Those in recovery have a head start. We’ve already begun the inner transformation that so many are just starting. This is a fun concept everyone that I get super excited about. It’s a deep one. I think you’ll understand why and I want you to come with me. I think you’re ready. I know you’re ready.
But first… Here is a long list of countries, capitals, and cities that have shut down the sale of alcohol, and don’t recognize them as essential businesses during the COVID. I hope you’re comfortable, this is a LONG list, I mean, get ready to be here for a while.
Cheers to South Africa (closed until April 16th), Nuuk, the capital Greenland, and the town of Aisne France (they cited an increase in domestic violence in homes which led to this decision).
The “long list” part was a joke. My goodness. If that’s not a wakeup call, I don’t know what it… And this is a precursor to where this post is going.
I first want to cover why liquor stores are considered essential businesses… I know many of you have sent me emails wondering the same… And here’s why.
The Mayor of Denver Colorado reversed his call of closing all liquor stores on March 23rd just two hours after announcing that liquor stores would close during the quarantine. I read a long article in the Denver Post the other day on why the quick reversal. It cited keeping jobs intact, preventing more unemployment claims, which all make sense. However, the most accurate response came at the end, which said, “the last thing we need right now is a bunch of people taking up hospital beds with for alcohol withdrawals.”
And there you have it. It’s that simple. Our society has found ourselves in such a pickle, that for many, pharmacies and liquor stores are contemporaneous or interchangeable. This has to change. It is changing.
Where have I heard that before?
The other day I was on the phone with our contact at the hotel in Denver for our upcoming event this June. I asked her how she was doing during the pandemic, and she said, “well, I’m taking it one day at a time.” “I bet you are,” I said… Now where I have heard that before? The big book of Atlas Shrugged? The Chronicles of Narnia?
Then a couple of days later, I dropped my bike off for a tune, which for sanity purposes is deemed an essential business in Colorado, and I asked the guy how he is doing. He said, well, it’s one bike at a time, and we’re all taking it day by day. I respond with, “You don’t say…”
Where have I heard these before? These are classic twelve-step program analogies that we’ve been using for decades. Fifteen years shy of a century, in fact. I’m like, “is everyone working a twelve-step program these days?” Not everyone, but more now than ever. Including those who don’t struggle with alcohol and aren’t aware they are even working the program.
So here is where we have a head start. We got started early with connecting the heart and soul internally, regardless of external circumstances. On building inner peace without a foreign substance such as pinot grigio, IPA’s, cigarettes, or donuts… Ahh. I’m not ready to give up donuts yet, but I think you get it.
In our own personal jail
Millions of people feel like they are locked up in their houses right now, in jail, inside their own homes with their families. I FaceTimed with my brother and his family yesterday, and they are STRUGGLING. His wife is pregnant, they are both working from home, and my 3-year-old nephew is no longer at daycare during working hours. My brother said he’s going crazy without his routine, the gym, working from home, and boredom.
Okay, here is where I encourage you to go deep with me. Are you ready? At my talk in February 2019 at our LIVE event in Nashville, I said that alcohol is an invitation to wake up. To recognize that real, long term happiness can never be tied with the external physical world. This could be a life partner, a pet, a spouse, a job, a house, or your ride on John Deere Greene lawnmower. Side note, the country artist Joe Diffie, who wrote the song John Deere Greene, recently passed away due to the Corona Virus. Guys, this shit is real.
We, who grapple with addiction, choose to receive this invitation early. As we are the primary wave, who have decided to do the inner work first and show the way for the rest of humanity. COVID 19, is the invitation for another wave to follow. Now, I may have just said some words that furrowed a brow or two. That was that we “choose” to receive this invitation, and we “decided” to do this inner work first. As in it was voluntary.
That’s a whole bundle of spirituality that I want you to think about for the rest of the day… to start sitting with. We had a webinar a couple of weeks ago titled “Spirituality and Addiction,” and this was the point that spiritual teacher Elaine Huang made. She said, “those who have the courage to go within and build inner stability without alcohol are paving the way, are leaving a footprint in consciousness for the rest humanity who are soon to follow.”
Now, this next part isn’t food for thought, but a concept that I believe in with all my heart. I’ve said this in previous episodes, in my book, at past retreats, and it’s more applicable now than ever.
Due to the stigma surrounding alcoholism and addiction in general, we often mentally shame ourselves to the back of the sociological cue. Telling ourselves that we have morally failed, that we messed up in life, and this couldn’t be further from the truth.
