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A New Independence Day

It’s kind of interesting that my first day that I chose to become alcohol-free was July 4th, 2022. Independence Day in the United States.

While I was at a BBQ the day prior, I didn’t realize that it was going to be my very last day of drinking. I knew that I wanted to make some healthy changes, & one of them was to give up alcohol for a bit. I was targeting to go dry for the rest of July, but as with the many times that I had made that declaration, I knew it most likely wouldn’t last. Alcohol was involved in nearly every social aspect of my life, including the professional side. I’m in the events world, partnering with sales teams and entertaining top customers.. and what is more entertaining than having drinks in the business world? Drinking had been an accepted, normal part of life for the last 20+ years.

Everything changed when I met with my hematologist in mid-July of 2022. I have hemochromatosis, a condition where, to put it simply, my body doesn’t have a shut-off valve for iron intake. My bloodwork showed that my iron count was higher than it should have been and my doctor was concerned that it had done damage to my liver and heart. During my liver MRI, they discovered that there was an issue with my liver, which meant I needed to stop drinking for at least 3 months while they figured out if the damage could be reversed and what my future of consuming alcohol looked like.

Like a lot of people, nothing makes me want something more than when I’m told I can’t have it. Immediately I felt anxiety and near panic attacks about what life would look like as a sober person. I never considered myself an alcoholic, but I did truly enjoy a great glass of wine, a cold beer or the perfect margarita. The thought of sitting on the ocean on a beautiful summer day enjoying oysters WITHOUT a glass of crisp rose? Nearly impossible to fathom. Going out post-event with my colleagues and having soda water? Awkward. NOT clinking glasses of bubbly with friends in celebratory moments? It felt like it would make the occasion feel FAR less joyous. My mind raced with all of these scenarios (and many more) and I didn’t know how to handle it.. but I knew I had to give it up for my health, and that was more important to me than any sacrifice I felt like I was making.

My first test was a work event in NYC four days after my diagnosis. It was a customer happy hour at a super fun rooftop bar. Way to ease right into this sober life.. I knew the only way to get through this was to have a plan. The last thing I wanted was to be the woman in the corner with the big red plastic Coca-Cola cup. So I spoke to the bartender and explained that I needed mocktails during the event without calling attention to it. They were amazing and had my back all night. It was also a scorching summer day so when I alternated with glasses of water, no one was the wiser. The first test was surprisingly easier than I had expected. Looking back, it's even more surprising to me how badly I felt like I needed to hide that I wasn't drinking. I was so nervous to tell anyone, to receive judgement or feel like people weren't accepting of it. The honest truth is that no one cared and if I received anything, it was support.

My second big test came two weeks later when a work offsite was scheduled in wine country. I wasn’t kidding that my life revolved around alcohol! To say that I was anxious would be an understatement. However, it was on this trip that I discovered menus upon menus of zero-alcohol delicious mocktails & wines. I was able to have two glasses of non-alcoholic sparkling rose during dinner one evening and it was a turning point for me. I realized how much I enjoyed having a glass of rose, but while maintaining a completely clear mind. The thought of HAVING alcohol actually started making me feel anxious. I attribute a lot of this to the lovely ptsd that I still get from some of the choices made while under the influence.. ones that did not always live up to my best standard.

I stayed on the path and after 3 months, it was time to retest my liver. The results were not what I wanted. Nothing had changed. So I was told to continue to course and we would retest after a full year of being without alcohol. Although this wasn’t the news I wanted to hear, it surprised me how much calmer I was being told the news compared to the first time. I realized that in those three months of being alcohol-free, I had become more grounded, present, accountable, less anxious, and honestly, overall happier. It was astounding to me that in just that short time, how much my mindset had shifted.

So here I am today, at a year without alcohol. I’ve continued to do everything I did before, even more actually, just without the alcohol. Or the hangovers. Or the fuzzy memories. I’ve gone to concerts. BBQs. Trips. Parties. Weddings. I've danced my butt off in public without a care in the world. I’ve realized that the social lubricant which I always thought I needed, in fact, wasn’t necessary at all. I’m fully present for every decision I make, every moment in this short, precious life and that’s made all the difference.

So happy Independence Day, all. This day has now taken on an added layer of meaning & celebration of freedom for me. ♥️


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