Hi, my name is Amanda and I’m not an alcoholic. In fact, back in my drinking days, I was what you would have considered a run-of-the-mill social drinker. I drank just like everyone else in my social circle: a glass of wine with dinner here or there, happy hours, social events. But, as a single, thirty-something – the social events were plentiful. There’d be dinner and drinks with friends and a round of bar hopping on Friday night followed by brunch on Saturday to recover before being productive (or at least attempting to) for a few hours and going back out Saturday night.
At 30, I’d realized my life had become a predictable cycle of detox/retox on the weekends…and it was all completely socially acceptable. There was no one suggesting I needed to control my drinking or take a break. On the contrary, the world around me reinforced that I needed a cocktail to relax on a first date, to celebrate, to take the edge off, to curb social anxiety, to fit in; the list goes on and on.
Sometime during my first year in my 30s, something started to tug at me. My hangovers started getting worse. I’d spend the day laying on my sofa, feeling physically ill. Worse, my brain would be in a mental fog. I’d feel emotionally heavy; as though I’d done something wrong. The feelings would fade, but even as I entered the week, I still felt pretty drab.
There was a small part of me that wondered if there was something more to life than the hamster wheel of social obligations I’d found myself in. A bigger part of me was terrified to re-build an identity that didn’t include alcohol as a social lubricant.
You see, like many young women (and men) out there, I’d subconsciously used alcohol as this magic elixir to help me socialize, date, celebrate & reward myself for surviving whatever first-world problem I’d encountered that week. I bought into all of the “Rosé All Day” memes and truly believed that having fun looked like throwing back a few cocktails on the weekend.
I also fell victim to a darker set of beliefs. I believed that people only quit drinking when they had a problem. I believed that “rock bottom” was the sole path to sobriety. I imagined myself in a dimly lit basement, uttering the words, “alcoholic”…it didn’t seem authentic for me. In fact, just a few years ago, there was a serious lack of support and community for people who just wanted to quit drinking for the health of it. All signs pointed to two paths: keep drinking because it’s normal, or admit you’re an alcoholic and start down the path to recovery.
Now, I want to be clear about something: there is absolutely nothing wrong with the latter mentioned path. I have many wonderful friends who sought the support of AA and recovery programs and are thriving in life. The thing is, I didn’t feel in my core that I had a “problem”. Admitting I was powerless over alcohol didn’t feel congruent for me. However, that doesn’t mean traditional recovery isn’t an absolutely valid path if that’s what resonates with you. It is. That being said, it wasn’t the path for me and I honestly think it’s part of the reason I kept up my party girl lifestyle for so long…why quit if I didn’t “have a problem?”
Here’s the thing I finally realized: I didn’t have to “have a problem” with alcohol in order for it to be a problem in my life. You see, when I did a quick inventory, the single limiting factor I could find in my life was drinking. Sure, I had some serious mindset shifts I needed to make. My thoughts were full of limiting beliefs and irrational fears. But, the one thing that was keeping me stuck in these fears and beliefs was the fact that I was constantly diluting my own capabilities to be better by drinking.
In short, drinking kept me small. Sure, it had the perceived benefit of making me feel brave and confident and relaxed when I wanted to. But, you see, when you take an artificial path to feel brave or confident or relaxed you get artificial outcomes. What I was doing – what we all do, whether you’d like to admit it now or not – when I drank was temporarily covering up emotions that I didn’t want to deal with in the now. By doing this, I reinforced that I wasn’t capable of handling those emotions. I was single-handedly destroying my confidence with the substance I thought was helping me to be more confident. Pretty messed up, huh?
But, spoiler, I DID end up breaking up with booze; and life has never been better. In fact, I want you to know that, while it hasn’t been easy, living alcohol-free has brought more joy, possibility, and happiness into my life than I could have ever imagined.
If you’ve been considering giving up alcohol, but you’re afraid of what it might look like or wondering if AA and traditional recovery are the only routes, let me assure you: there is so much beauty in living an alcohol-free life and there are so many ways to get there.
I can promise you that you won’t have to become a social outcast or utter words that don’t feel true to you. You can find community and support and guidance – it’s all available to you. I can say this with confidence because I’m living proof.
If you’re a gray area drinker (meaning you don’t consider yourself an alcoholic, but you’re not just a “glass of champagne at a wedding” type of gal), you might find my story resonates with you. You can read more about me and my path to living a high-vibe, alcohol-free life here.