How it feels to go from mad party girl to sober sister overnight.
On Saturday 6 June 2020 I woke up knowing that I’d had my last drink. I couldn’t remember the fight that I’d had with Zeb at 3am. I couldn’t remember being a a belligerent idiot, stealing peoples drinks and showing my angry side to our house guests. I couldn’t remember trying to pick up my then 4 year old daughter, stumbling and falling with her into her wardrobe. I couldn’t remember much past 4;30pm the previous afternoon because well, that’s how I just did long lunches. I drank the fastest, drank the most and never knew when to stop. I LOVED to drink. I loved switching off, letting go, getting loose, being fun. Except by the end of most sessions I was also starting to realise how much I hated it. Every time I was drunk I came home angry, ready to pick a fight with Zeb over him trying to control me. Mid way through each fight I’d lay there thinking ‘I’m so over this’, ‘why can’t I control myself’, ‘why can’t I drink like everyone else’, ‘why can’t I be normal’?
Every time I went out, I’d get asked to ‘please not write yourself off’. My reply? ‘Oh no I’m only going for a couple’ or ‘we won’t be drinking that much’. And each and every time I believed that. Whilst Zeb saw me as some sneaky booze monster, off to drink as much as humanly possible (which in reality I was), I never saw that. I never recognised there was a problem and that somehow this time would be different. I’d behave myself and take it easy, drink at the same pace as the others, not loose control. But all that went out the window with my first drink (gone in 60 seconds).
Before my eventual lockdown escalated ‘final straw’, I’d been hanging around the periphery of sobriety for a few years. Peeking at it and wondering how on earth anyone managed that, why they’d do that to themselves and wouldn’t they lead awfully dull lives? I’d had multiple trips to the emergency department over the years with alcohol related injuries. A split eye (dance injury), a split knee (stair injury), a broken arm (post Bruce Springsteen concert bush wee injury). After the worst of them I contacted our local Drug & Alcohol services centre seeking treatment. I went through the program twice over the course of a couple of years, mostly out of shame, trying to make up for fucking up (again) and to be seen to be doing the right thing to correct the ship.
Neither time through the program did I really believe I needed to be there. Neither time did the moderation tactics I had been taught (including ‘think of the influence you’re having on your child’, drinking mid strength, planning how many you’ll have) have a lasting impact. I very distinctly remember heading to Melbourne for an Iggy Pop gig, my list of reasons and tactics in my purse. I began alternating beer and water, but about 4 beers in I sacked the water and ‘got on the beers’. No drinking injury for me that night but it didn’t exactly run smoothly either.
So here I was in the early parts of 2020, feeling caught in a never ending cycle of drinking too much, feeling guilt and remorse, wanting to change but having no idea how. And pretty much hating myself for it. That off switch was long gone and I was being put to bed by my husband with increasing frequency. He was threatening to take Violet and go stay elsewhere when I drank. I didn’t believe him. It was then that I got a very timely and fortuitous message from an old high school friend Eleanor. I won’t share the whole of the message but it was along the lines of ‘Hi Amy. I’ve been meaning to talk to you for a while about my sober journey and some of what it means to me. Giving up alcohol was very hard but I needed to do it because it was ruining my life.’ She went on to talk about things that she saw that had impacted our friendship that she was feeling remorseful about. It came as a surprise as up until this point our conversations were mainly focused on an exercise app we were both using.
I suggested we had a zoom (she’s in NZ and me in Australia). We took a real deep dive and she told me all about her journey. Hearing about Eleanor’s experiences that felt really familiar (the boozy night and the f**k ups) started an itch in my brain. Over the course of a couple of zooms we discussed a lot. But what it all boiled down to was the thing that I was most fearful about. Is there life beyond alcohol?? She said YES… I had reservations.
You see any time I had stopped drinking for a prolonged periods of time (pregnancy and weight loss challenges) I was MISERABLE. The FOMO was real, I couldn’t stand to be around drinkers and I kept socialising to a minimum. $5 glasses of soda water were the BAIN of my existence and I was so resentful. I was white knuckling it and depriving myself of the thing that I loved the most, alcohol. Now my girl Eleanor was pretty determined that there was another way forward. When I expressed genuine fear about losing all the things I loved, going out, dining with the girls, cutting loose; she said to me ‘Amy, you can have your cake and eat it too’. You can still go out for that beautiful dinner, have that amazing experience but actually enjoy it MORE because you’ll be present and the occasion won’t be overshadowed by how you behaved or the fight that you got into.
Now that resonated with me, and has stuck with me ever since. That’s exactly how I experience life now, 662 day in. I have my cake and eat it too. I still do all the things I love, I am MORE social now than ever, minus the guilt. What’s the difference now between all the years of moderation and the fear of missing out? Well thanks to the program that Eleanor recommended, Annie Grace’s Alcohol Experiment (which is totally free), my perspective on alcohol and the importance of it in my life has been totally shifted. Actually blown to pieces and reborn. I had many learnings over the course of the 30 days but the ones that have stuck with me the most are that all the things I thought Alcohol was giving me, confidence, stress relief, a fun personality were actually superpowers that I already had, it’s just alcohol had been taking the credit for far too long and I no longer recognised them in myself. Stopping drinking was like being reborn as the little 15 year old Amy, before that first dive into getting pissed.
There was a lot of growing up to do and a lot of personal learning to be had. Socialising at first was a little scary, but the more practise I had, the better I got at it. Like a muscle I needed to exercise. Now for ME*, alcohol free drinks have been a massive part of this journey. Being able to go to a mates house, to a wedding or out for dinner with a quality bottle of alcohol free bubbles tucked under my arm, I have often described as my suit of armour. If I am part of the group, enjoying what everyone else gets to enjoy just minus the ethanol, then I am very content. To be able to enjoy a meal with a grown up drink instead of being stuck with soda water really makes such a big difference. Finding the better quality drinks on a really varied scale is what drives me and is why I am so passionate about bring the reviews and events to YOU. So you too can experience the best of the best, fall in love with non-alc and hopefully continue with your health goals, drink less alcohol and live a more authentic, present version of your life.
*I recognise that alcohol free drinks are not for everyone and can in fact be triggering for some with dependency issues.