In December 2020, I decided to stop drinking alcohol for one year. My depression and anxiety were at an all-time high, and sobriety was my last resort. I was a binge-drinker on the way to becoming a full-blown alcoholic. I gave myself one year to turn my life around and start again.
Let's go from the beginning...
I didn’t consume alcohol; it consumed me. It swallowed me whole and spat out the worst pieces. I became cruel, hateful, and infested with anger. Alcohol made me the very worst version of myself – and no one should ever have to see that. Not even me.
So, one day between Christmas and New Year, I stopped drinking. I put down the wine and ordered several books on sobriety, also known as ‘quit lit.’ Every time I wanted a drink, I read instead. Some might say I read myself sober – but I think I terrified myself into it. I wanted to know what would happen if I kept drinking, and spoiler alert, it was nothing good. Dry January came and went, and I stayed sober.
The pink clouds faded and reality set in...
In early sobriety, most people experience a sense of euphoria and joy. The sober community calls this ‘pink cloud syndrome’. I had conquered alcohol and hit the reset button. But by March 2021, the pink clouds lifted, and I crumbled.
I used alcohol as a coping mechanism for half a decade. I self-medicated with Pinot Grigio and watched years of trauma fade away. I was numb, drunk and awful – but at least, I wasn’t in pain.
When I stopped drinking, all those years of depression, heartbreak, anxiety and PTSD hit me at once. I confronted the trauma, coped with the anxiety and tried to start afresh. I moved into a new house and made amends with friends. But even after six months of sobriety, I could not forgive myself for drinking so much. I was deeply ashamed of the pain I had caused.
So, I did what any Gen Z would do: I went to therapy.
We started at the beginning and gradually worked through every thought, feeling and memory. I rediscovered parts of myself – like hobbies I had replaced with drinking at the pub. I switched to a different anti-anxiety medication to treat my PTSD. I stopped looking at what I had done and focused on what I wanted for the future. I still have no idea. But the point is that there is a future now, and it’s wonderfully free from alcohol.
The panic attack
As I reached the end of my therapy sessions, my mental health hit rock bottom. I was in the shower one morning, trying to rinse away my anxiety. I could see my heart rate rising on my FitBit. I took a deep breath and struggled to catch it. I stepped out of the shower and collapsed to the floor. I couldn’t breathe.
A series of traumatic memories flickered before me. I sat on my bathroom floor, and for the first time in my life, I let the flashbacks take over.
I’m told I forgot where I was. I couldn’t move or speak. I had finally hit my breaking point.
It was time to heal
After the panic attack, I made a decision to forgive myself. I was nine months sober, and I had faced a lifetime of trauma. I had punished myself for long enough. I exercised, ate well and meditated every single day. When a self-deprecating thought crept in, I pushed it aside and decided to love myself instead. I’m still working on that part.
One year sober
It’s been one year since my last drink. I still remember waking up and desperately trying to recall what I had done the night before. I remember the metallic taste and the pounding headache. I remember the guilt and the way it burned through my entire body. I still feel those scars today.
But I no longer live with open wounds all over my memory – and panic attacks spilling out over the edges. In the last year, I have disinfected and sewn those wounds shut with medication, therapy and a lot of hot chocolate. I put a bandage over the incision site and planted new memories on top.
I am one year sober, and I have no intention of ever drinking again.
Words by George Arkley for Female First, who you can follow @George_Arkley on Twitter.
Tagged in Alcohol