Day 20 Alcohol Free: You Don’t Have to Be Good

20 days! Woo! That means tomorrow I’ll get to celebrate three weeks (three weeks!) of being alcohol free. I might try to bike into work, and then treat myself to something nice afterward. Maybe ice cream, or a steak? Manicure time? A clear head to get some work done on my final papers for summer semester? A nap? Who knows!

I think tonight, I’m going to stop by one of the lakes on my way home. I haven’t touched a single drop of lake water yet this summer, and with only one “true” summer month left, I’m feeling the itch.

Or maybe I’ll do that tomorrow, as part of my 21-day treat. I can bike around after work, hang at a beach for a little bit, grab a bite to eat, then go home. Jake will be out playing games with friends. I can relax into the evening and focus on getting some good work done.

Part of me feels really good about making it three weeks so far. I know I made it to about 1.5 months last summer, around the time I was seeing Pierre*, but I quickly gave up on the idea of sobriety when I got cocky about my ability to handle myself and moderate. I was so certain about not being an alcoholic, and that I only needed some time to “reset” myself.

And, well, look where it got me? By the time I came around to quitting this year, I was able to take 3 shots of hard liquor in an hour’s time, and be okay enough to drive home (“okay” enough, yeah) an hour later. I drank 7 or 8 drinks on the evening of my birthday celebration, the last day of drinking: July 8. That’s eight times the recommended daily limit, and more than double the amount considered a “binge” for women. And I drank it throughout the course of the night, and was… okay? Kinda drunk? Still coherent enough to walk and talk and not puke on myself? At least Jake was sober enough to drive me home.

So yeah, I quit last year, convinced myself I was fine after a while, went back to trying to moderate, and quickly fell into another hole that I had oh-so-conveniently dug for myself. I was teetering on the edge of denial and shame.

In the last several years, I don’t think a week went by when I didn’t feel guilty, worried or ashamed of my drinking habits. Sometimes, I felt that way on a daily basis. My belly bloated up with beer, so I tried switching to wine because it has fewer carbs… and then I’d end up drinking nearly a whole bottle anyway.

My drinking was almost always accompanied by shitty or unstable eating habits. Pizza? Yeah, let’s have two huge slices (or maybe half of a pizza) with my beer(s)! Late night tacos? Absolutely, pile ‘em on. Hungover Rockstar energy drink & protein bars? Yup, gotta have it. Over-compensatory protein smoothies at the gym, because health and stuff? Yeah, for sure!

I will just say that it is a relief to not have to worry myself about the availability of alcohol anymore, or whether I’ve “saved” enough calories for two or three beers with dinner. I’m not tricking myself into thinking that I’m drinking less than I actually am by “topping off” my glass when I’m only halfway through. I don’t have to resign myself to feeling fat, grumpy and tired because I want to have a “good time” day drinking with friends. If my emotions are out of whack, it’s probably because there’s something I need to deal with – and I can deal with it now, like an actual adult! Well, I mean, I can at least try to deal with it like an adult. Not making any promises here.

Things aren’t perfect and there is still a lot of work yet to be done, internally and externally, but I’m getting there. One step – one day – at a time.


One last thing to reflect on: this poem, by Mary Oliver, titled Wild Geese. I love it. I loved it last year when I discovered it, I love it now. It relates to so many things in life, including being sober. I want to have it tattooed on me, or at least some part of it. I want to spread it to everyone I know. I love it. I love it. It’s wonderful.

You do not have to be good.
You do not have to walk on your knees
For a hundred miles through the desert, repenting.
You only have to let the soft animal of your body
love what it loves.
Tell me about your despair, yours, and I will tell you mine.
Meanwhile the world goes on.
Meanwhile the sun and the clear pebbles of the rain
are moving across the landscapes,
over the prairies and the deep trees,
the mountains and the rivers.
Meanwhile the wild geese, high in the clean blue air,
are heading home again.
Whoever you are, no matter how lonely,
the world offers itself to your imagination,
calls to you like the wild geese, harsh and exciting —
over and over announcing your place
in the family of things.

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