Learning Alcohol No Longer Serves Me
By Karolina Rzadkowolska
I always share my journey to an alcohol-free life began with dry January. But I needed a few more lessons that alcohol no longer served me before I knew for sure that I am happier without it.
I can count at least five years where I consciously knew I wasn’t entirely happy drinking alcohol. I didn’t know this when I was planning winery getaways or brewery hangouts. I didn’t know this come every weekend when I drank, because, well, it’s the weekend and isn’t that just what one does?
I only knew this during the very still and quiet times, in whispers and glimmers. I knew it when I woke up again with a dull headache. I knew it when I let myself down and felt my self-esteem crumbling. I knew it as I journaled that surely I was meant for more than this merry-go-round. Everything in my life was so amazing though. I was a happy person. I didn’t drink alcohol to drown my sorrows or use it to relieve my stress. I drank socially or as a weekend treat. So why, just why, was this my Achilles heel? What was I doing wrong? Being sad and anxious from alcohol couldn't be the scientific effect of alcohol (it is!), surely I was adding the maths wrong. Having too much, worrying about it too much, not just letting loose, letting too loose and becoming someone I not only didn’t identify with—I actively hated.
But it’s not like I could just quit—that would scream to the world that I'm an alcoholic, which is the last thing I would ever admit to. My drinking was fairly normal for my age and lifestyle. I only drank around the weekend and kept it under one hand’s fingers. Anyways, adults drink, that is a requirement of life isn’t it?
With all this internal turbulence, I was pretty excited to try dry January. It was a movement people!—and it finally gave me the solid excuse I needed to try life without alcohol without having to go around and ring to everyone that I had a “problem.”
I couldn’t wait. I was going to reset, get healthy, and learn all these mindful drinking habits and come back to my Friday night relaxation with new determination, new rules, new understanding of how much makes me feel happy and how much was too much—I was going to have this thing solved. I was going to be new person.
Dry January was incredible. I was sleeping amazingly, living healthier, devouring books, and feeling so much appreciation and gratitude. I enjoyed myself doing the simplest things like playing board games with my husband and goofing around with my niece. I learned that I could hang out with my closest friends without drinking and still have fun? I felt like myself, no masks, no internal shame smothering me, just me learning to be awake and alive to my life.
Come February, I was actually not looking forward to drinking again. But I knew I had to return—like when you’re on vacation and experience the most profound realization that our time on earth is short and you should seize every moment but then you return home, wake up on Monday morning and go the job you hate, because, well, this is life. You have to have a stable job. Who said? I don’t know. But I believed it. Just like I believed normal adults had to drink.
I drank nine times in February, and I hated each and every time.
I was proud of my first weekend drinking. I had two and half beers on Friday night over a long boozy dinner and then only two beers on Saturday night. Wow. I can moderate. This dry January thing really worked. But I hated how I felt when the social part of the night was over and I came home to my nightly routine. I hated feeling buzzed when I was trying to read and journal. I hated how I felt in the morning after ridiculously restless sleep compared to the sleeping beauty slumber I had grown accustomed to.
The following week I went to Las Vegas. After a few days of only having one drink each day, by Saturday and Sunday I was ready to let loose. I had about 4-5 drinks each of those days, and it was the very last time I got drunk. I remember having a drink at a bar and feeling upbeat and having fun talking to my husband. Then we left and had to get a taxi to go back to our hotel. All of a sudden, my feelings of frustration and impatience were through the roof. WHERE was the taxi? WHERE was the bathroom? I had one drink and was acting like the world was entitled to me. Later, I saw an award-winning acrobatic show and felt complete and utter apathy. Just a few weeks ago I was mesmerized by trees and clouds. What was going on? By the time I was on the plane home, I felt such a dull ache in my heart. I actually ordered Annie Grace’s This Naked Mind on the plane, half-drunk half-hating myself.
The last time I drank was the last weekend in February. Two beers with pizza out on the town for date night. Two beers is all. And yet my husband and I got in a fight because I was being sentimental and wanted more undivided attention on a street corner NOW while he was trying to normally cross the road to walk back to car. Okay, so that wouldn't have happened if I was sober. The next night and very last time I ever drank I had half a bottle of wine while watching a movie and playing a game. The movie sucked. And I wasn’t really into the game, the same one that I was thrilled to play during dry January. The wine tasted like rubbing alcohol and wasn’t giving me a nice warm buzz—I had to force myself to drink my two and half glasses until my last sip when the buzz appeared and feelings of the alcohol “chase” kicked in. This sucked. Drinking alcohol sucked.
I decided to do another thirty days without it. I was relieved to start again. The heavenly sleep! Maybe I could live my whole life this way? Drink a little, take a thirty-day break? Except when I got to the end, magical things happened. I was riding such a pink cloud, such a burst of happiness, I felt so giddy like I was falling in love. Thirty days turned into sixty days. I had completely new experiences and traveled to New Orleans, Boston, and Hawaii all sober. I watched sunrises. I swam with fish and rode bikes along the coast. I went to birthday parties—I felt so happy I wouldn’t wake up with a hangover compared to the people around me. Smug even. I started writing again. My lifelong dream was to write more, but I used to have the worst writer’s block.
I started becoming the person I had always wanted to be.
I had an upcoming vacation and thought surely I would drink then. I had planned a trip to Japan when I was still drinking and for me traveling always meant experiencing the local drinking culture, like going to sake breweries and having Japanese beer in izakayas. But when I got there, I just knew the waves of gratitude, appreciation and good feelings would go away the moment I had a drink. I would feel pretty low having to restart my clock. And for what? A beer that I've had like 5,000 times in my life before? Been there, done that. I didn’t drink. And guess what, for all that culture I thought I was missing out on? I did get to have beer in an izakaya—nonalcoholic beer is everywhere in Japan. I came home knowing I was not going to drink for a year, then a year in my mind turned into two, and then I finally decided to not drink ever again. This life was too good to ever give up.
Not drinking alcohol has led to the most amazing shifts in my life. I love myself again. I am proud of my decisions and lifestyle. I feel tremendous happiness and gratitude most of the time. Euphoric really. Sometimes I feel low too, but instead of numbing myself, I let myself feel low, and come out of that with more resilience. I am so confident in my decision to go alcohol-free. It’s the tipping point to everything I have always wanted in my life. I am finally on the trajectory I was meant to be on and getting to know the person I was meant to be. Life is so much bigger than drinking alcohol every weekend.
You don’t have to drink A LOT to feel that alcohol is holding you back from your fullest potential.
You don’t have to feel embarrassed about examining your relationship with alcohol—it is the most life-affirming thing you can do.
You don’t have to decide to quit drinking forever to try and experience the perks of an alcohol-free lifestyle.
You don’t have to label yourself and throw yourself a pity party that you can’t drink anymore.
Alcohol is sleep-interrupting cancer-giving brain-altering depression-producing fulfillment-robbing confidence-faking substance that makes you look old, greasy, fat, and sad.
I am thrilled I don’t have to drink it anymore.
Originally published by Sober Fish at http://soberfish.co.uk/guest-blog-learning-alcohol-no-longer-serves-me-by-karolina/