On December 31st, 2021 I drank a large amount of alcohol. The final drink I consumed was one of my favorite IPA’s – a hazy one with a twist of orange. I finished it, went to bed (a little hazy myself) and woke up with a wicked hangover.
So began my journey to being alcohol free. January 1st was my final “Day One” of giving up alcohol. My last day one of “I am never drinking again.” My last day one of “I’m going to go 100 days with no alcohol to prove that I don’t have a problem.” My last day one after taking a “Do I have a drinking problem?” quiz while I was drunk and deciding that I was going to quit the next day.
January 1st, 2022 will be my last day one. It will be my last day one because I have found what works for me. I found the book “Quit Like a Woman – The radical choice to not drink in a culture obsessed with alcohol” by Holly Whitaker. I read it quickly and then I read six more books in the “quit lit” category. I found a sober bar in San Francisco and spent a lot of money on non-alcoholic drinks in a supportive and fun Alcohol Free (AF) environment. I found a community of AF people that gather together to share stories, try tasty booze free cocktails and support each other. I found a weekly Zoom call of people who are all on their own alcohol-free journeys. They may look similar to, or be very different from my own journey; but they are all on a journey to figure out their relationship with alcohol. I found a new AF bottle shop that has a fun vibe and many new AF options. I found AF beers and booze free options at many restaurants. I found an online Facebook community where people share their struggles and successes while supporting each other on their journey. These are many of the external people, places and things that I have encountered.
What has been more impactful on this AF journey are the internal changes that have occurred. I wake up each morning with more clarity than when I was drinking. I have stopped waking up with a dry mouth and a foggy head at 3 am with an immediate shame spiral. I have spent hours and hours reading books, doing crosswords, journaling and writing with a clear mind. I have meditated every single day this year, gaining a stronger sense of internal peace and calm. My energy level has been consistently higher leading to better workouts, more positive mindsets and stronger connections with others. I have a more positive sense of myself as I feel more confident in who I am and who I can be. I have less guilt and shame over what I eat and drink or how I spend my time as I have been eating healthier, drinking a ton of water, sleeping more soundly and enjoying my workouts more. According to my Whoop app, my Heart Rate Variable, recovery levels, resting heart rate and restorative sleep have been consistent, leading to greater levels of energy and mental wellness.
In the first quarter of this year when I was new to this AF lifestyle, I encountered some struggles as many, many things in our culture include alcohol. There seems to be a bar, liquor store or alcohol advertisement on every block. There are drinks served at birthday parties, baby showers, retirement parties, work functions, post rounds of golf, Superbowl parties, dinners out, dinners in, brunch, picnics, sporting events, dine in movie theaters, comedy shows, bowling alleys, coffee shops and on and on and on. It is hard to find a place or situation that does not serve alcohol. Many people who drink alcohol assume everyone else does as well.
The struggle was real and the struggle made sense when I realized how prevalent alcohol is in American society and how steeped my life was in alcohol. I slowly changed habits, mindsets and patterns. I was kind to myself through the struggle and the depression and the anxiety. I pushed through it. I cried. I got angry. I laughed. I was hopeful. I was hopeless. I was sad. I was happy. I went running. I laid on the couch. I ate salads. I ate chocolate. I woke up early. I slept in. When it all shook out and as I am on the precipice of my one-year AF day, I realize one key thing. I constantly strive to be the best version of myself every single day and the main thing that had been holding me back was alcohol…and now it isn’t. I am slowly and surely becoming the best version of me. The one I always knew I could be, the one I believed in, the one that is creating a path for my future self. The one that my wife said she knew I was when she first met me over 12 years ago.
When I started this journey, I committed to one year. As I kept walking down this winding and confusing yet clear path, I have recommitted to the rest of my life. I gave up alcohol because I wanted to feel better. I had no idea what would change in my life because of this choice. I am extremely proud of myself and as I turn the calendar to 2023, I know that year two of AF is going to be even richer.