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Lessons from One Year of Sobriety

Updated: Feb 16, 2022

Today, October 25, 2021, marks one year of abstaining from alcohol.

As I said in my interview with Rebecca Farrar, I never considered myself to have a problem with alcohol, necessarily. I would not say that I am in recovery from alcohol. However, the thought that if I kept drinking, I would become addicted to alcohol was in the back of my mind for a couple of years. When I was drinking, I didn't technically meet the criteria for AUD, but I did think about alcohol a lot. I "controlled" my drinking to one or two in social situations (AKA to soothe my social anxiety), or when I was with friends. Even so, the image of alcohol danced in my mind frequently, even if I didn't always act on it.

When a stressor would present itself, I would immediately turn my thoughts to alcohol. Could I sneak off to have a beer at the bar on campus where I worked (don't even get me started on that)? Could I convince my partner to have date night somewhere where a drink wouldn't be abnormal? Could I call up my friend and see if she wanted to do a "girl's night," a sneaky rouse to make sure we could make margaritas and take shots. When I drank, I didn't drink more than intended, a criteria for AUD. But I told everyone else I did. "Oh, I'm sorry, I didn't mean to get this drunk." "Guess I made my drink a little too strong!" "Oh wow, I guess I overestimated my tolerance!" "Probably should have eaten before..." As if someone could drink a Long Island Iced Tea or take five shots and not intend to get drunk. I felt shame for my drinking, so I apologized to everyone who witnessed it, writing it off as a cute mistake. Although it happened more infrequently than to others, I knew my behavior was a problem. Like I said, even when I wasn’t (binge) drinking, I was thinking and planning when I would drink next. I have addiction in the family, and the mental gymnastics I was performing to drink was a red flag.

A red flag that I ignored for some time. I knew my drinking was a problem, or at least would become one. But I liked how it made me feel! I still struggle with social anxiety, but at this time, in 2019 and early 2020, I had almost crippling social anxiety. I would cry and tremble before going somewhere social, especially if that social event was large or in a crowded space. I would often sneak away to have anxiety attacks in the bathroom. When I discovered how just one drink would make me feel in social situations, I was delighted. With just one drink, that overthinking critical voice in my head would start to get quiet, and sometimes I did not hear it entirely. I felt charismatic, extroverted, laid back, funny, confident. I almost always followed this drink up with a second, desperately knowing that I had to toe the line of buzzed and drunk to appear likeable and appropriate for the event I was at. Once I made this discovery, which felt like a cure for social anxiety, I found it challenging to understand why I would ever be sober at an event if it could be helped.

As the pandemic fell on the United States in 2020, my drinking both calmed and got worse. I only got drunk a handful of times while in quarantine, and had fewer drinks after a hard day. This was only because we left the house for essential reasons (I was blessed to be able to work from home for the spring and summer of 2020), and alcohol was not something you could purchase via Instacart or Postmates. On the rare occasions we did leave the house to go to Total Wine, I would have a drink (just one) any evening I could, knowing it could not be every evening, least I draw suspicion. However, knowing that alcohol was sitting in the fridge, untouched, would be in the back of my mind most days. My mental work of planning, mulling, ruminated, continued. Binge drinking continued.

In the summer of 2020, I read Quit Like A Woman by Holly