September 1, 2022 marked eight months of being alcohol free for me. After waking up on January 1 with a wicked hangover, I started my journey to not drink alcohol for all of 2022 and I am two thirds of the way there. It has been easy, difficult, empowering, frustrating and life changing.
I have found a community of people who are supportive and energetic to keep the alcohol-free (AF) movement going. I found an alcohol-free bar and bottle shop with an invite-only speakeasy here in San Francisco. I attended my first alcohol free party sponsored by FRE Wines and Sans Bar and had a great time. I drank six or seven drinks AND I drove home because all of those drinks were alcohol free and delicious – well, except for the alcohol removed merlot – not a fan!
I went on vacation with my wife and for the first time in my adult life, I had an alcohol-free vacation sipping on non-alcoholic pina coladas and enjoying a book by the pool without thinking about where my next drink would come from.
I drive everywhere, safely, and have saved a lot of money on Ubers because getting home safely after a night out is easier now. I have changed my brain chemistry, slept better and have a different kind of energy.
I joined an online Facebook community for non-drinkers, a non-drinkers meetup group and have read seven books about removing alcohol from your life. “Quit Like a Woman” by Holly Whitaker is my favorite and “We Are The Luckiest” by Laura McKowen is a close second. I continue to actively explore communities, education and establishments that will support my new lifestyle.
All this said, it has not been easy. Communicating that I need an alcohol-free margarita in another country is tough. Justifying why I don’t drink alcohol is a weird concept. I don’t do cocaine and no one ever asks me why not, but not drinking alcohol is baffling to some. Going to a staff happy hour and drinking water because there are no other alcohol-free options is annoying. Telling a friend of a friend that I went to a new Mexican restaurant and the guacamole was great and getting the response, “I don’t care about the guacamole, how were the margaritas?” was awkward. Walking the dog past a “rehab is for quitters” sign outside of the local pub takes a hit to the self-confidence. Am I a quitter? Walking by my favorite restaurant on a Sunday morning while the patrons are having unlimited mimosas can make me long for those days of three-hour boozy brunches.
Then I pop back to my new reality and remind myself of my “why” of not drinking. It is to be my best self. She is a kind, thoughtful, healthy, energetic, happy and positive person with a sense of humor and confidence. I like her. My wife likes her. My future self wants to keep being her.
What I have done on this new alcohol-free journey is to be kind to myself when things are hard. I remind myself that I am doing this because I am often an emotional, irrational and angry person when I drink. I remind myself that the 45 minutes of a buzz is not worth the hangover, self-loathing and destructive early morning thoughts. I remind myself of who I want to be and alcohol does not line up with that person. I remind myself of my future personal and professional goals and staying alcohol-free will support me on my journey towards achieving those goals.
I am two thirds of the way to my initial goal of going alcohol free for a year. I know that by surrounding myself with supportive, kind and loving people, along with seeking out resources that will push me forward on this journey, I will make it to the 365-day mark.
The most important part of this journey is to be kind to myself, knowing that I am making a lifestyle change that takes a commitment every single day. A commitment to not drink, to put myself first, to help “future me” become the person she wants to be. She deserves it.