This week’s guest blog is from Vari Longmuir, a Melbourne-based illustrator and life coach. She helps creative women build businesses with more intention, authenticity and clarity. Vari has just celebrated 12 months since she chose to remove alcohol from her life. She shares her journey so far and why traumatic rock bottoms are not necessary in order to choose a life without alcohol.
Last week – with a mug of tea in hand – I quietly celebrated 1 year since deciding to remove alcohol from my life.
I will forever feel incredibly fortunate that my story of transition out of alcohol is not one of traumatic rock bottoms.
But, the truth is, having no ‘rock bottom’ almost makes it harder to make the decision.
If there’s nothing majorly at stake, and life appears to be ticking along just ﬁne, then why change anything?
It’s true – there was no major external drama around my drinking. Internally however, my relationship with alcohol had been something I’d been uncomfortable with for a long time.
Forever maybe …
When I look back, there were most deﬁnitely signs – in my late teens and early twenties – that me and alcohol did not have a healthy relationship.
Being suspended from school in New York, aged 17, for being drunk at a school basketball game, was just one of them.
But drinking had always been part of who I was. It was part of my identity – ‘Vari can sink pints with the boys. ’ – and my culture.
Wherever you go in the world, the Scots’ reputation for being able to ‘hold our drink’ precedes us. And man did I try to live up to this!
I knew that full-blown alcoholism was in my family. I’d watched it happen to family members, as a kid. The kind of addiction that actually kills people. I knew I wasn’t ‘like that’. So I must not have a problem … right?
I know … perhaps I’ll just moderate my drinking …
Moderation was useless for me.
Part of what made me uncomfortable about my drinking was how much energy it stole from me. Trying to decide if I’d drive tonight and have a drink tomorrow took up way too much of my already depleted energy.
My breakup with alcohol did not come with a big pre-planned announcement.
I didn’t wait for the start of a new month, or week, or day.
I just quietly decided – at 8pm on a Sunday night – that it was time. And the glass of wine I’d poured went down the sink.
Here’s what scared me the most when I thought about a life without alcohol:
- I’d lose friends
- I’d no longer be invited to things (and if I did, it would be excruciatingly painful to be there sober)
- What would it mean for me and my guy if we couldn’t go out for a drink or have a bottle of wine with dinner?
- Holidays, birthdays, weddings, family gatherings – how do you do these without alcohol?
But this seemingly insigniﬁcant, low-key decision changed my life. It changed my life in ways I could not have imagined.
I decided that I didn’t want to be someone who had iron-clad willpower to resist alcohol. I decided that I would be someone who wouldn’t have the desire for alcohol.
I wanted to be the woman who was interesting and creative and funny and outgoing. And who didn’t think about alcohol.
I wanted to be the woman who would happily go to a bar or have dinner with friends who were drinking. And not feel like the odd one out.
I wanted to be the woman who got on a plane, asked for a sparkling water and felt the same excitement as my champagne-sipping travel companions.
I wanted to be the woman who could pick up her keys and drive anywhere at any time. (This was a big one for me as a mother of two growing boys.)
I wanted to be the woman who could enjoy the natural pleasures of summer – long hot nights, ocean swims, warm early mornings – without diluting them with alcohol.
I wanted to be the woman who could count on herself every moment of every day and do what I said I was going to do.
Today, I am this woman. This is what a year without alcohol has gifted me.
My internal discomfort with alcohol was drowning me. It was distracting me from emotions that had to be processed, relationships that had to be healed, art that had to be created, words that needed to be written and decisions that had to be made.
The rich, full life I dreamed of was not available to me while alcohol was still present.
What I know to be true is this:
Balance does not come from the hardcore workout followed by the wine-fuelled nights – an increasingly scary zeitgeist of our time.
It comes from compassion and curiosity and gentleness towards myself.
A sober life doesn’t only ask us to step away from alcohol. It asks us to step towards ourselves. To be more fully us. To embrace our vulnerabilities and insecurities with all our beautiful shyness and nervousness.
Because that is when people see the real us. That is when we authentically connect on a soul level. And it is this willingness to be seen for who we truly are that inspires others to give themselves permission to do the same.