And that’s okay, because I no longer drink, and I no longer want to. From this essential change have come other more subtle and internal changes, ones that are harder to talk about. In truth, it was much easier to share how I finally quit drinking than to articulate what’s different now.
But I will try.
In my marriage, I no longer feel an overwhelming need to run for cover when my husband looks me lovingly in the eyes. I can stay in the discomfort and vulnerability and let myself be there with him, in the enormity of what we’ve gotten ourselves into. I can stay with something hard. It’s not necessarily that I’m great at opening up to it, not yet anyway. But I can stay, and that’s the important thing.
In the middle of the night, I’m no longer plagued by a privately shameful sense that I am hastening the end of my life. Sure, I could stand to exercise a little more and eat a little less, but I’m not haunted by these choices. I recognize that I’ll never be the marathon-type or go completely vegan; I just don’t operate that way. What’s new is, I’ve stopped trying to convince myself I’m that kind of person.
At work, I say good morning to my colleagues. I used to shirk in slightly hungover, silently vowing to stop drinking. I’d sit in my office and drink my coffee while berating myself for the two or three drinks I’d had the night before. Trapped in this cycle, I didn’t want to exchange friendly chitchat. Now, although I’m still an introvert, I at least have the decency to say a friendly hello. What’s neat is that this small change has led to other small changes—people dropping in more often, a few hard but important conversations, and some slowly deepening collegial connections.
In my marriage, I no longer feel an overwhelming need to run for cover when my husband looks me lovingly in the eyes.
Online, I completely deleted my Instagram and Facebook accounts. I realized that the very platforms predicated on connecting and sharing alienated me from my own direct experience of being alive. I no longer wanted to squeeze myself into an iPhone camera and a few catchy phrases, and I started to hate the people who were good at doing this. I also unsubscribed from all sober podcasts, blogs, and newsletters. I didn’t need the merchandise, the reminders, or a new identity as a non-drinker. I knew I was done for good, and that it was time move on. This has all been quietly liberating.
What else? I apologize more often. My husband says I’m more fun to be around. I can identify and express my feelings more easily. I read books from start to finish. I really enjoy my alone time. Hot showers are amazing—sometimes I take two a day. When I get home from work, I actually know how to relax. On most nights, I sleep like a baby.
Also, I’m starting to think more strategically about what I want to accomplish. This wasn’t possible when I was drinking because I was constantly reacting to the effects of alcohol. I could only see what was right in front of me. Each day was a discreet slog to the evening, and each week a tiring trek to the weekend. Addiction made me measure time as the distance between doses.
Of course, while I was drinking I did other stuff too: I got my PhD, worked as a therapist (of all things), taught graduate counseling courses, and even got married. But the background noise, my invisible dominant narrative, was all about booze. Would I or wouldn’t I drink? Would I or wouldn’t I stop?
It’s hard to make long-range plans, let alone stick to them, when life includes addiction.