We are the teachers
In fact, we are the ones who said, “Okay, I guess I’ll quit drinking, do a bunch of internal work, find stability and then I’ll show my neighbor, cousin and brother Rod who don’t have drinking problems, how to build a sturdy internal foundation of joy that doesn’t care if the Seattle Seahawks win the Super Bowl or not.
Do you follow? These are expansive ideas that I hope you sit with, and lord knows many of us have found ourselves with more time to sit…
Okay, one more point about how we have a head start. If you’ve been around the recovery block, you’ve heard that gratitude is key to departing from an addiction. It’s INCREDIBLY important, and here’s a cool way that science shows how. It also hints at how we need inner change as opposed to vaccines to address COVID.
Like any other virus, (COVID-19) has a low vibration with a closed electromagnetic circuit structure, with a resonance frequency of approximately 5.5 Hz-14.5 Hz. In the highest ranges, it is not active and, starting with the ranges of 25.5 Hz and above, the virus dies…
These are low vibrations. For reference, fear has a vibration from 0.2 Hz to 2.2 Hz. Resentment, 0.6 Hz to 3.3Hz. These emotions or frequencies don’t feel good to experience, and I bet it doesn’t feel good to have the coronavirus.
Again, the virus dies above 25.5 Hz. A genuine thank you, or gratitude has a frequency of 45hz. Compassion for another 150Hz. And unconditional, universal, sacrificial love is at 205 Hz. When we practice gratitude and compassion, COVID, can’t survive in that environment. A micro at the cellular level that is being applied to the macro.
I’d like to zoom out a bit and talk about the journey for a moment. There is no one size fits all approach to ditching the booze, but I think most of us can agree, there can by trying times. You often hear on the Recovery Elevator podcast from myself and interviewees how incredible a life without alcohol can be, which I can attest to. Still, the pathway can be complicated at times, and for reasons unknown, more challenging for some.
There is a comfort knowing you’re not alone. That you’re not the only person on the planet, who struggles with alcohol, which is how I felt when I first began my journey early last decade. There is also a comfort knowing that collectively, people find this pathway hard. The pains and painful moments are all part of it, and you’re not alone. Keep in mind, of the roughly 100,000 genes we inherit, not of them is the addiction gene, and you can reverse this progression.
Right now, since you’re reading this, it places you in the ring. You’re an active participant in the game of life. You’re in the center of the ring, and not up in the grandstands observing. And you’re an absolute badass, for purposefully placing yourself in this ring where there’s a good chance, almost certain chance, you’re going to get dirty. Smacked, kicked, punched, rolled over on, and a lot of other unpleasant things. This isn’t you saying, well, I’m open to failing, it’s you saying, I’m going to fail as many times as I need to be successful.
I admire each and every one of you for consciously choosing the enter the ring. Seriously. It’s impressive. I applaud all of you for continuing to listen to the podcast even if the message hasn’t quite “hit home” yet.
Now, to be fair, by electing to be here, living life on planet earth places you in the ring, so everyone is more or less in the ring. But your decision to move forward in life without alcohol, to address what’s holding you back in life, places you in the center of the ring and not way up in the upper decks as an observer. Your conscious decision to depart from the booze, from what provided relief, from what used to make your job, anxiety, depression, shame, guilt, winter, your neighbor Tom, and individual relationships bearable places you front and center of the ring.
You might be saying, “wait a second Paul, I haven’t told anyone about my decision to quit drinking.” Well, even if the only ship you’ve burnt is with yourself, which is where it starts, you’ve still taken the most essential step in your life. This is what makes you brave… courageous… valiant… daring… vulnerable… adventurous… and a bold leader.
Now you may have heard courageous and vulnerable in the same sentence, and that’s no coincidence because they are the same damn thing. And Deep down, you know, the only way out is through. And to go through, you get cracked open, in the most beautiful of ways. It’s almost like a vulnerable sandwich. First, we must be courageous enough to be vulnerable. Then we must be courageous again to address the vulnerable parts. The vulnerability sandwich. I like it, I will personally be adding some horseradish mayo or honey mustards. I’m a huge sauce guy.
Now let me describe what the ring looks like… Imagine a bull ring from Spain. One that Ernest Hemingway would write about in the “Sun Also Rises.” When you stop running, turn, and face your fears, you just made the conscious decision to place yourself in the center of the ring. Now, as I said before, everyone is in the ring, but you just came down from row 55, which is near the top and are now inside the ring. You can still get shoved around while sitting in the top row of the stands, and there’s a slim possibility you’ll to confront a bull, but by sitting way up there, you’re well in the comfort of your comfort zone.
