Before joining OYNB, I was the kind of drinker that could never have just one. Or even just five.
I’ve always had a dysfunctional relationship with alcohol. I can’t say there’s been a time in my life where I drank moderately or responsibly. But in the two years leading up to joining, I started to lose any sense of why I shouldn’t be drinking every night.
It was partly the pandemic, isolation, stretches of working at home, and not having to get up to get the kids off to school. I also believe it was an inevitable progression of the core alcohol problem I already had. Until I could admit I had a problem, it was going to continue to get worse.
Reframing how I looked at drinking
When I started OYNB, I didn’t expect that I would really embrace being alcohol-free. I thought I would just challenge myself and see if I could do it. I’ve never been successful before, so I wasn’t thinking I would be this time.
I was incredibly surprised at how seriously I took it right away. The daily videos and guided journalling not only motivated me, but led me to reframe how I looked at my drinking. The promotion of mindfulness, wellbeing, and caring for yourself really resonated with me.
The power of community
I didn’t feel judged or pressured. I wasn’t forced to concede that I had a drinking problem right away, and that took away a big fear of mine. I was allowed to come to realisations on my own. There was no one leading some kind of ‘pack’ that didn’t take you seriously unless you admitted you couldn’t handle alcohol. I found genuine support from people who were free to speak their minds, share their journeys, acknowledge mistakes, and truly be themselves when seeking support. I was surrounded by one enormous hug that said to me “This is your journey, and we are here for you no matter what it looks like.” That is so powerful.
The only difficulties I faced were the physical ones from drinking to excess for a prolonged period, and then stopping. I had a few weeks of poor sleep, headaches, grouchiness and irritability, and the mental pull towards alcohol. The OYNB community listened and rallied around me with every struggle.
It was the most valuable aspect of the support for me. If you haven’t experienced it, it’s difficult to explain how you can so deeply and honestly connect to people you’ve never met. Being in the US while so many members are overseas didn’t diminish that. I’ve made lifelong friends through the community. I’ve found people that I can open up to and discuss difficulties with, that have nothing but love and support to give me in return. It is a magical experience to be able to reach out for support, or post a success, or even vent frustrations, and have literally hundreds of people lift you up. It’s pure, honest, and caring camaraderie. I have never experienced anything like it.
The changes being alcohol-free are nothing short of astounding. I’ve lost weight, which appears even more substantial on me personally because I’m barely 5ft [1.52m] tall! My face has gone from looking like an over-inflated pinkish red balloon, to a face I remember, recognise, and love. I have no more issues with random facial flushing (not only embarrassing but quite unflattering). I have such incredible energy now. I thought my lack of energy and stamina was because I was getting older, but I’ve doubled the physical work I can accomplish in a day. When I’m on a professional project or activity, my mind is sharp, focused, and working at the speed it was in my twenties—it’s truly amazing!
Most importantly, I can feel again. That was the scariest part at first, but I’m enjoying and embracing the full range of undiluted emotions that being alcohol-free has brought back into my life. I’ve regained the respect of my family, and I’m fully present with my children in a way I didn’t even know I could be.
On my own terms
My relationship with alcohol is over now. I don’t need or want it in my life. It was always unnecessary, but I needed to come to that conclusion on my own. I’m too stubborn to have been forced, coerced, or otherwise convinced that alcohol was toxic to my life. OYNB handed me the tools to realise it was, but on my own terms.
I’ve recommended OYNB to others and will continue to do so every chance I get.