My First Steps to Living Alcohol-Free
It’s been a long while since I’ve dedicated a blog post about alcohol within my life, but I was recently asked to be a guest on a podcast about secrets (Corner of Secrets), and it got me thinking way back to when I first surrendered to recognizing and acknowledging I had an issue with my dependency within it. And all the secrets & lies that weaved through my life like a spider casting a net on its prey. I also just reached 21 months living alcohol free, and so I thought to reflect a little on this time too. And to honour myself within this process. And maybe reading this post will provide some inspiration if you’re just starting out your journey into living alcohol free.
In a society where we’re praised for our alcohol lifestyle, choices & consumption (“Always drink responsibly” – Pffft. OK, thanks for the ass backwards tip Smirnoff), it becomes increasingly difficult to A) Acknowledge you have an actual dependency. B) Work your ass off to release that dependency. C) Remain focused on your goal to remove and replace with healthier and more sustainable habits. Although my struggles are now what feel like a lifetime away and far behind in my rear view mirror, I can still relate and have compassion for those just beginning the process.
So with that in mind, I thought I would communicate some of the steps I took in those first few minutes, hours, days & months, that really opened my eyes to the actual possibility of living alcohol free, how good I felt once I started these steps, and realizing I wasn’t alone in the struggle. Women all over the country and world are coming to terms with their own poisonous relationship with alcohol, and that it’s OK. You aren’t perfect, you’re going to struggle through this process and in life. You’re going to face adversities. How you gather and gain strength, discipline and continuum through all the shitty parts, that’s the gold that will propel you forward with the power needed to survive & thrive. Just a reminder this is an individualistic process. What worked for me won’t necessarily work for you. Some women need to utilize AA, treatment centres and rehab. It all depends on where you're at within your dependency. There’s no right or wrong, only what feels right and treasurable within you. And there is no shame in seeking out professional help. My hope this maybe this list will give you a few ideas on where to start.
1) Do What Feels Good
Somewhere along the way, I forgot about me. Little me. The little me inside that liked to play, have fun, not be so serious. And what type of aspects felt good to me at that time in my life. Eventually, over a long spanning career of drinking, alcohol made me feel like shit - shameful, guilty, sad, lonely, depressed. Until I drank more, and those feelings would slowly melt away. FFW to the next morning though, and they would wash over me like throwing a bucket of dirty mop water over my head. At the beginning of my acknowledgment of dependency, all I concentrated on was that – the circular repetitive level of self-hate. And that’s where I stayed for months. I needed to accept those shitty feelings, and more importantly actually feel them for what they were - A protective shield and a cry for help. Alcohol had helped to numb them for so long, it was time to finally settle in and feel, and begin the healing process. Not to say those feeling don’t still creep back in from time to time, they do. However the more I’m able to consciously sit with those feelings, the less suffocating they become.
As I mentioned above, in the beginning, all I could think about was alcohol. And I thought that’s the way it was supposed to be. "Stop Drinking". "Stop Drinking". "Stop Drinking". That became my mantra. Well, guess what - Other thoughts that weren’t totally consumed by alcohol and quitting drinking eventually became just that. Day and night it’s all I thought about. So, so unhealthy, on top of already being unhealthy. What I needed to do was take a step back and look at all areas of my life. Concentrate on just alcohol and I failed every.single.time. So I thought back to what it is that used to make me feel good from the inside out. How old was I? What did that look like? What did that feel like? It looked and it felt like health. It looked like a life of self care. A feeling of pure comfort in my own skin. And I have to tell you – I had to look so far back in my life to find this, I’m talking all the way back to my teenage years when I was at my happiest & healthiest. What was I doing back then? I was eating a mainly organic diet, was an avid swimmer & athlete, had a good core group of friends, and was actually enjoying life. OK cool -So how do I translate that to my life now almost 20 years later with more responsibilities within it..?
I started by changing my diet. No more gas station/fast food/processed/sugary garbage. It was as simple as going out to buy groceries and making meals for myself. Healthy, fucking delicious meals. I also started listening more to my body and what it liked and disliked. This was easy to do as I was bloated more often than not. I cut out dairy, gluten and unnecessary sugar. And eventually took on an Ayurvedic diet. And guess what – no more bloating. I have since introduced back in a minimal amount of dairy and unprocessed wheat products, and continue with my Ayurvedic approach, but only after listening to my body and the nutrients and food medicine that makes it feel oh so good.
And I do realize that preparing meals & meal time may be a trigger for some – Wine with dinner anyone? But for me, all I had to do was replace a bad habit with a better option. Earlier on, I started by drinking non alcoholic beers while I prepped dinner. When I got tired of that taste (and gave up gluten), I then graduated to something a little more creative. I took a page from my decades worth of bartender training and started to make organic Simple Syrups (literally takes 5 min to make). A little lavender simple syrup mixed in with some lemonade & sparkling water, and VOILA! Problem solved for me.