Apart from the occasional shirt getting launched up there from a t-shirt cannon, not much happens. It’s a bunch of people who are living behind screens which have mighty thumbs and can type whatever they want. Up there, where you used to be, It’s called the sidelines of life. Where all you have is talk, inaction, and empty goals. How does that saying go? Talk is inexpensive? Talk is a bargain? Talk is of lesser quality… Talk is cheap. Got it.
So here you are, inside the ring. You look down to find your shoes are covered in dust. You suddenly feel smaller. Things don’t smell quite right. And you see large bulls running around. You see swords, bows, and arrows, spears, dinner parties where alcohol is flowing freely, your best friend Aaron is offering you a vodka cranberry. You don’t have things figured out. You recognize it’s only a matter of time before you get your ass kicked.
As I mentioned last episode, it’s not about avoiding these ass-kickings in life; it’s about getting up and back into the ring. I think I’ve done a fair job of accurately describing what this journey will be like. I cover this specifically in episode 250 titled “Is Sobriety all Unicorns and Rainbows.” Sure, after alcohol, a new life awaits, one without crushing hangovers and self-loathing, but when in the ring, there will be challenging days. Moments you don’t think, keyword think, you’ll be triumphant, but you are. You find the strength because it’s there. I know it’s there. It always has been.
Let me read one of my favorite quotes of all time for you. One that I had framed and hung up on my wall before the very FIRST episode of Recovery Elevator podcast dropped on February 25th, 2015. I remember looking up at the framed quote on the wall, them uploading episode 001 to iTunes and then said to myself, “Oh shit, here we go.”
“It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows, in the end, the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat.”
– Theodore Roosevelt.
I think Teddy does a damn good job of summarizing just what level of Ninja status you’re at. You’re in the ring, which is all that matters. Now the thing you’re probably saying to yourself is this. “Teddy’s right. I don’t care what others think about me.” Say it to yourself, it sounds good. It feels good. But how come when we get criticism, it usually stirs up a whirlwind of emotions in some part of the body? You’re like hang on, I just told myself, I don’t care what others think about me, but how come there’s a knot the size of a grapefruit in my solar plexus? It’s because we’re wired as human beings to care.
We are genetically hardwired to care what others think about us. The reason why is we need a tribe. We need a community to survive. Okay, so here’s where I can add comfort. Criticism is normal. In fact, it can be a barometer knowing you’re on the right path. How does it go? Haters gonna hate, hurt people hurt people… Blah to them. We’ve covered countless ways on this podcast to stay grounded, to no let others affect your energy, but let’s be honest, some of it still hurts. It always will, and that’s alright. Allow yourself to feel it, and I can promise you with a capital P, alcohol will only create another, more ferocious critic.
Now, who’s the critic? Who’s the person saying you’re not worth it, or you don’t deserve this, or don’t even try because you’ll never make it? It’s not who we think it is. Stick with me for a second here.
The spectator, or the critic we’re thinking about, the one we imagine sitting in the stands, heckling from above, in the comfort of their seat, is mostly quiet. Why? The spectator respects you, admires you, is almost envious of you… for your decision to be the most authentic version of yourself because deep down, they want the same. They want you to succeed. Sure, you may get the occasional cackle or low blow from above, but even they are saying, “go, go, get back up and get it, girl. DO it. Show us how. Lead the way.” They all want you to find traction on this journey.
The loudest critic
So who is the critic when you’re in the ring grappling with alcohol? Who is the one that places the most seemingly impenetrable walls on your path? Wait for it… It’s you. I’m 99.99% sure the worst critic is you. The constant voice hurling those vitriolic painful volleys and insults is coming from you, or the voice inside your head.
So this is good news. You can’t control disapproval from the outside, and well, you can’t really control the thinking on the inside either, but with awareness, you start to rewire this inner critic to be your inner cheerleader. Your biggest fan. A coach when you need it most.
The way you do this is becoming more conscious than ever of the unconscious self, and when thoughts come across the mind that says, “Michelle, let’s not even try, we won’t make it.” Say, “thank you for your input,” That’s it. That’s the equivalent of a tomahawk throw into an opponent in the ring. With awareness, and one departure from those unhealthy thoughts at a time, you begin to tune out this critic, you stand tall. You move forward in life without the poison called alcohol.
