Five years of sobriety

Five years ago this weekend, I quit drinking. I was at a birthday party, put down my third of a six pack of Lucky Lager and said “I’m done” to my girlfriend. I had quit before, but this time it was for real.

Let’s back up a little. I don’t think that I was an alcoholic, but I had far too many stories that began with “I was so drunk last night” and then had to have my friends fill in the blanks. I also didn’t like who I was when I drank. My other reason for quitting was for personal health - not just the fact that your body feels better when you don’t drink, but I have insane digestive issues that doctors have simply shrugged off, telling me that I should just watch what I eat. In the resulting years, I have also quit red meat, potatoes, white bread, cut out sugar and salt when possible and only drink water and juice.

People act all kinds of strange around you when you quit drinking. Your friends might tell you that it won’t last and continuously offer you drinks. When I quit, I lost a little weight. Another thing that people aren’t shy about is skinny shaming. I eat healthy and yes, I weigh a good 20-30 pounds less than I did five years ago, but I feel much better about myself (and yes, I eat. Lots). People also aren’t shy about asking you why you quit. I always give a reason, but I shouldn’t have to. You wouldn’t ask someone why they drink, would you?

Around the time I quit drinking my good friend and apartment neighbour had become a police officer and wound up having a hard time coping with the job, resulting in him drinking a lot more than usual. He didn’t stay in the building long after that, as his relationship with the girl he lived with ended for various reasons. I watched another friend’s marriage fall apart due to substance abuse. My sister was walking and nearly killed by a drunk driver one night.

In the five years since quitting, my own personal relationships have only gotten better. I’ve never asked people to not drink around me - at any party that I’ve hosted, I’ve always supplied plenty to drink. I’m not shaming alcohol, I’m not on some high horse preaching “don’t let the devil in your mouth to thieve your thoughts!” All I’m saying is that it definitely wasn’t for me, I recognized it, and I made a change.

I find that there’s more productive things to do with your friends than just getting “fucked up”. Paint a picture. Ride a bike. Or, have a drink. Have five drinks. Just don’t do it for the wrong reasons. Whether you do it to unwind, do it socially, do it to fall asleep, do it to forget or do it because it’s what you do, make sure you do it for the right reasons and that it’s not affecting the people around you in a negative way. It’s become socially acceptable to be a functioning alcoholic, as well as excusable to let “I was so wasted” be a valid reason for being a jerk.

I got a little all over the place with this - my message to everyone is that you shouldn’t let the world tell you that you should drink (or that you shouldn’t). Peer pressure exists as adults as well. I was 24 when I quit and it wasn’t easy. The hard things never are. Every drink is a choice.