Carrie took a break from alcohol thanks to old friends, This Naked Mind, The Alcohol Experiment, and Dry January. She’s now looking forward to what’s next in her new life.
A life-changing trip
I quit drinking on November 9, 2020. After a girls’ weekend on the Cape in mid-October with childhood friends I hadn’t spent time with in years, many years… like practically since childhood other than my BFF since kindergarten who I keep in light touch with and see every couple of years for a quick catchup. I had wanted to go on this annual weekend trip for years and always had an excuse not to go. This year, despite COVID, I just knew going would alter my course, so after much annoying back and forth conflict with myself, I went. And it did.
A break from alcohol
One girl (we are all 42-ish but I am still calling us girls) had gone alcohol-free nearly three years ago and after a hangover and meaningful conversation, I bought a book by an author she recommended, Annie Grace. Two days later, I began reading This Naked Mind and I was sold, this was not opinion, this was research and science-based and we are all brainwashed by marketing. I won’t get too into it. Read the book.
On November 9, I signed up for Annie Grace’s free 30-Day Alcohol Experiment, which I cannot recommend highly enough. Days later, I committed to leading a Dry January Challenge fundraiser for an organization of which I on am the Board. With Dry January on the horizon, after my initial 6+ weeks AF (“alcohol-free”), I gave myself “a break” for the two weeks over Christmas/New Year’s in preparation to do it again for January. During this “break” I had maybe four glasses of wine in total – two on separate occasions while dining in a restaurant and two on Christmas Eve at my parents’ house, of which I didn’t even finish the second. I wasn’t missing anything.
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Leading up to Dry January, I pushed and pushed to my close friends and family – group text messages, social media, urged my husband to take part. Hoped my parents would. In the end, none of the people I had targeted joined the Challenge, I tried not to be disappointed. I realized my new passion for sobriety was annoying to those that just weren’t there. And other people joined – social media connections, the staff of the organization, and strangers.
I did also hear that some people were quietly doing Dry January on their own, not wanting to put themselves out there. I respect that. Personally, I put so much of myself out there in this. Too much. TMI. That BFF since K that I went on the girls weekend with – she joined! And so did another girl from the weekend, and the AF friend – the one who inspired me, and she became such a pleasant voice of what is ahead if you stick to sobriety.
Connection is everything
After it began, I found people that I would see around town and organically mentioned it to while chatting would join and support. That meant a lot. For the Challenge, we had a group app that we message through and share motivation and encouragement, hard truths, simple introductions, struggles, etc. Out of 30+ participants, it has dwindled to less than 10 that are active on the group app but that is still a win. Doing this together is just so much better than doing it alone. Connection is everything. Tomorrow is the last day of Dry January and after that, we will be “free” to carry on as we wish.
More than a break from alcohol
This was about more than just a break from alcohol. I needed a reset. Other than college life, and through my 20s and most of my 30s, I had never been a huge drinker. A few drinks here and there but usually not during the week. Maybe once or twice a year was a big blow-out of which I would regret because of a massive hangover. But the past few years, my drinking had increased. We had a group of couple friends with kids the same age and started doing summer vacations together each year and got together often on weekends, and did girls overnight.
I struggled to find real connection, an age-old issue of always feeling like an outsider, so slowly I started drinking more and more every time we were together because that was the activity at the center. It “was fun.” Over time, I started having more and more hangovers. I swear I am allergic to more than two drinks a night, and the funny thing is – I always knew that. I knew that if I had more than one cocktail and a glass of wine, that I would be hungover. For years, I stuck to that. I took care of myself.
Somewhere along the line, maybe tangled up in who was buying the next round and just keeping up, that commitment fell by the wayside and the drinks became countless. The fun nights turned into the same fuzzy drunken stories that all blended together, just wearing a different outfit. We had fun when we were at it, and often there was drama, but always meant for some good “re-hashing” in the morning. All the while, our kids were watching. Our kids were growing up in this and were watching.
This isn’t real
When I finally realized drinking and group photos were our central activity and the glue that held us together, it dawned on me that this “fun” was not happiness. There was no depth. I need depth. I need authenticity. “You are the sum total of the five people you hang around with most.” But all this wasn’t the real me. And that made me feel even more like an outsider.
It took the break forced by a pandemic for me to realize this. And there is so much more to this… for some other time. So here I am and Monday is February 1st and I will be “free” from my Dry January commitment. So what is next?
Did you take a break from alcohol too?