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.

Before joining OYNB, I was the kind of drinker that could never have just one. Or even five. I have always had a dysfunctional relationship with alcohol. I can’t say there has been a time in my life where I drank it in moderation or responsibly.

However, 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 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 predictably going to continue to get worse.

Starting my alcohol-free challenge

When I started OYNB, I didn’t expect that I would really embrace being alcohol-free. I thought I would challenge myself and just see if I could do it. I have 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 this time around.

The daily videos and guided journaling not only motivated me, but led me to reframe how I looked at my drinking. The promotion of mindfulness, personal well-being, and caring about and for yourself really resonated with me. I didn’t feel judged or pressured. I wasn’t forced to concede that I had a drinking problem which had been a big fear of mine. I was allowed to come to realisations on my own.

There was no one “leading” some kind of “pack” of people who 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 just truly be themselves in the context of 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.

My experience going alcohol-free

The only difficulties I faced were physical ones that come with the territory of drinking to excess for a prolonged amount of time, 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.

The changes that have occurred with being alcohol-free are nothing short of astounding. I have lost about 17 lbs, which is even more substantial when you consider I am barely 5 feet 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 that was not only embarrassing, but quite unflattering. I have such incredible energy now. I thought my lack of energy and stamina was just what I had to live with because I was getting older. I have doubled the amount physical work I can accomplish in a day. When I am working on a professional project or activity, my mind is sharp, focused, and working at the speed it was in my twenties! It is truly amazing!

Most importantly, I can feel again. Though that was the scariest part at first, I am enjoying and embracing the full range of undiluted emotions that being alcohol-free has brought back into my life. I am fully present with my children in a way I didn’t even know I could be.

The OYNB support

The most valuable aspect of support from OYNB is the online Facebook community. If someone has not experienced it, it is difficult to explain how you can so deeply and honestly connect to people you have never met. Being in the US while so many members are overseas didn’t diminish that. I have made lifelong friends through the community. I have 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 just vent frustrations, and have literally hundreds of people lift you up. It is pure, honest, and caring camaraderie. I have never experienced anything like it.

What's next?

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 am 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.


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