You most likely have heard of “Dry January,” consisting of going alcohol free all month. I participated in that challenge last year and have kept it up since. In this post I’m going to share all about being one year sober and how life changing it has been for me with hopes that it will shift your thoughts on your relationship with alcohol.
First, I’d like to wish you a Happy New Year! It is a new beginning with beautiful energy all around. Yes, there’s so many people entering the year with the infamous “new year new me” mentality and honestly, I’m not mad at it. I commend people for having that intention in the first place. While some don’t end up creating change in their lives, there’s others who do and that’s awesome.
Anyway, tangent aside, I want to begin the new year with a personal post. Last year, I decided to partake in the “Dry January” challenge and I ended up going all year without taking a sip of alcohol. As I reflect on this, I’m realizing that I didn’t go into it with a forceful energy wanting to “NEVER DRINK AGAIN” lol. It was more of a “we’ll see what happens but I’m not going to intentionally drink on February 1st” vibe. Continue reading for my backstory with alcohol and what I’ve learned after being one year sober.
Growing up, alcohol was fully present in my life, unfortunately. Some of the earliest memories of my life (from around 4 years old) involve my dad and uncles drinking pretty much every weekend (or so it felt like, to little Cande). Back then we would have family gatherings all the time and alcohol was always front and center. Cases of beer, bottles of liquor with soda, etc. The thing is, some, if not most of the adult men in my life would drink excessively.
I have memories of uncles being passed out from drinking too much or being carried out of the house after the family shindig. Stuff like that. This was the cause of other problems such as conflicts with their wives, etc. I’m proud to say that my dad gave up alcohol when I was 9 years old and hasn’t taken a sip since. After going sober, my dad changed his life. Eventually, he had a vision to do more and started his own business and ended up changing the trajectory of our family’s circumstances. I’m choosing to believe that his sobriety played a major role in that.
My history with alcohol
I’m not sure if it was my proximity to alcohol or what, but I wasn’t in a rush to drink. I had cousins and friends drinking before turning 21 and although I did try it a few times, I was never eager to drink. Once I got to college and turned 21, I had my fair share of moments involving alcohol in social settings. Thinking back, I’m recognizing that I began feeling dependent on it to “let loose” in social gatherings. I used to think I was shy, but as a more evolved version of Cande, I think I was just not comfortable or confident in myself.
Since then, I had opted to use alcohol as my “liquid courage” to be more “fun” and “outgoing.” I suppose I felt like I couldn’t do those things on my own. Besides drinking at pretty much every social outing (including but not limited to parties, dinners, even work holiday parties), I began drinking at home too. (Side note: I just realized I never drank at bailes or concerts…so interesting. I think it’s because I’ve always loved music and I guess I didn’t need or want to alter my state of being in those environments).
Please note that I’ve always been a “lightweight” and my limit was typically around 2 drinks in one sitting (I’m petite). I only have a few memories of drinking beyond that and those were not fun times. Anyway, I began drinking at home especially on Fridays as soon as I got home from work. At one point a few years ago that was the thing I looked forward to in my life. Drinking on Fridays and Saturdays with my partner at the time. I began using alcohol to basically pass the time and to cover up my feelings.
Why I gave up alcohol
I decided to give up alcohol for a couple of reasons. One of them was that I was beginning to notice my dependence on it. Even though I rarely drank more than 2 drinks in one sitting, I still didn’t like that I gravitated towards a drink after work most days. At one point I was drinking a cider almost every day after work. I couldn’t go grocery shopping without going to the beer section first to get my 6 pack of pineapple ciders. When we ran out, I felt like I had to go get more as if it was a staple in my fridge.
Aside from recognizing my dependence on it, I started “going within” the year prior to giving up alcohol. I guess you can say I got tired of my shit (and of my job at the time). Not knowing what to do about it, I decided to create a morning routine prior to work. This routine involved meditation and journaling and through those two things, I began to get some clarity about the vision I wanted for myself.
When I visited my sister at the end of that year, I found out she had stopped drinking. I remember going out to dinner with her and with my 2 cousins (that are basically my little sisters) and I was the only one drinking. I learned they all had already become alcohol free. Not gonna lie, that was a wake up call for me that caused me to ask myself WHY I always opted to drink in social gatherings. That’s when I decided to try “Dry January” a few weeks later.
What I learned
First, I want to share that it was a process to stop drinking. One of the things that helped me the most was obviously not buying or keeping alcohol in the house. I’m so grateful for my partner at the time that was really supportive of that. In the beginning, I did crave my cider after work, especially on Fridays. I also craved my cocktail before eating dinner on our dates.
Yes, it took some willpower to stop reaching for alcohol, but I learned that it was more so about breaking habits. It was a habit to buy the ciders during grocery shopping trips. Another habit was ordering a drink when eating out. Finally, it was a habit to get a drink first thing whenever I was around a lot of people. I was doing those things without questioning it.
The main thing I learned is that sobriety gives you SO much clarity. When you stop altering your mental state, you are left to face everything. I quit drinking in January and by April (with the support and encouragement from my parents) I decided to quit my job to go all in on my business idea. I journaled more than ever last year because I faced my thoughts and emotions instead of covering them up by drinking alcohol. Then by October, I did the hardest thing I’ve ever done, which was to end my long term relationship. Again, I faced the pain that comes with a transition like that.
Now that I’ve achieved going one year alcohol free, I don’t see myself going back to drinking again. “Uno nunca sabe” though, like my dad says. I’m starting the new year with the most mental clarity I’ve ever had. It truly feels like a new beginning because I faced my challenges head on last year. I’m continuing to go within by meditating, journaling and getting coached. I plan on starting therapy this year as well. Healing and progressing in life is the goal for me and I plan to do it alcohol free.
How you can go alcohol free
First, ask yourself why you drink. Even if you don’t think it’s a problem at all, have you ever questioned if you actually want to? Or is it a habit? What if you drink out of a societal expectation? These are all questions to ponder and even journal about so you can get some clarity around your relationship with alcohol.
Next, if you choose to minimize or stop drinking, think about all the times (circumstances) you have drank in the past. By doing this, you’ll enter those circumstances with a newfound awareness. For instance, next time you go out to brunch with friends, you’ll know you don’t have to reach for the mimosa and choose to stick with OJ instead.
Be proud of your decision to go alcohol free. Tell your people especially in the beginning so that they’re aware of it and (hopefully) respect your decision. Break those habits that no longer serve you. Don’t keep alcohol in the house, if possible. If you’re invited out with friends, intentionally choose bars or restaurants that offer fun “mocktails” (they’re becoming a thing and I’m here for it).
If you find that you’re overcome with societal pressure to drink when you’re out with friends, then pause from going out until you feel mentally ready (a.k.a avoid temptation). You can also start slow if you want and have an “alcohol free day.” That day can then turn into a full weekend working your way up to a full month, etc. Finally, maybe challenge a close friend to do this with you so you don’t feel alone and have an accountability sober buddy. You got this! It all comes down to a decision and the intention behind it.
I hope this post landed for you in one way or another. One final thought I want to leave you with is to be kind to yourself. Choose yourself first but don’t be so hard on yourself when doing something new like this. Depending on your relationship with alcohol, it may be more challenging than you expected so be compassionate towards yourself. Keep your intention in mind and keep on trying until you succeed. I believe in you.
Finally, if you want help with this, I’m here for you. I’ll help you look into your relationship with alcohol and hold you accountable to give it up. Schedule your clarity call to work with me HERE.