August 12, 2015

This is Me, a Year of Sobriety Later.


So, I’ve been sober for a year.

I could probably leave it at that.

I didn’t think those words would have any weight for me. I didn’t have any ‘problems’ with alcohol. I never blacked out or woke up in an unfamiliar place. I never lost any belongings or pride. I rarely had more than a single beer when I was alone. In fact, most of the people I would socialize and drink with argued I didn’t drink enough.

I did not plan to stop drinking completely. I didn’t ever imagine that I would, as I didn’t see alcohol playing a huge role in my life. But at some point, things began to shift. I started to cut down. My reasoning was part money, part yoga practice, part something else I couldn’t quite put my finger on.

Turns out that final part was what really mattered.

After months of not drinking, it dawned on me that alcohol was, in some ways, ruling my life. At the very least, it was keeping me completely stuck.

            “But I’ve never seen you really drunk, Emmie.”

I would get those comments, occasionally. Usually from men. They never saw me wasted because I always knew when to stop. (An instinct that I now see as a precious gift.) I always knew when my edge was coming and, despite having the occasional moment (let’s just call those ‘finding where your edge actually is’…18th birthday, anyone?), I would soon put down the drink and, feeling completely bored, hope that someone else would have a similar revelation and offer to split the cab fare home with me.

Though I was never actually drunk, I suffered regularly from terrible hangovers. I would have a fantastic time throughout the night, but the next day my dehydrated, often undernourished body would be headachy, sleepy and nauseous. I simply learned to function that way. I drank often. I drank most nights. Outside of work, my friendships and relationships revolved around alcohol. Alcohol was the only way I got to know people, and most people only knew the me who’d had a couple of drinks. I felt ashamed of revealing my true nature to others. Alcohol was both a mask and a shield.

When I drank, the alcohol didn’t make me angry or sad or crazy, like I’d had seen in many others. No one saw any of that in me. No one (except, perhaps, my parents) would have ever suggested I cut down or give drinking a break either. Instead, alcohol took a sneakier position in my life. Alcohol made me a more confident, less sensitive version of myself: a version of me that didn’t care as much. I’d heard of people using alcohol to numb, but as someone who didn’t drink alone, or suffer from depression or pain, I didn’t feel as though I could relate. But, nevertheless, alcohol easily and quietly took me completely away from myself.

What I began to realize after cutting back, and then eventually not drinking at all, is that I had been using alcohol to alter my personality. It was a shocking discovery! I have always been a very sensitive, quiet person, and somewhere along the way I decided that was not an “okay” or “cool” way to be.

This realization was confronting. Something happened in high school that had, in my mind, confirmed to me that the girl who drank, who didn’t care, who didn’t overthink was far more fun and interesting than the real me.

Over six years, I had used alcohol as a mask so effectively that I had forgotten the real me even existed beneath. So when I stopped, I almost felt as if I was starting again. I felt pushed back into my awkward early teens. Luckily, or by no coincidence at all, my yoga teacher training came at a perfect time to help me see a lot of this. Through working with my body and meditation, and in a community of supportive women, it all started to come together.

Here’s what I’ve experienced in a year of being sober: More money, more sleep, better general health, greater creative output, no eczema, no flus or viruses, more time and money to do yoga, the ability to really experience the benefits of yoga. And there is so much more.

But I’ve also experienced grief. Grief for old friendships, grief for that confidence I felt truly belonged to me. In a way, it has been grief for a part of myself. Not once have I craved an alcoholic drink, but I have cried a lot in letting go. I’ve felt fragile. I’ve had sarcastic comments, eye rolls and a lot of “you think you’re better than me?”

But at the same time, I’ve never felt so strong or clear minded. I feel okay with being me. Most importantly, I feel okay with being me in front of other people.

It’s been a year and I’m still making progress. My quitting alcohol wasn’t a ‘dry July’ situation with a start and end date. I just stopped. And I have no intention of starting again. My life is more abundant without alcohol. The difference it has made to my life still shocks me.

With this post I don’t want to suggest this is a common experience with alcohol. I’m not trying to offer advice or suggest anyone give up drinking. I just wanted to share my story, as it has played a bigger part in my life than I ever imagined. And maybe it will reach the right person. I’m sure there is someone who needs to hear this, just like I did.


                       Author: Emmie Rae

                      Assistant Editor: Josefina Hunter; Editor: Caroline Beaton 

                      Photo: Flickr

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