You can do this, I know you can. You’ve been doing the heavy lifting for quite some time now. You are up to this task, I know you are. Come on, we both know you are. Being in the ring is scary at first, terrifying, but with time, you’ll find comfort there. Even enjoy it. Welcome it. All of it.
Keep in mind, you’re the one with dust on your face, or for us, sometimes with puke in your hair. It’s you that’s in the ring, not the external critic. You’re the relevant one.
Keep trying, you’re so close
Check out this video of this you gal who can’t be more than 4,5 or 6 trying to jump up onto a block. She keeps trying and keeps failing. This block is hitting her in the chin, she’s falling over, but she keeps getting back up into the ring. And then, after heaps of jumps, she gets it. Just like you will.
I got the idea for this episode after I got a couple of emails from listeners who were ready to give up. To accept defeat and exit the ring entirely and surrender to a life of drinking and misery. HANG WITH ME. I’m going to ask the readers a question.
Was there ever a moment when you could have sent that same email when you were ready to quit? Hang on,,, okay, every single reader who has ditched the booze or is in the process just nodded their head. SO, if this is how you’re feeling at the moment, know it’s completely normal, some call it the dark night of the soul. Which means you’re so close. So promise me to stay in the ring, for as long as it takes. Do you know who else is in the ring with you? Me, and let me tell you, the other side… is much closer than you think.
I’m going to cover the techniques I use to ground myself when I’m having a rough day, or am feeling anxious. Let’s face it, there can be times in sobriety when we find ourselves taking things one day at a time (ODAAT), or one hour at a time (OHAAT), or one minute at a time (OMAAT). Sometimes on this journey, we’ll find ourselves logging days in our sobriety tracker apps like it’s no thang! Other days, we wake up and quickly realize keeping the mind in check will be a constant struggle. So here are some of my favorite techniques I use to ground myself, to pull myself back into the body, away from the mind and into the present moment.
- Acknowledge what is happening – Anxiety is great at tricking you into believing that something is real. So all these fear-based thoughts you are having are simply that: thoughts. Thoughts aren’t real. Once you acknowledge this and say “wait a second” I’m not going to die, and in a couple of hours, one or two days tops, this will all be fine.”
- Think in terms of we. Which of these two sentences sound better – 1. I am struggling right now. 2. We are struggling right now. Most of us orientate our thoughts to the individual self, but science is showing, we receive a great benefit when we think of terms of “we” which isn’t a lie because we are all connected. It’s totally fine to struggle on this journey, but there is no need to struggle alone.
- Take your shoes off and walk outside barefooted. This is literally called grounding or earthing. You, all people, animals, plants, and inanimate objects are electrical beings living in an electrical world. Everything that’s made of atoms (so…everything) has a net charge that’s either positive, negative, or neutral. Grounding means discharging built-up static electricity either directly into the earth. The earth has a negative charge, and you have a positive charge. Walking barefooted in grass, or on the beach allows you to release an excess of unbalanced energy. If you’re pacing back and forth with anxiety, do it outside without shoes. You’ll instantly start to feel better. There are several books written on this topic that shed light on why earthing is so powerful!
- Usually, when we find ourselves spinning out, we’re moving too fast. We’re rushing through the day seeking ways to mitigate inner turmoil, but we’re going to fast to find what we’re looking for. As Jane Wagner would say, “for fast-acting relief, slow down.” Usually, when we are in this perpetual “crazed” state, all tasks are done as a means to an end and little quality or presence is attached to any duties. I always tell myself, if you want to get somewhere fast, go slow. When I encounter a flight of stairs, I make a point to climb or descend the staircase slowly, making conscious contact with each stair. When I park my car, I wait till I see the clouds moving before exiting the vehicle.
- Do not multitask – Studies show that human beings are terrible at multitasking. If you find yourself talking at the phone, and sending an email or text at the same time, most likely you’re not doing any of these tasks well.
- You are nature, so take a time out, and go be in your natural setting. Ideally, pick a location with a soundtrack such as a stream, birds chirping, or the sound of the wind in the trees. Ideally, I try to go for a hike or walk in nature without shoes. Almost all of these grounding techniques can be done in tandem!
- When I’m not feeling grounded, I start paying close attention to where this feeling is located in the body, more specifically in the stomach and solar plexus area. Almost always, I recognize this region is tensed up and tight. When I feel anxious, I notice my stomach muscles are always flexed, and my breathing becomes shallow. Once I’m aware of this, I can start breathing from the belly and relaxation sets in.
