I can’t believe it’s been one year since I last had a sip of alcohol.
Since I last blacked out, and couldn’t remember what I said or to whom. Since I fell down in the subway and needed help up. I can’t believe it’s been over a year since I last finished a bottle of wine to myself, prank phone called my then boyfriend for not returning my texts, and sobbed in my windowsill through wine-stained teeth. (Hint — we broke up.) I can’t believe it’s been over a year since I walked away from the only identity I knew and loved (and hated), but sensed on some primordial, cosmic level I was outgrowing.
All of those instances I mentioned above are true statements, except, actually, I can believe it’s been one year since all of those things took place. I can believe it because I’m the one who made it happen through many uncomfortable nights, one day at a time. I, the party girl extraordinaire, gave up alcohol. I, who needed to finish everyday with a bottle of wine or vodka soda(s) and wake up the next with a hangover, gave up alcohol. I, who could barely remember the events from the night before causing me to live in constant dread and shame, gave up alcohol.
I gave up alcohol exactly one year ago, which is all I committed to.
Leading up to that commitment, I gathered enough info which led me to believe one year was a reasonable timeframe to gain some real clarity, and to establish new neural pathways in my brain. I was right. Any pause from alcohol is good and I encourage it. But in order to see real, reliable shifts in your psyche, you need to commit to a substantial timeline and see it through; which isn’t to say the course won’t zig and zag, it likely will — but stick to your word regardless. Your word is all you really have. And for added peace of mind, maintain little to no attachment as to how it “should” look and feel in any given moment. This is tricky being that we’re only human after all, and our expectations of ourselves and others exceed reality constantly, but try anyway.
I wish I could say I go after everything in my life with such determination; I don’t, but perhaps now I will. After achieving something as grandiose as not drinking alcohol in a society obsessed with it for an entire fucking year, hey, maybe I am pretty darn capable. And the stories I always told myself about being tragically helpless and desperate were just that — stories; myths. I’m able to see now I am absolutely not so many of the things I told myself I was. In fact, I wonder if alcohol ended up in my life as a means to keep these stories running, because without it, they don’t have legs to stand on anymore. And if that’s the case, how many other things am I wrong about? How many other things do I have yet to unlearn about myself? How many other people can I be now that I know I can be anyone, even someone I never thought in 1,000,000 lifetimes I’d be?
And don’t get me wrong, it hasn’t been one magical, year-long joyride. No, no. There were many days I felt so completely uncomfortable I wanted to crawl out of my skin, and there were many more days I still longed for what I once believed to be the elixir of life. Those feelings don’t just go away, not even after a year. But what does happen is you learn to sit in those feelings. You stop giving them so much power, and instead watch them fade away into the void like everything else you ever experienced. (I was/still am exploring meditation, which is quite literally learning to sit with yourself — highly recommend.)
But at first I avoided said feelings with other things like sleeping, hermit-ing, and social media-ing. I walked around like an exposed nerve, and declined most invitations to social gatherings so as not to get hurt — aka explain why I wasn’t drinking (which by the way, isn’t something you’re obligated to do). But then after some series of months, and after running out of ways to avoid myself forcing me to just sit with myself, I began to experience my mind in a whole new way. I noticed that life moves, and it drags you along whether you pick your feet up or not, so eventually I started owning what my reality was/is. That I, Samantha Morgan, am no longer a drinker. And I’m not a drinker because frankly, I don’t want to drink. I don’t want to be numb or blacked out or ashamed of what I did while blacked out. Because after 15+ years of getting loaded, I was never able to find a relationship with alcohol where this wasn’t the outcome.
When you give up alcohol, everything becomes new again, which is both overwhelming and underwhelming. But it takes a little bit of time before you even care to notice this. Sunrises are way better without alcohol, so are picnics in the park. So is sex, oh my. And conversations in general have taken on whole new meaning now that I am coherent and aware of all that is being said. But there are things I miss, too. There are no more “happy hours” after work with friends and lovers and gin and tonics. No more brunch drinks turned into day-long drinks, which was always my favorite kind of drunk (until the next morning of course). There is no more “checking out” or “unwinding” with a beautiful glass of red wine while watching t.v. And who am I kidding? It was never just one beautiful glass of red wine with me. It was the whole bottle or half the box — heck, I’m sure I polished off the whole box on certain nights. It was spills all over the carpet and walls and runny mascara on my pillows. There was nothing beautiful about it. The myth that alcohol helped me unwind was in reality a way for me to shut completely off. But at the time, I fed and worshipped and prayed to this myth. Until I learned it was a false god, and later accepted it was a false god, and went to work uncovering just what exactly it is I was searching for in the bottom of those bottles.