Next, I got back into taking care of myself physically. I started exercising again. And it was a rough start. It always is when your body looks skinny from the outside but swollen and bloated on the inside. I took it sloooooowly. I bought a membership to one of those all-in gyms with HITT, Spin, TRX, etc, and started to take classes. Others at the gym became fast friends and we would hold each other accountable for actually showing up & putting in the muscle. And it started to work. By the 6th, 7th, 8th month, I started to get my strength back. And my body began to change and adjust to the refreshed, healthier version of myself – my breasts went from a DD down to a B – yeah, for real. The foundations for a physically healthier me were set, and I started to sleep better, wake earlier, and shit (yes) more regularly. My period also came back. I had stopped menstruating those last few hardcore months of my dependency, which for me was terrifying. This combined with a healthier diet took me next level, but not overnight. These were steps I had to work on every damn day, and continue to do.
2) Find Others Who Have Been Through the Shit
This was a VERY important step in my journey. Why? Well, first of all, it didn’t make me feel like I was the only fuck up on earth, as was the message that continuously played on a loop in my head. I started listening to podcasts about other women sharing their stories on alcohol dependency. I started following some of them on instagram. Mothers, daughters, sisters, athletes, journalists, professional working women, all who woke up one day and realized their drinking was out of control, and was either hurting them, or close to killing them.
Some of the podcasts that stuck out at the time for me were – “Home” (not sure if it's available anymore) & “The Bubble Hour”. There are also people who make guest appearances on lifestyle podcasts to share their stories on sobriety. Some of those include (which I still listen to to this day) – “The Life Stylist Podcast with Luke Storey”, “Aubrey Marcus Podcast”, and “Under the Skin with Russell Brand.”
Another aspect I took in this regard was reading. I got my hands on as many autobiographical books on the subject I could find. At first, they were difficult for me to read. “Triggering” is the word that comes to mind. Slowly however, I was able to digest these brave women’s stories, and a level of appreciation for their journey and eventually mine, started to form. Some of these books include – “Drink”, “This Naked Mind”, “Blackout”, “My Fair Junkie”, and “Recovery 2.0” – written by a man but an amazing and relatable story as well.
And finally, I started to meet with people through Vivify. Most notably with Kira from the Boring Little Girls Club. She and I formed a quick friendship which translated to a business partnership which created the K2 Speaker Series Discussion Night for Women – next one coming up October 9th!
And through that I began journaling my ass off. I wrote and I wrote and I wrote. Even whe----Especially when I didn’t want to. Because who knows, maybe one day someone will hear my story of going through the shit & survival and realize they aren’t alone in this evolution either.
3) Kept Track of My Days Living Alcohol Free
I didn’t think I was going to do this at the start, but it ended up being one of the most gratifying aspects of my journey. I wrote the word “DAY” on one piece of paper and stuck in on a wall in plain sight. I then cut out numbers from 1-10 and taped up the number of days alcohol free as they came and went. The first few weeks were meh, like “OK, I’ve been here before”, but when the number of days started to crawl higher and higher, like into days 42, 77, 112, 244, 325, holy shit, was it ever satisfying adding and changing those numbers daily. It truly ended up holding me accountable, and adding a fun element to this already intensive process. I promised myself I would stop counting at Day 365, and I did. I have more to offer than how many days I’ve not had a drink, which I continue to prove to myself every day.
4) Find my Purpose. Find what it is I am Passionate about.
I feel like crying as I write this. I had lived without a purpose in life for so long. My actions were robotic through most of my adult life. I felt some glimpses of hope here and there throughout the years, but I knew in my heart of hearts that whatever I was going to school for or working towards weren’t my true passions or purpose . They didn’t get me excited for life and the possibilities that await. I feel as though that was another reason why I drank. At least it was a purpose, a reason to wake up in the morning when I thought there was nothing else.
At the beginning of 2019, I found my life’s purpose, which amazingly incorporates some of my passions. It is “Inspiring Women to Realize their Best Life.” And the way I feel to do this is to continue working through the entity of myself & that woman – her body, mind & spirit – through the practice of Ayurveda. This also incorporates so much more, but I’ll just keep it to that simple explanation for the time being.
I am so fucking lucky to be where I am right now. It’s not lost on me that things could have all ended very badly. And although I have dips in my vibration and can sometimes live quite low, I can also vibe at a really high frequency, and tend to live more there these days. Since I had my last sip of alcohol almost 2 years ago, doors have opened, opportunities have come knocking, and new relationships have formed in my life that are all propelling me towards this purpose. Mixed in with a lot of unknown and excitement.
My hope is that you find your own way through your struggles. It’s never a simple journey. The steps written above came with a whole lot of tears, sadness, loneliness, and despair. But they also came with a sense of empowerment, caring, kindness, strength, discipline and excitement. Wherever you are in your journey, I think you’re fucking brave and wish you strength & support along the way. - K