A Confession and a Realization...
For 11 years I was relatively alcohol-free. I drank on only very special occasions—that I could count on one hand in 11 years. A taste of champagne on our visit to the Loire Valley in France. A polite, but tiny, glass of table wine in Italy when my cousin said it was from his very own vineyard. But never more than a few sips, never at home, nor even at a wedding. Just to actually appreciate the craftsmanship of the product.
But let me back up. I quit drinking in 2011, at the age of 38, because I felt it no longer suited me. I remember the night of my last drink, it was my mother-in-law's birthday, August 1st, and my parents were also in town. We were at a fancy restaurant in Steamboat called Cafe Diva, and I had a few too many chocolate martinis. A few days earlier we'd been at a wedding, and I'd also had (more than a few) too many dirty gin martinis. Enough so that I'd blacked out and didn't remember the end of the night. I'd been contemplating letting go of alcohol for months, in fact, I'd quit once already—for all of 2009.
It was easy to walk away from for me, I never had an addiction to alcohol. I felt it had a darkness I didn't want in my body—something I realized in college. So, when I made the decision to "go sober" / "get clean" it was more about the health of my body and spirit than it was about the booze.
That said, even though the decision was easy, the social aspect wasn't. It seemed to make people uncomfortable, and they loved to pressure me to drink. But I stuck to my guns, and one thing that helped was counting time. Once I'd made it to the year-mark, I used that as my bargaining chip: Why drink now? I'd come so far. Then two years, then three. Before I knew it, I was celebrating my 10th anniversary. I would post my "sobriety date" on Facebook and get all the back-patting comments, inspiring some to do the same, but it felt a little false. I wasn't an alcoholic. I was just a health-nut. And alcohol wasn't healthy. At least for me.
Then my world changed on a dime. Selling most of our stuff, our home, starting from scratch, and build build build build build (still building lol) in TN. No one knew me here, so they didn't know I'd had a commitment, and what I realize now is that what it boils down to--I didn't have accountability. The drinking started small—at a meetup, I had a cider. Then on a build weekend, I had another. It was rare, until it wasn't. One drink led to two. A weekend led to daily.
Even though it seemed harmless, every time, I asked myself why. The answers I got sounded like someone else, someone I was coaching, not myself. "Because I'm stressed." "Because I deserve it." "Because everyone else is." "If you can't beat 'em, join 'em." None of these sounded like the mindset and health coach I knew I was.
Side bar: Several months ago I watched the famous TED Talk from Dr. Daniel Amen, a leading psychiatrist who's been using neuroscientific testing to study the brain—over 10,000 scans—on alcohol. What I learned was not surprising, yet it was shocking.
In summary, drinking just 1-2 drinks per day:
✎ Shrinks the brain
✎ Creates holes in the brain
✎ Reduces blood flow to the brain
✎ Reduces brain cells
✎ ... and increases the risk of dementia
So why do people still do it?
This was always a big challenge when I was sober—frankly, being around the stupidity. No matter the age of the person in front of me, alcohol seemed to make them unpleasant to be around. Because their vibration dropped, their neuro-functioning was immediately and quite evidently decreased, and our conversation was often meaningless, tiresome, and impotent.
Did that change once I started drinking? A little. Only that it was tolerable to be around everyone else. Only that the pressure of what we're doing seemed to decrease (albeit temporarily). But I'd always wake up with regret, a sense of self-betrayal, and a fog I couldn't shake, sometimes for days.
What I have come to accept: This been an interesting experiment, and it's run its course.
In order to keep this (relatively) bite-sized, I will again split this in two.
To be continued...
Self-reflection is paramount;
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