Here is a post I never saw myself writing.
On August 31st I rang in one full year without alcohol. Not even one little drop.
This came as a surprise to a lot of people because if you know me personally, you would have most likely seen me in my natural habitat, which is with a glass of wine in hand.
Did drinking start to ruin my life? Did I totally lose control? Had I become an alcoholic?
I know that many people decide to take some time off drinking when it becomes a major problem in their life. Maybe they had a DUI, or started day-drinking in the shower, or it was completely de-railing their entire life. None of this happened for me.
There was no rock bottom that I hit, major trauma that I faced, or any severe addiction that I was struggling with. I Just woke up one morning and realized I was habitually doing something that was not doing me any good.
My Past With Alcohol
We all have a past right? Most of us have very similar stories from our early 20’s or college days where things got a little out of control. I am no different. Except when I look back on my 20’s, I do see that alcohol was a big issue for me.
I don’t think there was ONE weekend in that entire decade that I didn’t drink. I pretty much partied every single weekend of my life for 10 straight years. Some nights were under control, while others were total black-out’s leaving me with a ton of regret and embarrassment the next day.
For anyone that doesn’t believe people can truly ‘black-out’, let me tell you they CAN! I have many times. There were literal spans of time, usually about 4 hours or so, where I have ZERO memory. None. Zip. I could have flown to the moon on a rocket-ship and I wouldn’t be able to tell you about it.
I can truthfully say that any of the mistakes I made in my 20’s were either fuelled or directly caused by binge drinking. But thankfully, my weekend binge drinking never developed into anything more than that and near the end of my 20’s I totally settled down and stopped binge drinking and started becoming a ‘responsible adult’.
Responsible Drinking? Or ‘Grey Area’ Drinking?
Alright, the last 5 years or so I’ve been on a much healthier path with booze, but I still felt OFF. The thing is, society tells you than if you’re not an alcoholic, you’re good and you don’t need to question it, right?
Well I felt I needed to anyway.
I started to realize that I rely on booze, especially wine, to get me through most social and travel situations. I would have champagne on every flight, a glass of wine in every hotel room, a drink in hand at every event, and of course mandatory drinks anytime I met up with friends.
Being a full time travel blogger always keeps me in a ‘vacation mindset’, which obviously means drinks by the pool!
While that all sounds normal enough, it was making me feel anything BUT normal. I felt like I couldn’t do things without booze. I didn’t really know WHO I was without it because it was such a normal part of my routine. How would I enjoy a fancy dinner, beautiful sunset or catching up with a friend without it?
Just the thought of having to socialize or fly without a drink made me feel incredibly anxious, which is exactly why I wanted to nip that in the bud.
Let me be real with you right now and give you specifics. I was likely drinking about twelve 6oz glasses of wine a week.
- 1 per day at dinner = 7
- 2.5 glasses extra on weekends/events = 5
= 12 glasses total per week
Not an insane amount, but not totally innocent either.
All I can say is this: I started to feel as if alcohol was slowing me down. Like it was doing more harm than good. Like it was a crutch in my life, but at the same time, was no longer serving me.
I could tell I wasn’t being as productive or present in my everyday life.
You know when you feel like hell the day after having drinks with friends and you say the words “Ughh… I’m never drinking again!…” Well, I sort of decided to take action on that statement and actually do something about it for once.
I also started to look at celebrities who are sober (like Blake Lively, Natalie Portman and J-Lo) and figured if they can do it, so can I! Maybe their beautiful skin and successful careers had something to do with being sober? Maybe there was an un-tapped power in abstaining from drinking? I really wanted to find out.
So – I made a sober commitment for ONE YEAR.
Just one year without booze, pretty much to prove to myself that I could do it. And… to see if there really was any benefit to a sober life. I wanted to test it first-hand on myself, so I would know both sides of the story.
The first few months sober
At first it was like the booze gods were testing me. Two weeks into my sobriety pledge we took the trans-pacific cruise to Japan and expensive (yet completely complimentary) champagne bottles kept showing up in my room and I was also given access to free top-shelf alcohol the entire cruise. I declined.
It just kept showing up constantly.
In Japan my hosts offered me expensive sake. In Bali the hotel gifted 2 bottles of wine on ice in the room. On a flight I got a free upgrade to business class where the champagne flowed freely.
It just never stopped coming. Of course. But I said no at every opportunity.
Now here is where I will be SUPER honest. In the first few months of my sober year, I felt like it was all for nothing. I didn’t feel ANY of the amazing benefits that the internet said I would.
My skin didn’t clear up, I didn’t feel more energetic, I didn’t sleep better… I mean.. nothing seemed any different at all. The only thing that had changed is I was missing out on enjoying a delicious glass of red wine. Seemed like a scam to me. (lol!)
When it all changed
It wasn’t until the 11th hour that I finally realized just how much spending the entire year sober had changed me.
