I Got Sober at 27 (And I Didn’t Quit to Save Money)

I’ve been debating whether or not I should talk about my sobriety here. There are so many challenges and insecurities that have come with it, that I usually don’t talk about it with anyone, let alone readers. But I have to wonder if there’s anyone reading this who might be going through something similar… and if there is, I’d like them to know that they are not alone.

I toyed with the idea of giving up alcohol for almost two years, before I finally made the decision to ditch it for good. My New Year’s Resolution in 2011 was to not drink for one year. I think that lasted for 23 days. Maybe only 9. I don’t remember but it wasn’t long. For nearly two years after that, I went through phases of “I’m not drinking for a while” and “I think I’m done”. Some lasted two months, others only days… but I wasn’t done, until I was really done.

By the time I finally gave up drinking, I could polish off two bottles of wine at home before going out and taking multiple shots at the bar. I would dance all night, thinking my girlfriends and I owned the floor and not caring what anyone thought of our moves. The more I drank, the more confident I became. And my inhibitions were gone, so I could choose to drink more and more and not feel bad about it. I could also wake up early without so much as a headache, go for a hike and be back before 9:00 a.m. I loved alcohol and I loved that it rarely ever made me regret drinking it.

I’m sure every alcoholic remembers one moment that made them want to get sober. I don’t care to hang that one out for everyone to see, but I will say it was the morning after a night I consumed way too many drinks (go figure, eh?). I distinctly remember curling up under the covers, crying and knowing I couldn’t do this to myself anymore. (Alcohol is a depressant and don’t let anyone tell you otherwise.)

Much like my debt, I don’t think anyone in my life knew I had a drinking problem except for me. I didn’t drink daily or even weekly… but when I drank, I drank fast and hard. I was always a happy drunk who loved to dance and sing all night. And because I rarely got hangovers, it didn’t seem like alcohol affected me or my life in a negative way. What bothered me, however, is the fact that I blacked out almost every time I drank. It’s one thing to hear that you were “so cute” or “so fun last night”, but it’s quite another to wonder if that’s really true because you don’t remember anything after 11:00 p.m.

I don’t like to count my sobriety in days or weeks or even months (ok, maybe I do count months). I do like to say that I got sober at 27 and everyday feels a little bit better than the day before. But I could never write a how-to post about staying sober because, the truth is, it’s a conscious decision I make everyday. When I open the refrigerator, I look at my roommate’s bottles of beer and wine and I choose not to open them. When I’m at dinner with friends, I see all of their fun drinks and I choose to consume what feels like a gallon of water. I often wish I could have “just one”, but I know I can’t so I just don’t.

The reaction to my decision has generally been positive. Of course, my family and friends are amazing. I’ll never forget the day I told my dad I was an alcoholic. We were in separate cities talking on Facebook chat, and I finally said the words for the first time. Then I cried for a few hours – but I read his reply over and over again. “I’m proud of you for recognizing your behaviour.” And that’s what mostly everyone says. There have been a few people who have called me out, labelled me as “the sober one”, and generally just made me feel like I was different or was somehow bothering them by not drinking. Those reactions all sting, because sobriety comes with many of those insecurities.

Even though everyday feels a little bit better than the day before, I still:

  • worry what my friends think
  • worry that my family worries
  • wonder what new people I meet will think
  • wonder if I’ll ever find a guy who accepts me
  • try not to isolate myself
  • feel left out sometimes
  • have moments where I wish I could drink
  • hate when someone tells me I’m not an alcoholic, and
  • feel angry whenever someone asks if I quit to save money

My Internet BFF Clare said it best: Not drinking is serious business.

However, I have also:

  • been more productive on the weekends
  • been more productive, in general
  • become a better writer (I think)
  • become passionate about new things, i.e. financial literacy for youth
  • started to volunteer again
  • gotten more physically fit
  • gotten even closer with my family and friends
  • been more careful about who I let into my life and my heart, and
  • learned to put myself first

There are always going to be people who judge me, or question my decision, because they don’t understand… but I don’t need them to. Just like I don’t need to explain what the definition of an alcoholic is and why I know I am one. I grew up in a house where neither of my parents drank, because alcoholism exists in our family. I knew the warning signs. I knew I had a problem. And I know I always will. But I can confidently say that I know I’ll be sober forever – because I need to be, in order to live my happiest, healthiest life.

Thanks for reading, friends. <3

Flickr: smaku