Resilient & AF

In the early weeks of the shift in my life caused by COVID, I bought a red t-shirt that says Resilient AF.

Now you may have YOUR words for AF, but for me they mean “Alcohol Free”.

Free. Free from craving, free from negotiation, free from alcohol having any power over me.

It’s taken me over five years to find this peaceful and authentic place.

The journey was not easy, pretty, or smooth, but as you know, my friends, we can do hard things, when we decide to.

This next story is not one I am proud of. One of my best friends celebrated her birthday in late March in a Zoom format instead of in-person, and it was set for Happy Hour time. I accepted the invitation and after being tormented by so many conflicting feelings, I could not bring myself to log on.

I knew the screen would be full of friends with a cocktail in hand and I wasn’t strong enough to be in that space. What was wrong with me? A dear friend, celebrating another year on earth and I can’t pull myself together to celebrate with her, even with a glass of water? I knew I would be angry and judgmental, not just because I wasn’t drinking, but because didn’t everyone know we were in a health crisis? Even as the time lapsed for the party, my anger and internal conflict did not subside. If anything, the emotions intensified. 

Definitely not at that very moment, but now in hindsight, I am grateful. A wise friend says it’s good to sit in your shit, to feel all that you are feeling, not to dull it but to feel it. Is pain effective at getting your attention?  I’ve learned that there is a message in both physical and emotional pain. I’ve learned to lean into it and listen for it. I’ve learned to make friends with your pain.

White-knuckling my sobriety was painful and in the season of the Pause, I had idol time, fewer distractions, no travel, and the intense desire to drink to block out what was happening in the world. Looking at the number of Facebook posts about wine and surviving the shut downs and the fact that liquor stores were somehow deemed “essential,” I was close to a mental breakdown.

It’s not easy, but we do get to choose our hard. Hard for me in that moment was finally reading a book that had been recommended to me by another AF friend called The Naked Mind by Annie Grace.

In 2015 when I became a serious competitive bodybuilder, sugar, and that means alcohol, were eliminated from my diet. Like being pregnant, when you have a goal and a timeline, you can easily tell yourself and the world, “I can’t have a drink,” “I’m in training,” etc. Internally it was a welcome relief to have an excuse. I had made bad choices at my daughter’s wedding six months prior and was still feeling the shame of over serving myself and missing the end of the night completely!

In my sober six months leading up to my competition, I realized how much I was using alcohol and its mind erasing effects to cope with stress or to give me the liquid courage to confront Bill when I had something that made me feel vulnerable to tell him. Taking a long pause from booze woke me up to what I was allowing alcohol to do to my life.

As one bodybuilding competition led to another, it was well over 18 months before I had a drink of any kind and when I did, I was vividly aware that it erased my memory of the words in the conversations I was having. If life was so precious, why was I putting on blinders, ear plugs, and bubble wrap to dull every sensation of being alive so much that I needed a picture to remember it?

I had another bodybuilding show and goal for September of 2017, but then I stopped competing and had to rely all on will power. If you’ve used will power to accomplish a goal then you know it’s a muscle and its power is limited. It can get tired and hormonal and the more intensely you use it, the more it turns you into a raging, angry version of yourself.

I was born an intense person. I have two speeds, 150 mph or zero, complete stop. I’m not very skilled at slowing down, using the cruise control, or taking it easy without feeling guilty or lazy.

But I thought I could moderate my drinking of alcohol, and exist in a mid-speed cruise control.

When did my attempt at having just an occasional drink begin? I can’t remember (of course not!), but my best guess is June of 2019. Did I ENJOY the drinks? Not really, the taste of alcohol is not my favorite, but Bill made a couple comments about how relaxed I looked, that a little smile would pop out where it hadn’t before.

That comment alone sent a message that I needed alcohol to be fun. Yet there was another part of my brain that knew it didn’t support my goal of living my life to its fullest, aiming well past 100 years old.

Enter cognitive dissonance and pain.

Enter the COVID stay-at-home orders.

Enter a really sad, frustrated, and ranting Alice (ask Bill).

Fine! I’ll read the damn book. I certainly had the time.

Light bulbs, blinding flashes of the obvious and also moments where I could see a curtain being pulled back on the industry known as Big Booze, that’s what I found in my reading. The research in the book filled in the blanks between what my body knew and what my brain, both at a conscious and subconscious level, was fighting against.

Life is great in threes so here are my three lessons from the book that released me from the power alcohol had over me. An #outofrona gift if you’re starting to make a list of positives.

It’s BIG! The alcohol industry in America is over $250 BILLION dollars. Have you ever really watched commercials and marketing for alcohol? One I watched recently showed dancing feet that given their agility and timing had to be connected to the sober bodies of professional dancers. Yet the commercial seemed to say that drinking their rum would make my dance moves look just like that. Then there are the images that seem to say we get sexier or more attractive with a few drinks. Have you heard of the term beer goggles and wondered the next day what was I thinking???  Just like certain foods don’t make you skinny, alcohol does not make you more coordinated or attractive. If you’ve ever attended a wedding and watched the dance floor, this is the truth.

