My "rock bottom" that changed everything

We get to decide when and if we change our relationship with alcohol regardless of hitting a rock bottom.

Please click here if you prefer to listen to the audio version of this email.

September 25, 2022

The day started like many mornings after a night of drinking, with a dull headache, and slight disorientation, making memories from the night before hazy and blurry. It was still early, not even 7:00 am but my mind was already working, moving slowly at first but picking up speed with each churning thought. With the thoughts came confusion, guilt, and eventually shame – leading to a sick, nauseous feeling in my stomach.

“What happened last night? What did I do? Did John and I get in a fight? What time did I go to bed? Did I get enough sleep? How much did I drink?”

…and the list goes on, plunging me further and further into a shame and self-loathing spiral. I needed to get up and out of bed, at least get in a cup of coffee before the kids woke up as I tried to piece together the night before. I slowly dragged myself out of bed and to the bathroom while fighting off the onslaught of negative thoughts.

It had been a while since I found myself in this special pit of hell that is a low-level hangover. The truth was, I had been working for the last couple of years on reevaluating my relationship with alcohol. Starting in 2019, when I was pregnant with our third, and last baby, I started diving deeper into the world of “gray area drinking.” I was introduced to this topic through a friend who had quit drinking a few years earlier through the help of AA. Watching her story unfold through social media opened my eyes to a new term called Alcohol Use Disorder, an idea redefining the spectrum of alcohol use dependency and addiction.

My relationship with alcohol is complicated and nuanced, I’ve gone through phases where it meant nothing to me and other seasons where it became a lifeline, like after having my girls when I struggled with postpartum depression. I fought it for a long time, the reality that this was my thing. I wasn’t the worst; I wasn’t the one out of control when I drank. I wasn’t the loudest, or the most irresponsible. In fact, I hadn’t really suffered any outward-facing consequences for my drinking. My drinking looked like everyone else’s from a comparative standpoint. I wasn’t a problem drinker and this “not too bad, nothing to see here” mentality kept me stuck for a long time.

We have this notion that you need to hit rock bottom before changing a relationship with alcohol. Anything short of problematic drinking or “rock bottom” doesn’t necessitate looking at our alcohol use and questioning the role it plays in our lives. We’ve been raised in a society that expects adults to drink, it’s all around us. We see it on Netflix, in movies, on tv, in commercials, in magazines, on social media, hear about it on the radio, on billboards and the list goes on and on. Wherever you look, our world is soaked in alcohol culture. I never questioned if I’d be a non-drinker because I didn’t know there was a choice.

Wherever you look, our world is soaked in alcohol culture. I never questioned if I’d be a non-drinker because I didn’t know there was a choice.

When I began to question alcohol’s effect on the body – my physical, mental, and emotional health, that’s when I started to wake up to the grip that this substance had on me. Have you ever tried doing Dry January or Sober October? If so, you may have come face to face with the truly addictive nature of alcohol. No matter how you slice it or dice it, alcohol is addictive and like any addictive substance, it’s never enough. I felt this “more” at the end of my drinking days. I would be sitting in the middle of an event; it could have been a dinner with friends or a holiday with family and it would be there…an obsessive thought pattern towards alcohol. I would find myself thinking about alcohol more than the people, the conversation, or the experience. I’d be thinking about if I was drinking too fast, how much alcohol did we have, whether would we run out, who was driving home, did anyone think we were drinking too much, and whether was I too loud or too quiet. I wasn’t even able to be present because I was only thinking about alcohol. This exhausting thought process didn’t just happen at the event either, it happened before the event and even afterward.

The other thing I started to become keenly aware of was my happiness around alcohol. I was becoming more and more unhappy when I wasn’t drinking and only slightly happy, for roughly 20 minutes or less while I was drinking. Here’s how it would go – I would think about drinking prior to the event, and that thought would trigger a boost of joy, then when I arrived at the event I couldn’t wait to start drinking. Those first few moments of pulling out the bottle, popping the cork, pouring a glass, and taking a sip were pure ecstasy. The next 20 minutes or so were the best twenty minutes of my day. I’d feel happy, carefree, light-hearted, and unburdened. But I also started to notice the diminishing returns on these twenty minutes. It literally only lasted about twenty minutes before it turned sideways and left me worse off than when I started.

I was not a “problem drinker” as most people would define addiction and problematic drinking, but alcohol was most certainly a problem for me. In the three years before I stopped drinking, I paid special attention to what alcohol was doing to me and those around me. At first, it felt like alcohol was taking over my life because I was still drinking every day (which was normal for me at that point), and I was researching alcohol when I wasn’t drinking. It seemed as if my entire life revolved around alcohol. But slowly over time, my mindset started to shift, and I started to see alcohol for what it is. I am not anti-alcohol; in fact, I don’t really have any emotions around alcohol anymore. I don’t love it as I used to, and I don’t ever want to hate it. Both love and hate would give alcohol way more power than I’d like. I’m just thankful I don’t want to drink it anymore. That was my goal in all of this, I wanted to not want to drink anymore. I didn’t want to fight it forever and ever, I wanted to not want it. I didn’t know if it was possible, but thankfully, I found out it is.

September 24, 2022, was my last drinking day. On September 25th I started a new life and that life I discovered has been so much more fulfilling and rewarding that I can’t help but share it. Who knew that not drinking was the biggest game-changer I would encounter?! I totally believe that if more people knew what was on the other side of alcohol and that it is totally possible to live the best life alcohol-free, more would choose this. So that’s what I’m doing here, highlighting what I’ve discovered and shedding light on what the alcohol industry never wants you to discover.

XOXO - Jess