For the longest time Francesca was curious about being alcohol free. It took The Alcohol Experiment to spur that curiosity into action.
Creating A New Image
I didn’t try drinking for the first time until I was 18 years old. Born a total control-freak (brimming with anxiety) who needed to be in full control of her senses at all times, I had zero desire to drink or get drunk with my friends in middle school or high school. I’d go to parties, hang out, and politely decline drinks. I never felt pressured to drink and I never wanted to. Graduating high school and moving off to a university 2+ hours away from home, I wanted to be a whole new version of me. Always a quiet, studious, goody-two-shoes, I saw college as an opportunity to reinvent myself. Instead of being the introverted mousy girl who got voted “quietest” in her senior superlatives, I actively decided to be the opposite in college: I was going to be the fun party girl.
The Secret To Being Free
I wish the first time I drank was a horrible experience, like you see on after school specials on TV. Had it been awful, maybe my relationship with alcohol would have ended before it began. Unfortunately, my first experience with alcohol was a positive one. I did not get sick. I laughed and danced with my friends all night. Never had I felt so free in my life. All of my worries and anxieties seemed to melt away. I finally found a way to let go and enjoy life.
Becoming The Party Girl
I almost failed out of college my freshman year due to my new “party girl” lifestyle. Thankfully I was able to get my act together and graduate with a bachelor’s degree, but my relationship with alcohol continued steadily. I came to know alcohol as a partner in life. It helped me come out of my shell at parties. Consoled me when I was angry or sad. Entertained me when I was bored or lonely. I’d blackout from drinking too much or battle an epic hangover after a weekend binge, but I still kept going back for more. Alcohol and I were best buds. While on the outside alcohol never seemed to interfere with my life (after college I secured a career, bought a house, got married, and had kids), on the inside it was slowly destroying me.
Is This It?
The year I turned 40 was pivotal for me. For one thing, I was losing my mind at the thought of being “middle aged.” I kept obsessing about how my life was half over and I felt completely out of control. My anxiety was at an all-time high and my depression at an all-time low. One night at dinner I broke down into tears and told my husband I just didn’t feel comfortable in my own skin anymore. I felt lost and scared.
Curious About Being Alcohol Free
One of the many things I was worrying about as I transitioned from age 39 to 40 was whether or not I had a drinking problem. As I said before, outwardly alcohol never seemed to interfere with my life. I never had a proverbial “rock bottom” moment. To the outside world, I had my shit together. But on the inside I was crumbling. I usually only drank on the weekends but when I did drink, it was often to excess. By this time I was slowly starting to let alcohol into my weeknight routine as well: two fingers of whiskey straight, sometimes more if it was a really tough day.
The blissful love affair with alcohol that started when I was 18 had turned dark and thorny by the time I was 39.
I had chronic heartburn, migraines, all kinds of unpleasant digestive issues, anxiety, and depression. Plus, my tolerance was incredibly high. It took a lot more to get intoxicated than it did when I was in my 20s, and my hangovers were intense and constant. I generally felt unwell most of the time. But the weird thing was, I didn’t even realize it. I had been feeling crappy for so long, I just thought that was the status quo.
I kept telling myself that I should stop drinking, maybe for just a month, just to give myself a much-needed break. But I’d go about a week, maybe two, and then give in and go back to drinking. I rationalized my behavior because according to everyone I knew and every health website on the internet, I did not fit the criteria for having a “drinking problem.” Everyone from my spouse to my therapist said I should stop worrying; after all, I wasn’t physically addicted to alcohol and I never showed up at work drunk, so I was totally okay. Stop worrying already!
I don’t fault my spouse or my therapist. In fact, they both played important supporting roles once I decided to stop drinking. They were just following our society’s standard definitions of what it means to be addicted to alcohol.
The Alcohol Experiment
Then on a lazy Sunday summer morning that same year, I was scrolling through a chat page for Weight Watchers members. I found a post by a member who used the hashtag “sobersisters.” My eyes sort of opened wide. I clicked on it to see what other posts were shared under that hashtag. There were so many women on Weight Watchers who were also struggling to stop drinking and were offering each other support, I couldn’t believe it! It was a whole mini community of people just like me. And then I saw the post that would change my life forever: a member shared that she had just signed up online for a free 30 day “Alcohol Experiment” that was led by a woman named Annie Grace, and the member shared the link to the website to sign up. I signed up that day.
Going Beyond Getting Curious About Being Alcohol Free
It took me a few tries with the Alcohol Experiment (and with reading This Naked Mind) before it all finally clicked, but it eventually did. It also took a great deal of work, most of which was very emotional. I had to actively unlearn behaviors. Keeping an open mind about the possibility that everything I believed to be true (that alcohol was a friend and a help with my anxiety) was not actually true was challenging. I also had to trust that I could handle life without drinking.
That was probably the toughest leap of faith for me: believing I could live life without keeping alcohol in it. It took months before I started to feel confident that I could.
Get Curious About Being Alcohol Free
Is it time for you to get curious about being alcohol free? Start reading the first 40 pages for free today and see how it can help you!
Persistence Pays Off
The positive changes weren’t noticeable immediately. I definitely started seeing physical and emotional changes within the first 90 days alcohol free. My anxiety improved, my depression lifted, all of my physical symptoms (stomach issues, heartburn, migraines) virtually vanished. The biggest change I noticed was that I woke up each day feeling genuinely happy. I thought people who said they were happy were lying. That sounds sad, but it’s true.
I was under a dark cloud of despair for so long that I truly came to believe that happiness was a myth. Once I removed alcohol from my life, I could breathe again. I had no idea it was slowly suffocating me.
And so I seem to have come full circle, having started off my adolescence as a person who didn’t want or need alcohol in her life and now here I am as an adult, the same. But the difference between then and now is that I am completely at ease with myself, and I no longer feel the urge to change who I am in any way. Yes, I am an introvert, I prefer intimate dinners over big parties, I love reading and staying home on Friday nights, and I’m a bit on the quiet side. Finally, I’m totally okay with that. In fact, I’m downright happy.
Life Is Better
As of today, I am 19 months alcohol-free and 42 years old. I like to share my story because I know a lot of people like me. People who drink a little or a lot but who would like to make a change and aren’t sure how. People who might not be physically addicted to alcohol, so they tell themselves they are normal and it’s okay, but deep down they feel uneasy and concerned. Those who can’t even begin to imagine what life might be like if they stopped drinking. Those who worry they won’t be able to socialize or enjoy anything. I’m here to tell you the truth: life is so much better without the booze. You can smell, feel, hear, and see everything and really experience it. And yes, it’s sometimes hard coping with the hard stuff when you don’t have a substance to numb your brain, but it’s a small sacrifice for living a life full of happiness and health.
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