Today, Annie welcomes Heather, a 34-year-old writer from California, to today’s podcast. Heather shares the story of her 3-phase drinking career and how she broke free! Heather talks about the importance of granting ourselves permission to question our relationship with drinking and the freedom that comes with being sober. She no longer feels exhausted from the mental toll that alcohol required and find out why Heather refers to this as ‘mental gymnastics’.
Three Phases of Drinking
I like to think of my drinking career, for lack of a better term, in three phases or chapters. So I’m 34. I started drinking when I was 18 or 19. I was a bit of a late bloomer compared to my friends. Grew up in a Mormon household, so everything was pretty much off limits. There was really no education around drugs. I was of the DARE generation, so that’s where I got all of my education. But it was really just stay away, right, abstinence only. For drinking, for drugs, for premarital sex, like all of that. All of that stuff that, you know, you’re introduced to as a teenager.
You Can’t Miss What You Don’t Have
I really didn’t miss it, of course, before I drank because I really didn’t know that world. I just breezed through high school. It was just something that I didn’t do. I was fine with it. Then one day I was just like, “You know, I’m just going to go to this party and just see what it’s all about.” So it was a very conscious decision to drink, and I went to this party. I was hanging out with this guy. We’d had a thing for each other, and it was never the right time. But I share this anecdote because it’s really important looking back.
He pulled me to the side and was telling me all these wonderful things, right. I was totally in the moment and just smitten. Very cheesily I told him “You know you’re only saying this because you’re drunk.” And he said, “A drunk person speaks a sober mind.” Which of course is a quote, right? Looking back, I can see how that experience really shaped my subconscious in that very moment. Because not only did I drink and had a great time, but I was like pulled aside by this guy that I really liked, and he was telling me all these sweet and wonderful things.
That was kind of the first best worst introduction, I think, to drinking. So that’s when it kicked off.
That’s how it kicked off, and then I really went fully into binge drinking. Because I was hanging out with this guy and other guys, and they were bigger guys that could drink a lot more than me. It became this running joke like, “Oh yeah, I can keep up with the guys.” And it would be this constant back and forth. I remember it being so normal. I’m sure it would have been had I not hung out with these guys, because I was in college at the time. And, you know, that’s certainly a very binge type of culture. But it was just really not good.
I was 22, I believe, when I was sitting in a bar with her, and I got a call from my brother that my dad was in a really bad accident. This was in August, 2006. So in this inebriated state, I was not able to be fully present. It was just freaking out. You know, it’s like you hear and see in the movies, the time just stops. I wasn’t able to even really comprehend what was happening.
My dad ended up passing on within a month. It was really, really bad, really tragic. As you can imagine, it just rocked my world. As a 22-year-old who really didn’t know herself, was into this crazy party scene. I don’t think that it made me any worse. It certainly didn’t make me any better, but in terms of my drinking and partying, it was business as usual. I didn’t really make space to grieve, and I didn’t really understand even how to do that because it was the first major loss. And of course, what a huge one to have to face at that age and at that time. In my three phases of drinking this was phase one.
Another really fascinating thing that stands out to me is when I was introduced to drugs. And of course they say drugs and alcohol, knowing that alcohol is a drug. We’re taught to believe, to differentiate the two. I was introduced to certain party drugs, right, recreational drugs, nothing that I considered like hard or crazy. I was really fascinated by them, and I did a lot of research, because I was interested but I was also very terrified. Not wanting to just jump in like some of my friends were doing and say, “Oh, I’ll just take this and see what happens.” I was very calculated, which is not like me. I’m usually kind of go with the flow.
I say this because I treated this drug that I was interested in with so much reverence and respect. I knew exactly before trying it what would happen to me, what to expect, how to take care of myself, how to be safe.
And it’s just so mind-blowing, because by then I had been drinking for five to seven years, and I never even gave alcohol the same consideration.
The effect that it had on my mind, on my body, on my everything. You just don’t think of it. You think of it as drinks, and you think of it as going out and just having a good time. And waking up and maybe being a little bit sick the next day. But you don’t draw that connection.
Wondering why alcohol gets a pass in society? Start reading This Naked Mind today and find out.
The final phase in my three phases of drinking was what I like to think of as the settling down phase. The least, I don’t know, scary of the three, or unassuming of the three, right? So you get to this age where you aren’t going out all the time. I wasn’t going to clubs or after parties or after after parties. I was just at home with my husband and just hanging out. So we came out, we didn’t have any friends or family in California, so it was really just us. And that really, I think, slowed us down naturally, right? And by default because we didn’t really have anywhere to go.
Low Key Drinking
If I would have compared it to my 20s or even I was 18 or 19, you couldn’t tell me that I had a problematic relationship with alcohol, because I was drinking wine and watching Netflix. So I think it can be an even scarier place sometimes when you’re in that kind of phase of your life. I don’t have children myself, but I’ve been reading a lot, and I’ve been kind of pushing myself into these sober support groups online. I’ve seen a lot of this like mommy drinking culture, and that is just fascinating to me, because I can see how easy that would happen. Even though I don’t have children, to a degree that was kind of like my life.
Everything that I did, I would try to incorporate alcohol.
Tune in to the complete podcast to hear how Heather ended her three phases of drinking and got naked instead.
Special music thank you to the Kevin MacLeod Funkorama (incompetech.com)
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