Alcohol Free Experiment Part 2
I’m sitting here on my couch, looking out the window as it rains. A cup of hot black coffee in my hand. Abby (my dog) at my feet, Selah napping.
It’s been a peaceful week. The past few months, but especially the last month, have caused deep reflection. My dad died the last week of September from chronic alcoholism. It feels hard to write that out because it’s not who he was.
My dad was a beautiful, complex, deeply feeling and loving human. As I write this I see his smile while cooking homemade pizza for family. The joy on his face when people around him felt happy. The way he’d drive to the movie store when I was a kid to get my mom and I a “chick flick.” He’d come up with these ideas on his own. Even mothers day turned into “mother daughter day” where he’d get my mom and I cozy in bed and make us strawberry waffles. Homemade waffles piled with fresh strawberries and whipped cream. He was an extremely special and loving human. I miss him deeply.
Since his passing, I’d been in what I can only describe as an “existential crisis” (the last few weeks I’m coming out of it and into renewal). Being a Christian, I know “what the point of all this is”–it’s eternity, and believing in Jesus, I look forward to life forever in heaven after this life on earth. It’s made me think about what matters to me and what doesn’t; how I want to live; the legacy I want to leave.
It’s caused me to reflect on my dads wins and struggles and do my best to learn from them, while also feeling deeply compassionate for him in that we all struggle with our own brand of well, sin. I can feel how hard some of his struggles were for him. My dad taught me a lot of things he believed in but struggled to live out himself: he taught me to love others, that moderation is key, and to always take the scenic route (though he never struggled with this last one). In fact, it used to drive me crazy as a kid. I just wanted to take the fastest route home. He wanted to turn on good music and drive along the mountainside. He always took the route with the view until the day he died. Now, I’m grateful he did. At least he got to absorb an obscene amount of beauty.
My dad deeply wanted to quit drinking. Well, not all of the time, but when he did, he really wanted to quit. I found a note he wrote in his Google Docs. I love that he wrote things down. He loved to journal and asked us kids to read his journals. This particular note was after a time we did a family intervention and sent him to rehab just a few months before my mom passed away from cancer (these are things I never shared while going through that tough time because I didn’t feel they were my story until now). Here’s what he wrote–a story of being in an AA meeting–no names shared:
“I introduced myself, extending my hand. He said, ‘I know who you are! Come here and give me a hug!’ He added, ‘I’m so glad that you are here! I would have bet against you still being sober after seeing you in rehab and staying less than 30 days! You were a mess! How much time do you have now?’ I replied, I’m on day 63 today!’ He said, ‘Isn’t it great?! Sobriety is so much better than I ever thought it would be!’ I totally agreed with him! After the meeting was over I felt a peace and serenity that inspires me to work this program for all it’s worth! I want what these people have!! And I’m willing to go to any lengths to get it. Thank you, God!”
I love this note and it breaks my heart. He wanted to get sober and go to any lengths to do it. But a couple years later alcohol got the very best of him again. He wrote notes in his journals describing consistent thoughts he’d have when he struggled. I read and had compassion for him. When he felt things were too hard he’d have thoughts like “Sell the house, sell everything, and go away!” This is ultimately the kind of thinking that took his life. Why am I putting this here in writing? I’m not quite sure. Perhaps as a reminder when we want to just “leave everything and go away” that thinking perhaps isn’t from God. As I write these words, I’ve felt these same feelings in hard moments. I’m not judging him, I get it. It’s extremely sobering to see where that sort of thinking can take us. I want to learn from it.
Truths I’m replacing lies with:
Philippians 4:13 I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.
1 Thessalonians 5:16-18 Rejoice always, pray continually, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.
James 1:17 Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows.
On April 20, 2022 I decided to do an alcohol free experiment. I don’t think of myself as an alcoholic. If I were to have a drink today I’d have one, enjoy it, and move on. The alcoholism I experienced growing up was destroying. It hurt people, ended my dads life, caused trauma, chaos and complete upheaval. At its peak, it started from the moment of waking until lights out. So, while seeing my dad struggle has always given me a view of what alcohol can turn into, the decision to take a break came from my own desire to see how bright I could feel without it in my body.
Turns out, I do feel pretty bright. Literally, my skin is less puffy (even from being someone who didn’t drink much before), my body feels lighter, I sleep better, my eyes have brightened, everything feels a bit lighter and more… glowy. I’m enjoying it. I feel good inside. Not to mention, my emotions are completely raw and while at times it’s been hard, I’ve learned to be completely present to them. In the long run, this break has allowed me to move closer to God as I’ve begun depending on Him more for everything. I go to Him to release my worries, instead of thinking “it’s been a stressful day, let’s have a beer.”
In April my husband had the idea to take a break together from drinking to promote feeling good. I was on board. We took a break from alcohol and started lifting weights together in our garage gym. An exchange that left both of us feeling great. When we hit that one month mark I felt so good I wanted to keep going.
It has since been nearly 265 days since I took a break from drinking. I’m feeling great and am taking it a day at a time, not really giving much thought to alcohol at all (which I find helpful).
As I share in the podcast episode on my alcohol free experiment I had a drink on a date night a couple of months back with Marco. This came from the knowing that I want to continue this sort of calmness around alcohol forever. Not just for a year and go back to having weekly drinks. I want this to be long term (even though I do practice thinking one day at a time). So, I had a drink in the name of not making this too black or white and staying calm and mellow. I wanted one, I felt calm and ready; I ordered it. But the effect it had on my body (hives, worse sleep, cloudiness) kept me on a path of continuing to avoid it. It was a good experiment to know how good I am in fact feeling without it.
If you’d love to hear more about this alcohol free living experiment and what it’s been like, hop on over to the podcast and give the most recent update a listen. You can find the first episode here and the most recent update here if you’re curious.
As you listen, if you feel inspired to try this out yourself, give it a go. It’s well worth it and if you have a nudge saying “try it” I bet it’s for a good life-giving reason. If you’d like support, I invite you to reach out about booking a one-off session with me where we discuss in depth the best possible outcomes to come from this choice, and any resistance you have to doing that. I had resistance and so do all of my clients. It’s so common. I’d like to help you make it easier.
Here’s a note from one of my clients after her alcohol free living session: “I am daily feeling so grateful about how my relationship with alcohol has changed since our session. I swear this has been a goal of mine for years, and I love that just one session has made such a difference for me.”
Interested in a session? Email me: firstname.lastname@example.org and ask me about it.
Thank you for reading and sharing in this journey with me. I’m grateful for the goodness it’s brought to my life, especially in this season of being a mother to a magical toddler and losing my dad, who I loved very much.