I went 1.5 years without drinking and just had a glass of wine… this is what happened.
*TRIGGER WARNING* This post is about drinking again after a long period of not drinking from the perspective of a non-addict. If you have suffered or do suffer from addiction this post might be triggering for you.
I am nearly 1.5 years into my journey of ditching alcohol and saying f*ck you to hangovers. It still feels like the best decision of my life. If I’m honest though, every now and then when I’m with a new group of people there is still this gnawing sensation in my stomach and the back of my throat when the room goes a bit quiet after I tell everyone I’m going to skip on their spiked punch because I don’t drink. Their juicy concoction of champagne and mystery spirits peaks no interest from me these days.
But that burning feeling is still there. The point when I feel I’m a bit different from everyone in the room. Where for a few seconds or minutes maybe, I can feel lonely while surrounded by a group of people. Science says that this is the deepest form of loneliness.
But it’s at this point where I remember my unwstd. family and the connections I’ve made here. I remind myself that my being different has given me so many small things like 6am sunrises, adventure packed camping trips and big things like a totally new perspective on life, socialising and relationships.
But it was this same gnawing feeling that made me realise that alcohol still had some kind of hold over me. I was having nightmares at least once a month about being drunk and doing things I could never imagine doing like drunk driving. I had irrational fears about bartenders putting alcohol in my mocktails accidentally. I had a weird anxiety at parties that my water would somehow get swapped with someone’s vodka. If a friend offered me a sip of a drink I felt a judgey/fearful voice creep into my head saying, ‘how could she... she knows I don’t drink’.
I want to reiterate that I have never suffered from addiction, so I felt that if this fear and anxiety around alcohol and being drunk still has such a foothold in my mind, then how could I consider myself someone who has totally overcome their booze filled past life? It’s like being that girl who is ‘so over’ her ex but can’t stop talking badly about them! It’s understandable though, for many of us alcohol can be tied to traumatic memories. For me there was nothing immediately traumatic but it was a build up of intolerable feelings of being tired, hungover and constantly anxious about what I did or said the night before. At some point over the past 1.5 years I began to irrationally fear that even one sip of alcohol would bring these uncomfortable feelings flooding back into my life.
I needed to find a way to take my power back. After a long chat with Kayla from 1000 Hours Dry, I realized taking my power back meant having a drink and showing myself what I already knew. Drinking has no power over me. I don’t like it, I don’t need it, life is better without it. I wanted to wait for the right moment with a close friend or a partner so I felt comfortable and safe. Re-reading my words I realise anyone reading this as a regular drinking probably finds this dramatic and a bit insane but once you go a year and half without being drunk or hungover the idea of crossing back to the darkside is a horrifying thing.
I think it was several months after talking this through with my Friend Kayla at 1000 Hours Dry before I actually had my first sip of a drink. I was a few months into a new relationship and I was on a date with the new SO at a beautiful Italian restaurant by the beach. He ordered a glass of red wine to go with our food and offered me a sip. It felt right. So I had a sip and immediately cringed. It was way too strong and had no appealing taste in that moment, so I passed it back and stuck to my sparkling water for the rest of the night. I felt that sip eased me into the next step, having one glass of wine. Why did I want to do this after cringing on one sip? I can’t tell you honestly, but something in me needed to know that I could have a full glass of wine and still have 0 interest in alcohol. At this stage in my journey I needed a reminder that alcohol just doesn’t do it for me, that I’ve chosen the life I have for a reason, that the benefits of feeling better outweigh the effects of feeling different. So the next weekend I was cooking dinner at home with the new boyfriend and we each poured a glass of wine. We cooked, we danced and we settled down to watch a movie. This time it was better, I enjoyed the taste of the Red wine with our food but I think I mostly enjoyed the illusion that I wasn’t different for a moment, that we could be one of those couple who go on dates at trendy wine bars, eat pasta and drink a glass or two of red without a second thought. The next morning my eyes popped open expecting a hangover, pounding headache or sore stomach. But to my surprise, nothing, I felt fine. It was clear, one drink wouldn’t kill me, it wouldn’t make me spiral. All I felt was a tinge of regret and cognitive dissonance that I was trying to be someone that I’m not . It brought me back to the blatant reality that I am a bit different now from some of the western world when it comes to my social habits and I will have to continue to ease into that day-by-day and become more comfortable with the new me. The next night my partner asked if I wanted another glass with him before throwing away the bottle and it was an instant nah from me.
After that night & one glass I feel that I regained a ton of power over drinking. No more nightmares, and way less anxiety ~thus far~. In my mind it is no longer a taboo thing I need to avoid tasting, smelling or looking at. It has just become a dusty bottle on the shelf that is there if I want it but quite frankly, I just don’t anymore. The costs for me outweigh any benefits. What I do need going forward is a chilled bottle of McGuigan Shiraz and a big fancy wine glass so I can have all the feels I do love about wine without the side of regrets.