Six Months of Sober: Why I Quit Drinking
As of August 26, I haven’t had a drink in six months. It is without question the longest I have ever gone without alcohol since age 17. I was pondering what to write about this week for the blog, as I do on Mondays, and this realization popped into my head. And, while I doubted what significance this time marker has on travel or life as a full-time Flight Attendant, it has real significance in my real life. Once I had the thought, the other blog topics I came up with felt like coverups, lies of omission. Like not mentioning this little big thing was kind of antithetical to how I’m trying to live—openly and authentically.
So here’s why I quit drinking…
Honestly if this bores you, I won’t be offended by the bounce rate. But if you’re interested in hearing how I got here, to this six-month marker, why I quit drinking, the benefits I’ve seen and the concerns and anxieties too, then read on.
As disappointing as it may be, there was not a lot of thought put into the decision to stop drinking. I gave it up for Lent. For non-Christians, this is the period from Ash-Wednesday until Easter Sunday. I’m a non-Christian myself, so to be honest the details are murky to me. But I know you sacrifice something for forty days and forty nights. And while I may not be hip to the gospel, I do enjoy a time-bound, measurable challenge.
I gave up drinking on February 26, 2020 for Lent. When Easter Sunday rolled around (April 12, for non-Christians) we were in the throws of the Coronavirus pandemic, and the height of stay-at-home orders.
All my flights had cancelled, leaving this flight attendant grounded. But, far from being bored, I felt more productive than ever. I was filling my new-found free time with creative pursuits. Making strides and improvements, leaning into things I hadn’t had time to fully invest in before. I thought drinking would interfere with this, take up too much of my precious time. (When do you start during quarantined unemployment—8pm? 5pm? 3pm? 10am?)
I also thought it would be detrimental to my mental health.
I thought about waking up hungover, laying around the house in my pajamas, feeling useless. For clarification: I don’t think you are useless if you sit around in your pajamas. My current routine is pajamas until 6pm, when I put on yoga pants to run. What I am saying is that with a hangover and idle time I knew I would feel that way. And the thought depressed me enough that I didn’t want to experience it in real life.
I was also cohabitating with a partner and thought adding alcohol to the mix would make communication more difficult. (We all know how challenging quarantine togetherness could be at times.)
So, I decided there would be no alcohol until quarantine was over.
To be clear:
When I say I gave alcohol up for Lent, it is the truth, but I have thought about doing it many times before. I’ve wasted a lot of hours of my life being drunk or hungover, getting dressed and undressed, doing makeup and hair to go out to bars. In my thirty-something years, I have had sick mornings and embarrassing experiences. I’ve had to apologize to friends for drunk behavior. I have experienced blackouts and had missing spaces in my memory. I chipped a tooth once, falling face-first into a cement walkway. Was this stuff happening all the time? No. And thankfully, it hasn’t been like that for many moons. But that doesn’t make it less daunting, or important, when I’m being honest with myself.
One thing is for sure: I'll need to find a new photo prop!
Is Quarantine over?
We’re in some level of “phasing in” now. What this means exactly, whether we are technically “out of quarantine”, I am not sure. But for now, I’m all set with drinking. And in more general terms, I’m all set with ‘going back’ to the way things were pre-COVID.
It is exceptionally easy for me to not drink during these socially distant times. Going out to a bar looks so different than in the past, with everyone masked up, sitting at separate tables, that it is just not appealing.
My job has historically been a huge source of alcohol intake, which may surprise you if you’re not a flight attendant or pilot. The aviation industry is unlike any other. There is a gray scale between professional and social that gets mighty fuzzy when you work on airplanes. And many a layover has been spent partying through the night with my crews. In the past, I’ve suffered from FOMO, telling myself I’d stay in, go to bed early, then feeling a gnawing sense that I’d “miss out” on something great if my crew went out and I didn’t.
Now? FOMO doesn’t exist. On layovers, there are hardly any bars or restaurants open. The temptation just is not there. And beyond that, I’m feeling so awesome, keeping so busy, that I just don’t feel like drinking.
Lent and quarantine may have come and gone, but I’m not rushing back to the bottle.
So, now that you know the back story of why I quit drinking, here are some benefits I’ve felt and concerns I have.
My mental clarity is un-fucking-real.
My mental clarity is un-fucking-real.
This is the first, biggest and best side effect that has happened as a result of my not drinking.
I don’t have foggy days. I don’t do things I shouldn’t do. Say things I later regret. I feel focused, calm, at peace. Even as I wondered for four months, and still do now, whether I’d have my job in the future, there was a sense of peace and acceptance in the wonder. What is meant to be will be. If I get furloughed or my airline goes under, I’ll figure it out. I feel confident in myself, my abilities, and my resilience because I believe my thoughts and feelings. There are no chemicals to interfere with them or to drag me into a dark hole.
