Sorry I Couldn’t Make It To Your Party: the Year I Quit Drinking

tastes pink by molly soda

It’s been a year since I quit drinking. Previously, every time I reflected on what I was doing a year ago I would laugh and think about how drunk or “fucked up” I was at any given event or experience. Now that a year has officially passed I feel like I’ve washed my hands clean of those moments. I feel less attached to them. Maybe people will finally stop commenting on “how much” I’ve “changed.” I’m all for evolving and reinventing yourself but constantly comparing “old me” and “new me” at times feels toxic.

I get a lot of questions about my decision to quit alcohol, as well as questions on how to quit drinking. Usually, I ignore questions like these. I get overwhelmed. I’m still trying to wrap my head around what has happened to me over the past year and I by no means have any real “tips” or “tricks” that are guaranteed to work for anyone. This piece will act as my attempt to figure out and put into words exactly what has happened since I quit alcohol a year ago: what I’ve learned, what knowledge I can share. I can only speak for myself and my experiences.

It was November 1st, 2014, or the day after Halloween, and I woke up feeling TERRIBLE, like so terrible I wanted to call my parents and ask them if I could come home. Like when you would be at a slumber party and you got homesick and made your parents pick you up? I don’t know if I ever actually did that as a kid but I definitely wanted to do it now, after not having lived with my parents for almost a decade.

I grabbed my phone and saw that my friend Travis had texted me and at some point, while we were both complaining about how hungover we felt, he mentioned that he wanted to quit drinking for the month of November. Maybe if I hadn’t felt so so so horrible I would have never agreed to it, but something about it sounded so appealing: just the idea of alcohol in that moment repulsed me. I jumped at the chance to text back “I’ll quit drinking too, solidarity.”

I had tried to “cut back” and drink less in the past, but found that when I would go out with the intention of only having two drinks, it would equal a bottle of wine split up into two glasses. It was impossible for me to stop drinking once I started and blacking out was a constant for me. Honestly, I wonder how much of my past life experiences were completely clouded or forgotten just by being too drunk. It’s sort of scary to think about now.

my month of sobriety by molly soda

Quitting itself wasn’t that hard. Maybe it’s because I told myself it would only be for a month. I originally hoped that quitting for a month would help me re-think the way I approached and consumed alcohol, this was by no means going to be a permanent thing. During the first month, I never really got a physical or strong mental urge to drink. I was surprised by how natural it felt, and by the end of the month, I didn’t want to start drinking again. And although, it was easier than I thought, I noticed a lot of things were changing with the loss of alcohol in my life. I had to account for all of these new good and bad feelings.

Socially, things started to feel different. I felt less connected to my friends who I used to drink with. It’s not like I can’t hang out with people who drink or feel “above” them in any way — it was more that I had made all of these seemingly meaningful connections with people when I was drunk but realized I didn’t actually know them or know how to act around them when I was sober. Was alcohol the only thing bonding us together? Were all of those good times just a wash? I began to question everything. Every past interaction felt fake. It felt like all people did when they weren’t drinking was talk about how “fucked up” they were the night before. I was guilty of it too, but it just became so obvious to me because I was no longer partaking.

I had slowly distanced myself from what I once thought was a large group of friends. Going out didn’t seem fun, and still doesn’t seem fun, if there isn’t a purpose (i.e. going dancing, karaoke, a show, a birthday party). I no longer can just sit at the bar and drink like I used to. I actually can’t even sit anywhere doing nothing for that long, as quitting drinking has sort of killed my ability to “chill.” If it doesn’t seem productive or purposeful in any way, then I can no longer partake. This is partially due to the fact that I can’t really seem to turn my mind off without a substance. So while everyone else is drinking, laughing, sitting around me, having a good time, I’m thinking about a thousand things I SHOULD be doing. It sucks. I don’t like being that person. I’ve learned to try and only go out when I know I’ll be able to fully enjoy myself and immerse myself in whatever is happening but I still find myself sitting at the end of the bar staring at my phone, checking my email.

yes, no, IDK by molly soda

Control plays a big part in being sober. It was great having the self-control not to text a guy I didn’t even care that much about just because I wanted attention. There’s a special breed of humiliation that only happens when you grab your phone and look at it the next morning after a night of drinking. I never had to deal with that again. It felt awesome. Although, I do not regret texting that guy I had a crush on the lyrics to “just what I needed” by The Cars years ago (he didn’t respond). Most embarrassing, drunk text interactions always end up being a good story.

I felt more in control of my life simply because I could no longer blame any “mistakes” I made on being drunk. It was easier to decipher between my drunk and my real desires: now everything was a real desire. You learn to trust yourself more and you really get to know yourself, which is equal parts exciting and terrifying. There were definitely a lot of things that I didn’t want to find out about myself this past year, but I’m trying not be to be ashamed.

I also learned that I have a lot of anxiety and problems with anxiety that weren’t super present when I was drinking. This again has something to do with not being able to turn my mind off. Everything feels more intense and more stressful: especially in situations where I don’t feel in control. Once I stopped drinking I started getting panic attacks, and my first panic attack was months after I had already quit. I’ve only had a handful of them, and I’ve learned what triggers them and how to deal with them better. Valerian root is my best friend. You can see me at the club literally “popping” supplements.

