The Birthday Gift That Keeps on Giving: Sobriety
By Karolina Rzadkowolska
Today is my 32nd birthday, and I’m so happy it’s the second birthday I get to celebrate sober. Yes, get to, as in LUCKY because sobriety is the best gift I’ve ever received and I’m so grateful that I became alcohol-free halfway into my 30th year. Making all of my memories of my 30s a hell of a lot better than the memories of my 20s. Though that’s the whole point of getting older isn’t it, learning?
Drinking in our culture is like a right of passage for the young—and while I wish I went alcohol-free a long time ago, I probably wouldn’t appreciate the contrast if I didn’t have the exact journey I did. My memories of drinking are both wild and crazy and subdued and boring. There was a complete naivety of boozing in my early twenties, an attempt to be the life of the party that was every night. That version of me did some pretty stupid and foolish things, but I truly forgive her—she didn’t know any f’ing better, who could blame her, her prefrontal cortex wasn’t fully formed. But then my drinking largely became subdued and boring: wine with a movie on the weekend, drinks with friends at a dinner party. Nothing to write to rehab about, and just enough to keep me in a cocoon of mediocrity.
But the journey to my sober self was a journey in knowing myself. And that’s the thing about getting older. Unless you want to be numb or obtuse, you can’t ignore your intuition, or your inner wisdom about what is really right for you in life—what holds you back, what makes you soar. For one, your body tells you constantly.
It’s one thing to be 20, drink the night away, and get up the next day with a spring in your step—it’s quite another to be in your 30s or 40s, have a few drinks on a tame night and wake up feeling like a trainwreck the next day. Except that we do, over and over and over again, probably for YEARS until we get sober curious enough to ask, is there a better way? Even without a hangover, one drink the night before would ruin my sleep and give me an anxious pressure the next day. I’d done enough yoga and meditation at that point to be cognizant of my inner state, and there just wasn’t any denying it—alcohol always made me feel worse, if not physically then mentally, if not mentally then emotionally.
The lows never beat out the highs, and when I really got mindful about it, the highs were vapid, short-lived and unfulfilling. But why did it take that long to learn? Of course immediate gratification in a toxic mind-altering beverage is going to suck. It’s logical! It’s why Brave New World was a dystopia!
And yet, it’s not easy to see past societal conditioning. You have to get brave. You have to be willing to turn upside down all of your assumptions; you have to be willing to let go of things that no longer serve you, instead of living the life of least resistance, holed up in a comfort zone, watching your potential go unfulfilled. Because even if by all standards you’re rocking your life as a drinker, you’re not rocking it to YOUR best ability, your fullest potential.
Things will change when you quit drinking. You will change. You will evolve closer and closer to someone who knows what truly makes them happy, who takes risks and has courage to go after big things, and who lives with grace and integrity, outside of the bubble of their comfort zone. Each year, I’m getting closer and closer to my best self, because I know I’m not living a life of least resistance, of doing what’s easiest (but not fulfilling). Trust me, sometimes it can’t happen fast enough; sometimes my pace is glacial. But I’m not going to lie to myself anymore, tell myself something brings me joy, when it’s really robbing me of life-force. Pretend everything is okay when it’s not. Not everything will be as simple as removing a toxin going forward, a lot of it will come from tweaks and optimization, but that’s what getting older is all about. It’s a journey to your best self, or else you risk looking back and asking, “what if??”
Here’s to another year older, wiser, clearer, and happier.