- Stop saying I CAN do this, because you ARE doing this. It doesn’t matter where you currently find yourself on this journey into sobriety, you ARE doing this!
- Go with the gut. 11 billion bits of information bombard your energy field every millisecond and most report to the gut area and not your head. Always trust the gut/intuition on where to go next, even if it seems like a 180 from what the mind is saying.
- I tell myself “this isn’t me.” A couple of months ago, I found myself unable to fall back asleep because my mind wouldn’t stop going. It was frustrating and I deeply needed sleep since I had a busy day ahead of me. After about 30 minutes of the mind trying to solve every problem on the planet, I finally said, “Paul, this isn’t you.” and within a matter of minutes, I was asleep. As Michael Singer says in “The Untethered Soul.” you are not the voice inside the head, but the one who hears it!
These grounding techniques are highly effective when the edge of life is sharp, or when we experience a craving to drink alcohol. I encourage you to practice these before an emotional rollercoaster arrives so you’re better prepared to ride out the uncomfortable feelings or cravings. Let me know in the comments what helps you get grounded.
I was in a bookstore at the airport the other day and noticed a trend while looking at the top twenty best sellers. There were several books with clear, unambiguous titles. Our society collectively is starting to wake up and is looking for ways to unfuck themselves. These are the book titles I saw that were all clumped right next to each other.
UnFu*ck yourself by Gary John Bishop
I used to be a miserable Fu*ck by John Kim
Calm the Fuck down – Sarah Knight
The Subtle Art of Not Giving a Fuck Mark Manson
After a quick Amazon search, I found several more books with similar titles such as
Unfuck your Brain by Faith Harper
Unfuck Yourself by Zoe Swain
I’m currently writing a book about alcohol addiction, and I’m not 100% sure of what my book title will be, but it may have the words unfu*ck yourself somewhere on the cover. I want to be clear, I had this written down on my list of potential book titles for a long time, not just because I saw a bunch of these titles in the airport:) The title at this moment is Alcohol is Shit | but it’s also the invitation. Below that title, it will say either, “control alcohol from the inside out” or “Unfuck yourself from the inside out.” Not sure yet. Let me know your thoughts in the comments.
All these books, including mine, isn’t fulfilling a niche or a trend, they are representing a movement that can no longer be ignored. There’s a consciousness on this planet that is starting to say, hang on a second, this isn’t working. Those of us who struggle with addiction, sometimes think we’re the only ones who reach a rough spot on life. Not true, everyone does, and we’re reaching a critical mass, especially in America. On a global scale, people are starting to say, timeout, hold the phone, the formula that I was told to follow in life, isn’t yielding the fruits I was promised.
I recently read an article titled the Age of Anxiety in the New Republic that sheds light on this movement.
According to studies by the National Institute of Mental Health, nearly 20 percent of Americans experience an anxiety disorder in a given year; over 30 percent experience an anxiety disorder over the course of their lifetimes. And the rate is rising: The American Psychiatric Association, in a May study drawing from a survey of 1,000 American adults, diagnosed a statistically significant increase in national anxiety since 2017.
Please read carefully. There is nothing fundamentally wrong with you. Right now, at this moment, there’s nothing wrong with you. Never has been and never will be. Take a deep breath; we are okay. This anxiety is a good thing and shouldn’t be labeled in some diagnostical statistical manual as bad because this collective state of unrest will eventually show us the way.
According to the article in the New Republic, this jittery national mood has given rise to what Rebecca Jennings at Vox has dubbed “anxiety consumerism”—the rise of a plethora of products, from fidget spinners to essential-oil sprays, to weighted blankets. These weighted blankets were initially developed for people with autism and PTSD as self-administered hugs, to give the sensation of an embrace, but sales for these blankets have gone through the roof, and everyone is buying them. Perhaps the most well-known product to fall into this anxiety consumerism category is alcohol. Just about everyone on the planet right now needs a big hug.
Who is going to initiate this hug?
Those who struggle with addiction are the trailblazers in the collective unf*ck yourself movement that desperately needs to happen. Not just for those who grapple with addiction to alcohol, but for everyone. As a global community, we’re starting to see what’s not working and alcoholics were the first to see it. We are leading this movement and will eventually be the ones who hold the door open for the rest of society. Let that last sentence sink in for a second. You and me. We will be leading the global unfu*ck yourself movement for everyone. Not just those who struggle with addiction.