I’m not talking about weight loss. That has happened, I suppose, but more so because of the overall healthy lifestyle I’m living, and less because I quit drinking. And while I really like the way my body looks in a bikini right now, I really LOVE the way it feels. I’m not bloated. My skin is (mostly) clear and not excessively oily nor dry. I’m regular. I sleep like a baby. I feel comfortable in my skin. I feel energized most of the time.
A lot of people talk about how much weight they lost when they quit drinking, or even more often, how much they’d lose if they someday stopped. And they might be right. I never believed that for my body. I was able to maintain a healthy weight while drinking by eating healthy food and exercising. That being said, it is SO much easier without alcohol. I’m eating very healthy right now. Not for weight-related reasons, but for overall health—gut, skin, brain, mood.
The cravings I’ve had for sugar, dairy and bread have been surprisingly low for someone who could easily live off those things alone. But I’m confident that, were I drinking a couple nights a week, I’d be less likely to make myself a healthy meal, and more likely to grab whatever (breaded, sugared, cheesy) thing was easy and available. Drinking consistently also makes cutting sugar cravings—an Achilles heel for me—nearly impossible.
My sleep cycle is On. Point. As someone who suffered from sleep trouble in the past, this perk is freaking GLORIOUS. Uninhibited by the residual effects of alcohol in my body, I wake up to a fresh, clean slate every single day. I never feel too “blah” to go for a run or do my 10-minutes of yoga (a new habit I’ve picked up.) This starting off fresh, rested, energized, puts me on track for a solid day. Honestly, I have had very few not good days.
COVID gave me more free time than ever before, and I wanted to make sure I took full advantage. I’ve been CRUSHING my productivity goals, in no small part due to quitting alcohol. Now I’m back to work full-time and STILL getting more done than I ever have in the past.
Besides flying the friendly skies, I’m running this blog (meaning writing, formatting, optimizing, promoting), creating weekly content for a YouTube Channel dedicated to activism & social justice, and still finding time to focus on songwriting and “dream-writing.” That is, the kind of writing that fulfills your dreams. The big, lofty goal kind.
It’s a lot. I have not only been creating content more consistently than I ever have in my life (HELLO self-imposed deadlines!), but I’m also learning new, useful skills: Search engine optimization, video editing, content promotion, affiliate marketing, reading analytics.
I am impressed by my tenacity in seeking information and learning on my own. I’m delighted with the progress I’ve made over these months. I’m proud of myself for pursuing my passions, despite conventional wisdom telling me I’m too old. For pursing worthy causes even if I have to learn as I go. For investing time and energy in myself and the things that truly make me happy.
Happy is looking more like this now.
Could I do all these things without giving up alcohol?
Maybe I could. But it took me 34 years to harness the awesome power of my time this effectively. So, it is not something I’d bank on. Would I stay up late to finish that one last video segment if I’d had a margarita with dinner for taco Tuesday? Definitely not. Would I choose reading in bed about the history of systemic racism over an invitation to have a few cold ones with friends? Doubtful. Could I produce as much quality work with alcohol haze in my brain? I don’t know for sure, but right now it doesn’t feel like it.
I’m astounded by all the boozey and brilliant creatives over the years that have become prolific despite their vice. I don’t know how Hemingway did it, but I know I’m no Hemingway. For me, creating coherent, eloquent thoughts, buckling down to trudge through writer’s blocks, or tedious bouts of editing would be out of the question while hungover or tipsy.
This work I’m doing, and the volume of it, is a lot to maintain. And it would be impossible for me with the after-effects of alcohol in my system. I know this for a fact because running out for plans to grab a drink, daytime hangovers, and the nondescript haze that makes your head foggy, your patience shrink, have all been at one point or another, causes for not working on or completing creative “dream” projects.
I’m not saying alcohol always gets in the way, or that it always will for me. But right now, I’m choosing dream work over a cold one, a celebratory toast, or an unwinding glass of red.
For now we’re just doing what feels good, taking it
one day at a time.
Am I done forever?
Honestly, I have no idea. I’m not thinking about it much because I’m busy thinking about other things. I haven’t had much desire to drink over these months, and I don’t now. So, the need to define my future with (or without) alcohol seems inconsequential.
This works for me. I’ve found throughout my lifetime that being restrictive with myself can cause unwanted effects. Like creating more demand and desire for the forbidden thing: A deliciously bad-for-you food, a shopping habit, or a particularly sticky ex. I’ve found that when I don’t put harsh restrictions on myself, when I give myself space to do whatever I want, that I often make great choices.
Call it fear of commitment, but committing to a life without the possibility of grabbing a drink with friends feels big. Important. A little scary.
