What started as a 3 week cleanse turned into a full year of not drinking. After quitting alcohol, gluten, and dairy for three weeks I had cravings for pizza, yogurt and bread – not booze. Today I am celebrating one year of sobriety. Wow. That seems almost unbelievable.
In the 365 days since I last had a drink I have travelled to 6 countries and visited more than 10 tropical islands. I moved from St John to Spain to New York to Maui. For me, this year has not been about what I gave up, it’s been about how much I’ve gained. I never could have pictured the calmness that exists in my life today. I never knew how many parts of my life were affected by drinking until I removed the drink. Here are some reflections I thought I’d share after one year.
My mind is clear. This is something that I didn’t know existed for people. I wake up every single day and I know where I am – not just physically (lol), but mentally. I know what has to be done and I get it done. I don’t have to write long lists and shove them into my purse, I remember things. If I’m walking out the door and I can’t find my car keys, they’re on my bed or on my desk. There’s no dramatic moment where I can’t find something and I suspect it may have been stolen or lost or thrown away.
I am reliable. I am on time for things. I don’t make any excuses. I don’t rush. If I say I will be there at 5, I will be there at 4:55. I have been able to remove all stress from my morning routine by waking up earlier, sitting while sipping my tea and actually enjoying it. I have integrity – if someone asks me to do a favor, I can say yes (or no) with confidence. I can give my word and mean it, and I never agree to do things I don’t want to do.
I am healthy. For the first time in my adult life, I genuinely feel like a million bucks. I don’t binge on junk food and I don’t consume poison. I am incredibly in tune with my body and I know what I need. I don’t get sick. I don’t have headaches. My acne has cleared up. I’m extremely hydrated and I never feel tired for no reason. I wake up with energy and enthusiasm.
My finances are in order. Not only am I rolling in all that extra drinking dough, I keep track of my spending. I frequently reward myself and splurge on items I really want. I have a retirement account. I pay my taxes on time. I never let my gas tank drop below half full. All of these things come naturally.
My memory is amazing. Many of us have experienced short term memory loss while drinking – what I didn’t realize how badly all of my memory was affected. Now, I remember everything including things from my childhood that I didn’t even know I forgot. Do you know how much it means to people if you remember their names? A whole lot. I used to tell people that I was “bad with names” to excuse myself for forgetting their names right away. It is so much nicer to be able to run into people whom you’ve only met briefly and remember their name, where you met them, etc. This memory improvement adds to my clearheadedness – it’s an incredible feeling.
I have freedom. I can travel alone as a girl and feel safe in so many situations that before seemed risky. I never have to worry about losing my wits in an unfamiliar and possibly unsafe place. I also never have to worry about driving. I used to feel trapped wherever I was if I had been drinking knowing that I couldn’t just drive myself home safely. Sometimes I drove when I really shouldn’t have. The freedom of being able to leave when I want to leave is really no match for the freedom of mind, knowing that I will never be the cause of a drunk driving accident.
I like me! When I was in the habit of drinking regularly, I would have cringe-worthy moments all the time. I would embarrass myself. The truth is, I had no idea who I was. I was floating around, blending in with everyone and terrified to look in the mirror. I couldn’t answer basic questions like “what kind of music do you enjoy?” because I would be concerned about matching my answer with what I think YOU enjoy. In this year of sobriety I have begun to figure out who I am, and I really like what I see!
I can do ANYTHING. Going a whole year turning down every single drink that has been offered to me is no small feat. I feel an incredible amount of pride in this accomplishment. I now realize that there is no part of me that is unchangeable. If I pick something I don’t like about myself, I now have the confidence to know that I can alter that aspect of my personality by changing my actions. This is a HUGE revelation – and it kind of makes me feel like a super hero!
My “cleanse” ended on St Patrick’s Day last year. I had planned to celebrate this holiday in usual fashion, but by the time March 17th rolled around, I realized how negatively alcohol had been affecting me. I felt as if a fog had been lifted and I had no desire to pick up a drink. I used to think that I needed alcohol to relax, to party, to unwind, to give me a boost of energy – how could alcohol be all of those things? If it helps me unwind, how can it also give me energy? The truth is, I repeated these meaningless platitudes because I had no idea that alcohol didn’t provide me with any benefit, it just took things away from me: Money, confidence, pride, balance, memory, intelligent thoughts, ambition and courage. The good news is, those things were easy to find again – once the bottle was out of my hand.