Finding Freedom in an Alcohol-Free Life



By Janelle Wilkes

I DID IT!!!

I have suffered my last Day 1. 

I have spent many years trapped in a shame cycle of overdrinking and trying to cut back. Nothing triggers self-loathing and regret quite like waking up full of anxiety with nearly no memories of the night before.  The next morning, I’d be gingerly walking on eggshells and testing the energy around me.  I’d silently try to gauge if my husband was mad at me for something I did or said.  I will not forget that feeling, because it’s what is keeping me alcohol-free.

I had stopped my wine habit for a stretch the year before.  I flexed my “sober curious” muscles during Lent and, having recognized some of the benefits of omitting alcohol, I kept extending my goal.  90 days became 100, and three months became nearly six.  The difference between then and now, though, was that last year I was mostly white-knuckling it.  I wasn’t learning or connecting.  I was just collecting days.

I have learned so much over the last 365 days, and I am insanely grateful to my sisterhood of likeminded women.  The best part of this year was all the unexpected surprises.  I never expected that quitting drinking would make me feel empowered – like a total badass.  I never expected sobriety to be a superpower.  And I certainly never expected to make genuine, soul-sister friends that make me feel like I belong, like I am seen and like I matter.

Notable things I have learned:

  • I am not broken. Alcohol is addictive.
  • Alcohol is a sledgehammer to my body and my brain.
  • Moderation is scam.  I will not be able to moderately use an addictive substance.
  • The temptation to moderate will open the door to old thought patterns … “just on the weekends,” “just at home,” “just at restaurants,” “just one glass,” “just two glasses” … until the door blows open and I am back at the beginning wishing that I never turned off this path.  I feel like I have discovered the Emerald City – there is no going back to black and white!

I have found freedom and joy.

I am a reformed cynic.  I didn’t think joy was possible for me.  I didn’t think I could be happy, relaxed or fun without wine.  But, by the grace of God, and by becoming alcohol-free, I have found pure joy.  I have rekindled old passions, I am more productive, and I finally feel like I am worth the effort.  By this I mean, I like myself enough to wear a little makeup, buy myself something new, and take my vitamins.  I thought I would be making sacrifices when I quit drinking — I never expected to find freedom in the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow.

This is what freedom looks like for me:

  • I am free of lies alcohol tells me
  • Free of the guilt and shame
  • Free of the preoccupation
  • Free of the detox-to-retox loop
  • Free of the damage to my body and mind
  • Free of added stress on my relationships
  • Free of questioning my self-worth
  • Free to make better choices
  • Free to be in charge of my future
  • Free to love fully
  • Free to be present in each moment with my kids
  • Free to trust my emotions
  • Free to be my best self

I still have a lot of work to do.  2020, with its shelter-in-place and social distancing, offered very few temptations — no get togethers, no outings, no date nights, no weddings, no vacations.  I know I will still have to cycle through the calendar year of holidays, birthdays and BBQs.  Luckily, I have momentum in my favor and a continued thirst for freedom!

As we approach Mother’s Day this year, I am grateful for my children who have given me the gift of motherhood. I am also grateful that I was able to correct my course and give them the gift of a clear-minded, fully-present mother.  I am giving them the gift of watching their mom set a goal, make self-corrections, improve and achieve.  I am showing them that we have the ability to make good choices and continue growing and learning — even when it’s hard. I am teaching them that we are all works in progress.  Grown-ups can still learn, too. Maybe most importantly, I am giving them the gift of breaking the cycle of generational drinking to self-soothe and medicate.

As I soldier into my second year, I am renewing my vows and my commitment to be alcohol-free.  I am going to protect my goals like a mama bear protects her cubs.  I have fought like hell to rewire my brain and push out of my comfort zone.  I don’t want to be chained to old habits that keep me stuck in old ways of thinking and keep me stuck on the couch with no desire to participate in life.

Like Glinda, the Good Witch, said, “You’ve had the power all along, my dear, you just had to learn it for yourself.”

Connect with me and follow my blog at janeville.co.

Interested in learning more about Sober Sis? tinyurl.com/SoberSisFW


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