I knew when I gave up booze that it was going to be a challenge, and this was purely because I had let alcohol sneak into so many areas of my life – that trusty plus one. Who was I without alcohol? What would happen without my friend? What would change? What would I lose? What would I miss out on? What would I lack?
It was a foreign concept to me, going on about my business without my main companion. I’m not going to lie.
The journey wasn’t easy. But it was the best time I’ve ever had. And the rewards outweighed the – well – there were no risks, but it took a while to realise that.
And here’s how it felt…
My last drink was a gin and tonic. It was about 3am at The Saint Hotel in St Kilda. I don’t think I even enjoyed it. I had definitely enjoyed the two or three I had started on – almost 12 hours early at 3 o’clock in the afternoon at home, surrounded by good friends. But then I had gone on a drunken-non-event style journey and ended up in a bar and was ordering the same drink hours later – why? – because I needed it. I woke up with a hangover, again.
I spent my day sculling water, moisturising my face, brushing my teeth, chewing gum, spraying perfume, cancelling plans, eating junk food, watching shit TV, hiding from the world, watching the clock, feeling anxious about work, wondering whether I would make Pilates at 6am, dreading 9am and Monday morning WIP at work. What a rosy way to spend a sunny Sunday. Not.
And then, it was no more.
Now it’s important to note that I was – am – the life of the party. It was July, so I was able to declare to fans of my performances that me and my mate alcohol were doing dry July. We were in a hiatus, hiding behind a good cause and declaring that we were doing a month off along with many other ‘good people’.
But I knew I was going to keep going, I was just already relying on a social pretence, an excuse to hide behind, a good cause… how lame. It was just easier to be a sheep and go with the pack. (Ironic really, because alcohol is all about ‘pack mentality’).
I wrote my two best friends a lengthy card. I put this in the post, and when I wrote it I felt sad. The card was asking them to help me. To cheerlead me through. To not talk about what I wasn’t drinking, and to include me just as much as before even though I wasn’t drinking.
They loved my card, but let’s be honest it was a hard truth and I think it was easier for them to see it as a call for help. However they saw it, I had them on board – and for me, that was important – I had a rubber arm and it was time to stop the twisting.
The first three months were hard. I had broken up with someone. I had to learn to go about my life without them. I had to get ready, get dolled up and leave the house without them. I had to walk into functions alone, without them. Start conversations, without them. Get through the night, without them. And everyone wanted to ask me about them - about alcohol and why it wasn’t there. So much concern for alcohol and my sudden neglect of it. And I didn’t care how alcohol felt, I wanted to not talk about it anymore, I had left it behind. But its previous presence was haunting me.
I had to live not only without it on my nights out, but without it when I woke up. I no longer had it there on a Saturday morning – controlling my Saturday’s or Sunday’s. I woke up at 6am. And I had hours to live a life that I hadn’t had before. Other people, who were still with alcohol – weren’t awake, it was a lonely time. But was it?
I’m a producer. Schedules are my thing. In the first three months I scheduled my life to a tee. I had no spare second. I would book everything into my calendar. Saturday morning: 8am Gym, 9am Coffee, 10am Movie, 12noon brunch, 2pm Nails, 4pm Coffee, 5pm Family, 6pm Groceries, 7pm Get Ready, 8pm Go out. Sunday – repeat. Reminders would pop up on my phone and I wouldn’t have a second to think, ‘Oh I’ll stop here and have a wine’.
And this worked. And I saw all these people, my friends and acquaintances I hadn’t seen before.
The first three months felt long, but on paper I had achieved so much. I literally tripled the amount of spare time I had. This was fun. This was exciting. And I was getting addicted to alcohol's absence.
Alas - people were concerned. They felt bad for my mate that I had left behind. They felt worried. Worried about me – what terrible, dark, bad thing had happened to me to make me do this? What was the catalyst for this neglect?
“What happened to you?”
“Are you Ok?”
“When will you drink again?”
“What will your first drink be?”
“Why can’t you just have one? Or two? Or three?”
“You’ve done so well, you deserve a drink.”
By the fourth month I felt frustrated. Why were we still talking about it? Alcohol was fine. It didn't have feelings. It’s coping with my neglect.
No I am not in AA, I’ve chosen to do this, it hasn’t chosen me. This is a decision I have made and I’m not a victim, so please let’s move on.
It was around this time that the people closest to me started to not mention ‘the passing’ anymore. What a relief.
But the interrogations kept coming thick and fast from new people.
Instead of acknowledging accomplishment, they would go in with the attack ‘But how can you do this? (to IT – alcohol). I met cute guys. I would make progress. They’d buy me a drink. “A soda please?” “No, a vodka soda”. I’d hide the drink, get rid of it, give it to a friend….. They’d find another girl to talk to. One that was drinking.
Month five was liberating. I would go out until 4am. I’d go everywhere and anywhere. I was myself, without ‘IT’ – and I was free. I was more popular with men then I had ever been before (because I wasn’t wasted, because I looked better, because I smiled more) but I was scarier. I had spent four months learning how to respond to the offer to buy me a drink.
I knew what I should say, but I was lying. Lying to tell them what they wanted to hear. “I’m just not drinking tonight.” “I’m having a week off.” “I’ve got an important meeting tomorrow” (On a Sunday – really? – but they would fall for it).
