How Giving up Alcohol Changed Me.
I started drinking when I was 13. Now, I know most kids start to experiment in their early teen years but for me, it became an outlet for me to deal with dysfunction at home. You see for me, growing up in a morbidly abusive household, the typical teenage awkwardness was amplified. Mainly because, how could anyone really relate to the sheer terror I bore witness to each and every day. Drinking became an outlet. A way to numb out the pain and persevere.
For most of my life, I struggled with painfully low self-esteem and truly believed I lacked any semblance of worth to even be alive. Alcohol changed that. It was my Band-Aid for all the hurt and insecurity I felt. It helped me to be “fun Krista”, and gave me the confidence to walk up to anyone and have a conversation. It was a way of making friends and being accepted as a “fun girl”, not the socially awkward, anxiety-ridden person I was at my core.
In college, I was a firm believer in the Hemingway Diet, and I attribute it to aiding in my ability to write a thousand pages a week and deal with the stress of being a double major cramming four years of school into a year and a half. In between writing, I would go out almost every night and was hungover just about every day. I hated it and I hated myself but, I felt like I had to be this way to be accepted by anyone. After all, who would like me for me?
Post-graduation, alcohol was a mainstay in my life as most of the corporate world revolves around drugs and alcohol. I was never one for drugs but drinks, fuck yes! It helped me assume the role of my avatar; the person I felt like I had to be for people to like me. Drinks at lunch, drinks at dinner, Sunday Funday — I never paid any mind to the fact that I was drinking all the time. No one even remotely questioned my drinking either because it was considered normal. And, in our society drinking is the most socially acceptable form of self-destruction there is.
It seems as though society has made alcohol the answer to anything we encounter in this human experience. It doesn’t matter the time of day, wine always seems to be the answer. Especially with women. Hello, mommy wine culture?!
Now, I’m not bashing anyone’s choices to drink. What I am getting at is how I changed once I stopped drinking.
In 2015, I got chronically ill and it stayed with me for a good four years. In that time, I tried everything to help support my body in its healing process. One of the first things I did was give up alcohol. At first, I thought it would be short-lived because, after all, alcohol had been my friend for so long. It was part of my identity and felt like a way to fit in with just about any crowd, especially my family. Everything in my life up until now revolved around drinks.
When I first stopped drinking, I noticed how much I craved it; especially in social settings. I wanted what everyone else was having. It was pure habit to have a drink or three at dinner, or socially getting tanked at family events. The comfort of that behavior was now gone which made me feel naked. I realized how much drinking gave me a sense of numbness and vitality. It was like a superpower I had acquired. It helped me to tolerate people and behaviors that deep down, were unacceptable to me. Being newly sober in a group of inebriated people felt like the ultimate form of gaslighting. Everyone made me feel crazy for choosing to not drink and at the same time, I felt insane for starting to realize that I was being emotionally abused this whole time. Alcohol acted as a veil to make me believe I deserved the backhanded comments, emotional drama, and otherwise complete toxicity that arose from certain social situations.
I would come to learn that alcohol had blurred my personal boundaries and dulled my intuition which put me in situations I otherwise would have never engaged in. It felt like I was learning to walk all over again. I had to learn how to actually talk to people without the numbing comfort of booze and to sit in that discomfort. I started cutting just about everyone out of my life because, for the first time, I had clarity. I realized how superficial and controlling these relationships truly were and how much I craved authenticity in all aspects of my life.
What I found most interesting is that when I started to establish a connection to this more authentic version of me, the people who benefitted from my lack of boundaries started to revolt. They would belittle my decisions, estrange themselves, and make fun of who I was becoming. It was like I was now the village freak. People no longer knew how to relate to me which only heightened their insecurities. It hurt at first because many of these relationships were with family and had started to dissolve. I realized how alcohol was keeping us tied through trauma bonds; and how I needed to be the one to break away from that. It was keeping me codependent and stuck in the old version of myself.
As this schism between old me and new me grew, I started to find healthier habits to engage in which brought me closer to my authentic self. I grew more spiritually and started to find hobbies and activities that actually fed my soul, rather than numb it. I started to have such an expanded sense of bodily awareness that I was no longer afraid to cut ties with anything or anyone that didn’t make me feel good.
For the first time in my life, I wasn’t afraid to feel and truly believe giving up alcohol was a cornerstone in healing my trauma. I was forced to deal with the hurt and pain head-on without the comfort of numbing it away. I had to learn to sit with my feelings and let them come up and out to create space within. A huge lesson was realizing that emotions are healthy and that you have to actually feel them to heal them.
I could have never worked through the heap of emotions I had bottled up if I was still drinking because anytime I felt that slight twinge of discomfort, I would have drank the feelings away. I feel like my sobriety has helped to reshape and heal some ancestral wounds and comfortable behaviors within my lineage.
It’s been almost seven years without alcohol for me and I would be lying if I said I don’t still get the residual of old programming telling me to drink when things get rough. But I know that the hangover is not worth the momentary reprieve I may get from having that drink. I’m happy where I am and it feels good knowing that those who are in my circle are the real ones who have my back when shit gets real. Most of all, I know I have my back.