First light

It was January first, 2018. The first day of the new year. The sun hadn’t even risen yet and my feet speared the cold sand as I walked toward the water. I remember that feeling of breaking the skin of the sea, my first surf of the year. I remember sitting out there in water, completely alone, welcoming in the first sunrise of the year as streaks of red slowly shot across the sky.

This year was the first January 1st that I can remember, that I woke up not feeling hungover and like shit.

I do not have a strict stance on alcohol. Sometimes I can be sober for weeks. Every now and then I can have a beer or two at the beach and watch the sunset with loved ones. Sometimes, though these instances are getting progressively less as the years go on, I get drunk. It’s not the ‘being drunk’ that’s alluring for me, but rather the feeling of ‘we’re going for a ride!’ The way drinking starts slowly, and then gains momentum as the night goes on. There’s an illicitness to it, a sense of danger, the feeling of being connected on this wild ride with a group of others, the inhibitions starting to fall to the wayside.

But each time I have done this for the past few years, I have woke up, with my mouth dry and head exploding, and my immediate thought has been; “this is not who I want to be in this world.”

Time to recalibrate

At 24 years old, I feel like it’s time to recalibrate my relationship with alcohol. To know where I stand and what role I want drinking to play in my life.  I am sick of being swept up in another big night, and waking up feeling out of alignment with who I want to be.

This article is not to judge any drinking behaviours, or make this whole discussion a judgement, a guilt trip, or some pledge for everyones sobriety. Being sober, does not equal moral superiority. But as I am growing older, and questioning and redefining my relationship with alcohol in terms of what serves my highest self, these are the stories I am curious about, and if you are in a similar position, may be curious about, too.

I recently have stopped to question: what is my relationship with alcohol? Is it a mutually respectful relationship, or a dependent relationship? Or is it simply a habit I have outgrown years ago, but have been too lazy to do away with? Why do I continue to do it? And what role do I want it to play in my life, moving forward?

I spoke to a few women who have redefined what drinking means to them.

Genèvieve Méthot is from Montreal, Quebec. At 26, she has been fully sober for six years.

“It all started when one morning I woke up in the bushes, spooning my longboard, under the eyes of a family living one block down from my apartment.  “Good, I almost made it home” was my first thought, but didnt really know where the fuck I was. My tongue felt like a sponge full of whiskey and who knows what else, my heart was pumping in my head. I needed to get the fuck outta there,” she says.

“I had been drinking for a long time by then.”

“First, I couldnt handle who I was when I was drinking. I would be fun, then the next minute switch to a raging bitch looking for trouble. When I drank I also had this desperate need of unnecessary attention. I would do and say some pretty gnarly shit.”

“For me alcohol was not a liquid courage, it was a liquid stupidity. It was always a great night… which I couldn’t remember any freaking details. And after a while I was just not having fun. I would be mumbling in a corner. Getting back home without telling anyone or crashing wherever and blacking out. It kind of sucked. A lot.”

“And then the hangovers. How fun are they? Sweating bullets, next-level dehydration, migraines, stomach pain… Hangovers weren’t just physical but also psychological for me. Those days, I felt about myself the same way as my body was feeling. I felt vulnerable, unworthy, desperate for the day to end, incapable, overthinking everything, anxiety… name it. It felt like a full on depression, everytime. I can’t remember how many times I said ‘never again’.”

“Also… my bank account was not so happy. I wanted to save to travel but it was not going to happen any time soon. I ended up spending more on drinking then anything else. The feeling I got from drinking was not good enough to justify all this money thrown in the trash. Quitting drinking for a year at that point was worth at least six months of travel in South East Asia living alone in fancy private rooms. So I kinda realized at that point time that if I kept living this lifestyle, I would stay in it. Even if what I enjoyed the most was to soak in a bubble bath with a glass of wine while listening to blues music, It was a turning wheel and I needed to get off of it.”

“I never said ‘Today, I quit drinking’. When I was twenty years old I was in a pretty dark place in my life and I just felt like drinking was keeping me down. Like a ball and chain. I needed to change something to feel better about my life and myself.”

“Thats when I decided to slow it down. I just naturally quit. It took a while before I could say ‘no thanks, I don’t drink’, because it was not really in my instinct…. but it happened naturally. I just didn’t want to anymore.”

“There was that time where I didnt know how to be in a bar without having a drink in my hands. Like… ‘what the fuck am I supposed to do with my arms? They are so long and just hanging there like spaghettis… is dancing supposed to be fun and liberating… because right now I just feel paralyzed and prisoner of a rigid body.'”

