Happy Sober Holidays

In October 2012, I wrote a post claiming that I knew I was a better person when I didn’t drink. After a summer filled with “trips around the world” (a.k.a. drinking multiple bottles of wine in one evening, all from different countries), beer gardens and too many 8-packs of Strongbow, a couple of my relationships with friends and family had been so deeply affected by my own relationship with alcohol that I knew I had to give it up.

And I did – for a while. Being so new to Toronto, I felt like I could reform myself. I didn’t have many friends in the city, and I didn’t want any of the new friends I made to ever know how much I loved to drink. I was dubbed “Sober Sally”, but I wore the name proudly. I attended dinners and parties, where I sipped sparkling water or soda all night, then left early before “the real fun” began. I caught up on sleep, woke up hangover-free, and got back into a somewhat normal and productive routine.

Then everything changed in late November. On one particular night, I was treated to an intimate five-course dinner with people I’d never imagined I would have the chance to meet. The dinner was meant to be paired with wine, but I gracefully declined each bottle that was presented. I did not, however, stop counting – other people’s glasses, that is. I watched as each sip made their cheeks a little rosier; their laughs a little greater. I should’ve left the event feeling grateful, but instead I was shaken.

From there, I met a friend at a bar on Queen Street West. We were seeing a local Victoria band play live, and I wanted to drink. After 45 days of not drinking (yes, I was counting), I decided to buy a beer. I guzzled it like you would a glass of water after a hard workout. The cold, rounded glass fit perfectly in my small palm – almost as though it belonged there. And yet, when I finished it, I began to pick at the label obsessively, knowing I’d just given up 45 days of sobriety and there was no going back on that decision.

Over the next month, I drank every chance I could. I got blackout drunk at our office Christmas party. I got blackout drunk in New York. I took chances that I never would have while sober. And things only got worse when I went home to Victoria. Most of my memories from Christmas last year include trying to piece together more blackout nights while hungover the next morning. The only morning I did not wake up hungover was Christmas… but I did get blackout drunk again that night.

On the morning of December 29th, I woke up knowing I couldn’t keep going at the rate I was. I was filling so many voids with alcohol; soothing hurt feelings with warm bellies and lonely days with eventful nights. I was ignoring the things that were causing me to drink all month long; some were the same things that had caused me to drink so much the summer before. On New Year’s Eve, I soberly drove from party-to-party, hugging and kissing my friends goodbye. I got on a plane back to Toronto early the next morning and knew I never wanted my holidays to feel that empty again.

This is the only post I’m going to publish this week. For the next seven days, I’m going to soak up every minute I can with family and friends – the people who have stood behind every crazy decision I’ve made this year, especially the one to stay sober. And the most beautiful thing about this Christmas is that I will remember every single minute of it. There’s nothing I can be more thankful for than that.

Happy holidays, friends.


Flickr: mako_side_b