...The Hidden Answer That Actually Surprised Me
Today I received an email from someone who'd read my blog and resonated with my decision to quit drinking. If you’re new here, I stopped drinking back in January of 2017 as an experiment and decided to make it a new way of living. As of today, I’ve been alcohol-free for 463 days...but who's counting? (Read more posts on this topic here.). The reader closed their email with this pondering, “Why did I ever drink in the first place?”
In theory, I couldn’t agree more. The whole production of drinking does seem to be a bit of a waste of energy. However, when it comes to my personal journey, I think that my time as a drinker couldn’t be more important. It is all of the drunken nights, boozy brunches, extended happy hours, shot taking, champagne celebrations (and terrible hangovers) that got me to where I am today. While drinking served as an unhealthy habit in more ways than I can count, it also served as an extremely important piece of my story.
Drinking helped guide me to the path of self-actualization and enlightenment that I am on today and surely guided me away from paths that were not mine to travel. Most importantly, my days of drinking gifted me with the moral authority to share my story with you. My former role as a party girl allows me to connect with other young women (and men!) who see my story as their own. Yes, drinking is an important part of my journey that has enabled me to learn many lessons. As strange as it sounds, if I could go back to the day I had my first sip of alcohol, knowing the choice could save me loads of struggle, I think I’d do it again because that story is what allows me to speak my truth now.
So, then begs the question, why did I ever drink in the first place? They why is actually quite important - and a question that I wouldn’t have been able to answer properly until quite recently. This is also something I wouldn’t have felt comfortable exploring and sharing years, maybe even months ago. It is a very raw and vulnerable truth. Of course, like most young adults, I started drinking because I wanted to fit in; because all of the cool kids were doing it. Recently, I’ve been able to reflect back on my childhood and adolescence with more curiosity and thoughtfulness. Through this reflection, I’ve determined that I was a follower, not by choice, but somewhat by necessity.
I can remember knowing from a very early age that I was different from other children. I say this not to sound superior; quite the opposite. I felt out of place, I sensed that I had a subtle awareness and a way of looking at the world that was not quite like that of my contemporaries. In short, I felt a little like an alien. So, ever observant, I made note of social norms and learned how to fit in; how not to feel weird and different. By the time high school rolled around, I’d become so good at my charade that I hardly noticed I was putting on a show. I remember being a senior in high school, watching all of the “cool” kids around me experimenting with alcohol. I remember thinking drinking didn’t quite suit me. I also remember wanting to feel normal.
So, I did it, I jumped on the bandwagon and started drinking and partying with the other kids my age. It’s difficult to explain how drinking made me feel. On the surface, I might have described it as a special tonic that allowed me to relax and release my inhibitions......that’s how many people would describe it, right? Looking at it now, deeply and honestly, what alcohol was really doing was helping me to dull down my own light. It kept me from shining in a way that I’d known since childhood would make me different from others. It helped me to numb the intense parts of me that I wasn’t yet ready to look at and fully understand; the parts that had made me feel different and out of place. Drinking helped me feel safe, like I was the same as everyone else.
The further down the drinking rabbit hole I got, the more dissociated I became from my true self. And, the more I identified with my carefree, party girl persona, the scarier it became to think of doing things differently. After all, I’d been subconsciously working to hide my light since I was a little girl; I’d have an awful lot of unlearning to do if I chose to shine now. Even as a confident, successful, outgoing woman, the thought was still incredibly intimidating. What would I find under the veil I'd been using to feel "normal" for so long? While scary, I couldn't ignore the gentle yet persistent whispers which beckoned me to change my path. The quiet sense of knowing that I was ready and would be supported on this journey. I’m not sure exactly what caused me to listen, what told me to make the leap, or who it was guiding me quietly to courageously forge down a new road. What I do know is that I’m wholeheartedly glad that I did. My path of unlearning has been a meaningful and important one to travel. It has given me optimal opportunities for growth, and self-discovery. This beautiful path has offered me access to a life I could have never plotted out on my own. It turns out that the feeling that made me feel hopelessly different as a child is what makes me undeniably unique as an adult.
So, why did I ever drink in the first place? Because it is part of the beautiful, messy, yet divinely mapped out journey that is mine. It is my honor now to be able to share it with you.