Add some Logic. During those long seasons away from alcohol, I started to realize how much of my life I was giving to the hangovers, headaches, a churning stomach, and sheer tiredness in the following days. The excuses I made to my friends, my family, and my highest priorities when I was not at my best because alcohol had won my love. If I was compiling a logical pro/con analysis list for any other decision in my life, I wouldn’t let the list with “because other people think I’m more fun and I can’t deal with my own life without it” win.

The Struggle is Real. Have you ever tried to have one French fry, one potato chip, or one M&M? Message me if you are consistently able to have just one and walk away, I need your life tips. Food companies have spent millions of dollars and thousands of hours of time figuring out HOW to trick your brain into never being able to have just one. That doesn’t fit their marketing model. It’s about super-size everything and eating the whole damn bag. Plus with substances that are addictive and that actually change our brain chemistry, it’s right up there with impossible to stop. Unless I give you this insider tip:

One is SOOO hard, none is actually easy.

Having one drink and stopping is hard. And having none is effortless, especially when you add the pro/con list and ask if you like to be manipulated by marketing campaigns.

Also, consider the sheer brilliance of the alcohol industry pairing food with drinks? Different wine for different courses, before dinner drinks, after dinner drinks, buckets of drinks to go with buckets of wings, fries, you name it. Does it make the food taste better or does it just make the alcohol tolerable when you pair them?

If you’re still with me, you might not be feeling comfortable right now. I’m sorry, but not sorry. The season of The Pause and Covid has tested all of us. It took the cracks in our existence and put pressure on them to either become a chasm that we fall into or to seal tighter than ever and make a foundation for a new beginning.

The latter is what it was for me, an even stronger foundation for a new beginning.

I belong to a Facebook group that, like the book, is called “The Naked Mind”. In the last six months, I’ve read more pivotal awakenings, struggles to stay sober, and celebrations of 10s, 100s and 1000s of days AF. Finding this group alone has allowed me to see that none of us are alone in our battle to become better for ourselves and our loved ones. Yet often we find ourselves searching alone in the dark and finding only emptiness, feeling helpless and defeated. See picture of Alice in March and April. Or in my case, withdrawn and belligerent and mad at the world for keeping the temptation in front of me, especially during a global pandemic where everyone knows that alcohol impairs our immune systems, but is pretending otherwise.

That was until I realized that the struggle was really within me, that I could make different choices and I wasn’t alone. The pain was a result of my denial and hiding. There is healing in joining together in our pain and growth. This is a blog that was hard to write. The words came easy but it’s a new season of radical authenticity and that feels uncomfortable. Yes, I’m taking my own advice and making friends with this pain, it’s the by-product of my growth and a gift #outofrona.

Are you ready? It’s your time to level up and find your outer beauty inner beast with me. Click Here – Let’s Get Started

3 thoughts on “Resilient & AF

  1. Thanks for sharing Alice! We grew up in a location, time, and society where the one joining factor was to drink. I’ve had a few drinks in my early life, but to me it was never something special. I know the feeling of being pressured to drink, surely, thousands of times. I’ve never been drunk and never drank anything since my trip to France at 15. There I had wine with meal as it was part of the experience of the culture, or a beer at McDonalds only because of the novelty. I’ve never even been impaired by alcohol and I have no desire to be. We grew up with countless reasons and examples of drinking gone wrong. Through it, I stuck to my choice and muddled through the coercing of others to drink. People need a reason that you don’t drink, not just by choice. For a while I said “I was a raging drunk and plowed into a playground–luckily no one was hurt”. It was a lie of course, but I found others needed something they could understand. People who know me know I don’t drink and have no desire. Not even for health reasons, just because. Because I don’t need it. Don’t need it to have fun. Don’t need it for courage. Don’t need to fit in. Don’t need to run from myself or my feelings. I also don’t need to compromise my ability to make correct decisions and stay in control of my faculties. My parents drank beer daily. They didn’t get drunk (maybe sloppy at a wedding). They liked beer. Every year for lent they gave it up. When it was done, they enjoyed it again. But it was their choice to make, not their cross to bear. Thank you Alice, for sharing. I’ve never judged anyone for drinking alcohol–I keep it in my home for guests. But to do so, should be a choice, not a crutch or need. With hard work and awareness, you can find you don’t need the crutch and have no need for it. The habit of your daily life simply changes. I’m proud to know you, and proud of the person you were, are, and will become.

  2. Thank you, Alice, for sharing your journey. My husband and I put 7 months into our AF journey. As most things, it’s not always easy but is definitely worth it.

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