Quitting alcohol set my life on a profoundly different trajectory, one that includes love, meaningful connections, and spiritual growth. I like to say that I jumped timelines as reflecting on my past feels like recalling another person's life.
On New Year's Day, I joined a goal-setting webinar, where a speaker shared their ambition for 2024: a year without alcohol. Their tone, treating it as a monumental challenge, made me pause. To me, drinking's a non-issue, so hearing someone I respect aim for sobriety startled me momentarily.
Then, my own past rushed back.
I once had a binge drinking issue. I drank for courage, to feel good, to shed inhibitions. I loved the tipsy feeling and would chase it all night. Alcohol was my tool for social connection and gave me permission to really party. But it also deepened my self-loathing with a relentless cycle of guilt and shame, anaesthetising me and suppressing my feelings.
A particularly dreadful night marked my lowest point. I remember trying to express to a friend how broken I felt and that I couldn’t ever imagine feeling like I had value or self-worth.
I sought help from a GP, not to curb my drinking, but to address my persistent feelings of worthlessness. My self-esteem was non-existent. The GP took my history and inquired about my lifestyle including my drinking habits. “It's a bit of an issue”, I said. “I’m not an alcoholic or anything. But I do binge drink a bit too much”. I then proceeded to tell him about my recent disastrous evening.
The doctor looked me dead in the eyes and said - verbatim “You must stop drinking. You can never have a drink again. If you continue to drink, you may be the life of the party, but no man will ever love you.”
That was a life defining moment for me.
His direct and seemingly unsympathetic words pressed on a painful wound - the fear I was unlovable. I left his office genuinely terrified, knowing I had to quit. I'd tried and failed before, the longest stint being six months. At 33, after 17 years of relying on alcohol for social occasions…
Who was I without it?
Initially shy, insecure, and socially awkward, I gradually embraced sobriety. After about 3 months, my baseline level of self-esteem increased. The doctor had explained how alcohol, a depressant, keeps you in a perpetual state of low-grade depression. Particularly if you have a drink more than once every 3 days.
When I did go out to bars or clubs, I noticed that the ones who persistently tried to coerce me into drinking, were those with their own drinking issues. I realised me not drinking made them feel uncomfortable. Sometimes, when I would have deeper conversations with these people, they would admit their envy at my sobriety, wishing they could abstain as well.
My physical and mental health benefited immensely. Financially, I saved so much money. Espresso Martinis were $20 each back in 2010.
I embarked on a truly rewarding journey of self-discovery. In my opinion, alcohol can stunt one’s emotional development. I don’t believe you can truly know yourself when you are anaesthetised with substances; Even sugar (but that is a story for another day).
Without alcohol, I was significantly more productive and devoted to my passions.
I learnt to trust myself and keep my word.
My compassion and capacity to hold space for others increased and my relationships deepened as a result.
I always felt safe, never waiting for taxis, or depending on others.
I am deeply grateful to be where I am now, and all the experiences that led me here. I’ve no doubt there was a more graceful way to learn these lessons, but it is what it is.
And I am now a self-esteem and wellbeing coach! How’s that for a turn of events? I truly believe ANYONE can change. That includes you. Yes, YOU! I believe in you! I believe in my core that change is possible for anyone.