Around this time four years ago, I was feeling just about at my lowest. It was about halfway through the summer and I felt completely exhausted and like garbage. My anxiety felt like it was going through the roof, and I was PRAYING for some relief. I knew I wanted to feel better, and knew I had to feel better to do more than just function as a mom at a basic level. I also knew that my lifestyle was not positively supporting me to even begin to feel better.
I knew all of this, so why was I feeling so stuck?
While I was generally a weekend binge drinker for over 20 years, summertime seemed to give myself permission to frequently extend my drinking into the week. I was constantly looking for excuses to do this. “Let’s go to the pool and order dinner on a Wednesday, Let’s go to the concert in the park on a Tuesday evening and bring wine! Wouldn’t it be nice to sip on an ice cold margarita out on the porch since it’s so hot out?” I was ALWAYS looking for excuses to drink.
By the time the end of July rolled around, I also had a week away at an all-inclusive resort in Punta Cana under my belt. Not only had my drinking escalated, but so did my unhealthy eating. My heavy drinking always led to a “who gives a crap that it’s a horrible idea to eat pizza or chicken nuggets and French fries at 10:00 PM!” mentality, because we know that alcohol mutes our inhibitions and shuts down our prefrontal cortex, which allows us to make conscious, sound decisions. When I was a drinker, I felt like it always gave me permission to eat and drink whatever I wanted on the weekends. This weekend pattern was now encroaching on my daily life, and I knew something had to give.
I could feel my mental state crumbling and my anxiety and depression increasing. The thought of making any big changes in my relationship with alcohol at that point scared me. Let me remind you that I had quit in September of 2016, only able to hold on to being alcohol-free for about seven months until my willpower ran out (I didn’t know back then willpower was not the way to go). I had promised myself when I decided to go back to drinking and try to “moderate” in April of 2017 that if I couldn’t moderate and if I went back to binge drinking and lost control, I would stop again. I did it before, so I can do it again. But why was I feeling even more stuck this time than the first?
I decided to sit down and make a list of what I felt I needed to do to feel better. I took out my phone, and on my “To Do” app, I made a list titled: “Feel better”, where I listed four things, or goals to work towards, that I wanted to work on to help get me out of this trench I was stuck in. My four goals were – to eat well, meditate, drink less and exercise. These were all things that I knew would help me get to a state of peace, mentally and physically, but made me feel like I had to climb a huge mountain to get there.
I created this list over a month before I kicked alcohol to the curb for good in early September. I can honestly say “drinking less” was something I knew I had to do, and even though I had made that promise to myself back in 2017 that I would quit again if it got out of control, I STILL was not thinking about quitting again. It goes to show how much of an addictive hold alcohol had on me. I was feeling just about at my ultimate low, STILL compromising with myself that I will be able figure it out and was determined to make it work. I wasn’t ready to give up. Back then I was harshly criticizing myself and continuously asking “What is wrong with me? WHY can’t I just be a normal drinker?”
Believe it or not, even after all I had been though in almost the last year and a half I went back to drinking, how I promised myself I would stop drinking again (alcohol makes us break our promises), and how I was mentally and physically feeling at that moment, it was not even on my radar that it would be time for me to leave alcohol behind soon. Again, that was just a little over a month before I finally decided enough was enough.
It’s OK that I was where I was at that moment when I made my “Feel Better” list at the end of July of 2018 because that was part of my path. It was right where I was meant to be on my journey. The path to freedom from alcohol is not linear for the vast majority of people who seek it. It’s completely normal to have your ups and downs, your alcohol-free months and going back and forth to your alcohol-filled life. Every step you take on that journey is a step of growth, whether you are aware of it or not. Being on the journey and conscious of the process can make all the difference.
I wouldn’t trade anything for the freedom from alcohol that I have gained in my life! Four years ago, I would have never imagined myself where I am today. My path to freedom was unique to me. Everyone’s experience and journey will take different twists and turns. It’s all about being curious and open and becoming aware of the process. It’s also believing that you can get where you want to be in your relationship with alcohol. Take some time to reflect on where you are on your path and know it’s exactly where you’re meant to be.