Fifteen days ago, I drank this beer in a fantastic little bar in Cozumel, Mexico, Dick’s Dive. My beloved and I had arrived earlier that day and were looking forward to a full week of fun, relaxation and a couple more dozen of these.
Let’s go back a bit. Over the past year, I have been aware of my drinking. Since losing Mom, and maybe even before then, maybe when she started getting really sick, it seemed that few days would pass without my having a drink. You might say “so what? What’s wrong with a drink with dinner, or a night cap?” Well, nothing. Except I started needing it, instead of just wanting it. I would think about that glass of wine or three fingers of Jameson on ice, or Malibu with club soda on my way home from work. It became my focus. Additionally, as I get older, it seems to take less alcohol to provide the warm buzzy, but I wasn’t stopping at less.
I wasn’t drinking every day, but three or four nights a week, I guess. So, no big deal, I could justify that. But, then one glass of wine became two, and two became three, and I’d wake up in the morning all foggy and unable to truly function until 9 or 10 in the morning.
So I made a deal with myself. I would only drink on weekends and special “drinking occasions” like Bunco night, birthdays, and national holidays. This sounded like a reasonable solution, I could remain sharp on weekdays when I needed to, but relax on the weekends. Plus, being able to go all week without a drink equals me not being an alcoholic, right? But, Friday night would come along, I’d pop open a bottle of Chianti and because my beloved doesn’t care for Chianti, I found myself polishing off the entire bottle while we watched Sneaky Pete. I’d tell myself one glass, then say “why not a second” then finish the bottle because “well, there’s not enough to save.” The result would be a foggy Saturday morning, with precious time lost oversleeping.
So, I made myself another promise. I would only drink on the aforementioned special occasions. How often do they come around right? Well, it depends what on one’s interpretation of special occasion. Basically for me, it was “wherever two or more people are gathered….” Dinner with friends, Bunco night, a movie with my beloved, certainly a drink is in order. Then that drink would suggest I have another, then the two of them would invite a third. The result of these special occasions usually went something like this:
Me, waking up with an invisible ice pick in my eye. Me, spending a precious weekend morning sitting in a hot bubble bath for hours, guzzling water, trying re-hydrate and stop the dry heaves. Me, trying to remember the night before. Was I fun? Was I obnoxious? Did I tell one of those stories that doesn’t make sense? Was I too loud? Was I sloppy? Me, telling myself “I’ll never do that again. I’m never drinking again.”
“Moderation,” I said. “You just need to practice moderation. You are Irish, drinking is in your DNA, it is who you are. There is no way in the world you could be a teetotaler. Drinking is part of your identity. You are the Guinness girl. You drink Jameson and ice. Don Q makes you happy. Stick to special occasion, and stop at one or two. You can do this.”
The weekend before we went to Cozumel, we joined friends at the Chicken Shack. I pre-planned, “one beer, with your chicken.” I didn’t stop at one. I didn’t stop at two. The night before we left for Cozumel, we met another friend for dinner, someone I hadn’t seen in six months or more. Absolutely a special occasion. I planned for one glass of wine. I didn’t stop at one.
“After we get back from vacation,” I said, “I’ll get back on track.”
When we landed, the first place we went was the bar/restaurant/dive shop combo we frequent. It is where everybody knows our name. They were having “Hogtoberfest” so we dined on German food and beer, enjoyed the sunshine and looked forward to the week.
I was two beers in when two couples sat down. One of the women introduced everyone, finally adding that the other woman “just quit drinking.” I’m not sure why she added that. It almost sounded like she was making fun of her. But that could have just been my misconception.
“Really?” I said “Why is that?”
The young woman, I will call her “H” blushed and said “I’m just trying to live my best life.” She stated she realized it no longer served her and was trying to be a better version of herself. I immediately launched into a dissertation about how I also was not drinking, but for special occasions and what is more special than vacations, right?” She said she had to do all or nothing, and she’s been 90 days sober. I have to admit, I was a little embarrassed. Here I was saying that I was not drinking, but those two Mexican German beers had already loosed my lips something awful and I was jabbering like an idiot. She was so generous and we talked a long time about being our best selves and doing the work, and all those self improvement catch phrases.
Later, my beloved had the opportunity to go for a dive and I went back to the hotel. But I passed a bar, met a charming bartender named Tim and a waitress named Nita who’s facial expression seemed to indicate she had a secret about literally everyone. I enjoyed two more beers and conversation with the two of them, before going to my room to sit on the patio. Later, while my beloved was showering, I went back to Tim’s place for another. He poured two, just for fun. We had a roaring good time, as far as I can remember. I got loud. The sun was still up and I was dropping F-bombs and being obnoxious. Tim asked if I wanted some water. Yikes! There’s my cue.
My beloved and I went for dinner at Dick’s Dive, and I had the fish and chips and the pictured Bohemia (part of my DNA states, you cannot have fish and chips without a dark beer). The next morning, I woke up not wanting to walk past Tim’s place. Not wanting to see “H” and her friends. Not wanting to make eye contract with people because “what did I say, what did I do?” Nobody mentioned anything I said or did, and everyone was friendly and welcoming. Apparently, alcohol makes me paranoid, and I don’t like that feeling either.
After the dive boats left (I do not dive anymore) and I was alone, I went on a long walk. I walked six miles and berated myself for my behavior all six of them. “You don’t want to be this person,” I said to myself. “You will not obtain your goals and dreams with this behavior in your life. You are better than this. One of your affirmations is ‘no regrets’ yet you continue to do things that you regret.”
That evening I saw “H” and she asked me what I’d done that day. I told her I walked into town, that I like to take a morning walk every day, and she asked if she could join me the next day. I was delighted!
The next morning we talked and she shared her story and I shared mine. She was 90 days sober, but struggled with things like balance and patience with her kids. She said “You are where I want to be in my journey one day.” I was shocked. “ME?”
I looked back at my personal growth over the last 15 months since Mom left us, and I’m shocked to see the changes I have made for the betterment of my life. Incredible changes that I didn’t realize were possible. But still, there was the one thing. Drinking.
Who quits drinking WHILE on vacation in sunny Cozumel, with it’s delicious coconut rum drinks with umbrellas and oceans of margaritas? Me, I do. I didn’t have another drink. That’s right, six days in Cozumel with no bar tab. Sparking water became my drink of choice. My mind had shifted, and I simply didn’t want it anymore. I wasn’t white knuckling it. Not drinking was suddenly very easy and natural.
The hard part was letting go of what I thought was my identity. The fun loving Irish girl who could drink anyone under the table. What will my identity be now? I worried about what my friends would think. Would they think I’m judging them? I’m not. This is MY issue, not theirs. I don’t want to have regret, and while I often have regret after drinking, I’ve never felt regret when I chose to abstain. The fact that my body metabolizes it differently now, tells me my body doesn’t want it any more. I have to listen to what my body tells me if I’m to live a long healthy life.
I don’t want to lose friends over this, but if I do, then that is the price of growth, and I choose growth.
Fifteen days ago, I had my last drink.