The Sober Diaries – Entry 1
June 17th, 2019, I made a decision that I had been toying with for months, too afraid to finally commit. I decided to stop drinking. Not only that, but I decided to get 100% sober, trying for the straight-edge lifestyle. It was a huge undertaking, but it was necessary. I’ve only (I say “only” even though people tell me to not minimize the success I have so far) got four months of sobriety but I’ve already been handed a smorgasbord of life lessons by whatever pagan deity is trying to get my attention. Too many lessons to list here all at once*, but I’ve complied some things you can expect if you stop drinking. I’m hoping this will help people like me, maybe push them into taking that final step:
People will either be relieved or confused.
- My drinking wasn’t exactly a secret. It was actually a HUGE part of my identity. I had carefully crafted my Cool Party Girl™ persona in college and perfected it over the years. Sure, I got out of control and blacked out a lot, but it was funny. It was just Toga being Toga! Just crazy, binge-drinking Toga. Totally normal. Except it wasn’t. So when I stopped, some people, like my family members, were ecstatic. I was finally taking the steps to get healthy after years of them telling me I had a problem. Other people, like some of my friends, were obviously confused. My announcement was met with quiet congratulations that seemed pregnant with unsaid hesitations and questions. Some people wondered why I was stopping and told me I wasn’t that bad. It was frustrating to explain why it WAS that bad—I didn’t want to go into detail about all the nights I drank alone, or hurt myself, or hid bottles so no one realized how much I was imbibing. Eventually though, when people realized I was serious, I was pleasantly surprised to see that I had a cluster of support coming from all different corners of my life. And that is key in maintaining sobriety.
You will go through some form of withdrawal, even if it’s not crippling.
- I am very lucky in that I didn’t have a ton of physical withdrawal symptoms. I spent a couple weeks dizzier and more tired than usual (although I’m constantly exhausted so this wasn’t super tragic for me). I bloated for a month, but later dropped 12 lbs (HELL YEAH, goodbye, beer weight). However, the bad part for me was the mental effect. I had extremely bad anxiety for about 2 weeks that plagued me every day, most often at night when I was trying to wind down and go to bed. It sucked. I knew this was alcohol-related because I had actually had similar symptoms when I attempted a Dry January and a Dry April earlier in the year (both of which I failed—I didn’t make it a whole month either time, which was one of the indicators that something needed to change for me). Dealing with that level of anxiety was, to put it lightly, NOT fun but I made it through. And actually now my anxiety, which I have suffered from since middle school, is much better! It’s obviously still there because I don’t medicate (yet), but it’s wild how much better it is now that I’m not drinking anymore.
Cravings are real, and they WILL happen.
- But HOW they happen can differ from person to person. I absolutely have random cravings for alcohol, but interestingly, I do not miss the physical act of drinking. I don’t miss a particular beer, or the taste of whiskey, or the flavor of wine. I miss the feelings drinking would give me. Or the lack of feelings. I used alcohol to self-medicate quite a bit (like 70% of my drinking was centered around that) so when I got sober I was suddenly FEELING ALL THE FEELINGS AND THEY WERE SO FUCKING LOUD. I wanted to drink to quiet the noise in my head, but I held off and allowed myself to be uncomfortable, surrounded by the things I had covered with a thick layer of sticky booze for years. It’s not always fun, it’s not pleasant. But it’s authentic and healthy. The other unexpected thing was that I was suddenly craving sugar. Like, a lot of sugar. I had been getting it from alcohol for so many years that I hadn’t needed any extra. I was never a dessert person. But once I quit drinking I was suddenly eating a pint of ice cream in one sitting and salivating over pieces of cake in bakery windows. It makes sense—I took away the booze and my body wanted sugar from somewhere else. For now, I’m allowing myself to indulge a little because it helps, but ultimately I want to be the healthiest I can be, which means hard-core cutting down on stuff like sugar and fat.
It gets harder before it gets better. And then it gets harder again.
- Making a major life change like getting sober is always going to be intense. And for that reason, it’s not easy. But in rock climbing when you find that all the routes you used to struggle with are easy and you’re not being challenged anymore, that usually means it’s time to go a grade up. It’s going to be more challenging and you will fail at first. It’s tough. But eventually you will find those routes doable too. So you move on. It’s the same thing with sobriety. It’s going to get difficult before it gets better, but that means you’re making progress. It means you’re getting stronger and learning. The successes you have will be amazing, but the lows are going to be rough.
But it’s SO worth it.
- At the end of the day, you will feel immensely proud, strong, and accomplished. To overcome something that has been haunting your life for the longest time is 100% something to brag about. When I said I was quitting, people asked me, “Forever? Or just for now?” I didn’t hesitate. “Forever,” I would say. The quality of my life has vastly improved since I quit. I am happier, healthier, and more powerful now than I have ever been in my entire life. So if you’ve been thinking about getting sober, or just find that alcohol doesn’t bring you joy or anything beneficial anymore, know that quitting is hard, but it’s worth it. It’s the best choice I’ve made and I urge you to make that choice for yourself too, especially if the little voice in your head keeps saying, “Hey, do you have a drinking problem?”
*In the future, I will label my blog posts that deal with my sobriety journey as TSD, or, The Sober Diaries. These posts will exclusively deal with recovery. So if that’s not your thing, feel free to skip those posts. (But you shouldn’t.)