Sober is the New Black
Ya know, this is the kind of post I never saw myself writing. And yet, here we are.
I debated whether I should share this now, or wait until I had some oomph behind these words. Some proof to the pudding, if you like. And this sort of thing is high-tone terrifying for me to share, but the more I thought about my why for sharing my story, the more I felt the time is now.
I want to share this, not to glamorize it, but because I know, know, know that someone out there is walking through it too. Or they have. Or they may someday. Or they love someone who is. So here we go.
For the past four years, I struggled with alcohol.
There it is in black and white pixels, and it doesn't look as bad as I thought. I'll say it a different way. Since 2014 (following a rolling series of traumatic life events), I used a glass of wine or whatever was in the house as a crutch to help me calm down, numb, forget, go to sleep, etc.
I knew better. Going back through my family's history, alcoholism has always been there in some form. I can't remember a time when we were free of it; someone has always been struggling. I have cousins back in Italy who have died from it. I have people in my life who have abused their bodies for decades, a few acquaintances in their 30s who left behind spouses and kids after they died of liver failure (in their 30s, guys...). My grandfather was an alcoholic for years, and even though he gave it up, I've watched the aftermath of those decisions roll over us for two generations.
Its not like I didn't know better, but I never thought this would happen.
I didn't drink in college. I mean that 100%, no lies. I was underage, and I did not drink because I like rules. When I turned 21, I looked back at my family history and said "I'm not messing around with that. When I go out, I will have one drink and be done." One and done. I held to that for three years. Maybe I was arrogant about it, or self righteous, but at the core of that decision was fear. When you've watched a raging forest fire, you're less likely to play with matches in the backyard.
Then from 2014-2015 I went through what I call 'my 18 months of hell.' One horrible experience after another hit in waves. By May 2015, I was saying 'I need a glass of wine' at night. That was a lie. I did not need a glass of wine. I needed counseling, but wine is cheaper and you don't have to worry about whether your insurance will cover it. One glass suddenly didn't cut it anymore. I would have two on the weekends. Then two became every night. Then three. At my lowest, I was drinking three diet orange sodas with black strap molasses rum to get to sleep. That drink was brown, friends. Brown. It was basically poison, but I was numbing some heavy crap, and at that point, it was a habit. Over the years, I would taper it down to a couple of times a week because I was actually pretty scared at this point, but even if it was just 2-3 times a week, I wouldn't stop at one glass. I couldn't. That's the terrifying part.
No one looking at me would have said 'That girl has a problem.' That's where our definitions need a system upgrade. We think of alcoholics as men in their 60s with scraggly beards, dirty clothes, and a cardboard sign on the side of the street. We think of girls with beer bellies wearing skimpy dresses and tripping all over themselves in a club on a Wednesday night. We don't think of me with a third glass of chardonnay in bed watching a documentary on Netflix because 'I need to unwind.'
My generation jokes about how we finish a bottle of wine a night. Joking aside, we totally finish bottles of wine all by ourselves. We go to microbreweries and pound craft beers, or go on wine tours until we can't even remember which vineyard we're at. We celebrate moonshine that's flavored like pie. There are memes, gifs, pinterest pins, jokes, and paraphernalia about how it is 'wine thirty somewhere'.
This is what I've learned (and I'm about to use heavy dialogue, so...brace). Sin is sin, no matter how classy, trashy, or acceptable we deem it. I don't believe alcohol is evil. Jesus drank wine, and His first miracle was turning water into wine. Just like fire is not evil until you build it in the wrong place, alcohol is not evil in and of itself. Abusing it, relying on it, and depending on it is where we see the problem.
I was sinning. I was using something good in place of God to numb something only He could heal.
The hardest part of this whole process was the shame. Can you imagine rolling over in the morning, seeing an empty glass by your bed, and the first emotion you feel in the morning is shame? I lived with that for waayy too long. And every time, God graciously asked "Can we be done with this? Can you please just obey me and give it up for good?" I knew it was for good. I knew that there would be no going back, and I wasn't ready to do that because "Its my right to go out with my friends and have a drink. It's my right to have one cocktail on the porch when we have company."
"But daughter, when was the last time you stopped at one? Give it up completely. This is not about your perceived rights. It's about obedience."
This summer, I gave it up completely. It hasn't been long, I'll be honest, but it has been beautiful. I don't crave it, I don't desire it, I don't want it anymore. Will that change? I don't know, but I don't really care because I can't go back.
I want to be clear about something. I am not sitting on a sober pedestal judging people who drink. Not even an iota of judgement here. I wish I had a healthy relationship with alcohol and could enjoy a glass of merlot with dinner. I wish I could do that because there is nothing wrong with that! But I abused alcohol, so I cannot do that anymore. When I go out for dinner with friends, they can totally have a drink without me feeling uncomfortable or left out. Really! I am now the resident DD, and bartenders give you free club soda if you're driving. #Winning.
Things I've noticed since going sober. My skin glows again. My eyes are sparkly. I sleep better. I am actually starting to see my abs. My hair is thicker and healthier. I am sharper mentally. I am more creative. I have picked up other healthy habits because I am learning to honor my body, heart, and mind the way Jesus does. I am dealing with the things that hurt me. I learned that I am worth fighting for, and my health and wellbeing are important to God....actually they are tantamount to Him because He loves me. I have learned about how rich and faithful His love is. He was never ashamed or angry - He just wanted me to be whole again.
And now, I make some BOSS mocktails with essential oils, fruit, and agave-sweetened tonic.
Thank you for letting me share this. I also want other friends to know that if any of this sounds familiar or reflective of what you are dealing with, tell someone. It can be a trusted friend, relative, pastor, me (heck ya, I'll listen!) - just speak it out. There is so much grace and forgiveness for it all because that's who God is. And there is health....abundant health on the other side of it. So many of us are on this new journey together, breaking bondage and setting trends like sober is the new black.
Love you, friends < 3