There’s nothing quite like a global pandemic to sabotage one’s goals — especially when that goal is to quit drinking while everyone around you is drinking more than ever. Never mind the added challenge of breaking patterns that have become ingrained over the course of decades. Getting sober after you’ve become a card-carrying member of AARP is not for the faint of heart, but it most certainly can be done. Take me as an example.
Like many people, my tryst with alcohol began in high school. Everyone around me drank as much or more than I did, which of course confirmed that I wasn’t a problem drinker. That same twisted psychology would guide me though most of my twenties and thirties as I drank mostly on weekends (and often heavily). It wasn’t until my late thirties that drinking started to become a daily routine. In the midst of a failing relationship, I found myself for the first time using alcohol as an escape rather than as a party favor.
The next decade and a half would find me practicing all the well-worn alcohol limiting tricks. Keeping no booze in the house and buying single servings of alcohol in the form of shooters or bottles of wine that were cheap enough to pour some out. Doing so before I started, of course. I would also rotate the places I’d stop for booze and literally get excited upon discovering another mini-mart in my area that stocked my favorites. Drinking while out would still often be a sloppy scene, especially when there were drink specials. And there were always some specials because drinkers like me have sonar for happy hour deals.
In the summer of 2018, I began perusing YouTube’s many “stop drinking” videos featuring sobriety advocates like Annie Grace and Craig Beck, both offering free aids for exploring a life without alcohol. Up until this point, I was really only looking to cut back, so I knew I needed to uncover the reasons why I was still holding on so tightly to this dream of moderation even though I knew in my soul that drinking was taking more than it was giving. To me, it felt as if alcohol was the abusive and toxic relationship that we stay in because we just don’t know how to walk away.
I believed the reasons I drank were the typical ones… anxiety, boredom, depression. What I now realize is that a steady diet of Pinot Grigio was actually causing those things. Alcohol merely creates a need for itself. It’s a vicious loop that so many of us find ourselves in.
I believed the reasons I drank were the typical ones… anxiety, boredom, depression. What I now realize is that a steady diet of Pinot Grigio was actually causing those things.
For the last year, I’ve managed to cut back to drinking only on weekends and sometimes not even then. But with retirement less than a decade away, I began to worry that the absence of the work schedule would have me back to drinking daily again, with an even earlier start time — a fear that stemmed from over 30 years of conditioning that I absolutely, positively have to drink if I don’t have to work the next day. For decades, I’ve relied on the structure of the 40-hour workweek to provide discipline for so many things. Drinking always held the number one position on that list.
All along, I have feared that I would feel forever deprived if I stopped drinking completely, which is why I chose to quit by stepping down gradually. As I go along, I find myself getting less and less interested in drinking and I know that it’s just a matter of time before I don’t want it at all. I’m not sure if I still find a benefit in alcohol or if it’s just inertia. Although even as my desire to drink diminishes, I do find myself missing the indulgence of it. The ‘guilty pleasure’ if you will. But I know that this too shall pass.
Since the beginning of 2020, I have stopped drinking in situations from which I will have to drive home because the drinking and driving was causing the worst of my self-loathing surrounding alcohol. I can honestly say that driving home from a party completely sober gives me more of a high than alcohol ever did. And I am loving being one of the few, if not the only one, not drinking at a gathering.
Probably the biggest advantage of getting sober at this age is that peer pressure is virtually non-existent. Most habitual drinkers over fifty have been questioning their alcohol consumption for a decade or more.
I am so inspired by stories of people who get sober in their seventies and even eighties. It stops the pointless and destructive practice of wishing that I’d done this twenty or thirty years ago. This journey is never perfect but there are no deadlines and no rules. Just a money-back guarantee of happier, healthier days ahead. I know I can do this. We can all do this. Who’s with me?