“But I thought it was an amazing challenge of self discovery, of how to be able to embrace all of who you are in a really conscious way. To be comfortable enough to show off your wild side with all of your inhibitions. I’m not gonna lie, it was not always easy. But I guess i’ve always been a wild one at heart, I just needed to let it out naturally.”

Sober for now

Cristina Clark, from Santa Tecla, El Salvador, has not had a drink since August. She says she is not thinking about wether this is forever, or wether she will eventually start again. Right now, she is just enjoying the feeling of having energy and sticking to her goals.

“I stopped drinking for my health,” she says.
“I felt every time I stopped drinking for a while I was more productive and energetic, and the times I drank, I felt like I was wasting my time… So I decided to take a longer break from drinking. I’m not thinking about the future, wether I will or will not drink again, I just feel good right now, and am being present to that!”
“The best thing about my choice not to drink has been the feeling of making a goal and sticking to it. Each time I respect this goal I made [by saying no to drinking], I am showing myself that I care for myself, and my goals are priority. The best thing has been realizing I can do whatever I set my mind on. When you achieve a goal, you feel stronger, and then you want to go for more!”

 Conscious Drinking

 Laurence Charron, 27, had been travelling for two years, and says drinking was part of her daily life. When she was bedridden for two weeks with a virus, her boyfriend suggested they both try an alcohol-free month, as a way of getting healthier and back in shape for surfing.
“You have to understand that after travelling for about two years, drinking was part of my daily life,” she says.
“Living in places where people come for holidays creates too many reasons for drinking; a beer at sunset, a beer to catch up, a beer with lunch, a beer when you are bored… Quickly, it becomes an habit. It loses it spark of being something for special occasions only. You don’t know even ask yourself why you drink. You do it because you like the taste and its feeling,”
“It was omnipresent. And it’s alright,” she says. “But then I got sick and my immune system crashed. And I thought, ‘why not taking a break from alcohol as a way to get better?'”
“Even better, I had somebody by my side to motivate me. At the beginning, I never thought we would make it. We were traveling in Mexico. Vacation equals beers, right? Well, the month went by pretty easily actually! The best outcome was that at the end of the month I wasn’t feeling like drinking more. I loved being strong and healthy, not cloudy and tired.”
“We lasted about six months, drinking maybe six beers a month. Not too bad when you think I could drink twice as much during one night… But mostly, I love that we broke the habit of drinking. Rediscovering the sparks of something festive, bringing it back into my life as a treat!”
“I love that I don’t need a beer to hang out with friends, that I don’t feel like I have empty hands when I don’t have a drink. I would now call myself a conscious drinker. I drink when I feel like it. I do not impose my choice to others and I respect people who don’t feel like drinking when I do (and vice-versa).”

Sobriety, moderation, conscious drinking?

Thinking about a change and wondering what option is best for you? In an excellent article by Hello Sunday Morning, they advise asking yourself these four questions:

Have I been able to drink in moderation in the past?
Is it possible for me to stop after one or two drinks?
Are there certain situations where I am likely to want to drink more?
How does drinking impact me and my body?

“For some people, once they have looked at their relationship with alcohol, and made some changes to it, they may find that moderation is a good option,” it says. As we can see, worked for Laurence.

And for those wanting to try full-on abstinence? Geneviève says you will feel like a warrior.

“Today I’m 26 going on 27 and I haven’t drank in 6 years. Yes, I still work in bars, yes, I still love to go out, yes, I still dance and no, I don’t feel bad for a fucking second to say no when someone offers me a drink. I am sober and proud… and i’m not wasting another penny to end up feeling like crap for 2 days. I don’t give a single fuck about what people can think of me or my lifestyle as a sober person.”

“People have said so much crap.

“Your life must be so boring”
“Don’t you feel like you’re missing out on life?”
“Don’t you drink when you travel, or when it’s your birthday”
“How can you live like this?”
“You suck”
” you must be the most boring person ever”
“What are you doing out if you dont even drink”
“What do you do on a date? ”
“You must do other drugs to get through life”
“Why are you bartending?”
” come on, just one shot! ”

“For anyone trying to quit or trying to slow down, you will soon understand who are your true friends and those who are only party friends. It’s not because drinking is socially normal that it is for you. Those who respect and love you will stick around and the others… well, who cares?”

“It’s about you and only YOU. It won’t cut you off from meeting new people. You’ll just be more aware of who is your type of people and who’s not.”

“If you decide to quit you will mark on a journey of self discovery. You will learn to be yourself 100% in any kind of situation.”

“It might be rocky… but you’ll feel like a fucking warrior at living life. Yes, things will change, but only for the best. Just be yourself and stay confident.”

What is your relationship with alcohol?


Feature Image: @sashajadeg