It's easy enough for most people to understand why a person who feels powerless around alcohol would want to be a non-drinker.
Eleven years ago I was definitely one of those people.
I'm not now. I haven't been for many, many years.
I don't feel like alcohol is more powerful than me. I don't feel like I have an alcohol problem now. I never think about it. Even when people ask me drinking questions, (this happens pretty much all day every day) I don't connect to it emotionally.
That struggle is done for me. It's over. It won't be back.
When I say this, I'm always surprised by the question that routinely follows:
Why don't you drink now?
It made absolutely no sense to me for the longest time I heard it. Because I had forgotten a very important part of my own journey. The question that used to go around my head constantly whilst I was struggling with the very idea of stopping drinking:
Would I ever get to the day where I could just drink a little? Surely I wouldn't have to stop for the rest of my life?
I had completely forgotten how it felt to see stopping drinking as the ultimate sacrifice. How it seemed like I would be living a life that was drab and monotonous. I felt the only way I could get through would be to envisage a time where I could drink just a little. Because even a little bit of excitement would be better than a drab, totally sober life.
I'd forgotten about feeling that way because I was incredibly wrong. My thinking was totally off. It did take a while for the scales to fall from my eyes. But when they did? I felt the truth of what a life without alcohol actually meant:
Having a life full of variety
Making incredible connections with other people
Liking the way I looked
Finding new interests that actually fully engaged me
Falling in love. Proper love
Communicating amazingly well with everyone
Feeling really excited
Taking an interest in my appearance
Deliberately deciding how to feel
Earning proper money
Those are just a few. But they were the strongest discoveries I felt myself making. Really strong ones that still fill me with wonder today.
Conversely, these are the things I gave up. The things that never returned:
Feeling out of control
Living in a constant state of panic
Looking like a wallflower
Feeling invisible all the time
Being filled with seething resentment
The itch one drink gave me that twenty could not satisfy.
The last one is the most important of all. I itched constantly. For a decade. I didn't realise how abnormal the incessant itching drinking caused me. Constant cravings for more and more. I assumed it was something everyone felt. So when it went away and stayed away, by doing nothing more than stopping drinking? I couldn't believe the relief I felt.
You could take away every positive non-drinking has ever given me. You could bring back into my life every negative that dissolved as a non drinker. I'd cope with them all. Everything except the itching. The feeling of having never had enough. I will never, ever stand for such a feeling in my life again. Nothing is worth that.
I had absolutely no clue that these are the things I would experience as a non drinker. I had no idea that I would cultivate such an indifference to alcohol that I would never think of it or feel it's absence again. But that's what happened. My life filled up with great things. The bad things went away. It was just that simple.
I'm horrified that I ever lived my life with this constant itch, that I thought it was normal.
But I'm even more horrified that I lived an average life for so long. There's really no excuse for it. Except I didn't know any better. Didn't know how life was actually supposed to feel.
I would never go back to living the average life my drinking self lived. That's why I don't drink now. Not because alcohol is more powerful than me.
But because I abhor the feeling of living an average existence. Something even a sniff of alcohol would bring rushing back into my life.
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