Two years ago, at the age of 27, I made the decision to end my relationship with alcohol. It wasn’t an easy decision to make, as we’d been good friends for years. She helped me make new friends when I was 13. She helped me talk to boys when I was 14. She was my partner in crime at every party, bar or club I went to, so I was never alone. She gave me the courage to act outside my comfort zone. She was available to give me advice at all hours of the night. And she would always hang out with me, no matter what mood I was in: rum came home with me when I’d had a bad day, tequila invited me over when a boy broke my heart, dry cider came out if I wanted to dance and two bottles of white wine appeared when I wanted to go all night.
See why it was hard to say goodbye? Alcohol and I, we had history.
Like any toxic relationship, though, we weren’t destined to last. Alcohol was the most selfish friend I had. When we hung out, I had to give all my attention to her. She didn’t care how I felt or what I wanted to do; she was the boss. And she didn’t care how I looked or what foolish things I did, so long as my friends always thought she was cool. Just being near her, I felt like I wasn’t good enough. She pretended to care about me and told me what I needed to hear, then, overnight, made me feel absolutely worthless. She stole my best memories and refused to return them. And worst of all, she manipulated me to believe that this life with her was the one I was supposed to live, so I wouldn’t grow up, change or— worst yet — leave her.
For all those reasons, I’m proud I finally got the courage to end things.
Since kissing alcohol goodbye, I’ve become a much better version of myself. I’m a better friend, a better partner, a better family member and a better co-worker. I’m more thoughtful, loving and kind — to others and to myself. I’ve matured and grown as a person — especially on an emotional level. I respect people’s time and spend mine with those I care deeply for, and who care about and respect me in return. I’ve found the strength to change a number of other bad habits, and have built a new life full of healthy routines. And I’ve even had the courage to end other toxic relationships. Overall, the decision proved that I’m in control of my life, and I love the direction it’s going. That’s why it hurts when people look disappointed and ask:
“Are you really never going to drink again?”
which is usually followed by
“Don’t you miss it?”
Would you pose these questions to a friend who finally had the courage to get out of a toxic relationship with a man or woman? Who had given up their hopes and dreams (and money) to make that person happy? Who constantly felt inadequate and was manipulated to believe they couldn’t do better? And who had spent months thinking about ending it and being too scared to try, before finally taking the leap? If that were the case, would you ask your friend, “Are you really never going to go back to him/her? Don’t you miss them?” It sounds ludicrous, doesn’t it? So why would you ask these questions to a friend who had ended their relationship with alcohol? Or with any other substance they felt could no longer be part of their life?
To answer your questions…
No, I’m never going to drink again. And no, I don’t miss it. Do I think about it sometimes? Of course. You can’t end a 14-year relationship with someone or something and expect it to never cross your mind again. There have been a few times where I’ve wanted to hangout with alcohol, or when raw emotions hurt so much that I wished she could make me feel better. But I know she’d do more harm than good, so I steer clear. And no matter how many times I’m tempted, I know I’ll never give in. Ending my relationship with alcohol was the best decision I’ve ever made. I love the person I am today and the life I’ve built for myself, and I wouldn’t have any of it if I’d stayed with her. So whenever someone asks these questions, I wonder:
“Why would you want me to drink again?”
Sobriety is full of enough self-consciousness. You constantly wonder what people think of you, whether or not they like you, if someone will think you’re weird for not drinking and if you’ll be able to keep up with your friends at parties. You worry that your family worries, that you’ll never find a partner who is supportive of your choice, and that your current relationships will somehow change once alcohol is removed from the equation. You have to feel things alcohol never let you feel before, let your anxiety settle naturally and control your self-doubt. And when someone you care about asks if you’ll really never drink again, and seems to almost hope that you miss it, it hurts — and that hurt can quickly send you into a tailspin.
So, if someone you know has recently ended their relationship with alcohol, or any other substance they felt could no longer be part of their life, don’t ask if they’re really never going to consume it again. Chances are they think about it often, and already worry what other people think of their decision. And, yes, there may even be times when they miss it. But if you truly care about your friend, don’t ask questions that remind them of this. In fact, don’t even bring up the topic of sobriety at all. The decision to end that toxic relationship was so deeply personal, you should let your friend decide if they are comfortable talking about it or not. And if they do bring it up, just listen and say you’re proud they’re doing what’s right for them.
That’s what you’d say if they broke up with their crappy ex, right?
*Note: I was scared to publish this here – so much so that I originally shared it on another platform. But it doesn’t belong there. It belongs here. Thanks for the push, Sean.