Alcohol-free, Specifically Part 3: What does it mean?
Alcohol-free, for me, means removing alcohol from both my body and my life. What it means for you may be different, and that's ok.
Here is my experience.
Alcohol-free means no longer being a part of dysfunctional alcoholic dynamics. It means no longer being the person not drinking around all the people drinking and going home annoyed and upset by drunken behavior.
Alcohol-free means facing all the times I did drink and failed miserably at it, and it means owning my mistakes and making amends to the people I hurt in the process. It means examining why I’ve spent so much of my life in unhealthy relationships with people who drink in harmful ways, and it means coming to terms with the extent to which generations of alcohol abuse has ingrained dysfunction in my family.
Choosing an alcohol-free life also means getting some distance from people whose behavior hurts me if they have no intention of changing. I could stick around and keep getting hurt, or I can detach.
Finally, I can say, “Do what you want, but I can’t be a part of it."
This is huge for me. I was never able to say that before, because I didn’t it was an option. I thought I had to accept being hurt, because that’s the way it had always been.
Alcohol-free means no longer doing things just because I always did them. It means no longer believing the myth that I am supposed to be good at drinking. It means no longer punishing myself, because forgiving other people’s drinking is part of our culture. It also means no longer excusing my own drinking.
Certainly I’m not off the hook for all the shitty things I did when I failed to handle my booze. But now I don’t do those things. I don’t make a fool of myself anymore, I don’t make bad decisions with men anymore (thank you to Mandy Stadtmiller for blowing that part of my brain open with her book Unwifeable), and I don’t wear those experiences anymore like a badge of honor or tell about them like war stories.
Alcohol-free means I don’t spend my time with people who aren’t being awesome to me anymore. I can see clearly now when someone doesn’t have my best interests at heart, and I no longer waste my energy expecting those people to change. I no longer think, these are my people and I have to love them, because they’re my people. If they’re not treating me with love, I’m out.
That was never the case when I was still drinking. When I was still drinking I was still trying to belong. I was still trying to be good at something I had never been good at, and I was still trying to be liked by people whose self interests came long before any concern they had for me. But of course, I couldn't see any of that then.
Keep reading to learn what's changed since I stopped drinking.
*** Note: If you’re questioning your relationship with alcohol and need someone to talk to, click here to connect.