I was completely ignorant to how beneficial giving up alcohol would be to the overall quality of my life. After all, alcohol became me. I spent a huge chunk of my life intimately interacting with alcohol, completely isolated from any other solution. When I was first introduced to recovery, a life absent of alcohol, I wasn’t convinced that it was for me. Fear crept in and I rebelled against the idea of letting go of my vice. Until one day, the pain I was experiencing was far greater than my fear of change. First, I had to admit to my innermost self just how detrimental my drinking had become and the magnitude of the harm I was causing myself and others.I was pleasantly surprised to find that giving up alcohol enhanced my life so much more than I ever could’ve imagined.
If you are unconvinced and on the fence about sobriety, let me be the first to assure you that things will only get better. What’s the worst that can happen? You may face conflict and resistance at first. Once you get over the initial slump, I can assure you, your life will approve drastically once you reach the other side of alcoholism. Here are 5 reasons you should stop drinking alcohol.
One of the most obvious reasons you should stop drinking is because of the direct negative effects of alcohol abuse. Heavy drinking increases your risk of obesity, diabetes, cirrhosis, kidney failure, and heart disease. When you make the decision to stop drinking alcohol your overall health wellbeing will improve in a multitude of areas:
Brain: A recent study suggests that as little as two weeks, of sobriety, can reverse and even heal damaging effects of alcohol on the brain.
Heart: Abstinence from alcohol will decrease your chances for developing high blood pressure and your risk for heart attack or stroke.
Skin: Alcohol is a potent diuretic. When you stop drinking alcohol, your skin’s elasticity will return as you naturally become more hydrated.
Weight: The calories found in alcohol are void of any nutritional value, but rather are filled with empty calories. Your appetite will soon return and you will consume nutritional foods rather than consuming unhealthy sugars.
Alcoholics spend most of their lives trying to numb all emotions with alcohol. When you stop drinking, your emotions may be all over the place. In fact, I had a hard time even identifying my emotions when I first got sober. Eventually, that changed. Consuming alcohol can lead to incomprehensible demoralization, which ultimately ends in guilt and shame. Absent from alcohol, guilt is eliminated. Quitting alcohol can relieve symptoms of anxiety, depression, encourage longer/deeper sleep, and overall stabilize mood.
When I was drinking, life was tough. Not only was I spending way too much on alcohol, but I evaded any/all financial responsibilities. Eventually, I wasn’t able to be much use at work either. Without alcohol, you are able to be a productive member of society. The money spent on alcohol can be spent on repaying old debts and current bills. Financial freedom comes, once you put down alcohol.
Mental clarity, memory, and focus are seriously impaired when under the influence of copious amounts of alcohol. The benefit of not drinking alcohol will directly impact your mental clarity. I don’t know about you, but the mental fog I experienced on a daily basis created many problems for me. My memories were skewed, my thinking was delusional, and I couldn’t focus on any task that didn’t involve drinking more. When you give up alcohol, the fog is lifted. One study followed a group of men and women with at least 6 months into their sobriety. Researchers were unable to distinguish any cognitive differences between the recovering drinkers and the non-drinkers.
One of the most meaningful benefits of my sobriety is the quality of the relationships in my life today. Truth be told, when I was drinking I was unable to maintain any healthy relationship. I had an unhealthy love affair with alcohol. I was a horrible friend, daughter, mother, and human in general. I preferred isolation over engaging in interpersonal relationships. When you quit drinking alcohol, the veil is torn away. You may find acceptance of relationships that have been damaged, beyond repair. Communication doesn’t ignite fear but rather it becomes a healthy necessity. You are able to make healthy choices and mend broken relationships
When you first stop drinking, you may feel like a total train wreck. (That’s how I felt) It didn’t take long before all of the promising benefits of sobriety, started to become my reality. I’m not sure I ever experienced the mental, physical, spiritual, and emotional freedom prior to getting sober. Without the commands of alcohol shackling you to self-propelled misery, the world is your canvas. When you decide to stop drinking you get the opportunity to live a life beyond your wildest dreams.
This is a guest post from Tricia Moceo who is an Outreach Specialist for Recovery Local, a local addiction/recovery based marketing company. She advocates long-term sobriety by writing for websites like detoxlocal.com, providing resources to recovering addicts and shedding light on the disease of addiction. Tricia is a mother of two, actively involved in her local recovery community, and is passionate about helping other women find hope in seemingly hopeless situations.
