I am so grateful for my life. I am grateful for the ups and downs because it means that I am living.
What I have today is because of the work that I have done over the last decade, and I have learned so much during this time. I did not know any of this when I first started. I tell you this because if you are at the beginning of your journey and feeling like you will never be where I am, that is not the case.
10 years ago, I'd had enough
I was sick and tired of being sick and tired and I had an epiphany that I was the common denominator in my misery. Similar to a lot of like-minded people with their mental health having negative impacts, I had no idea what to do or where to turn and I wasn't too keen on asking for help, because if I did, then you would see that it was all a house of cards, and I wasn't too sure I was ready for it to all come crashing down.
It became clear to me that drinking alcohol was no longer offering me the love and support I felt it once had, so I decided to give it up altogether. I am a whole decade into a sober life, and I wanted to share a few things I have learned in that time.
The best lessons from going alcohol-free:
Lesson 1: Self-worth
I loathed myself. My inner critic was horrible. After some time and effort, the things that I say to myself have become kinder, more compassionate, and more understanding.
This did not happen overnight. But I am grateful for the awareness and the power of the two words “I am”. What follows those two words colours the lens through which I see myself and others.
Lesson 2: Love
For myself and others. True love. Unconditional love. Not the grasping, clinging, and needing kind. The kind that fills one's soul.
The kind that is so beautiful that sometimes words cannot do it justice. The kind that is forgiving, gentle, and flexible.
Lesson 3: Respect
For my body. For my heart. For my mental wellness. I abused these while I was drinking in excess.
And the more it continued, the more I drank a glass of wine for example, so I didn't have to look at the destructive behaviour. It was a cyclical shame storm.
Lesson 4: Boundaries
I am not sure I even knew this word 10 years ago. Boundaries are beautiful. They assure my body, heart, and mind that I care about them and their wellbeing.
It also means that I care about yours, too. Because not only did I not have personal boundaries, but I certainly did not care about or pay attention to others.
Lesson 5: Money
Post-eliminating alcohol, I think I would vomit if I thought about how much money I spent on booze and outfits to go out in to drink the booze. Additionally, the amount of money I spent on buying other people drinks so that I would be liked.
It's gross just thinking about it. Additionally, I was just plain financially irresponsible.
Lesson 6: Brains
Yes! I couldn't sit down and read a book for the life of me. My mind was spinning all the time and I couldn't just be still and read as my relationship with alcohol was too potent.
If I went on a vacation, I would drink and read, kind of. And then not remember what I read and then beat myself up for not being able to read. (I was a voracious reader as a kid and so this was something I shamed myself for).
The reading and being still did not come back right away. It was years. It wasn't until I had been living an alcohol-free lifestyle for around three years that I started meditating and reading a bit more. It wasn't until my fourth year having a life without alcohol that I could read textbooks without having to stop every three pages.
Lesson 7: Sleep
Thank goodness! I do not know how I survived a lack of sleep. I always prided myself on only needing 5 hours of sleep.
I am sure that I wasn't even sleeping that much. It took a while for me to get back to homeostasis.
I would wake up in a panic, sweating, tossing and turning, and grinding my teeth. It was not fun. Today, I need 7 hours and most nights I get that and if not, I have healthier techniques to get rest.
Lesson 8: Skills
Emotional regulation and coping skills, to be specific. I somehow missed out on these concepts when I was growing up. Mostly because I spent a lot of time pretending that I knew stuff, pretending that I was okay. Pretending that being chased home every day in 7th grade was fine.
Pretending that being called names and picked on every day in 8th grade was no big deal. Pretending that I wasn't fitting in didn't bother me. Pretending that I didn't realise that I didn't fit in. It was exhausting and soul-crushing.
I have learned that emotional regulation, awareness, and other coping skills are things we need as humans and are integral to our mental wellness.
Lesson 9: My voice
I wasn't silent for 39 years but most of the time I was trying to fit in. I desperately wanted to be liked. So, if you were a Democrat, was I? If you were outraged by Cindy Whosit, I had your back. Again, exhausting.
I still remember the day I realised I had no idea who I was, what I liked, what I valued or what I believed in. It was a difficult realisation. Today, I have a firm grasp on who I am, my values and beliefs, what is sacred, and what I need. I also know that nothing is fixed nor finite.
I will continue to evolve and that is no longer scary but rather exciting.
Lesson 10: My life
I put myself at risk so many times, especially the last two years before going alcohol-free. I am grateful for my marriage and my beautiful son. I am grateful for the beautiful, honest, and authentic relationships that I have.
I am grateful for a career in which I can give back and be of service. I accept and acknowledge who I am today. I don't need to “fit in” or “get along.”. The challenges, joys, highs, lows, loss, gains, pain, pleasure—all of it lets me know that I am living.
An entrepreneur and former senior oil broker, Ruari gave up drinking after excessive consumption almost cost him his marriage, and worse, his life. Going alcohol-free improved his relationships, career and energy levels, leading to him founding OYNB to provide a support network for others.