Phew. You could see their body relax. Thank god, next time I see her she will drink. Next time I see her she’ll be drunk. Next time I see her she won’t be so in control. Next time I see her she won’t remember everything I say. Next time I see her she won’t see me for me. Next time I see her we will both be different versions of ourselves…..
Month six – no fuck that. No more lies. This is me, take it or leave it. I was happier now, and you should all be too, so if you can’t be then you’re the only one who is sorry. This was literally like a breakup. I had grieved. Other people had grieved – or were still grieving. But now I was a little angry, because I had moved on. And I wanted the world to move on with me.
I was free, I was excited, I was better – a better me, yay! – But why wasn’t this as good for everyone else as it was for me? It’s not sad guys, please. Let’s not be sad about this anymore. Time had flown by. And I had treated the S word as a month by month case. To tell the masses what they wanted to hear.
And then the big six month mark was looming, and most people had come to the conclusion that I would drink again. I couldn’t remember sending the memo. What? This wasn’t ending – why did it have to end? And why are you making that decision for me? ‘What will you drink on NYE?’ – ‘Good time for you to drink’ – ‘Are you excited to drink again?’.
I didn’t have a lump in my throat anymore, I could blatantly talk about my old mate that was no longer a friend. No – they are not coming, they are not welcome, I’m happy without them – but hey I’m having a NYE party and you should come….. Sober people make for very good hosts – and the party went down in history, another great high, another night to remember. Literally.
And then it was 2016. It was a new year. And I was going to have more time in this year than any year before. I was going on alone (but so not alone) without my mate, and boy was I excited. Month seven was all about the high. I was high on freedom. High on control. I had these two things in the sweet palm of my hand. And that was a game changer. There were no longer any evil twists and turns. I was in complete control of my nights, my days, my social experiences. I was free.
My car was confused. Here she comes again – Jesus can’t I just relax? No. I was now going to every single thing I was invited to. I wasn’t a victim to my budget, or my drunkenness, or my location, or my ‘disconnectedness’. I was high on sobriety. And I was just as funny, just as entertaining, and just as ‘Georgette’ as I’d ever been. In fact, I was better.
And then the occasional low. “I don’t trust people who don’t drink”. But wait. This isn’t fair. I’m in month seven – why can’t you see that this is the best thing I’ve ever done? Oh, that’s because you barely know me, but you’re willing to pass on your hard cold judgement. Well maybe I don’t need you.
I was starting to realise that there were people who were not coming into my life. These people would have had an access all areas pass before. But now, no. I don’t need that shit, you’re toxic, and because of your inability to accept a sober me – our journey ends here. I was cleaning up. I had cleaned up. I looked back on all the new people that had come into my life in the past seven months. And they were all genuine, positive, fun friendships. There were no baddies hanging around.
Giving up alcohol is one way to take control. But how else do you look after your mind? Post continues after video.
But that didn’t mean I still wondered about those ones that hadn’t been able to give me a second chance. It was like I had gone into the garage and cleaned up. I had thrown out the shit. Life was lighter, things weren’t complicated. The highs well outweighed the lows. In fact, the lows weren’t even mine to have.
They were other people’s lows, and suddenly I had all this stuff in my life I didn’t have before. Good things; better people, better food, better workouts, better skin, better work results, better relationships, better experiences, better memories. In fact I just had all of the memories. No dark clouds, no missed opportunities, no black outs, no guilt trips……
“I don’t drink”. I had a new life now and even though it was month eight, I was no longer counting. I was now in love again. In love with myself. In love with my life without ‘IT’. Work was so much easier. I was thinking faster than I had ever thought before. I didn’t set an alarm, ever. I sat down and watched TV and ate my breakfast – slowly. I had three hours to myself before my work day even started. I wasn’t in a rush, ever, anymore. And with clarity came change. ‘Hang on, is this it?’ – ‘Is my job just a job?’ ‘If I cannot drink, what else can I do?’. There’s something better out there for me. Why? Because I’m better. And I deserve more.
I’m not saying that sobriety made me quit my job. But the more sober I got, the more time I had to think about everything. What was I doing? I wasn’t in a weekly grind anymore – meaning, I didn’t work to drink. I didn’t work just to get to Friday and then get smashed and then get up on Monday to earn money to get smashed again. I had worked hard for life. And it was time for life to work for me.
Suddenly I was 10 months in. And all this positive stuff had happened. The interrogations had stopped. Sort of. But when they did arise, I could laugh. Because now I knew that I didn’t need to be offended – it was a compliment. I was a mirror, a reflection – and those who needed to drink were just using me as a sounding wall for their excuses. It was water off a ducks back.
I have moved on, and I wasn’t concerned with everyone else any more. They could take it or leave it, it wasn’t me who would lose from the decision they made. And so it was all about me. Me and this life and this amazing awakening.
The thing is, alcohol is what you make of it. And at the end of the day who cares. But let me tell you this; a year of sobriety will be one of the best years of your life. Whether you are a good or bad drinker is not the point. You don’t need to be in a bad place to give it up. You buy a new item of clothing and you promise yourself one item needs to be thrown away to make room for it.
If you can justify doing this with a fucking jacket, imagine the space you can create without old mate alcohol. I know you’ll have the time of your life. It won’t be easy, but it will be worth it.