In 1986 I drank my last alcoholic beverage. At the time, I didn’t know that it would be my last. I was 30 years old and had gone to a Joan Armatrading concert with 2 friends. I was supposed to be the designated driver, but ended up drinking 2 beers and smoking a joint. I still drove home. Nothing bad happened. No accident or close call. Neither of my friends said anything. By all outward appearances, it was a pretty tame evening. I woke up the next day with a sense of remorse and guilt that was unprecedented (and I had experienced some pretty remorseful mornings in my life). The question that was going through my mind, which I had never allowed myself to entertain before, was, “Why couldn’t I not drink?”
I decided to go a week without having even a glass of wine. I went through the first weekend and extended the “fast”. 12 days later, I was running, and had an epiphany. For most of my adult life, I’d felt like I was living on an emotional roller-coaster, but on this run I noticed that feeling was gone, and it was replaced by something totally foreign; inner peace. For years, even though I did most of my heavy drinking in my teens, and my life looked good on the outside, I knew that drinking was a problem for me. By my 20’s I drank much less, but it had become a game of limiting and controlling what I drank, to avoid feeling out of control.
The few times that I considered quitting, I just couldn’t imagine what life would be like without alcohol. I couldn’t imagine going to a Christmas party or out to a nice dinner without having a drink. And what about when my sons got married? Wasn’t I even going to have a glass of champagne ? I loved the idea of celebrating with alcohol and held onto the illusion of drinking as relaxing, fun and uplifting. I believed that alcohol was the thing that brought sparkle to my life. I believed that it was the thing holding my life together, even though, if I had been able to look at it honestly, this was not my experience. Losing control of myself; talking or laughing too loud, or too much, forgetting what I had said, waking up feeling sick and tired, hung-over and embarrassed, was more my reality than the one of me as the care-free woman toasting friends at a dinner party.
Inside of me a voice was screaming, “Something is wrong here! This is not working for you!” I didn’t stop drinking because I thought that life would be better. I thought life would be boring and dull. I stopped because I just couldn’t do what I was doing anymore. There is an expression, “I was sick and tired of being sick and tired” and that was all that I knew.
25+ years have passed since that fateful day in July of 1986 when I had my last drink. My life has been anything but boring! The fears that life would lack luster and vitality were not only unfounded, they were lies. I came alive inside when I stopped drinking. A part of me emerged that I didn’t even know existed. I really started to live the day I stopped drinking.
Life is always calling to us to come up higher; to grow and expand and change. To step into an unknown world. Sometimes the call is exciting and looks like adventure and sometimes we change because we feel like there is no other option. It doesn’t matter. Say yes, move forward, take the risk that the change you fear will open a door to a new life for you.
“The only way to make sense out of change is to plunge into it, move with it, and join the dance”. Alan Watts