It was during a recent coffee date with an old friend that the familiar question came up.
“So Kristyl, you’re really still not drinking?” she said, raising a skeptical eyebrow; her freshly manicured hands cradling a pumpkin spiced latte.
“Like not even just an itty-bitty glass of wine at a party or a mimosa at brunch?”
The question used to make me extremely uncomfortable.
Honestly, I wasn’t really all that confident in my decision to cut off the lifeline to my favourite vice… to walk away from that trusty numbing sensation that would get me out of my head, out of my shell, and eventually — out of my right mind.
But that was then. Today, it’s a whole new story…
Dec. 31, 2016 was the last time I had a drink.
There was nothing extraordinary about it, other than it was New Year’s Eve.
It wasn’t like the time just a few years prior when I blacked out, flashed a few unsuspecting partygoers and missed the countdown.
This was my second attempt at getting sober, and all cliches aside, the new year seemed like the perfect time for a fresh start.
Living in Denial
The thing is, when you’re unsure if you have an issue with alcohol in the first place, sticking to such a huge lifestyle change is like standing in quicksand.
It’s only a matter of time before you get pulled under.
I was a cold-bottle-of-medium-priced-chardonnay-a-night kinda gal. Actually, I usually managed to save a glass just to prove that I could.
On weekend nights, it was a bottle and a half… sometimes two.
Pretending to be a ‘normal drinker’ was a piece of cake, until it wasn’t anymore…
It was just one day after our couples’ trip to Mexico when I keeled over in pain on our kitchen floor.
The spasms started in my stomach and radiated to my back like labour contractions, coming in agonizing waves that left me breathless.
My doctor shook his head the next day when I admitted roughly how much I had consumed during our vacation. The mix of too much alcohol, dieting and spicy food had taken its toll on my petite frame.
Alcoholic Gastritis was his diagnosis.
“Does that mean I’m an alcoholic?” I asked, masking my nervousness with a forced laugh, turning 50 shades of red.
He alleviated my concern by letting me know it’s common after a week of overindulgence and to lay off the sauce and spicy food for a good 30+ days. He also gave me a prescription, but it would take a few days to kick in.
It hurt to swallow my own saliva, let alone eat.
And yet, I recklessly poured myself a generous glass of wine that night, wincing as each sip felt like hot lava burning a hole in my esophagus.
I had never driven drunk.
Had never been to jail.
Was able to run a thriving freelance side hustle.
And I still had my family intact.
Comparisons constantly swirled around in my head, making my resolve slowly dissolve — made me forget all about the fact that I had crossed a few lines I never thought I would; that I was hung over every single damn weekend for four years straight; that my 5 p.m. glass of wine had become a 4 p.m. glass of wine until I thought eff it.. 3:30 is just a half hour earlier, right?
I was constantly foggy headed, irritable, restless, discontent, anxious and sad, but I didn’t have an alcohol issue…right?
It was while taking a swig of water and two extra strength Tylenols one morning that I came to the realization that my drinking was quickly taking me down a dark, dangerous, soul-crushing path.
If I wanted to live the life I have always dreamed about, it was time to put a cork in my habit –this time for keeps.
And so began my second foray into sobriety.
Queen of Awkward
The first year of living alcohol-free was like a crazy emotional rollercoaster ride.
At one moment, you’re riding that pink cloud, feeling high off the newfound mental clarity and weight loss. The next, you feel like an infant without its pacifier, unable to sooth yourself in awkward social situations or at home alone on the couch in front of the TV.
Drinking alone was my jam — also a pretty big warning sign.
And speaking of awkward, most of us who are drawn to alcohol claim some sort of ‘social awkwardness’ status. Trust me, I know — it’s a title I throw around like confetti when describing myself to others.
Even as a young child, I’ve always been acutely aware that I’m different.
I never felt like I fit in at school, and even around friends and family I often still feel alone and misunderstood.
Being the only sober one at a party or social gathering can also feel extremely lonely at first, but wait until you discover how to turn it all around.
Trust me, if I can do it, anyone can.
Flipping the Sobriety Switch
I can’t exactly pinpoint when in my journey I flipped the switch, but now that I know the secret, there’s no turning back.
YOU CAN HAVE FUN WITHOUT A DRINK.
No, really….I swear!
I have saved thousands of dollars, calories and brain cells the past 21 months.
Just last night, I danced until midnight totally stone-cold-sober at a Halloween party and had an absolute blast.
I’ve also been sober though a NYE house party, numerous romantic getaways with Jason, birthday parties, concerts, etc. I’ve also found there’s so much more time in my week to hit the gym, meet up with a friend and go on local adventures with my family.
There’s also all the amazing books I’ve been able to finally read. The old me would have told you that I simply don’t have time to read.
Man, getting wasted was such a waste of time.
Is sobriety easy? Of course not.
Most people find sobriety terrifying– I know that because I was one of them. When you start off, you have no idea what to expect, and yes, it can be extremely lonely at times.
There are also so many misconceptions of what addiction and sobriety look like, which is why so many men and women are terrified to admit they’re struggling.
Whether it’s 12-step program, sobriety blogs or online support group, there are many ways to connect with others who share similar stories.
Meanwhile, at the Cafe
Her question lingered at the tip of her tongue; her eyes scanned my face waiting for a response to the million dollar question.
“Yep, still off the sauce!” I replied, averting my eyes to the corner of the cafe where my two girls were busily playing with LEGO.
“The thing is, those two deserve my full presence… it’s the best present I can give them and myself.”