That Time I Didn't Drink Alcohol For a Year

Playlist: Random Rab - Visurreal

It’s been 6 months back “on the sauce” and I can gratefully say that yes, my relationship with alcohol has changed. A LOT. I’ve changed. A LOT.

Whenever I tell someone I gave up alcohol for a year, their response has typically been - why? What happened? Did you drink too much? You must have really fucked up. And the answer is Yes. To all of that.

But it was more than that. I was genuinely curious what life without alcohol would be like. Could I still enjoyable go out without it? Would I live a more authentic life? It terrified me that I didn’t know the answers to that. I was so scared how much of a role alcohol played in my life that I knew I had to cut it out. I knew I wasn’t just drinking for pleasure; I was suppressing emotions with it. I had to find out what I was trying to hide from. It also didn’t hurt that I had recently finished studying Holistic Nutrition and understood more about the effects of 10 years of excessive drinking...

Drinking wine or a cocktail daily was normal. I finished work or finished an assignment and I would pour myself some a little “treat”. Heck, maybe even pour myself a little to help me finish that assignment. Or rewind to my Caribbean days, and lets pour myself a little rum punch before I eat my breakfast, if I ate breakfast at all.

I knew that no 3-day or 30 day cleanse was enough to instigate lasting change. I had tried that, countless times, and always ended up with the same result. One giant night out with extra tequila, wine and pizza because I had just been SO good for 30 days, if I made it.. (I don’t want to discredit 30 day alcohol free stints – I think it’s a great thing to do to begin examining you’re relationship with alcohol, just be aware of how you come off it- plus they said you need 90 days to start a new habit!).

What I needed was not going to be easy. It was real change I was looking for. Not just dipping my toes in. I wanted to dive in headfirst.

Without knowing, alcohol became a coping mechanism for me. If I was stressed I had wine. If I was anxious I had tequila. If I was happy I had champagne. And while there is a time and a place for all three, I used any excuse to indulge. Alcohol made me feel brave, confident and sexy. So I would have a few extra glasses, and then a few more, and then… well you know how it goes. This was how things went for 10 + years. And while it started innocently, I had too many nights that ended in feeling awful and lacking memory of what happened. Alcohol brought out sides to me I didn’t even know existed. I could be SO mean to people I genuinely loved, I sometimes expressed anger that I didn’t know I had.

I didn’t want to cut out alcohol forever. And while, I have had A LOT of fun thanks to alcohol, it was clearly in the way of the life I wanted. I needed to build a loving and trusting relationship with alcohol and myself. I told myself that if I gave it up for a year, then at least I could see how things were and go from there.

I had been toying with the idea for a few months, and then one morning – December 31, 2015 I woke up at 5am puked for nearly 12 hours from an uneventful night out and I knew what I had to do. I decided that morning that I was quitting the following day. January 1st. As cliché as new years resolutions can be, this one felt SO good. I was excited and scared all at the same time. I felt like I was finally taking charge of my life and the direction I wanted to go!

I began by making my list as to why I was cutting out alcohol:

1. The idea scares me

2. I'm curious what I will genuinely feel like

3. I HATE being hung-over

4. It’s an expensive habit

5. Rarely has alcohol truly benefited me, as of lately

6. I want to improve my digestion

7. I want to heal my mind

8. I want to feel healthy and energized

9. I want to embody a holistic nutritionist

10. Why not?

One reason I didn’t have the courage to admit to myself apparently – was that I wanted to improve my relationship with food and men. With booze I typically was kissing somebody or eating something unnecessary when I got home. And neither was typically memorable.

There was also this mathematical side my engineer brain had to calculate:

Say I've been hung-over once a week, since I was 18 (realistically call it 16) that’s 52 hangovers a year. For 10-12 years. So AT LEAST 520 days! That’s a year and a half of my life! And while once per week could be high, I know that there sometimes it was more like 2-3 days in a week!

Right there I made the decision to do it. One year. One year to sort my life out. I genuinely expected I would get fit, meet the love of my life, and launch my business. Turns out, one year was just the tip of the iceberg. I had to build from the ground up, and had a lot of work to do. While I didn’t get miraculously fit, meet my soul mate or launch my business this is what did happen:

1. I overate. Food became my drug once again.

2. I watched a lot of Netflix and counted down the days - 365 days and counting

3. I woke up confused why I didn’t have a headache or feel rotten

4. I was anxious and unsettled having to actually feel my emotions

5. I had a few nightmare-ish dreams that I drank

6. I began to turn to yoga when I was lonely

7. I made new friends

8. I smoked and ate weed enjoyably again (not a lot, just here and there;))

9. I went on a 3 week beach holiday without booze

10. I began to learn how to surf

11. I fell in love with Whistler

12. I fell in love with myself

13. I dived deeper into my relationship with food/self through Hungry for Happiness

14. I felt my emotions and wasn’t scared of them

15. I realized its only me judging myself

16. I went on a few sober dates

17. I had a sober bar make out

18. I craved alcohol, but trusted that I would drink again when/if it felt right

19. I was comfortable and enjoyed saying no to alcohol

20. I saved close to $10,000

21. I had a lot of fun without alcohol

22. I was able to connect with my body daily

23. I became my own best friend

24. I let go of what wasn’t serving my highest self – people and things

25. I learned to trust myself

Having my first drink on new years this year felt GOOD! I had felt so much pressure leading up to it, and then it hit me. If I make it a big deal then it’s a big deal. And that’s exactly what I DIDN’T want alcohol to be. I want it to just be a thing in my life I get to enjoy. I listen to myself as to when I want it.

What’s been really interesting this year is how rarely I actually want to drink. Don’t get me wrong, I LOVE a good margarita or a delicious glass of wine. The difference is now I get to decide if I genuinely want that, or is it just part of a routine.

So, if you have ever questioned giving up alcohol because you are not completely happy with the relationship you have with it – I say DO IT! It was one of the most beautiful gifts I ever gave myself. If you are nervous or self doubt yourself – trust me, you can do it. We are SO capable of anything we want. But feel free to reach out if you want more advice!! XO

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Pemberton, British Columbia