In the early days I searched and searched the internet, books, blog posts, articles, etc. to find someone who was telling me what would happen to me when I stopped drinking. I needed to know the exact details. What would I feel like at day 6 1/2? 2 weeks? 2 months in? 6 months? I’m a planner and I thought that I could use someone else’s experience as a guide. I had so many questions.
Was I shaking because I’m hungry or is this withdrawal? Is this headache related to not drinking? When will I stopped being obsessed with not drinking? When will I start to feel like myself? Wait, who am I? Will not drinking help me figure that out? When will I be happy? When will this feel normal?
The truth is that this process is so personal. Everyone has a completely different story and the early days can be tough to remember because there is a lot going on……like surviving-which is pretty consuming.
But, as I look back I realize how much I have learned and the tricks I used to help me along the way. Here’s a recap.
Weeks 1-2 Oh Shit!
First of all, I was hungover for most of week one which made it pretty easy for me not to drink. But as I moved into the mind shift that I was going to take a break from drinking (forever) my head started spinning.
I noticed for the first time that alcohol is literally everywhere. Why hadn’t I noticed this before? Was it because I thought it was normal? If I was in public I was being bombarded with alcohol. Neon signs, ads, songs, clothing, facebook comments, general conversation, you name it.
I felt like hiding.
I turned in. I asked Drew to be patient. I did the bare minimum at life. I felt emotionally exhausted and I stayed in bed reading as much as I could. I reached out to sober people and tried to find some allies to remind me that I wasn’t the only person in the world who didn’t drink.
I read The Naked Mind by Annie Grace and every single word of every post on Hip Sobriety.
Weeks 2-5 Why Am I Drinking 75 La Croixs At Once?
I had never gone more than a week without drinking (unless I was pregnant or very sick). I remember at 11 days alcohol free I finally told a friend. I felt like those 11 days were the equivalent of a lifetime. I thought I accomplished epic heights and I was so proud of the long journey that I had taken.
I focused on one question and it was “Am I Going To Drink Today?” I couldn’t go beyond that. I felt too scared that I would fail.
During this time I realized how critical the physical behavior of drinking had become. I loved the thin wine glass stem and rim. I craved the frosted glass. And the act of picking up a drink and taking a sip seemed to be as vital as breathing.
It was crucial that I find some replacement behaviors. I carried around a purse full of sparkling waters, sugary snacks, peppermint tea, and essential oils that I would inhale and apply to my wrists like a junky.
At this point I was literally holding The Naked Mind at all times and re reading all of the points that hit home in the first place.
Month 2-3 Ummmm??? WTF???
Time to seek help and do some personal development. I realized that the drinking was about anxiety. I could no longer “escape” and that meant that I was with myself…..like really with myself. Since I had done ZERO self help it was really hard to be me. I cried a lot. But, I was motivated to learn about what was going on.
My brain was super foggy. Since I was no longer numbing I was overstimulated by everything. It was hard to focus and I was distracted a lot.
I read May Cause Miracles by Gabby Bernstein and worked the book. Huge!
Months 3-4 Mind Blown!
I started learning about mindset and how it affects all outcomes. I couldn’t believe what crap I put out to the world with my negative thoughts. No wonder things weren’t going so well for me. I realized that my thoughts were holding me back from everything positive. So, I started to become aware and pay attention.
I also started to give some thanks. My life was really good and I had been too busy feeling sorry for myself to notice. My mind was clearing out all of the garbage to make room for some peace.
It was also during this time period that it started to become clear that every single thing I thought about alcohol were wrong. My thoughts were delusional, driven by fear, and not at all accurate. I was shocked that living alcohol free was actually providing the freedom that I thought drinking would give me.
I read How to Be Here by Rob Bell.
Month 6 Well Hello!!
This felt like a big milestone. 6 months was far beyond the 21 days that it takes to create a habit. I was doing the work and it was paying off. I started seeing some great results with my energy level, mind, and body. I started having hope that my life could really change. Like really freaking change. I was pumped.
I was so obsessed with feeling great that I started to become less obsessed with alcohol. I could go out to eat without staring at people’s drinks, I felt a little more confident in social settings (but still super awkward), and I had new hobbies like reading and learning to play the ukulele.
I also started gaining strength and losing weight. I have always worked out but I am assuming that my workouts were all retroactive. Now I was running faster, lifting heavier weights, and doing exercises that felt too hard before. My entire body looked different. Less puffiness everywhere.
I read The Universe Has Your Back by Gabby Bernstein and I revisited the Minimalists (who I had been a huge fan of for years but didn’t realize how much they could help on an emotional level).
Month 7-10 Dear God, It’s Me Samantha.
These were the months of more emotional transformation. I was no longer numb and no longer scared to be myself. I started believing in something bigger. I put trust in the universe and in God and began to pray and meditate. I asked for help.
And just like I was told, the help came. Now that I had taken down some walls and gotten out of my own way-the ideas, hope, and inspiration started flowing to me.
I read Girl Wash Your Face by Rachel Hollis. It felt like she had written that book just for me in this exact time.
Month 12 AND…………….I’m underwhelmed.
I made it one year! Ironically, arriving wasn’t nearly as exciting as I thought. There wasn’t this giant feeling of relief like I imagined. Instead I felt contentment (which is way better than the usual highs that are always followed by lows). It really hit home that the path is the purpose and that there is no magical moment. I realized that happiness is not a destination and I was honestly relieved. I understand. I get it. I have to work hard at living but I make the intention to do so.
I read the Subtle Art of Not Giving A Fu&k and it confirmed all of the things that I had learned and read over the year.
Life is happening no matter what. The time will pass regardless. I am in control of how I want to live and it’s nobody else’s fault or priority. Every day I have a choice. Will I choose denial, avoidance, complacency, entitlement, and negativity as my excuse for not living? If so, I will certainly be reinforced by a society that tells us we are not worthy. A society that says if we just buy this or drink that or play this or have that then we will be complete.
Or will I choose love? Love for myself that will conquer the fears and the stigma that I am actually good enough and worthy. Love that tells me that I can have everything that I want if I just ask for it and make the intention to receive. Love that helps move me past being reactive and helps me be mindful instead.
When I stopped drinking I was looking to live a life without hangovers and regret. But what I found was a life far beyond my wildest dreams. I gained an open mind and heart and I am bursting with love, gratitude, and happiness.
I recently read a quote by author and personal trainer Jerzy Gregorek “Easy choices, hard life. Hard choices, easy life.” Looking back I wonder how I ever came to believe that drinking was the easier choice?