Our Stories: Danielle
Drinking more than you want to is just about the most common experience a drinker can have. You are not alone.
This series shares stories of strong-ass women (and men!) who decided to stop settling for less. Inspiring a whole new generation of people that you don’t have to drink if it doesn’t make you happy.
Danielle from San Diego Recovering women’s Social Club
When she’s not being interviewed by Annie Grace from This Naked Mind or catching up with Taryn Strong from SHE Recovers, I am so lucky to get to hang out with Danielle. I first met her through a women’s sober brunch she organized, right when I needed to find my lifestyle reflected in other strong women. I can single-handedly point to Danielle for inspiring me to “out” myself, share my story, and create this blog. She is daring and vulnerable and a funny-dear friend. Today, we co-host Euphoric the Podcast together, just because we have so much to say about alcohol-free life.
I’m so happy to have her in my life—who knew you could make friends in adulthood? (not something I thought I was capable of). Our friendship really is a serendipity that occurs when you decide to live according to your best way. Her story is beautiful, and I’m honored to share it!
If you’re local to San Diego, join us at women’s social meetup!
Q and A with Danielle
What did your drinking look like before you quit?
A roller-coaster! I had known for several years that my drinking was becoming problematic for me, especially in my marriage—as early as 2014 I had found Allen Carr’s book Easy way to Control Alcohol and read it in hopes that I could finally kick the urge to drink (and convince my then-husband that he didn’t marry the wrong person). I lasted about a month and slowly began drinking again. At that time I made a huge cross-country move from North Carolina to San Diego. My husband at the time worked in Iowa (Iowa!) and the more strained the relationship became, the greater my (and his) excuses for drinking. I was eventually divorced in late 2015 and while that probably should’ve been an eye-opener for me, instead it sky-rocketed me into an oblivion of dating, drinking, blacking out, one night stands, crazy partier roommates (bad), living alone (somehow worse), endangering myself, and unhealthy relationships. I became completely unhinged. In 2016 I tried to go to my first AA meeting and it was a total flop (I’m being nice—it was downright horrifying). I left that meeting thinking that if that was the only way out of my drinking, then I way staying IN it. I carried on for another year and a half, my weight increasing and my health declining exponentially. I did not feel connected with myself or others in any way, I felt like I had lost myself. I felt on autopilot—even when I made the solemn promise not to drink that day, by 4pm I was finding myself veering off to the liquor store by my house for a bottle of cheap red wine, dishing out the dollars and bringing it home. I didn’t always finish a bottle in one night, but I did so enough to be concerning and sad. I could not understand why I couldn’t reconcile the care-free, single, 30-something life with my drinking.
Finally one day in June 2017 I had had enough – I did not want to stop drinking, but this was outweighed by the fact that I did not want to live the empty existence I was doomed to with alcohol. Between then and my actual quit date (12/17/17), I dabbled a little in re-introducing alcohol into my life in one last half-hearted attempt to “make it work.” It did not work, and I had my answer. My very last drink came after over the months of sobriety (the longest I’d had at that point), and it was completely unenjoyable – it was too sweet, I hated the fuzzy feeling in my head, and it was messing with my palate during dinner. I felt like a societal pawn, forcing poison down my throat simply because I thought I had to. The rebellious goth kid in me rose up, I dumped it out and never looked back.
When you became consciously aware you were drinking more than you liked, did you try to moderate or cut back? How did that go?
Moderation of alcohol is reserved a special place in hell. I tried to moderate by only drinking on weekends, only have one drink (and sometimes, “only” having three drinks – pure torture), signing up for (expensive) fitness challenges to encourage better health decisions (AKA I needed up cutting back on actual food calories to make room for wine calories), accepting a deployment on a ship for 6 months, calorie tracking, mean letters to myself in my journal, nice letters to myself in my journal, sheer willpower, etc. Obviously, none of it worked. I lost money, time, energy and self-esteem every single time I failed. I became obsessive, trapped, and eventually my ego went into self-protection mode, blaming everyone around me for those emotions—“they” should learn to handle me, “they” should mind their business, “they” shouldn’t let me drink so much, “they” shouldn’t be so sensitive, “they” should have been nicer so I didn’t feel the need to drink. I had blinders on, and I completely alienated a lot of people this way… which lead to more drinking.
How long have you been alcohol-free?
