Reading how everyone else was navigating their journey only helped cement what I was trying to accomplish.

Alcohol is so normalized in the media and in society so I didn't really think about it being a problem. It was just something that you did when you were out socializing, at celebrations, or at home at the end of the day. 

I grew up with a father that was a heavy drinker and an alcoholic brother. I started drinking in high school because everyone did. Throughout the years it was always there at family functions, dinner parties, vacations… everywhere. 

I didn’t drink when I was pregnant or much when our girls were little. My husband travelled a lot for work and after we became empty nester’s I was often at home alone which meant I drank out of boredom or loneliness or as a stress reliever. When it became a daily thing at home, where the one glass of wine with dinner turned into finishing the bottle, I decided that I probably was drinking too much no matter how many funny meme’s I saw on Facebook. 

A turning point

My husband was a heavy drinker and I felt more and more uncomfortable with the level of his consumption. Anxiety had been wreaking havoc with me for the last few years, although I had not connected that with alcohol consumption. I had been on prescription medication for depression in the past, but this was something different.  

Our youngest daughter was leaving for a university study term in Vienna at the beginning of last February and my other daughter was planning an extended trip to Columbia. With the rumblings of an unusual virus spreading from the East I was very anxious. My husband had discovered OYNB somehow and was looking at it for himself, but I decided I wanted to try, and I started the day after we put our daughter on the plane to Vienna and I had drank a bottle of wine in sadness and worry. 

I had a couple of “Whys” for my journey…

First and foremost I wanted to be clear headed and present for my girls when they were away. If something were to happen when they were travelling, I did not want brain fog to interfere with any decisions that might need to be made, and that was exactly what happened. 

Within a month of my starting OYNB, the pandemic was declared, and we had to scramble to get our youngest daughter back to Canada. She arrived home the day before the borders closed. Our other daughters flight was cancelled, and she remained in Canada. In my mind I had them safe at home. 

My second “Why” was that hopefully my stopping would be the catalyst my husband badly needed to stop his heavy drinking. I quietly went along my path and I am ecstatic to say he has joined OYNB as of January this year as is doing well so far.

My third “Why” was for my own physical and mental health. I just turned 62 and knew that excessive alcohol consumption, again no matter how “normal” it seems just could not be good for you.  

My experience going alcohol-free

Before starting my challenge, I had my share of hangovers, awful red, hot blotchy face and neck when I drank, brilliant red eyes, brain fog and disturbed sleep. Although I have not lost a ton of weight or run any marathons, all the above is gone and most importantly my anxiety has declined dramatically. This pandemic is still driving it and I have a peculiar anxiety to COVID protocols, so I tend to over isolate. But I can only imagine the mess I would be if I were still drinking. 

I embraced gardening this year much more than in other years. We discovered many new walking trails which rekindled my love of all things in nature in all our Canadian seasons. I am loving exploring my artistic side and although I may have saved money on alcohol, I may have spent it all on craft supplies! My other loves are reading, music, and my dog and cat friends… all these things helped me in my journey. The pride my girls have for my accomplishment has been a huge motivator.

My biggest accomplishments

I had some other big challenges over the year. I had to say farewell to our 14-year-old chocolate lab Chip in April, but I did not drown my sadness in a bottle. We tried to purchase back our family farm only to fail after a month of trying but I did not drown my disappointment in a bottle. I watched as my daughter left to drive across Canada to live, not knowing when I will see her again, but I did not drown my sadness and worry in a bottle. Most recently I mourned the loss of a close family friend who was 4 days short of her 102nd birthday but I didn’t drown my sorrow in a bottle. I have not been able to see my elderly sister and brother and their families in the U.S., but I do not drown my loneliness in a bottle. I feel the loss of my old life where you could visit and hug family members, go out in public without wearing masks, socialize with others without being outside 2 metres apart. I miss my yoga classes and I miss going to Mass in a normal way… I miss my community. The future scares me but I still do not want to hide in a bottle.

What's next?

Yes, I miss my old life, but I do not miss alcohol. I intend to carry on without it. My daughter asked me once “wouldn’t I have a glass of champagne for a toast at a wedding or special occasion?”. My reply was “it’s the toast that is important not what’s in the glass”. I feel I have the skills now to overcome the pressure of those types of situations.  

I have been at a couple of get togethers where everyone else was drinking and I had either taken my own AF beverage or ordered that from the waiter. I keep some AF choices on hand at home. One of my triggers was always with food. How could I possibly have my favourite Italian or Greek meals without a glass (or bottle) of red? How could I eat pizza or burgers without a cold beer? How could I even eat cheese and crackers without a glass of wine. I discovered I can!  

My husband and I used to travel a lot and alcohol always played into that… margaritas on the beach, beer in a pub. I haven’t had to test my skills with those situations yet because of the current world situation but I know that an AF version will suffice just fine. Again, I hear myself saying “It’s the environment that I enjoy not what’s in the glass.”

My experience of OYNB

I have only great things to say about OYNB. The daily e-mails helped me with tools and strategies to use in my everyday life and I have to say the Challengers group was the game changer. Reading how everyone else was navigating their journey only helped cement what I was trying to accomplish. Tears, laughter, inspiration. I did not post often but when I did the love and support that came through meant so much and helped so much. I intend to keep checking in! I did not dive into all the podcasts or quit-lit but I do think that all of that is an amazing resource.


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