In order for you to appreciate where I am, we must first go back to where I started.
Growing up in a small town in Northern Michigan, drinking was a right of passage. We started young, boasted about our drinking abilities and developed our drunk-driving skills all before heading off to college. My alcohol journey started when I was in eighth grade. I still remember my first drink. I also remember how terrible it was.
In high school, drinking was fun. We drank before football games; we drank around bonfires in cornfields; we drank while riding the trails; we drank in basements playing games; we did different activities, but we always drank. By the end of high school, I was proud of my ability to finish a fifth of Captain Morgan all by myself.
I joined a sorority, met amazing people, had a lot of fun, and centered most of my existence around alcohol.
I could ‘hold my liquor’ and ‘drink like one of the boys.’ These two things defined me — I was proud of these accomplishments. They were like bullet points on my resumé, landing me new jobs and new friends.
After college I moved to Scottsdale, Arizona — a perpetual spring break town — and got a sales job at a popular online review company, which might as well have been a frat house. Drinking at lunch and nightly happy hours were encouraged. Promotions were made on the bar stool.
I was happy. Life was great. I had a lot of friends, a lot of money, and a lot of alcohol. I was able to buy my first condo as a single female at 27 and upgraded to a beautiful home a few years later. I was successful, and, by most accounts, living a life society would approve of.
I was a highly-functioning alcoholic.
There were many things that enabled my heavy drinking. Family secrets. Lost relationships. New relationships. Friends gone too soon from suicide or ‘accidental’ overdoses. Stress. Celebrations. Friday. Society.
There was no definitive rock bottom. My drinking was normal, and my friends enjoyed drinking with me…maybe a little too much. Most mornings I woke up with a headache, but not with regret. I often questioned if I drank a little too much, but I also thought everyone around me was doing the same, so it couldn’t be that bad, could it?
Fast forward to January 2020. I honestly couldn’t tell you the last time I had gone more than a day or two without drinking. In December of 2019, I recall drinking almost every night. I wasn’t drinking that much each evening: two to four seltzers; a glass or two of wine; a handful of beers — but I was drinking each evening.
A friend encouraged me to join her in trying ‘Dry January.’
I told her I’d give it two weeks — there was no way I wanted to not drink for a full month.
My last drink was on January 4th, 2020. I started January with the flu, which I now know was a full blown detox and it was absolute hell. When I hit week two and was starting to feel a little better, I decided maybe I would give the whole month a shot.
I had been carrying around this book for nearly five years and I thought maybe it was high time I saw what the hype was about. The book was This Naked Mind by Annie Grace. I ordered it one night, drunk-shopping on Amazon, along with insulated wine glasses to keep my wine extra cold by the pool. Ironic, right? Despite having concerns about my drinking when I ordered the book, I was far too scared to actually read it.
I loved drinking. I didn’t think I could have fun or be fun without a drink.
I was scared my friends wouldn’t want to hang out with me. Losing something you’ve held onto for so long is scary. Alcohol had been one of my closest ‘friends’ for nearly 20 years.
The book (This Naked Mind) resonated with me in ways I cannot describe. Annie breaks down the science behind what alcohol actually does to your body. Spoiler alert: It creates anxiety and depression, lowers fertility and sex drive, and more people die from alcohol-related health issues than all other drugs combined. Unfortunately, society does a great job of making us believe the opposite is true. That alcohol = fun.
About half way through I was terrified to finish the book because I thought to myself, “What if I’m actually alcohol-free for the rest of my life? Will life still be fun?”
What I didn’t realize — and honestly wasn’t prepared for — was how easy giving up alcohol would be.
How much more life there is to live. How amazing it is to wake up with a clear mind every single day. The energy I would have, and most importantly that life is better and more fun when it is free of alcohol. Bonus: my friends still like me, too.
As I type this, I’ve been alcohol free for over 600 days. Something I never set out to be, but something I am so incredibly grateful for. Will I drink again? Maybe. I drink as much as I want to — and right now I have zero desire to do so. I simply do not see the point.
Don’t get me wrong — just because I’ve decided to live life alcohol-free, that doesn’t mean all has been rainbows and butterflies. Life is still hard. Earlier this year, in one month’s time, I found a lump in my breast, my dad had a stroke, I lost my job, and I helplessly held my dog in my arms as he took his last breath after watching him get attacked by another dog.
So yeah, life is hard.
But what I’ve realized is this: alcohol does not make it easier.
It does not help the situation. In fact, using it as a coping mechanism keeps you from operating at 100% capacity to deal with the problems that inevitably occur in life.
And please don’t mistake my intentions. I am not sharing this with you because I want a pat on the back or sympathy. I’m sharing this because, if you ever have — or are currently questioning — your relationship with alcohol, I want you to know:
You are not alone.
It is not your fault.
If any of you out there are reading this and are thinking you are not sure where to start, or you simply want to chat — I am here for you. I would love for you to reach out and I’d love to send you a copy of This Naked Mind. Maybe it will change your life, too.
—Kristie Grande, Detroit Mom Guest Submission