Or 1,096 days. Or 36 months.
That’s how long it’s been since I stopped drinking on 17 January 2018.
“Why?” many of my friends and colleagues asked with bewilderment as much as curiosity.
Most didn’t like the answer: Because I wanted to change my life.
No one pressured me to stop drinking. When it came to alcohol, I knew my limit and respected it. Alcohol wasn’t ravaging my life. “Then…why?” people continued to ask.
When Life Speaks…
Sometimes, life speaks to you but you’re tone-deaf. I was tone-deaf. I’d spent most of 2016 and 2017 on autopilot. Did things the way I always had while expecting different results. Instead of moving forward I was stuck in neutral. I was too exhausted and too often visiting my doctor wondering why I wasn’t just sick but STILL sick. Tired of complaining of fatigue and the long bouts of insomnia. Stuck in the same old patterns, something had to give.
By this point, I’d been caffeine-free for about eighteen months (I’m back drinking too many coffees in a day). But I noticed that on the nights I had wine with dinner, my sleep was restless. The next morning, it took me longer to get moving and feel alert. I had less energy and it was hard to focus.
If I wanted to give my best to every day, I had to break bad habits.
If I wanted to be more present, I had to be honest about all the things I let distract me.
If I wanted to live my best life, I had to end the patterns of behaviour holding me back.
So, I gave alcohol the boot. Bye, bye. So long. Good riddance.
“I couldn’t do that, but good for you,” was often what I heard after explaining why I wasn’t interested in joining people for drinks in the hotel bar. Or elsewhere.
When I want to achieve a goal, the best thing I can do is set myself up for success. When I’m working to hammer out the final version of a book before handing it off to my editor, the only noise in the background are Mozart’s complete piano concertos, performed by Daniel Barenboim and the English Chamber Orchestra. During the fifteen weeks I trained for the 2019 Toronto Waterfront Marathon, I hit the running trail between 4:30 and 5:00 am when I knew I performed at my best. To succeed, I need to be ‘in the zone’ and avoid any person, place, or thing that may distract me.
So, I wouldn’t drink with my colleagues. I wouldn’t go into the LCBO (the main liquor store in Ontario). Didn’t eat any foods cooked in/with alcohol (that was a bigger challenge than I thought it would be). Told my partner when we did meet friends for dinner that if he ordered alcohol, I wasn’t paying for it. Hardcore? Maybe.
State of Grace
But the last three years without alcohol have allowed me to honour who I am and not who others wish me to be. Giving up alcohol wasn’t a magic bullet that righted everything I struggled with. It took time, but I lost twenty pounds. My sleeping improved. I had more energy and could focus for longer periods of time.
Being sober gave me clarity: That each day I can choose to do what’s necessary to take care of my mental and physical health. Now I’m more present, more aware of who I am and what matters most to me. And to be honest, I don’t miss sipping on mimosas at brunch or the red wine reduction that accompanies roasted beef tenderloin. Or the long lineups at the LCBO ahead of a long weekend or holiday closure.
This much I do know…
Sober, I have the greatest chance of living my best life.
Sober, the world will see the truest expression of who I am.
Sober, nobody can turn my head around.