ upcoming wedding that we were standing up in. He agreed and we decided to embark on that journey together. Honestly it was wonderful and I remember feeling like I was having more fun sober in that time period with him than ever before We set out to do fun things together that didn’t involve drinking such as going out to more breakfasts together, taking long bike rides up and down the Chicago lakefront, or just chilling together on the couch and watching a movie. Unfortunately that didn’t last too long because the Labor Day holiday weekend was approaching quickly. I went out to my friend’s house and we spent the afternoon on her patio. I couldn’t resist the white wine she was serving because it was such a refreshing drink on such a hot summer day. I was hooked again. Forget the 90 day commitment. My husband also caved in and went out to the bar with his work buddies and enjoyed a few beers. This time I made it only 22 days and it felt different than ever before. I felt so much shame, anger, and disappointment in myself. I knew something needed to change in my life if I ever was going to be the person I truly wanted to be.
I remember one Friday evening in late September I got home from work earlier than my husband. I decided to start dinner and enjoy some wine while I waited for him to get home. I opened the bottle of “Chakra” red wine. I remember buying it because it felt so spiritual and what harm could spiritual wine do? Within the hour, I was almost done with the bottle. Luckily I bought a backup bottle just in case one wasn’t enough for the evening. When my husband got home from work, he found me lounging in the desk chair in our office belting out one of my favorite rap songs. If there was ever a “breaking point” this was it. He took a glance at the nearly empty bottle of red wine in front of me and asked, “is everything ok?” I immediately snapped back at him, “yes–why do you ask?!” He then said to me, “well it looks like you’re almost finished with that bottle of wine, I just want to make sure you’re ok.” My buttons were getting pushed and I was feeling angry. I yelled out, “you just don’t get it! I work my ass off all week and I just want something to calm me down and this is it, can’t I just enjoy my wine?” He said well yes but the whole bottle?” I burst out into tears. I was waiting for this point. He held me and I remember him saying, if the wine makes you happy, then keep drinking it, who am I to judge you?” I needed to stop drinking for good. I just wasn’t ready to go cold turkey yet. We were moving to our new home in a month then taking a trip to Puerto Rico and the Caribbean in November. I signed up for a 90 day sobriety package. I decided to immerse myself in the thoughts and feelings around not drinking, even though I didn’t stop drinking, I received videos and inspiration from other women that went through the same things I was going through myself. It felt very motivational and for the first time I thought, I could do this.
After our drunken trip to Puerto Rico and the Caribbean, I decided New Year’s Eve would be the last time I would take a drink. It felt like a slow breakup with my companion but the perfect time as we were entering a new year and my 30th birthday was just a few weeks away. On New Year’s Eve, we had a low key night and went to dinner with friends and and them over to our new house to watch a movie. I was wasted of course because this was my last time drinking. As the clock struck midnight, I kissed my husband then took my half full bottle of red wine and dumped it down my kitchen sink. It was bittersweet, I cried a little but I knew this was it. I felt a relief wash over me and even though I was hungover as hell the next morning.