At the start of August, I took a mental inventory of the year and what I saw shocked me. Everything had changed, but because it happened one day at a time, I didn’t even see it until I took a look at the big picture.
- Traffic to my blog had exploded to over 1 million visitors per year and I was writing more than ever.
- The 15lbs I had put on melted off, without doing any workout routines.
- I was gardening, cooking, reading, learning and filling buzzed time or hangover time with so many other valuable activities instead.
- I was being invited to write for large publications, to be interviewed for dozens of podcasts and even to speak on a major national TV show.
So many doors that had been shut for so long were starting to swing open. Opportunities started to fill my inbox with new ventures and new collaborations. A whole bunch of ‘good luck’ dust seemed to be sprinkled on top of my life without any other explanation.
Now, I don’t necessarily think all these good things happened because of no alcohol in particular, but I do believe that with any sacrifice there is personal growth and reward.
But maybe, just maybe, all of these positive things had to do with the power that comes with taking back control of my life and making a conscious decision to not drink.
A sober sign?
One moment that stuck out amongst all others was something that happened when I was in LA.
I met a girl who told me she was just celebrating her 6-months with no booze and she was calling herself ‘sober curious’. She explained that sober curious people are commonly ‘grey area drinkers’, meaning they drink an amount somewhere between ‘normal’ and ‘problematic’ – and that they are interested in seeing what giving up alcohol feels like. She went on saying that many sober curious folks don’t hit a rock bottom with addiction, but feel like booze isn’t serving them and doesn’t add value to their lives anymore.
Wow, that sounded a lot like me!
When I told her I was just about to complete one year sober she looked me straight in the eye and said “Hasn’t your life been MAGICAL since you gave up booze? I can’t believe how many doors have opened up, how many opportunities have presented themselves and how many amazing things keep happening to me! Aren’t you blown away by it!?”
She said it with such passion and conviction that it really stuck with me.
Honestly, I felt like it was a sign. I was just days away from completing one year sober and not knowing whether I would drink again or not, and here was someone re-affirming everything I had just felt myself. I kept thinking about that moment for days wondering if it was some sort of a test or not.
The Cost of My Drinking…literally
Another eye-opening moment came this morning when I put some stats into a sober-living app called NoMo.
I entered in my sobriety date along with how much I was drinking and spending on booze per week. It tallies how much money I’ve saved over this sober year, along with how many calories. When I added it all up my mind was BLOWN.
- $70 a week
- About twelve 6oz glasses of wine per week (around 3 bottles)
- $3700 saved! WHAT! That is like a vacation! Or an entirely new wardrobe. Or a ton of bills paid. I had NO idea I was spending that much on wine. WTF!
- 80,000 calories. No wonder I lost 15lbs without working out. 1lb of fat is around 3,500 calories, so that 80,000 would equal 22lbs of fat. Again, I had no idea that I was drinking that many calories. It all just seems so harmless when you think of it as ‘just a glass of wine’.
On August 31st at 11:59pm I completed one year completely booze free. I planned to ring it in with a glass of champagne, but I never popped the bottle.
To be honest, I’m still unsure of what to do.
I’m completely frozen still on what step to take next, so I have been avoiding making the decision. Maybe if I procrastinate long enough it will figure itself out.
What I do know for a fact is that my relationship with alcohol has been forever changed, but what does that mean for my future? Do I start drinking a few glasses of wine a month? Or do I just stay on this sober road now that it’s already been one full year. I have NO IDEA.
Part of me wants to drink again, because DUH, I still love wine. I keep telling myself that I never was an alcoholic, so I should be able to drink wine casually when I want. I keep seeing myself hanging out with friends and enjoying a nice glass of Malbec and everything being wonderful.
But another part of me now strongly believes that nothing good comes from drinking wine, even if it’s just two glasses. It comes with baggage like extra calories, spent money, not sleeping as deeply, a slight headache the next day, and time spent in an altered state that I won’t ever remember 100% clearly.
Which is better? I don’t know.
No matter what I decide to do I have shown myself that anything is possible and that I have more inner strength than I gave myself credit for…and that is a beautiful thing.
My only hope in chronically over-sharing my sober curious journey is to be a beacon of light for someone who needs it. There might be just ONE person reading this who has been feeling over-whelmed or trapped by alcohol who might feel inspired to take a step in the right direction.
Sunday 23rd of May 2021
Your article was exactly what I needed to read. Thank you for sharing!
Wednesday 30th of December 2020
Hey Kathlee, I needed to read this and indeed feel inspired to try. I too have a notorious red wine habit that I’ve been thinking of culling for a while, love how you summed it up:
‘nothing good comes from drinking wine, even if it’s just two glasses. It comes with baggage like extra calories, spent money, not sleeping as deeply, a slight headache the next day, and time spent in an altered state that I won’t ever remember 100% clearly.’
Thanks for the inspiration and wishing you a wonderful 2021, more power to you and your journey 💫