This post has been a long time coming. For whatever reason, when I sit down to write it, I feel so much resistance. Like the story is too big to know where to begin.
Please know that this will be my first of MANY posts about this topic. Because chunking it up gives my brain a little solace in knowing how and where to start.
I want to start off by saying that you don’t have to be an alcoholic in order to stop drinking. And also, what exactly is an alcoholic anyways?
Sometimes it’s glaringly obvious, and sometimes it’s subtle and sneaky. I don’t think I’m an alcoholic.
But I do know that I’m an addict. And I do know that my relationship with alcohol was unhealthy, imbalanced, and toxic at times.
I wasn’t the person who couldn’t stop at one drink. I had just one beer, or one glass of wine with dinner more nights than I could ever remember. There were plenty of times where I drank beer or wine, because it paired well with a meal- rather than FEEL effects of the booze. I didn’t drink more or less than the people around me. I fit in just right.
Why I Stopped Drinking Alcohol 4 Years Ago
The sneakiness of alcohol comes with the normalization (and legalization) of it. Just because everyone else around me had at least one drink with a meal every single night, doesn’t mean I had a healthy relationship with the substance for fitting into the midline.
Drinking to forget, to escape, too numb. Those were my fortes. And those are things that are so readily accepted by society (just watch a movie or a TV show if you don’t believe me….it’s everywhere).
The bottom line is that I was hurting myself by drinking. Sometimes the hurt was overt. And sometimes it was a muted undercurrent of pain that only I could feel, while others couldn’t see.
I chose to begin here with the WHY, because I think the why is just about always the answer. So much so, this almost became a running joke in my most recent 300 hour YTT at Still Salty Escape. The why is the intention. The intention is the common thread running through EVERYTHING: your class, your brand, your blog post, your….choices.
And the same thing can be said here. My WHY to stop drinking has been the thing that’s kept me away from alcohol day after day, for four years now.
To put it simply, my why is that I want to feel as good as possible. Period.
Can alcohol make you feel AMAZING (when you’re wasted, or even just buzzed)? Sure. Of course it can. But can it also make you feel like total hell next day when hangiexty eats you alive? Yup. It can do that too.
I think a lot of people look at me, a yoga teacher with multiple retreat businesses, living a remote life in Nicaragua, and they think I stopped drinking for “spiritual reasons.” This is incorrect.
Yes, becoming alcohol free has inevitably deepened my spiritual experience, because I have more clarity than I did when I was (constantly) intoxicated. But that wasn’t the catalyst for me.
It was my physical health that came first. Then my mental health. And finally my spiritual health. They all work together, but the truth is- I cared about my BODY first and foremost when I decided to stop drinking.
So the question is, how did I go from drinking 5 – 6 days a week to none at all?
Many of you know that I’ve been on a wild ride of a health journey for 10 years…ever since getting bit by that damn tick in Uganda. Everything changed from that moment, even though I didn’t really understand that for many many years.
By 2018, I felt like garbage. I was hospitalized for something or another about twice a year. Sometimes more. It felt like my body was in this state of rebellion, and I didn’t fully understand why, but I still knew something had to change.
My boyfriend at the time had decided to stop drinking, which I initially found super weird. I admit I tried to pressure him into “just one beer” at dinner, or sneaky glass of wine here or there.
Although I’d taken long breaks without alcohol before (I think the longest was 3 months), I didn’t understand the concept of stopping drinking for the sake of simply not wanting to, without being an out of control alcoholic.
And, even though this was only 5 years ago, it was still A LOT different than it is now. The sober curious movement was really only just kicking off.
Needless to say, when he stopped drinking, I tapered off too. I didn’t really like to drink alone…at least often. Plus, we spent several months in Northern India that year, as well as 6 weeks in Pakistan. Both areas don’t really have alcohol. Like at all. It’s actually totally illegal in some areas.
Without trying, or setting any sort of goal about it, I probably only ended up drinking a total of 5 or 6 times throughout the entire year.