A bit longer than 1 year!! But I also like to think of it as being alcohol-free for 98% of the last 554 days (since that day in June, when I first began this mindfulness journey). I can’t discount the 6 months leading up to my eventual “Last Drink” – my mind definitely shifted well before that day.
What finally clicked for you? How did varying approaches lead you to your ultimate decision to leave behind alcohol?
When I read This Naked Mind by Annie Grace, it finally started to click. It completed the groundwork that had been laid for me by Allen Carr’s book three years earlier. In the early early days (around June 2017), I also made the decision to try a new thing everyday and to journal about it—how it made me feel, how it made me uncomfortable. I stocked my fridge with bubbly drinks and fancy shrubs or other mixers. I also started writing again, in my blog which at that time was still secret. I threw myself into podcasts and routines—particularly, walking my dog every morning (something I totally neglected when drinking) and listening to Home podcast. I did not have an alcohol-free community or support at that time, so listening to Holly & Laura helped me to feel connected. I also did therapy, a lot of therapy which included EMDR (eye movement desensitization and reprocessing), a modality used to overcome past traumas. Clearing my mind of all the past shame and guilt (particularly related to my drinking)— just straight up forgiveness, really—was essential in removing the urge to drink. I finally saw the cycle for the absolute madness that it was.
The icing on my recovery cake was a She Recovers retreat I did in May 2018, where I finally found “my people.” I came home and decided to finally, truly commit to this alcohol-free thing: I came out on my Facebook and blog, started the meetup and, in doing so, steeped myself in accountability and support. I could never even fathom going back to drinking.
What does a hangover-free life mean to you? Has your sense of happiness changed?
Increased productivity directed toward my passions, having times for the things I actually want to do. And also, wanting to do things I never enjoyed before—like working or going back to school. Dealing with debt. Being vulnerable. Meeting strangers. A few years ago, happiness would’ve been the ability to moderate my drinking, balance out my opposing personas—but today, happiness is the sweet relief of relinquishing control (over alcohol but also other aspects of my life), practicing gratitude, and waking every morning with a feeling of purpose.
How has quitting alcohol pushed you out of your comfort zone in other areas in your life?
In more ways than I ever could have imagined! I don’t tell a lot of people this, but in my first few weeks of not drinking (the first time around), I was celebrating my birthday. I took a road trip alone to Palm Desert where I spent the weekend at a nudist resort, practicing the utmost vulnerability. I had never done anything like that before, and certainly not sober—but I left that weekend feeling more abuzz and re-energized than I ever had while drinking. I thought, “OK, I can do this!” That feeling kind of carried me into the next few months and gave me the courage to keep on trying scary things, including quitting alcohol once and for all.
My meetup is a huge outside-the-comfort-zone thing—I’m actually no stranger to coordinating group dinners or meeting new people, but without alcohol? I had never considered it. I still get jittery before some of the events, but I have to remind myself that this is what living as a human feels like, and that it is perfectly OK and does not require numbing. Of course, our podcast is another one—something I always thought was a nice idea, but never saw myself actually doing it realistically. All the work, all the vulnerability? Gross. I just wasn’t up for the challenge. I also bought a house this year, something I absolutely did not consider just one or two years ago (“ugh all that paperwork and all the decisions”). I have opened myself up to meeting strangers through the meetup and through women’s AA meetings. I was able to stop taking anti-depressants for the longest time in 15 years. I re-discovered self worth and self love, and I stopped wearing makeup or getting my nails done. I was able to recognize that my beloved coffee was giving me anxiety, and so I cut it out. All of these are things, big and small, that I literally never saw myself doing, ever—I had simply accepted them as a part of my moody, edgy personality—all accomplished in my first year of recovery.
Do you have any tips or words of inspiration for people exploring sobriety?
The only way to start is to start. My favorite quote is from John Gary Bishop, author of Unf*ck Yourself: “You don’t have to feel like today is your day, you just have to act like it is.” In other words, no day will ever feel like “the right day” to begin, you just have to jump in and embrace the discomfort. Practice what you can control (your actions), and the tough-to-budge thoughts/emotions will follow. And find a community! Whether in real life, online, through podcasts, whatever—we are humans, we need connection, and sharing stories saves lives. YOUR story matters.
Check out Danielle’s sober women’s meetup group in San Diego for a whole community of like-minded soul-empowered women: San Diego Recovering Women’s Social Club.
She is daringly funny, witty, and so real on her blog: My Morning Soda.