By Claire O’Brien
A few months before I quit drinking for good, the husband and I stole a few days to lounge on the sand at the Delaware Shore. It was September, and the air was still warm but the crowds had thinned, leaving us the wide beaches to ourselves.
We had three entire days to soak up the sun and watch the dolphins dart among the waves. So, I was pretty annoyed to wake up one morning so hungover that I had to grit my teeth to force myself to face the day.
A few precious days that we’d paid a lot of money for, which I was now just trying to survive. At brunch, I’d order coffee (obviously), and avocado toast (healthy!) and make chit-chat with my husband about how to spend the day. He might not notice, but I’d be distracted, hardly present at all, because mentally I’d be berating myself for swilling that extra glass of red wine, again.
Maybe I wasn’t the biggest drinker you’d have ever met. But, I definitely had a habit, and it was getting old. Frankly, so was I. How many days traveling over the last 20 years had I wasted from overindulging? I couldn’t even guess.
But, what’s traveling without drinking anyways? Swilling pints of lager in cozy London pubs. Pounding shots of rakija in Croatia. Sipping wine with every meal in France. Spilling sticky cups of rum and cola on the dance floor in Belize. And a personal favorite, guzzling margaritas from a can in Mexico. Traveling means experiencing life to the fullest! That means alcohol. And lots of it
Less than a year later, I was back in Rehoboth Beach for my 2-year wedding anniversary. This time, I was six months into my post-alcohol experiment. I booked a B&B, famous for its waffles in the morning and free wine in the evenings
Immediately, my mind flooded with anxious thoughts
“How can I travel without drinking?”
“How can I celebrate my anniversary without alcohol?
and most urgently, “But…free wine!”
Then I remembered that I once celebrated a trip to the grocery store with wine. So…maybe my excuses are still pretty flimsy
It rained all three days in Rehoboth Beach on that trip. I didn’t drink. It was totally fine. In fact, it was much more than fine. I spent too much money on used books and antiques. We took the ferry over to New Jersey and explored the Victorian town of Cape May. We ate fresh seafood. I challenged the waiters to bring me “the funnest” non-alcoholic drink they could invent
Instead of being a liability, I woke up early to research activities. I assumed the podcast DJ duties on the drive. I made ridiculous observations intended to make the husband laugh. When I returned home content and invigorated, rather than depressed and full of regrets, I conceded that perhaps I really was onto something.
Traveling without drinking is not only possible…but dare I say, preferable? Before you shriek “Heresy!” hear me out
Since that Delaware trip, I’ve spent several weeks in Scandinavia. My birthday fell during a 7-day work trip to Las Vegas. I spent a luxurious weekend in a Pennsylvanian resort and survived many visits home to California. I just returned from a week in the Netherlands. All accomplished without even one cheeky drink.
I’ve met other people that don’t drink while they’re busy exploring the globe. Some just don’t like it, some want to save money, and others were in recovery. At an afterparty in Rotterdam recently, my new friends hardly touched a drop of booze, just because! I’ve realized that traveling without drinking isn’t really about abstaining from this magical liquid worshiped the world over, but about feeling empowered to make decisions that work for you.
As a regular drinker, even if you don’t have an obvious problem, the ritual begins to make your world smaller. It’s imperceptible at first. Weekends might involve having a few drinks with friends. Soon, the two become completely intertwined. Next, your brain wonders,
“How can I even hang out with the girls without drinking?”
“Is it possible to attend this wedding without toasting with champagne?”
“How will I visit Scotland without sampling a few drams?”
“How can I survive Tuesday?”
In some ways, my lengthy travel resume, with its regular doses of the unfamiliar, prepared me for this new life sans alcohol. What’s more uncomfortable than quitting a 20-year habit, especially one that is both so soothing and socially encouraged? If the point of travel is to escape the ordinary, experience our differences, and push against the boundaries of what’s comfortable, then quitting drinking has, in fact, also made me a better traveler.
I’m more adventurous than ever.
I’ve always considered myself a risk taker. But that quality didn’t extend to my drinking ritual, which was really more of a drinking rut. Now, every restaurant, city, and country is an opportunity to sample the new. Frothy glass of hot pink dawet at a Surinamese restaurant in Amsterdam? Sure! Traveling in Sweden was a delightful surprise. I found an extensive non-alcoholic wine and beer list on every menu, none of which I would have glanced at before.
My adventurousness even extends beyond my drink choices. One random evening I came up with the idea that I should fly to every international destination served by a direct flight from Washington, DC. And write about it. Then, more astonishingly, I actually started doing it.
