It’s been a year since I quit drinking. Here’s what I’ve learned.

It dawned on me this week that it’s been 12 months since I had a full glass of anything alcoholic. For 365 days, I’ve been high on life.

(Life is the best drug ever, BTW.)

The exact date of my last drink was October 20, 2013 — one year ago yesterday.

I was at an NFL game (second only to a frat house in terms of quantity of Coors Light consumed). By then I’d already been cutting back on the booze for awhile, and after an embarrassing evening out in Texas a couple weeks prior, I wasn’t feeling much love for alcohol. Watching the Miami Dolphins get their tails kicked, I drank two hard ciders. Just two — not enough to feel any mood-altering effects.

Funny enough, I didn’t really even want those two. Clearly, something had shifted. I didn’t want the drinks and I really didn’t want the debauchery. I was OVER IT.

I think it came down to this: by then, I was already on a new path. I’d made a lot of life changes and begun dealing with my issues in healthy ways. Abusing alcohol lost its allure when I started facing my problems instead of trying to pretend they didn’t exist.

For me, overdoing it with alcohol was a sign of something bigger and badder.

It was a marvelously ineffective fix for depression, anxiety and suffocating self-loathing. I was trying to numb the pain the best way I knew how.

I stand by the belief that alcohol abuse is a symptom. Anyone who has drinking issues has other issues buried beneath the booze. Issues with self-love and self-esteem; with intimacy and expressing emotions; with anger and shame. Every overdoer is different. And there’s no one-size-fits-all solution.

For me, working on the bigger picture made the alcohol abuse slip off like a snakeskin. It felt pretty effortless, but that’s because I’d paved the way through a lot of hard work — implementing new habits, being kinder to myself, exercising and meditating and embracing a totally different way of relating to the person I’d been at war with for so long — me.

I respect 12-step programs (I respect anything that helps people), but I was never under alcohol’s control. It was fear and sadness and self-hatred that were bossing me around. It’s not that those demons have disappeared completely, but their voices are soft whispers now.

I’ll say this: changing your life from top to bottom isn’t easy, and anyone who says it is clearly hasn’t done it. But OMG IS IT WORTH IT.

I’ve had sips since I quit drinking, sure. A champagne toast or a bit of Bloody Mary. If you’ve seen me holding a cocktail on rare occasion, it wasn’t a “relapse.” I’m not afraid to let alcohol touch my lips, because anything more than the littlest taste has lost its appeal. I’ve never had to struggle to stay sober — I lost interest in drunkenness long ago. I’ve had enough of that carnival ride to last a lifetime, and sobriety is much more memorable.

In the end, every person has their own path to healing. Some need total abstention from their poison of choice (booze, comfort food, shopping, etc.); for others, moderation management is the way to go. Still others embrace unique methodologies to alter their self-destructive behavior — they join groups, go on pilgrimages, check into rehab facilities. I can’t pretend to know what’s right for anyone else.

I say, WHATEVER WORKS. Only one person can determine the right path for you, and that’s YOU.

This is my journey. Just mine. And I’m probably not the norm. But I think my story is worth sharing, because despite the cynics and naysayers who say otherwise, it proves change is ALWAYS possible.

A year under my belt, and I don’t think I’ve ever felt better. Lots of people who’ve seen me at my worst likely wouldn’t have believed this was a possibility.

But as I always say, the possibilities are infinite. For you, for me, for all of us. Don’t let anyone tell you otherwise. I think that’s worthy of a Perrier toast. 😉

(If you wanna read more about my booze-free journey, check out this MindBodyGreen piece I wrote a few months back.)

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