Today is my birthday. I’m 57. I had to think about that (and count on my fingers), because it’s not a ‘big one’, except for one thing – it’s the first birthday I have spent sober in forty years, not counting the three times I was pregnant, and I probably snuck a few mouthfuls of champers on those birthdays too.
Forty years. Four decades of woozy, fuzzy, booze-cocooned birthdays, not to mention the countless other holidays, high days, weekends and weekdays when I would have registered a reading on a breathalyser test (not that I ever engaged in drink-driving). Forty years of self-medicating my social anxiety with booze. That’s a lot of giggle water under the bridge.
Just over three months ago, I quit drinking. I thought I did it for my health. All those dire warnings and new studies saying there is no safe limit for alcohol consumption. I tried to stay within the two-glass daily limit (and often failed), unless I was socialising or celebrating, but I drank every day. Happy Hour was doing the slow creep forward from five o’clock to four-thirty to four, and if I was eating lunch out, it wasn’t complete without a glass of pinot noir. In fact, no social occasion was worth it unless there was going to be grog involved, preferably cocktails.
I thought alcohol made everything fun and glamorous and romantic, made me feel euphoric, confident and gregarious, but I was wrong. Booze was my anaesthetic. It made me numb to my crippling self-consciousness. It made me deaf to my inner critic. It dropped a veil between me and the world, so I didn’t have to deal with reality and be vulnerable. Shameful admission: I even had a hip flask of vodka stashed in my bag when I was selected for jury duty in my twenties. Thankfully I didn’t get chosen for a trial. Talk about blind justice!
But what I have discovered since being sober is that being clear and present isn’t scary to me anymore. The fun and euphoria is in the people, the conversations, the experiences, the food, even the mocktails. It’s in being able to tell my friends and family that I love them, and know it’s not just the booze talking. It’s about being able to drive myself home after a night out, and wake up the next morning without a hangover. It’s about sleeping better and having more energy.
I know, I know, big eye rolls all round. I get it. There’s nothing worse than a reformed drinker going around evangelising and being a bloody great Pollyanna about everything. I’m not trying to convince anyone else to quit. But, today is my birthday. It’s my party and I’ll sober blog if I want to!
And yes, I still crave a drink now and then, but it’s a craving for some fantasy that never really existed. I just wish I’d worked that out forty years ago. But, I’m a late bloomer in most things. It is what it is.
Cheers, and Happy Birthday to me.