A funny thing happened on the way to the new year, which feels so long ago, doesn’t it? Like, longer than a lifetime ago, like someone else’s life on another planet ago. On the first of January, I decided to go all-out-NYE-resolution cliché on myself and take a break from alcohol for 30 days. No big deal, really, I’ve taken month-long breaks from alcohol countless times before—I’ll cruise through the 30 days, reset my body and mind, revel in how great I feel and on day 31, let out a sigh of relief, and celebrate with a bottle of wine. Cognitive dissonance is nothing if not persistent…but, this time, there was was a little variable: not only did I not drink for 30 days, I joined an online program called The Alcohol Experiment, that I discovered part fluke, part divine intervention—one in the same, some might argue— developed by a brilliant, compassion-filled woman named, not coincidentally I’m convinced, Annie Grace. It required a little more work than just quitting drinking (and by “a little,” I mean “a lot”), but to say it was worth the effort is the #2 understatement of the century.
Fast forward to today, March 31, 2020. My 91st day AFAF (Alcohol Free As F*ck, as I and many of my newfound AFAF friends like to say). Smack dab in the middle of a goddamned global pandemic (is “global pandemic” redundant? does the goddamned make it not?), no less. A wise person once said, “Life is what happens when you make other plans;” to say that no one saw this pandemic coming, much less prepared for it, is the #1 understatement of the century (well, except to brilliant people like my epidemiological crush, Michael Osterholm, who has only been warning us about killer viruses since practically when God was a kid). I sure as hell didn’t plan to be sober during a worldwide crisis, but I sure as hell plan to stay that way while riding this changing-by-the-minute-crawling-out-of-my-skin-waking-up-in-a-panic-attack-every-night-because-i-don’t-have-a-job-and-am-alone-and-oh-my-god-all-the-people-getting-sick-and-dying-when-will-the-shit-hit-full-force-here-and-god-the-discomfort-doesn’t-even waves of uncertainty and fear. Which sounds an awful lot like a hangover, except it’s not. Believe me when I say it’s a million and one times better to wake up feeling like that without an actual hangover slathered on top.
Right now, being AF feels like a super power that will help me navigate life on a planet that’s staging a mutiny-without-end against the collective transgression its inhabitants have inflicted upon it (I’m 100% convinced that’s what’s going on), and I’m going to protect this superpower like it’s the last roll of TP on earth. I know too well what alcohol does for me in crisis. Kicks my fears, anxiety and worst-case-scenarioitis into high gear and sends me into a downward spiral of depression, paralysis, brain fog, shame, self-loathing, guilt. Pour, swig, sweat, repeat.
There’s a huge difference, I’m learning, between “quitting drinking” and digging-deep-and-do-the-hard-ugly-absolutely-worth-it-work-to-figure-out-why-I-drink-in-the-first-place, and spoiler alert: it goes back to childhood. Always does, doesn’t it. God, who wants to go waaaaayyy back there? No one, that’s who, but another spoiler alert: it’s where real healing begins. I’m not gonna lie—I enjoy alcohol. I love a good, hoppy IPA, a robust red in the fall, a refreshing gin and tonic in the summer, it makes this introvert feel more at ease in an extrovert-intense world. But, I’m also not gonna lie—alcohol was becoming an insidious intruder in my life, seeping in and slowly stealing my joy, it’s the ultimate anesthetic—blurring sharp edges, dulling the sting of loss, cutting my creativity off at the knees, numbing all the feels. Not just the bad ones. All the good stuff, too. To the point where not much else exists in a body except dread and anxiety and looping thoughts of doom.
It’s a scary thing to reveal this to the internet world, it’s hard to resist slipping in a “Don’t get me wrong—I wasn’t that bad!” disclaimer (the fine line between “not that bad” and “that bad” is often a crisis, like the loss of a loved one, or work stress, or a DUI, or a pandemic…), to blow my hairdresserturnedcaregiverbloggerwidowwritermartyr cover, thus revealing myself as someone who was losing her shit behind the keyboard while her husband was dying, who is now as freaked out as the rest of the world is (in a word, gasp!, human), who wants to know what it’s like to take on a crisis head on, with real, not liquid, courage. I wanna see with my own clear eyes and fog-free mind how this shit show’s gonna end. We’re living in a really scary time, and we could use all the help we can get. www.thisnakedmind.com www.thezeroprooflife.com
Besides, I can 100% guarantee that had I been drinking, my smokin’ new apocalyptic bangs would have definitely turned out less vintage 80s Juice Newton and more Dumb and Dumber. #worksinprogress