Not having a drink today because I’m busy and don’t feel like it? That’s simple.
Less of this
More of this
Truthfully, I may be actively trying not to think about the future. Because it is a lot to think about. A huge change to my life, and one that feels mighty and permanent.
I will say this: I became a pescatarian five years ago, with no intention of doing so, after a Lent challenge. Once Lent ended and I could again eat meat, I didn’t have the desire. Not wanting to think about it too much, not wanting to make some bold statement about my “New lifestyle”, not wanting to come to a conclusion to which I’d have to commit, I adopted the term “flexitarian” to describe myself.
“If I feel like eating meat I will, but I haven’t felt like it yet,” I’d say when people asked me about my dietary restrictions, and what the hell flexitarian meant.
It was more than a year later, when my then life-partner brought to my attention that I had not and would not eat meat.
“Just call yourself a vegetarian,” she’d burst out one day. “There’s no way you’re just going to start eating meat again.”
And then I accepted it. She was right, I wasn’t going back to eating meat. Occasionally when I travel, I’ll try a bite of meat in a local dish. But meat will never be a regular part of my diet. And just like that, I became a pescatarian. After a year and a half of acting the part, I accepted the title.
If I should find, at some point, that the title of sober is something I feel comfortable accepting, then I’ll slip it on and wear it around. For now, we’re just doing what feels good. Taking it one day at a time.
I’m not gonna lie, there are concerns when I think about staying on this train for the long haul. I will have to re-learn how to do a lot of things. Socialize, date, dance—this last one is especially intimidating as I’ve never, ever busted a move before my third cocktail. I worry that my friends won’t like me anymore. That they’ll think I’m less fun. That I will be less fun. That traveling will shift dramatically.
Bars, pubs, clubs and breweries have always been a big part of my travels. Drinking in foreign countries is a way of getting to know the culture. I know this sounds crazy if you don’t drink, but I’ve found it to be true. There would be a fundamental shift to my adventures. With earlier mornings and earlier, quieter evenings. Which is not necessarily a bad thing, but it is a different thing.
I worry about how it will feel to discover which of my friends are only party friends and not much else. It hurts me to think about.
I worry about living up to a standard. Committing to being sober is big. It means you can fail. It sounds like pressure. And I hate pressure. And commitment. And failing.
Beyond these concerns though, there is a lot of light. There are shining rays, positivity. And there is the other kind of light—the kind that occurs when your load is lessened. When heavy dissipates. When you simplify.
I don’t know what the future holds for me or my liver. Whether I’ll be sober for life, or simply take a much-needed, long break. I’ll make that decision for myself when I’m ready. But what I do know is the simplicity and the clearing of space for other things in my life has been sweet and joyful. I know that I feel a deep sense of gratitude, clarity, and positivity. I know that wherever my path is meant to lead, right now I am exactly where I’m supposed to be.
And ain’t that something?
Have you recently quit drinking? Or cut way back since Corona? How has that felt? Are you going to keep it up, or go back once things normalize? What have been YOUR best benefits from taking a booze-break?
If you’re thinking about taking some time off, feel free to reach out. I’m not an expert, but I do know some.
If you are worried about your drinking or a friend or family member’s drinking, you can look to AA.org or al-anon.org for more information on getting the help for whoever needs it.
If you’re looking for more immediate help or support, you can call one of these toll free, confidential, 24-hour hotlines:
Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA)
Thanks for stopping by, be safe out there!
Maybe your best post yet. Love you Tone. <3
Your my favorite. Thanks Rae <3 (for being a reader and also a real real friend!)
Francis Gabriel McGovern
Thank you Toni, great post and inspiring all that you are doing. Anything is possible with your dedication.
Thanks Francis! For the kind words and for teaching me everything I know about wordpress, SEO, marketing and keeping the dreams alive!
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Just discovered your blog a few minutes ago. Thanks for sharing. This is an inspiring post! Congrats to you and wishing you all the bet on this lifestyle change.
Hi Kelly, thanks so much for reading and for the feedback! So far things are going great! 🙂
Its still early days, but I decided to take a drinking break as well. In France they just did the 9pm curfew and I said you know what… I am going to take a break, too many days thrown away from being hungover and lacking motivation to pursue my personal goals. I googled, benefits to stop drinking and your blog came up, I guess your SEO skills have improved 🙂 Thanks for sharing –
Wow. This comment just made my entire week! Thanks so much for taking the time to write it. Delighted to hear my SEO is improving! And it’s now been eight months. Feeling great, haven’t even considered drinking yet. Still not big commitments, but taking it day by day and doing what feels good. Best of luck to you on your break! I’m sure you’re already feeling some of the positive effects. 🙂
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