Quitting Drinking is the Best Birthday Gift I Didn't Ask For


By Karolina Rzadkowolska


I had high hopes for my thirtieth birthday. Last year I told myself 30 was the year I'd become the woman I always wanted to be. A woman who thrives and is in full possession of her life. A woman who never drinks more than she intends to or ever gets a hangover and is not so grabby when alcohol is involved. That I would wake up refreshed and ready to be healthy, workout, and build the life of my dreams. 30 was going to be the new me—I was going to solve this thing, alcohol, figure it out, and grow up beyond my partying twenties. I had no idea that all of this would come true and then some. No, I never magically morphed into someone who 100% of the time stops at two drinks. And even when I did, it left much to be desired as I inevitably felt exhausted and off the next day. I certainly didn’t morph into the chic Parisian woman of my dreams who has a glass of champagne at a café and then goes to an art gallery feeling bubbly and alive.  

I thought happiness was in figuring IT OUT and finding the perfect balance of alcohol in my life. I couldn’t understand why this was an issue for me while everyone else was happily drinking around me. I was endlessly tinkering with the equations:  

No more than two drinks per occasion 

Err no more than three drinks per occasion 

No drinking Monday through Thursday 

No drinking one weekend per month 

No more than seven drinks a week 

No more hangovers 

No more regrets 

Except nothing changed when I turned 30 last summer. I did try harder and had some success—I didn’t get a bad hangover until October or full on embarrass myself until New Year’s. Sometimes I wasn’t so grabby, sometimes I was. For all my efforts with mixed success, nothing really felt like it changed—I hadn’t passed the threshold into the new me because there was always a fear, a knowing, that any occasion where drinks were involved could be the undoing of my carefully laid plans. My equations to keep me feeling balanced and happy were constantly making me feel like a failure. Maybe one month I wouldn't drink more than three drinks in a day but then here comes Halloween and everyone else is doing it! 

Expecting yourself to do one thing and then doing the opposite over and over again is incredibly painful. My trust in my own abilities to be true to my deepest desires was eroding. I was losing my self-respect. It was like I was trying to fit my expansive self into this tiny box that had no room for errors. Because each error felt like a stab wound.  

I never expected I would quit drinking and yet halfway through 30 I morphed into someone who never drinks. Tired of all the counting and self-abashing and repeating loops of behavior, I was eager and excited to make January a dry month. All I did was try it, put sober life on for size, on an experimental basis, why not? I knew exactly how I felt drinking. I had no idea what a sober life was as an adult. What was there to lose? Nothing at all but unhappiness. I didn’t quite expect to fall in love with my new life so much that I slowly but surely decided to quit for good. It’s beautifully simple really. Do not drink alcohol, manifest every other habit, desire, and wish for your life. This foundational habit shifted and clicked everything else. If you ever told me I could be happier than I have ever been simply by not drinking I would have quit a long time ago. I finally became the person I always wanted to be. 

I am filled with so much hope and enthusiasm for my life ahead. I know I will be there. Always. After drinking more than I wanted to the next day I would ask myself, “where the hell do you go?” Literally where is the me that I identity with and why does she leave the room when I drink? I will no longer find things just happen to me, like waking up the next morning with the dull realization that drinking too much happened again. I will be there, present for every memory, for every moment, present to live my life. I am joyously alive with such appreciation and marvel. My wildest dreams came true. I crossed the threshold.  I am 31 and alcohol-free.