Wednesday 21 February 2018

365 days on the alcohol free road

This time last year, I did the unthinkable......the unimaginable................the unfathomable.................. one of the most anti-social, un-Australian things you could ever do. I decided to stop drinking alcohol.  GASP.  Well, I wasn't sure I meant to give up alcohol, but it seems I have. I think. I am pretty sure I have....I am living alcohol free.  I don't drink.
What happened was a kind of unintentional and yet really positive life changing experience and for a culture that seems to revolve around drinking, I feel like I am paving my own way and beating my own drum when it comes to doing what I want to do, not what I am expected to do to fit in with the norms of society.  And drinking - and usually by quantity - is a social norm.  I have challenged the norm and here I am 365 days later with a brand new normal.
Over a 30 day journey, my whole relationship with, and view of alcohol changed. I was someone who enjoyed a drink. I loved the social aspect of it and I liked the taste of it and I liked the feeling that came with having a few drinks. A drink for me was coming home from work and having a couple of glasses of wine and maybe a baileys, or having a few drinks if I went out on the weekend or any of the occasions that relate to drinking - work drinks, dates, etcetera, etcetera, etcetera....people drink to celebrate anything and drink to celebrate nothing.

Over a month, I probably drank about this much and it looks a lot, but it is a calculation that I figured covered any possible drinking scenario. I've included it all - the wine, the shots, the cocktails, the beers, the bubbles, the g&t's and the whatever else's that made up the social and unsocial norm.
I would have a drink or two every night, just like millions of others would.  What I found though, was that one glass was turning into another and some days I'd wake up feeling not as fresh as I wanted to.  I'd often thought about not having a drink at night, but it became a case of why not.  It's only a glass or 2 of wine. She'll be right mate.

When my son moved back home to deal with an over the counter pain killer addiction, I found myself thinking more and more about his situation and wanting to understand what addiction was so I could be in a better position to support him.  And that's how this journey began.

Was coming home every night and having a few glasses of another type of over the counter medication setting a good example?  When I look at it that way, no it wasn't.  But it was only a drink or two, right?  Wine time is big business and it comes with its own set of nasty side effects - addiction, aggression, over-dosing and even death - no different then any other drug.

I actually hated the thought of not having a glass of wine at night.  It was like a familiar friend. And as a single woman in her early 50's living by herself, I was in the statistic range of problem drinkers and I had a bit of a holy fuck moment. How do I not have a drink?  How do I break up with a friend I had known for many years who I had shared so many life experiences with? And I am being totally honest, the thought of that kind of scared me a little, especially as I reflect on it now.

Was I a problem drinker?  I am not sure.  What I am sure of though, is that the thought of drinking never entered my mind till I walked in the door at night, or when I was at whatever social event it was that I was involved in. It would come up in conversation but it was never something that filled my thoughts or consumed me.  I liken it to a pie chart....
That small amount of green was when I consumed alcohol during the week or on the weekend.  The others times were when I was sleeping, or at work or the general daytime and alcohol wasn't on the radar. I work in a job that has a zero alcohol policy, so it was just not relevant. The window of consumption was very small, but if I was doing something social, the level of consumption could be quite big. I could keep up with the best of them.

When someones life revolves around their next drink at anytime of the day, I think that's a big pie problem. I'm not one to eat a whole pie, so the small piece of the pie I was consuming got me thinking about whether I really needed or wanted it and the timing of my son's arrival seemed to lock in the decision.  Pie was off the menu.

I'd stumbled across this book in an op shop.  It cost me 2 bucks and apart from understanding the mechanics and effects of drinking, it has been a game changer for me in other aspects of my life.  I guess somewhere in my brain, I was thinking about making change.  After all, how long can we keep waking up of a morning feeling cloudy or having your day written off because you partied super hard and your ability to function is compromised? Well for me, I committed to changing that aspect of my life on 21 February 2017 when I stepped into the unknown.  I remind myself that a decision is made in a moment.  And I made the decision.
And what did the unknown look like? Well I didn't know, but I soon found that by acknowledging that I wanted to make change, committing to it, proudly owning the decision and seeing it through meant the unknown was not a scary place.  It became a joyous ride into self discovery.

