It was the spring of 2015 when I first started to question whether or not I had a problem with alcohol. At the time, I was training for my first Ironman event and I remember having to do long runs and bike rides on the weekends, but still felt a NEED to show up as “FUN STEPH” and not become someone who only talked about her race training. I did not want this race to change my life (although it did in every way).
During this time, I was seeing a therapist and was working through a few challenges. Often, I brought up whether or not I thought alcohol was an issue in my life and she encouraged me to read “Almost Alcoholic: Is My (or My Loved One’s) Drinking a Problem?” by Joseph Nowinski and Robert Doy. After reading the book, I remember thinking “Oh shit, I can’t deny this.” I tried like hell on my own to get a handle on “playing too hard” but managed to convince myself that the Ironman training would keep me in check if I just continued to focus. I became more mindful and aware of my drinking and started to notice patterns, but can say I did not make any real changes.
Later in 2015, we learned my sister in law had cirrhosis of the liver. It shocked our family but explained so much of what we had experienced with her over the last year leading up to this diagnosis. If you knew our family, it seemed as though I would have been the one to get this first seeing as I was the party girl. Sadly, my sister in law passed away 12/31/2015 from complications of cirrhosis. In that moment, I realized, I needed to clean up my act.
Fast forward a few years, I was still doing what I have always done which is work hard and play hard. Throw in a few attempts to for a dry January or Sober October or Sober September and I managed to not make it far at any attempt. All I wanted was to know that I could not drink for 30 days. That’s it, 30 days. It was hard and every time I gave in. I never wanted to not be fun. After all, I have been drinking since college and drunk Steph was fun Steph. Let’s get crazy and dance. Drinking for me was a way to stay connected to being young. To being free. To show up as someone that I never felt I was, a naturally fun person.
In 2019, there were more serious attempts to not drink for extended periods of time. I felt more success and got more confidence that I could have handle on it. As the holidays approached, I decided to drink a little (a lot) and just see what happens when I did not focus on reigning things in. What slapped me in the face was that there was never just one drink. There was no one glass of wine with dinner or just one beer watching football. I still made dumb choices or got mouthy. I would get annoyed at my kids (for no reason at all). The holidays taught me a lot. My gift over the holiday season was a real hard look at myself and the realization that it was go time.
A friend shared an email about a women’s group therapy meeting that would begin in January 2020 to examine my relationship with alcohol. AA sounded scary to me and I did not want the alcoholic label. The group therapy felt right for me at the time so I went with it.
I blew partying out of the water on 12/31/19. Not knowing if that would be my last hurrah, I went all out and drank every damn thing I loved. Wine, beer, margaritas. It was a lot of fun. I partied like it was 1999.
January begins. No drinking! Day 1 was recovery from the day before. Easy enough. January wasn’t bad, but I did manage to have a few days where I felt anxious and sad that I was not drinking. There were some real tears, but I did it. It was 31 full damn days. Success.
February started. Still going strong. I even made it through a weekend away with friends. That was a test, but I got through the weekend. There were tears there too (privately) however, I got it together and had a great time. More success.
Now, I am at 50 freaking days of no alcohol. There are tears of happiness and still some tears of sadness and fear.
I am grateful for support of family and friends who check on me and encourage me. Who tell me I am strong and can do hard things. Who let me go to bed at 8:30pm.
I am grateful for my book club/therapy group. We have met only 6 times and I never knew any of these women but feel as though I have known them my whole life. Thanks goodness we have 6 more weeks together.
Over the last 50 days I have researched meanings of sobriety and am figuring out what it will mean to me. I saw this quote and made a few modifications. So far, this one is working for me. Sobriety means finding peace with yourself, with life and its ups and downs, developing the discipline to remain sober, and practice abstinence.
I love that I started this journey in winter as this season often reflects or symbolizes calmness, silence, mourning, ending and detachment. Here is to ending my relationship with alcohol. Here is to letting go of chaos that alcohol brings to my life. Here is to being a better (healthier and more kind) version of myself. Here is to 50 more days.
By the time 100 days rolls around, it will be spring, the season of rebirth and blooming. I can’t wait to see what is happening then.