Why I said goodbye to alcohol: “It’s never too late”
Upper West Side, New York, July 28, 2019.
The couple at the next table at my local Japanese restaurant on Columbus Avenue near Central Park seemed like they were on a first or second date.
“Do you like sashimi? he asked.
Their drinks arrived: a cosmopolitan ginger for her; a dry martini for him.
“You are adorable,” he said. ” My heart is racing. »
They appeared to be in their eighties.
“You are weaker when you are older,” he said. “You succumb faster.”
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I was moved by her willingness to bare her vulnerable self. I wondered if they could spend the afternoon together, walking arm in arm in the park, sharing their stories, comparing photos of their great-grandchildren. Maybe they could even make love. The opportunity to lovingly caress the other and to be caressed back does not come along every day.
Her beating heart may have signaled that it was not too late to create a different future for the time they had left.
I, too, had found meaningful love on New York’s Upper West Side.
My love story was rocky, but the relationship that troubled me the most as an adult was with myself. In New York, I had finally begun to bridge the gap that had grown between the person I seemed to be and the person I was hiding and needed to learn to love.
Since my late teens, I had been a social drinker with a busy social life. For two decades, I rarely examined my drinking behavior, even when it resulted in messy relationships, regrets, upsets, and hangovers. I didn’t think I drank any differently than my friends. Indulging in happy hour — having a drink or three at the end of each workday to mark the start of “me time” — was normal. Was not it?
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But around the age of forty, while living in Hong Kong and stressed by a new work situation, I crossed a line that I didn’t know was there. Suddenly, an alcoholic drink after work each day was no longer the usual refreshment; it had become a necessity.
For the first time, I started wondering what I was doing. Is my alcohol consumption normal? Do normal people drink like me? Few people who knew me guessed how much I struggled to hide my growing addiction to alcohol. I had moved along the spectrum of alcohol use disorder in the shadows known as “drinking in the gray zone.”
Over the next twenty years, I slipped further into a dysfunctional relationship with white wine that required more and more energy to control and conceal. I was still functioning very well, but at an increasing cost in terms of self-respect, dignity, honesty with myself and others, peace of mind.
One strategy I used was to become a goal-oriented veteran athlete – a marathon runner and long-distance hiker – with a demanding training schedule that kept my intake moderate if I exercised hard. will. By achieving each goal I set, I could “let go” and reward myself for a while for being “good.” But then I had to set myself a new goal so as not to go off the rails again.
As the gap widened between the fit, healthy person I seemed to be on the outside and the fearful, anxious woman I was on the inside, the worse I became. comfortable in my own skin.
One night, I interpreted a throwaway comment from someone in a passing car as evidence that the shell that kept my secret self out of sight was opening. My shame was now on display for all to see.
My response was to sell my house, relocate my dogs, store my most prized possessions, and embark on an open-ended journey around the world. I was fifty-eight, single, and able to work from anywhere as a freelance writer. I had an entry in the New York City Marathon that year. After that, I promised myself that I would look for a solution to my problem.
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It still took me fifteen months to start getting back on my feet. I said goodbye to alcohol in New York in August 2011 during a hurricane. In the days, weeks, months, and years that followed, I learned that the way to overcome my alcohol addiction was not to continually change my situation or raise the bar for performance; it was changing me. By rewriting the script I had been reciting for decades – I’ll stop drinking tomorrow – into I won’t drink today, I gave in. And in surrendering, I regained my power.
By accepting the truth about myself and trusting that I would survive living my life without drugs, one day at a time, I could begin to feel and heal long-standing wounds. In doing so, I could finally, in my 60s, be fully comfortable in my own skin and able to show who I was on the inside on the outside. I could accept and love the woman I had become and take responsibility for living my only life as best I could.
Like the couple who dined out, I had chosen to follow my beating heart: to choose love and trust, and thus forge a new path towards a different future.
Robyn Flemming is the author of SKINFUL: A Memoir of Addiction (available at Booktopia.com.au and Amazon) and an independent publisher. She was a solo global nomad from 2010 to 2020. Robyn will resume her international travels in 2022, on the eve of her 70th birthday.
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