Updated: Feb 8
Here are some of the many new 'firsts' I experienced after quitting drinking alcohol. Some of these I look back at with fondness of how much better the memory of it is without alcohol's dark cloud tainting my perception. Other times I look back at the strength of a wounded spirit trying to convince the addict brain I am better off without alcohol. Good or bad, I look back with gratitude because I stayed sober from alcohol.
In your first year of not drinking, there will be many new 'first' experiences.
Your first sober party.
Your first sober Christmas.
Your first sober New Year's Eve.
The first time you sit at a restaurant table without ordering a drink.
The first time you don’t have to plan a safe ride home.
The first time don’t have a glass too many because you don’t have a glass at all.
The first time you don’t wake up hungover on a special day.
The first time you notice how many of your favourite shows revolve around getting drunk, making poor choices, and being hungover until the next round of whatever drink of choice (champagne, pinot grigio, Cosmopolitan, espresso martini) shows up.
The first time you realize all your favourite female characters, including the majority of Real Housewives, have dangerous and unhealthy relationships to alcohol.
The first time you sleep soundly and awaken feeling refreshed.
The first time you're not feeling well and don't have to wonder if it's because of what you drank the night before.
The first time you realize what being drunk looks like because you're the sober one.
The first time you start to notice how many times your spouse, relative, or friend has refilled their glass.
The first time you are the designated driver by default.
The first time someone asks you why you quit drinking.
The first time you say aloud that you are an alcoholic.
The first time someone reaches out and says you got them thinking about their own drinking.
The first time you take accountability for your actions because you can't blame alcohol.
The first time you cry after seeing a friend have too many too many times.
The first time you see 30 days.
The first time you see the sunrise and welcome the beams on your face.
The first time you win big, achieve a goal, or meet a milestone and don't drink to celebrate.
The first time you call yourself a non-drinker.
No more midnight panic attacks, hot flashes, sweats, shakes, and trepidations. No more drinking to drown my voice. Now, I have learned how to speak and how to be uncomfortable.
And yes, I may always be uncomfortable, but now I can breathe into the spaces of pain more days than not.
And on the "not" days, I still don’t drink. I cry. I paint. I spend time with my cat. I take long, hot and salty baths with dried flower petals and oils to calm my spirit. I talk. I walk. I breathe in the world around me. I complain. I tell people the things they don’t want to hear. I channel a voice other than my own and I speak with a wisdom no longer ashamed to exist in this body.
The first year has ups and downs just like life. I questioned why I wasn’t drinking, why I couldn’t drink with others, and if I could just have one glass of red wine. What about white? A beer? I felt cheated. And different. And sometimes very alone. But not always. And never for long.
In the beginning, I did not know how to reject a drink. At 2 months sober someone handed me a canned cooler and I literally pretended to drink it in front of them instead of say, No.
Now most people know I don’t drink ,and when they don’t, I just say, “No thanks, I have my own drink.”
My best friend typically goes the route of saying, “Michelle doesn’t drink,” if people start hounding me because it's still hard to say the words.
I don’t drink but it’s almost like I’m not quite comfortable making that declaration. I feel like I don’t have enough time to say such permanent things.
Whenever I am asked how long it’s been (which isn’t a common question), the response I receive is overwhelming pride and respect. Over four seasons have passed. Nearly six or seven by now. I have enough time. I have arrived as a non-drinker.
Whether you have a moment or months doesn’t matter. Every second you are sober counts. Every second steps you further from the obsessive thoughts that come with being hooked on a substance. You can do this.