My health was still a dumpster fire, and- I don’t know about you- but when I don’t feel good, the last thing I want is to drink.
By the end of the year, my health (both mentally and physically) had rapidly declined. In addition to being suicidal, my body was also in constant pain (or at the very least, discomfort).
The turn of the year marked the moment I officially decided to put a pause on drinking. It’s funny, because before that I had hardly drank at all. I even tried to have a glass of wine on New Years with my family, and couldn’t finish it.
I mention this, because I think the natural tapering made a big difference to the final cut. If I had decided to stop drinking even just one year prior, I think it would’ve been a lot harder for me mentally. But my life was already mostly alcohol-free anyways, I just hadn’t officially declared it.
What Did I Do To Stick With It
Initially, I thought I would only stop for a month, and then check in from there. At the one month mark, my health was still suffering tremendously, so I extended it. The following month, I did a 10 day water fast, and knew I sure as shit didn’t want to drink before or after that.
And two months later, I did my first Ayahuasca retreat. For those of you who don’t know, most centers (if they’re good anyways) will request you to engage in a dieta prior to your ceremonies. This means an adjustment to your diet, which includes cutting alcohol for about 2 weeks prior. And after? After, I’d venture to say that alcohol is literally the last thing on earth anyone would want.
Suddenly, I’m halfway through the year and totally alcohol-free.
At this point, the clarity really started to settle in, and I simply couldn’t see a place for alcohol to fit into my life anymore.
This doesn’t mean you need to do a water fast or an Ayahuasca retreat in order to stick to your alcohol-free way of life. These were just big moments in my year where alcohol naturally didn’t fit into.
However, because my why was to feel as good as possible (starting on the physical level), alcohol didn’t have a place in my life regardless- because already felt like shit all the time! This meant I wanted to shift my focus to ADDING IN, rather than cutting out.
I wanted to add in more joy, more community, more forgiveness, more play. And this is something that we can all benefit from. Instead of focusing on what you aren’t having (alcohol), focus on what you do have. Focus on what you want to INCREASE to feel full, instead of a gaping hole where that substance once was.
If there’s any advice I can give to you, it would be to add in more of what lights you up. Especially when you first start on this journey.
When You Get Pressured
In my experience, it’s been easy to stick to seemingly radical shifts in my diet, my consumption, my practices when I get to the point of desperation.
That was where I was at in 2019.
I was desperate to feel better. And when you know that a certain substance can make you feel really good in one moment, but 10 times worse in another- I naturally choose to just not fuck with it at all. I worked SO HARD to heal (and still do), that having one drink might knock me back 10, 15, 20 steps.
And for what? To fit in? To have fun? To not be the weird spiritual yoga chick who can’t have anything impure pass her lips?
The truth is, people will judge you. They’ll probably pressure you. And they might even tease you, or proclaim that “you’re just not that fun anymore.”
Remember, I told you even I did that to my ex at the time. It wasn’t about him. It was about ME, and my lack of understanding.
So, what do you do?
You explain to them your why. And you state your boundaries, even if that means, “I would really appreciate it if you don’t tease me about this, or draw a lot of attention to this, or simply respect my choice even if you don’t understand it.”
Your people, like your REAL people, they’ll do that for you. They’ll respect that which they don’t understand. They’ll celebrate your differences, instead of trying to make you the exact same as they are. They’ll be FOR you. Otherwise, they’re probably not your people.
And this can lead to a WHOOOOOOLE other load of pain, if/when people start falling off in your life. I mean, chances are you, you have “party friends.” I know I did. I had A LOT of them. But I didn’t realize that’s what they were at the time. I thought they were just my friends. That’s why it still hurt to lose them, even though it was for the best in the long run.
When we change, not everyone changes alongside of us. And that’s OKAY.
I know it can be hard to face all this, AND not drink away the pain. It’s like a double whammy. But, the other side of it all is so much more worth it. Promise