So I want to preface this two-post Sobriety Series by saying I have absolutely NO issue with people drinking. If you choose to consume alcohol or if you choose sobriety, that’s up to you. It’s a very personal decision that I think you have to make for yourself. None of what I’m going to say is meant to deter you from drinking in any way. If it inspires you to try sobriety, that’s wonderful. If it doesn’t, that’s great too. I simply want to talk about the role sobriety plays in my life. And let me tell you, it is not a simple one.
Drinking can be a touchy subject in our culture. We’re raised to think alcohol is fun, glamorous, and exciting. And, in some ways, I think it may be. But at the same time, there are other ways to be fun, glamorous, and exciting. In this blog post series, I want to start a discussion about alcohol. I want to get people thinking about the role booze, or sobriety, plays in their lives. In this first post, I explain why I don’t drink anymore. I truly think the “why” is the most important thing about choosing sobriety. And everyone’s “why” is so different. In the second part of this series (coming out next Friday, May 4, 2018), I’ll dive into just how sobriety has affected my life. For better or for worse.
So why am I even talking about this? Why did I choose to stop drinking? Well, like I said, it’s a personal choice. As I’ve discussed before, I have a chronic condition called Interstitial Cystitis. Essentially that means that my bladder is always inflamed, irritated, and usually in pain. As a result, my symptoms include the frequent and urgent need to urinate, extreme pelvic pain, and lower back pain. This condition has led to a lot of changes in my life and a big one was changing to the alcohol-free life.
If you’ve ever had a few drinks you know exactly the effect alcohol has on your bladder. Once you break that seal, the toilet is your best friend, whether you like it or not. And needless to say, someone with bladder issues doesn’t need any more reason to be in the bathroom every five to ten minutes. Having IC makes a boozey bladder SO MUCH WORSE. And no one has a great time when they spend 90% of the night in the bathroom.
On top of those initial symptoms, I also had to deal with horrible hangovers and extra symptoms that lasted days. My pelvic region would be in severe pain for at least a few days after a night of drinking. Think start-of-period cramps times about 300, complete with searing back pain and running to the bathroom at least every hour. It made functioning normally, even on days I didn’t drink, nearly impossible. Let me tell you, these symptoms were enough to drive anyone to drink. Or in my case, to quit.
My Journey to Sobriety
If you’re thinking I quit drinking as soon as those symptoms got bad enough, you’d be wrong. I got diagnosed with IC one week before my 21st birthday. To make matters worse, I was heading to Las Vegas for my 21st birthday. I mean, I had to drink, right? Well, if you asked 21 year old me, the answer was 100% yes. You only live once and all that. So I drank. And I continued to drink for about 6 months after that. I wanted to live my young life, enjoy 21 as best I could. Living in a college town, there were tons of fun bars to explore. Plus, that’s where the social scene was! At that time, we also regularly had parties where I lived, and how can you not drink at your own party? So I continued to drink.
Now, don’t get me wrong. I didn’t drink all the time. But socially, I was reliant on alcohol. I felt like I needed it to enjoy myself, to be “fun”. I felt like people wouldn’t want me around if I was sober. But after a while, the symptoms took their toll. It got to a point where drinking wasn’t fun. I wasn’t fun when I was drinking. So, I made the decision to stop. And this was a great first step towards sobriety! But it certainly wasn’t the last.
After first deciding to stop drinking, I began bargaining. I did the same thing when I quit caffeine. I’d go a while without it, maybe a month or two, then I’d desperately want it again. There would be a special occasion, or a particularly tough day, or something else, and I’d find an excuse to drink. Usually my logic was, “Well I’ve been SO good about not drinking, I deserve it! I deserve to have some fun!” And I had been good. But what I didn’t fully realize or accept at the time is, I could have fun and be fun without alcohol.
The Last Straw
It wasn’t until graduate school, at 23 years old, that I really decided to quit drinking. It was nearly a year ago now, I was having one of those “I deserve it” nights. Grad school was kicking my butt, there was a lot of really crappy stuff going on in my social life, and I just wanted to let loose. I wanted to escape my problems for the night. So I went to a bonfire with a bottle of sauvignon blanc in hand, ready to have a good time. However, after I finished the wine, I just kept going. I started making myself cocktail after cocktail, until eventually I just grabbed a bottle of vodka and went off by myself. I don’t even like vodka! But my emotions were catching up with me, and I was trying desperately to outdrink them.
Needless to say, that night didn’t end well. The next morning? Even worse. I’d made a fool of myself in front friends and my cousin, and I was ashamed. I was so embarrassed by my actions the night before, I basically hid from any social interaction for weeks. But that next morning, I had a massive epiphany. I hated who I was the night before. I realized, not only did it make me feel like absolute crap, but drinking wasn’t even fun anymore. What the heck was the point?
That morning, I made two decisions. The first was to get some help dealing with the my anxiety and depression by starting therapy (one of the best decisions I’ve ever made). The second choice I made was to quit drinking. It really didn’t have any appeal to me anymore. I wasn’t fun or exciting when I was drunk. I wasn’t me. And it made my body absolutely miserable. So that day, I chose sobriety.
That was about a year ago. Since then, I’ve had a sip of champagne for a toast at a friend’s wedding. That’s it. And even just that small amount was the perfect physical reminder as to why I wasn’t drinking. Thanks to the approximately 3oz of champagne I had, I was running to the restroom all night. And the pain was real for the next few days.
You might be thinking, “Okay, what’s the big deal? You don’t get to have a margarita with your tacos. So what?” Well, you might be surprised by this (or maybe not), but choosing sobriety has changed my life SO MUCH. And to be completely honest, not all of it has been good.
Next week, I’ll dive into how the not-so-simple choice to stop drinking has completely affected my life.