Written by: Kathy Moore
Today I celebrate 100 days alcohol-free. Quitting was easy; it was the 30 years of drinking, especially the last six, that were horrible. The hangovers, the blackouts, the guilt, the shame, the toll it took on my physical and mental health, and the life it sucked out of my soul-that was difficult. Quitting was easy. Dealing with the emotions that I used to numb is a challenge, but it is a challenge that I welcome. Not once during the turbulent times have I wanted to go to the bar to drink away my feelings. I welcome the sadness and the rage, the ups and the downs.
Alcohol can be just as dangerous and damaging as many less socially acceptable drugs. It is everywhere, easily accessible, and widely accepted. It’s acceptable to drink at 10:00 a.m. if you’re at brunch. Moms joke about how much wine they drink. Have you ever been in a Hallmark store? “It’s 5:00 o’clock somewhere” is a cute saying that has been marketed so much that we find it normal. Is it though? We celebrate weddings, birthdays, graduations, and promotions with alcohol. We think we need it. Marketing makes us think we will be happier and look better with a drink in our hand, yet many of us have been thinking about quitting for years because of the negativity it has brought to our lives. Do not let guilt or shame consume you. You are not a bad person for numbing yourself. You are human. We are led to believe that alcohol will fix our problems, that it will fix them and make us happy. Alcohol is physically and mentally addictive, yet its consumption is glorified, and it is everywhere you look. People laugh at how drunk they got over the weekend, but look down upon the alcoholic, when the only difference between the two is that one has admitted to their problem.
We are often shamed and guilted into quitting drinking. People think you must be an alcoholic in order to stop. Labels don’t matter- alcoholic, alcohol abuser, binge drinker, weekend warrior-what matters is that you came to the point in your life where you felt it was necessary to stop. I have always had a love/hate relationship with alcohol. I remember the rush I felt come over me when I first got drunk. I remember not being able to stop at one or two beers and drinking until I fell over-I was 13 years old and a freshman in high school. Drinking made me social and I loved the feeling of the buzz. It was my escape. I was a social binge drinker-partying hard until I would throw up. I never thought I had a problem throughout those years because I didn’t drink daily. I got my Bachelor’s and a Master’s degree, I had three children, then I had a successful career, but I was not happy. After 20 years of marriage I left my husband and kids. The guilt and shame I felt for leaving fueled my drinking, and the binge drinking just made me feel guiltier and more shame about alcohol. It was a vicious cycle that went on for five years. What I loved about being single and drinking was the social aspect of it. I met people, I always had someone to talk to, and I felt happy in the moment, but a few drinks usually turned into many, followed by the guilt and shame. I knew I had a problem, but I was not ready to stop.
How did I finally stop drinking? I just did. I woke up one morning after a terrible night of drinking, fighting, and driving drunk, I went to work crying and feeling like the life had been sucked out of me, and realized that alcohol was jeopardizing my relationship, my sanity, and my life. As I wallowed in self-pity, a light went off—I thought to myself, “Today is day number one. You are in control of this.” I reached out to two friends who had stopped drinking, told them that today was day number one, and never looked back. The emotions that I feel now that I am no longer numbing them are powerful. I have always had ups and downs, but not at this intensity and regularity. These past 100 days have made me deal with issues that I have suppressed my whole life. In 100 days, I have been able to accomplish what I never could in years of therapy, and with the support of an amazing partner, I have been able to honestly look at my feelings and behaviors and make steps towards getting healthier.
If you see me at a show or a festival, please don’t feel bad for me. Don’t feel bad if you offer me a drink and I say no thanks. Don’t feel like I can’t be around you if you’re drinking. I am lucky in that I am no longer tempted to drink, because I am now able to see that it does not benefit me in any way. Instead of thinking, “I can’t drink”, I now think, “I don’t drink.” I am in control. I am empowered.