The gifts of sobriety
And what it means to keep promises to ourselves
Last night, I walked along Lady Bird Lake in the simmering evening heat, listening to the first episode of the This Morning Walk podcast from Libby DeLana and Alex Elle. In the episode, Elle spoke about how she’d gone for a walk outside for 160 days in a row, and what it meant to keep a promise to herself like that.
It got me thinking about the promises I’ve kept to myself lately, and the peace and confidence they’ve brought me.
I’m 157 days alcohol-free. Five months and six days. 43% of 2022—and counting.
I’d wanted to take an extended break from alcohol for years, but I never made it past 30 days here, 40 days there. But I finally made the choice to spend 100 days sober before the new year. I got tired of waiting for the “right” time to try sobriety. I got much more tired of my own bullshit, the bleak cycle of drink, hangover, regret, repeat.
I had my last drink around 8pm on December 31st. Even though my friends tempted me to continue partying with them, I went home and fell asleep before midnight. I knew I wanted to wake up on January 1 feeling good, ready to make some real changes.
I called January the Quiet Month. Every morning I woke before the sun and scribbled in my Sober Curious Reset journal, Ruby Warrington’s guide to help you dissect why you drink, and not just white knuckle your way through 100 days of sobriety. I loved those silent, dark hours. I took sunrise walks, stretched with the birds, watched the haze rise over the lake. I discovered, once again, that I actually am a morning person. I seemed to gain hours in my days, and my mind expanded and relaxed now that it was no longer weighed down by so many anxious thoughts tied to alcohol and hangovers. At night, I turned off my phone at 9pm, crawled into bed, and read. I read so many books. I always got eight hours of deep sleep.
Over the next few months, I became more like the woman I had long dreamed of being. Drinking alcohol then recovering from it had been priorities in my life for 15 years, regularly taking up 10-72 hours of my week, depending on what I was up to. I got so sick of it. Now, time stretched before me. I no longer had alcohol as an easy excuse to give up on myself and the things I really wanted to do. I challenged myself to do everything I would normally do with a drink in hand—parties, pool days, concerts, dates—but also let myself leave early if I felt like it. (And I left early a lot—turns out most activities can be enjoyed within a couple hours, when tequila isn’t activating the more more more sector of my brain.) My fulfilling weekend routine made it so I no longer drowned in Sunday Scaries. I became more productive, effortlessly. Chores no longer loomed; I just did them. Without alcohol sapping my energy and my attention span, a lot of the “bad” habits I’ve loathed about myself simply went away. I was happier. I liked myself more. I even made more money.
I loved learning all of this about myself as I turned 34. I took in a habitual lesson: I have been and will be so many people, and I can choose to leave behind anything that no longer serves me at any moment. The power is mine.
I made a promise to myself and I knew that I would be sober for 100 days. But I didn’t know I would decide to be sober for 120, then 150. I exceeded my own expectations. I didn’t know how little I would miss drinking, or even think about it. I didn’t know how capable I was to live a full life without leaning on substances that have been in my life since I was 18. I showed myself, yet again, that I can be trusted to choose myself. I chose my own freedom.
Today, I’m celebrating this achievement. There’s so much power to be found in the promises we keep to ourselves. Because we love ourselves enough. Because we believe in our own potential, in our own power to change, and to choose.
What promise have you kept to yourself lately? What did it teach you? Tell me in the comments!
Thanks for reading Cruel Summer Book Club! Subscribe for free to receive new posts and support my work.
You are not alone!