Letting drinking go – that was the answer for Liz. It started with The Alcohol Experiment and turned into the life she’d been meant to live all along.
The Alcohol Experiment
On New Year’s Eve, I was on a beautiful tropical island, in a house overflowing with people and champagne, and I felt like crawling out of my skin. I was 29 days into the 30-day Alcohol Experiment and I was feeling fragile. I took deep breaths, clutched my seltzer, and swore to slip away before midnight. Yet, I didn’t drink that night – or for 154 nights after that.
The Experiment wasn’t a conscious choice as much as Google’s answer to a wordless plea – something, anything, had to give. I can’t say for sure when my drinking changed, but I know when I started counting drinks. I’d had a cascade of shocks, kicked off by the kind of call where I heard my partner’s voice go funny and knew, with sudden certainty, that my life had just divided into before and after. Letting drinking go was the answer but the idea was terrifying.
Somewhere in there, wine tipped from a treat into a habit-and I’m a creature of habit. So every night, I’d pour a glass of wine – or three – and dutifully mark it in my app. Outwardly, I was doing great: I built a house, ran a marathon, earned a big promotion. But the harder I drove, the more I drank.
We tend to think of drinking in terms of “rock bottom” – an ultimatum, a near miss. But for many of us, maybe most of us, it’s simpler than that: I was tired of being tired. I was tired of the constant conversations in my head, of waking up anxious and off-kilter. Of starting the day with good intentions and caving each night. Of being at war with myself.
Afraid to be Alcohol-Free
I didn’t say any of that out loud, of course. In my circles, not drinking was simply not done. We happily say we’re gluten-free, sugar-free, dairy-free-and yet we hide being alcohol-free. Or we say we’re training or dieting or driving. We quietly order mocktails and cringe when the waiter repeats our order.
What was I so afraid of? Being alone – alone at a party and alone in my relationship. Drinking took the edge off the fear until the fear grew so large it swallowed me whole.
Allergic to Alcohol?
When I first drank in college, my body broke out in odd red rashes, so I went to a doctor. He could have told me: Drinking can’t fix anything. You can’t switch off the bad feelings without switching off the good. Leaning on alcohol will actually re-wire your brain, leaving you less able to feel joy.
He could have said: How you spend your days is how you spend your life, and in a decade or so you’ll start to wonder how you got so numb.
Instead, he shoved me Allegra and said, “If drinking was going to kill you, you’d be dead already.” The real question, it took me years to learn, was not whether I’d die, but how I wanted to live – small and afraid, or fully alive.
Letting Drinking Go
That New Year’s Eve, I thought my path was clear: I’d quit, and that was that. I didn’t yet know that healing is a journey, and taking a break was the first change that would unlock more changes that would remake my life.
After six months off, I tried moderation, an occasional drink over dinner with friends. It almost worked. But after deep sleep and clear mornings, I found hangovers unbearable. Most of all, I felt out of alignment with myself.
Three years later, I have finally let drinking go because I’ve come to value inner peace most of all. I’ve learned that I laugh louder and live easier when I’m fully present. I’ve learned the only way through pain is through it, and that it passes if I just breathe long enough.
Finally, I’ve learned that I have the courage to let my life crack open and to build a truer one – all because, years ago, I found the courage to take that first step.
Share Your Story
Letting drinking go often begins with reading This Naked Mind or joining The Alcohol Experiment. We’d love to hear your story and share it with others. This journey can be so inspiring and it is encouraging to know we are not alone.