I’m more flexible.
Previously, every evening ended with drinks, with few exceptions. Now, experiences of all kinds are crammed into my days. In Las Vegas, I spent the evenings visiting the museums and aquariums. I splurged on fancy tasting menus and rented a vehicle to explore the desert. On a whim, I rode in a drift supercar around the Las Vegas Speedway. It was harder to be spontaneous when I was preoccupied with where I could buy wine on Sundays and wondering if I had remembered to pack my corkscrew.
I’m more responsible.
I was the type of drinker that managed to get shit done. But I was still just managing. Once, because I was so disorganized, my debit card was declined while attempting to buy a single stick of deodorant. I was 35 years old. Now, my kitchen is clean. All the dogs and humans in my house are current on their medical appointments. And there are probably fewer than three empty coffee cups floating around my car. I have a savings account dedicated solely to travel, which I diligently contribute to monthly. All trips get paid for in cold, hard, cash.
I have piles of money.
Ok, I’m not exactly stacking bricks of cash, but booze is expensive, especially when you are consuming it with the frequency I once found refreshing. Since my travel fund isn’t being depleted quite so rapidly due to lengthy pub sessions, I’m able to spend more on quality experiences. Like upgrading to Economy Plus!
I have more fun.
Ironically, I’m more outgoing and social since giving up the hooch. The dark cloud that followed me around gradually evaporated, making a cheerful and upbeat mood my default personality. Who knew? Now I’m the person planning adventures, not bailing on invitations at the last minute. I’ve instigated weekends away for welding classes, white water rafting, tree climbing courses, and exploring Jamaica while encouraging friends and family to join me.
I’ve become more resilient.
It didn’t happen overnight, but I developed healthy* coping techniques for stress, boredom, and all of the feels that I don’t like. Things still go wrong when I travel. In Richmond, the husband got food poisoning courtesy of a dodgy roadside gyro. In Sweden, it was an AirBnB fiasco. In Las Vegas, I mysteriously scratched my cornea and required medical attention. Now it’s easier to figure out what I need to do next without requiring an entire bottle of wine to cope.
Note: *Debatable if coconut ice cream with Magic Shell chocolate topping qualifies as healthy.
I’m more authentic now.
Confronting my worst habits and the role my ego played in prolonging the behavior was a humbling experience. The process of building new habits in their place, however, has grown my confidence. Also, without the daily dose of self-loathing, waking up every day as myself isn’t so bad. I don’t have to present as anyone else or hide parts of my life of which I’m ashamed. So, I’m able to more sincerely connect with people both at home and while traveling. Since I’m less distracted by my own internal dramas, I’m more interested in getting to know you.
I’m also less judgemental.
Like most well-traveled people, I considered myself to be very open-minded. Conversely, like most drinkers, I distrusted people who didn’t drink! I viewed cultures and customs that didn’t embrace alcohol with extreme skepticism. Now, that’s no longer an issue, which has opened up parts of the world and experiences I wouldn’t have seriously considered before. (Seven-day silent meditation retreat, no problem! Well…)
My life is bigger.
Probably not a coincidence, but around the same time I gave up alcohol, I completely restarted my professional career from one in the sciences to a more creative field. Five years ago, my options seemed few, and now I’m limited only by the hours in the day. Because there’s less holding me back, there’s much more space to move forward. Opportunities seem to be present everywhere. Travelling has become less of a selfish pursuit of simply accumulating more countries. Now it’s more of a shared experience, of learning, of inspiring myself and connecting with others.
Sure, there’s the occasional pang for the experiences I’ll miss. I’m human.
My brain sends up random flares like, “I might want to go to Tokyo next year. Clearly, this will be impossible to do and not drink sake.”
It’s a little bit like having a fleeting thought about an old lover. For a brief moment, the fantasy, the “What if?”, is seductive.
“Don’t I deserve some fun? Let’s be exciting and a little dangerous!”
It’s also the perfect way to create a total dumpster fire out of this otherwise satisfying life I’m building.
My love of travel stems from life’s possibilities. Endless combinations of routes to plan, experiences I haven’t had, people I haven’t met, and future memories I’ve yet to make. It’s not such a sacrifice for me to skip a few cocktails when the payoff could be so much bigger, and bolder. When I finally put down that drink, I found that I held a nonstop ticket to the rest of my life, and I want to see where it goes.
Additional blog posts by Claire O’Brien can be found at her webiste the Virgin Colada.