Giving up alcohol wasn’t just about giving up alcohol, it’s been so much more than that.
I learned so much more than just how to be an addict and how to recover(ing) from being one. My addiction to alcohol was really only the tip of the iceberg. I once thought alcohol was at the core of all my problems, well, and before that I thought it relieved me of all of my problems. I was a pro at gas-lighting myself into believing many mixed things about booze. But once I gave it up, I realized the truth; that standing behind the bottle, blurry eyed and unamused was me.
It always was and is me behind everything I think is holding me back.
In fact, alcohol didn’t really stop me from having the life I wanted, not so much as repeatedly choosing to keep alcohol in my life had, which is what addiction is in my unpopular opinion. Thus, addiction wasn’t even the problem so much as my unwillingness to confront my problems. My addiction was really just an excuse for me to not show up fully in my life, and I say this not to impose this must be true for everyone or that it isn’t something to be taken seriously, but that I am now (with time, sobriety, and space) very clear this is true for myself.
I read on a few occasions you stop emotionally developing around the time you start using (not sure if this is a fact, but it resonates for me). At one year without alcohol that puts me at the ripe, emotional age of roughly 15. I’m now 32; a 32 year old with the emotional capacity of a 15 year old — yikes. I started drinking/using young; I was 13–14, meaning addiction was tightly woven into my identity. Somewhere in my young psyche I decided alcohol was something that could set me free, although it’s curious now that one would need to drug themselves in order to “be free”. Unraveling it may take longer than the time it took to create, and that’s fine with me. Now I have nothing but space as far as the eye can see.
After many therapy sessions, reading of the proper literature, and late night convos with friends and strangers alike — I get it. I get that the freedom to be myself doesn’t come in something else, bottled or boxed, nor is it something I have to get to in the distance. It’s something I need only let myself be, now.
I am doing my very best, and I still have work to do — and now I know I’m up for it.
The world needs its humans to wake up. To get to reality. To become involved with their lives and how they affect others, and we cannot do this if we are a blubbering, drunk mess (projecting myself here). But we are all where we’re at. I can’t deny that. I couldn’t deny that for myself when I was binge drinking, and I cannot deny where I am now, not binge drinking, but definitely spending $100’s on plants. I’m not here to say who should and shouldn’t drink, or who can or can’t drink, or who is or who isn’t an alcoholic. I’m not here to say alcohol is inherently good or evil, as I don’t believe anything truly is. None of these things are my job to decide for anyone but myself. My job is to get to reality — my own reality — and vibe so fucking high I glow with radiant energy. And I cannot, not a way in hell, do that with alcohol in my life.
And as for you my friend, you must uncover these things for yourself. And I hope you understand the labels don’t help. It doesn’t really matter if you’re a mean drunk or a fun drunk. An alcoholic or a social drinker. A wine mom or a wine-o. A drunk mess or drunk chic. There is only one question to ask yourself: Does alcohol make you feel like total and utter shit more than it makes you feel good? If the answer is yes, then there are many more questions to unpack, and they will reveal themselves as you start the unpacking. And if your answer is no, make sure you continually check in with said question often, as things are always subject to change.
At one year no alcohol, I feel vital and alive. I feel everything.
Which doesn’t mean I know everything, or even much, but here is what I do know to be true after one year of no alcohol: I can do hard things. I don’t need booze to like myself or to like my life, in fact it’s the opposite. Most everything I ever believed about myself isn’t true. I am closer to reality than I’ve ever been. I am closer to myself than I’ve ever been. And no, I am not going to start drinking again now that I’ve hit my goal.
As someone who once viewed themselves as broken and damaged and destructive, I see now it was all lies. Alcohol was never the whole problem, nor was addiction. They were symptoms of what I didn’t want to confront, at least in my opinion — but I am no doctor. Really, what do I know? I’m just billions of years of evolution like everything else…
If you are looking to explore your life without the use of substances, first, I am so proud of you; second, whichever they may be, just commit to quitting “for now”. Here is a link to an org who is doing great work in broadening the alcohol addiction paradigm, and getting people from all walks of life the help they need.
You don’t have to worry about forever — forever isn’t real. All we have is now. Right now. This moment before it passes into the next.
Your “real” friends will understand (but maybe not at first). Your body will thank you, and your mind will finally be able to unlearn and relearn what it needs to cope — with time and tlc.
I know, just like everyone else, how heavy it gets being a life in this world. Hiding from it does not make the weight of it go away, in fact, it only compacts it.
The real freedom isn’t in escaping. The real freedom is in showing up.