• Jess Kennedy

Lessons From Two-and-a-half Years Booze-Free

I love dirty gin martinis with a whole stick of olives so salty that I don‘t need to eat dinner. I crave bubbles in a tall, skinny glass with seasonal fruit bobbing up and down, and I dream of sipping a peppery red wine that I can’t pronounce while cooking dinner on a Wednesday night.

Alcohol has been a part of the story I told myself about myself since that first red Solo cup of melted everclear Jell-O shots back in college. But two years ago I decided I was done with those things, and I’m so glad I did.

The idea of sobriety never set well with me. I often joked, “never trust a woman who can’t hold her booze,” or some incoherent version of the same. Fact was, I was that woman who couldn’t hold her booze. No—scratch that—I could hold it to a point, but inevitably I’d end up a glass or three over where I needed to be and would just keep on going.

I had no “off” button—I have no ”off“ button. While I didn’t have a “rock bottom” experience to speak of, there were countless days and nights lost to my drinking, almost always starting out as fun, and ending with me drunk and regretting my choices the day after. By 30, my hangovers were lasting 2–3 days, my body tired and unable to recuperate between binges. “Alcoholism,” I’ve learned, does not answer every question about problematic drinking.

I don’t consider myself an alcoholic. There was no detox period for me, no illness or monkey on my back that I had to kick. It was a decision I made, and once the decision was made, I stuck to it.

I’m an Abstainer. If you’re familiar with the work of Gretchen Rubin, you’ll recognize the term “Abstainer” as the opposite of a “Moderator,” someone who can easily have “one or two,” then easily move on with their day. Not so with me.

Often, I was the one encouraging others to have just “one more drink” to keep the fun going. I was always afraid of the fun ending. What I never considered was that maybe I wasn’t having fun, after all. Maybe I was telling myself I was having fun.

That’s not to knock my lovely, amazing community of friends who I’ve shared many a drink with. I’m not at all saying we didn’t have fun, or you weren’t fun. What I was afraid of was that I was not fun. And after two years booze-free, you know what I found? Maybe I’m not fun, and that’s okay.

Because one of the first things that happens when you walk away from booze is that you start worrying your friends won’t like you anymore. That they’ll find you boring because only boring people don’t drink.

But guess what? That’s literally the booze talking.

Booze needs you to need it. Without you, booze is just a chemical in a bottle. Booze needs to take over your mind and body so it can live vicariously through you: Making mistakes, saying things you’d never say, leaving your battered body to deal with the aftermath.

Some friend.

For the first six months I basically hid. “Oh, no—I’m not drinking, you don’t want me around,” I’d say. And at first, out of respect, my friends would say, “I don’t know if you’d want to go, since you’re not drinking,” And honestly I didn’t.

It wasn’t that I thought I’d have a moment of weakness or anything. What I was afraid of was that they’d see how fucking boring I am when I’m not the boisterous, sassy drunk girl at the party.

Show of hands for those of you whose favorite character at the house party is the goofy drunk bitch who is insulting everyone and/or crying.

Oh. No one? That’s what I thought.

What I found after finally taking the plunge to attend a social event sober was that my relationships with those in my circle were becoming more profound. I was—now, hear me out—actually remembering shit they told me.

I want to take a moment of silence for all those acquaintances over the years who I pretended to remember. My short-term memory wasn’t what you’d call stellar.

So, two-and-a-half years in, how is it going? Pretty good. Do I still crave martinis? Sometimes. Do I still think about ordering a mimosa at brunch? Sure. But taking drinking off the table for myself has freed my brain up for making other, more important decisions. It’s not a struggle because it’s not an option.

If you‘ve ever wondered if life would be just a little—or a lot—better sans booze, I highly recommend giving it a shot. You might just find you like yourself, ”boring“ personality and all.

Photo: Michael Discenza