My anxiety, control issues and inability to relax have also made it nearly impossible for me to have casual sex. I honestly don’t miss it. “Hookup culture” seems whatever to me. Relationships in general seem whatever to me but maybe I should save that for another article ;). It is no longer possible for me to get drunk and go home with someone, and I would never go home with someone who was drunk and I wasn’t. I realized that all of my “first time” sexual encounters with men were completely fueled and lubricated by alcohol. I had never had sex with a person for the first time without being drunk – with the exception of losing my virginity. When I did finally have sex with someone for the first time after being sober (around 8 months into my newfound sobriety) I realized that the initial awkward part of getting undressed and you know, seeing each other’s butts for the first time was actually not as painful as I’d imagined. It was more funny than anything. Sex is funny.

Experiences don’t feel as new or hard to deal with as they once did. I’ve gotten past a lot of those initial “first time” sober moments – holidays – new year’s eve was a doozy, weddings, meeting new people, doing karaoke — they’ve all been conquered.

I’ve also realized that a lot of people don’t drink. I just never took the time to look around before. So many artists, musicians, people I look up to, and friends are sober. That’s so cool! I’ve even had friends quit drinking after I did, which makes me feel really warm inside. I don’t want to convince anyone to do anything and I really hope that none of this came off as preach-y — alcohol is fun — but my life feels more fun now, even if sometimes things seem harder than before.

Also, my sugar addiction is out of control now. I could honestly eat cake and gummy bears after every meal. That’s a thing right?

sweet tooth by molly soda

  • Realization

    Thank you so much for sharing this. I wish I was sober right now. I’m going to make some changes.

  • Grace de Kroon

    I really really resonate with this, not because I purposefully chose to stop drinking but had to because my body rejects alcohol. I remember wishing I could drink just to seem normal around other people, connect with people the way I did when I could drink. I hated going out and felt like a lost fart. It’s taken me a good four years to actually have fun in a club and also to stop trying to make alcohol work its way through my body instead of straight back out of my mouth. I’d commit for 8 hours at a time after one sip of beer just to try and be able to drink again. You’ve put into words how I feel now having accepted that I can’t drink. It was a blessing. I too have learnt to deal with my anxiety and social awkwardness minus alcohol. Inspiring <3

  • Sara Reed

    Good god, I cannot believe I just stumbled across this piece… Or maybe I can. The universe is funny like that. I feel like I just looked into a mirror, and perhaps also glanced at some of the thoughts of my future self. For whatever reason I firmly decided I was going to give the soberiety thing a whirl beginning November, and for November only, thank you. Firs,t purely as an experiment born out of boredom. Bored of the same thrill, the same night and the same feedback loop of experience. I am so sick of feeling like three emotions, ranging from super playful light hearted ‘in the moment’ to why the fuck do I always have anxiety feeling like there’s something I should be doing that I’m not. So what the hell, I’m poor anyway, it’s november, and I’m sick of this repetitive ass shit. I wanna fall in love again I wanna be busting at my seams with expression or just something. Stagnancy has always been my biggest fear. So Something’s gotta be tweaked in my world, and it’s gonna be me consumingbooze and cigs…. I have been loving it. And I see no reason and feel no desire to have a casual drink or smoke. Not gonna lie, it’s felt easy. Wow. No idea why other than this is in fact what I’ve been needing and That builds momentum.. I can’t believe how much is being reflected to me about myself and I’m just loving it. Not drinking is creating a platform for so much potential growth ~stuff~…, I really think this is true even if I still can’t see what this means exactly yet. I’m proud and I feel accomplished? And consistent and terrified as you said and still bored and still confused and probably more obviously anxious than I was before but at least now I can see what drinking offered me and why I sought it out. The experience of drinking has been my source of adventure. When I take thee, oh beloved shot of tequila, I wish to transcend what feels ‘normal’. Please oh heavenly glass of red wine, blast me into the present moment and rid me of these annoyances called thoughts! I liked that girl, I still do, cause that’s the girl who feels engaged and excited like a goddamn dream of light that just won’t quit. But she doesn’t stay and then I spend the next day wondering where she went and why she won’t stay.

    Now I’m creating the space to see how else I distract myself and I’m beginning to work on those relationships too (Let’s be real we could all probably use less time on the Internet) cause now what I’m really interested in is… What am I distracting myself from, and why?

    Thank you deeply for this reflection. I feel supported and reassured and at peace knowing you have been and are going thru some similar things. Like the sober sex thing and the not being actually interested in a guy you trick yourself into liking when drunk thing and the not feeling guily about feeling introspective thing and the learning to trust yourself thing. Yes, thank you.

    • Ryan Barrett

      A guy here who has also been going through these exact same things, haven’t had a drink in 3 months in a couple of days, crazy how fast things change. I can relate to so much in this post its unreal. Amazing how quick your train of thought can change when its not being blurred by alcohol. Clarity is the magic for me, I feel so much I also was to the point where blackout was getting constant after 8 years and also self harm so it was stop or something seriously bad was going to happen. So i’m all or nothing too. It’s been surprisingly easy and I haven’t even had an urge. People ask me how I did it and I don’t really understand it either. Sounds cliche but all I can see is you actually have to want to do it for yourself to succeed.