As I went through the 30 day journey, my eyes were well and truly opened as to what the effects of drinking are on yourself and the impact it can have on others even when you think it might not. The more I got into the journey, the more enthusiastic I became about seeing my future life with a different kind of freedom.  The freedom of not being attached in any way shape or form to alcohol - something that had been a part of my life for such a long time. 

It became extremely liberating. Was this the 2017 version of burning your bra and taking the next step as an empowered free woman?   I can go ANYWHERE with anyone and not have to have alcohol, or rely on it to give me some dutch courage or do it because everyone else is, or drink something that I hate the taste of.  I am free baby!  Everything I do, is me, being my authentic pure self.
So what now, 365 days on...well in no particular order
I feel amazing. I never even think about alcohol. I am using that money for different stuff. My time is more purposeful. I am not missing out on ANYTHING. I always have a clear head. I feel amazing. My weekends are fuller and not of sleep or blur.  I feel safer knowing that I am not intoxicated in anyway when I am out. My social interactions with men aren't risky and as a single woman I am in total control of every action I take part in. I like to say "I don't drink" (like I am part of a cool club). I feel fresh. I feel amazing.......should I go on!  Look at my booze pie now....what a freaken LEGEND.  It says so in the legend.
So what else? Well along the 30 day journey I really looked at who I was.  I had some moments of closure (one giant moment of closure actually - the closure of the wine bottles) and many moments where I opened my thinking to new possibilities and opportunities.   

When I started documenting my journey, we had to take a before and after photo.  Here's me when I started the journey.
 Me after 30 days.
 And me, a year later.

I've always been comfortable exploring and doing things out of my comfort zone and this was a big step outside of it.  Could I go 30 days without alcohol? Could I go one day without it? Would I struggle at all? Would I be okay being a bit of an outcast in a world that revolved around booze? Well, I am totally fine and I guess to sum it up, when I think about my pie chart, the majority of my day was spent alcohol free, so why not make it all alcohol free?  I am still the same person, Actually I am probably even better.

And what next?  Well I have had quite an amazing life journey and one that has inspired others to think differently, to challenge the normal, to be fearless, to accept only the best, and to know your worth in a time that it sometimes isn't easy.  Part of this journey has been about setting goals and actions, visualising my future and closing in on my purpose.  And as I connect more with others, it's my ability to communicate that I see as being the thing that I want to explore and use to see if I can make a difference to those who may find themself treading water, or doubting their decisions, or needing a little push to follow things they are passionate about but don't know where to start or seeing that it's possible to make change even in the hardest of times.  I want to give back all of the wonderful things I have been empowered with.

When I started on my 30 day journey last year I wrote about it each day. I think it's still relevant and it's still current and the topic is becoming more a discussion point in mainstream sources.  The link to my 30 day journey is here if you wish to check it out. Maybe you are thinking about this as something that you want to try and if so, then go for it. You might find down the track that your life has taken a whole different direction because you made a choice to consider the possibility of doing something so far from your norm that it kind of surprises you when you see how good it is.

Alcohol is driven by advertising and how great life is when you are enjoying a few pina coladas on the beach. But the reality is that after a few pina coladas things may not always end up as the commercial tells you it will but we'd like to believe that it does. And with alcohol, I've seen the nasty, I've been part of it and it's not all that pretty, so why would I want to put myself in any position that leads me to believe that the perfect sunset must be enjoyed with wine in hand.

I could go on and on about how I am so happy with this lifestyle choice, but I think it's kind of obvious, so that's it for the alcohol free journey.  This is my normal and I'm a poster girl for courage, possibility and freedom from being tied to something that wasn't enhancing my life.

I don't drink.  I love saying that.


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