‘Why do you drink wine every night?’ I shrugged it off. It was my nightly ritual. This was the beginning of the end.’: Sober warrior shares alcohol-free journey, ‘It’s an amazing freedom’

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“I’ve stumbled up the stairs and I’m standing over my baby girls’ crib with tears streaming down my face. ‘What is wrong with me? Dear God, why do I keep doing this? I have a beautiful family and I should be happy, I know I’m going to be so exhausted tomorrow. How many hours do I have to sleep? Why does this keep happening and why can I not get my sh*t together?’  These are just a few of the thoughts that would cross my mind every time I found myself awake at 2 a.m. Some nights, I would just stay up watching garbage TV and drinking. Other nights, I would wake up after an evening of drinking drenched in sweat, anxiety, and tears. It wasn’t always like this, though. I used to be happy, I used to be carefree. I used to be full of energy and love.

Courtesy of Andrea Winslow

When I think back, my story is one of escalation. It really begins when I was 18. I was away at school and living the social life. Sure, I studied, but I lived for the weekends and any night my group of friends decided to go out. I was always ready to create a new ‘best’ drunk story. Once I was finished with school and working full time, I can vividly remember the start of my nightly ritual—a glass of wine after work. I remember a girlfriend asking me about it one night, ‘Why have you started drinking wine every night now?’ I just shrugged and replied, ‘Because I like it and it helps me relax.’ Little did I know this was the beginning of the end. This continued for years. A glass or two every night.

Courtesy of Andrea Winslow

I married my hubby at 21 and my habit continued. Actually, we shared this habit. It was something we always did together—we were drinking buddies. Drinks before dinner, wine with dinner, and often more wine after dinner. At 24, we got pregnant. I stopped drinking completely for those 9 months and it didn’t seem to bother me. Once our daughter arrived, I slowly started to add my wine habit back into my life. Just something to take the edge off after a long day of being home with the baby. At 26, we got pregnant again and the cycle continued. However, during this pregnancy, I was a little more lax about having one glass—you know, just on special occasions.

Shortly before baby girl #2 arrived, my hubby had started a new job and he was gone the majority of the time. I was a single parent and it was so hard. Props to all single parents, as this was probably the most trying time of my life. I was overwhelmed, frustrated, and lonely. By 4:30 p.m., I was counting the minutes until 5 o’clock because it’s justifiable to start drinking then. No one would frown upon a glass at 5:00 while making dinner. I spent a lot of time by myself that year and I turned to my glass of wine for comfort. At 29, we got pregnant with baby girl #3. This time, it was even harder to say no to the wine. This part is hard to admit, as I definitely didn’t drink every day, but I probably had a glass or two most weekends during her pregnancy. Ugh! How could I do that? I praise God every day she’s healthy, despite my terrible decision making.

Courtesy of Andrea Winslow

The arrival of baby girl #3 is when my search for true happiness and personal growth began. I found myself as a young mom feeling exhausted, overwhelmed, and empty. I had this beautiful family who filled my home, yet I felt so incredibly empty. Something was missing and I was going to figure it out. I started a business, started reading personal development books, made new friends, and added some anti-anxiety meds to the mix. Surely one or all of these things will help fill this void I’m feeling… now, where’s my glass?

It’s 3 a.m. and my face is wet with tears and I’m Googling, ‘Am I an alcoholic?’ I never thought I’d be here. I know people who have struggled with this but no, it can’t happen to me… it won’t happen to me. I find myself sitting here, 8 years after the arrival of baby girl #3, and not much has changed. I’m still exhausted, overwhelmed, empty, and ‘enjoying’ a bottle of wine a night. It feels like a never-ending groundhog day: get up, get the girls ready for school, head off to work, come home, pour a glass of wine, start dinner, have another glass, sit down and eat as a family, clean up, pour another glass, sit by the TV and finish the bottle. Is this it? Is this what I couldn’t wait to grow up for? This can’t be part of God’s plan for my life. There has to be more. There just has to be.

That night, I came across a Facebook page called SoberSis: a community for women who wanted to pursue a wholehearted and sober-minded life. It offered a chance for a 21-day reset to evaluate my relationship with alcohol. I decided to jump in and give it a shot (no pun intended). I needed to try something, anything. The 21 days following were full of excitement, learning, and temptation. I met a group of amazing women who have become some of my best friends, but I struggled to make it through and it was willpower in the end that got me there. I made it to about 50 days letting myself have a drink or two, thinking I could do this thing called ‘moderation,’ but it didn’t stick.

Courtesy of Andrea Winslow

Over the next 10 months, I had many ‘Day Ones’ and plenty of low moments, but my sober sisters were there to support me through it all. I spent hours reading and listening to ‘quit lit,’ just trying to find the magic click. I knew exactly what I was doing to my body. Alcohol is a depressant, a poison for the body and mind, and it causes seven different types of cancer. It’s the most addictive substance in the worldI knew ‘all the things,’ yet I couldn’t stop myself from pouring that first glass. That first glass was when all my worries and sadness disappeared. The euphoric feeling would last for about 20 minutes and then disappear just as quickly as it arrived. Each glass of wine following would never quite meet the expectation and hopefulness of that first glass.

The year 2020 has been an extremely tough year for most people, and I am no exception. With my girls being home from school and hubby working from home, I began to feel as if there was no escape. Even my glass of wine had stopped providing an escape. I found myself being irritable with my family all the time and getting angrier and angrier with my hubby and our situation. I needed some quiet, a place to process my thoughts, to feel a sense of freedom, even if it was only for a few moments. In April, I started walking in the early mornings while everyone was still in bed. This had become my therapy and most favorite time of the day. Some mornings I would listen to music, some days a podcast or a ‘quit lit’ Audible, and other days I would just listen to the birds and let my thoughts run amuck. To this day, it is still my most favorite time of the day. I walked all spring and summer.

Courtesy of Andrea Winslow

In late August, I had a pivotal conversation with one of my sober sisters that changed everything. She was 89 days sober, looked amazing, and was incredibly happy. I needed to know the what, where, when, and how. She gracefully gave me her time and answered all my questions. She said it was different this time, she hardly had any cravings, and it was as if something just clicked.  Something just clicked? What the heck? What was this click and how was I going to make this happen for me? I never hit rock bottom in the traditional sense. Rock bottom for me was this never-ending feeling of unhappy, unfulfilled, and searching for God’s plan for my life. Rock bottom was this constant question of, ‘Is this it? Is this what my life is going to look like?’

On August 24, I decided I was done putting up with my own bullsh*t. I was done feeling depressed and exhausted all the time. I was done being overweight and having zero energy, I was done questioning whether or not I could actually live my life alcohol-free. I was done being unhappy, I was going to find my happiness and give the search everything I had. I didn’t announce this Day One like I did so many other timeseven my hubby didn’t know at first. I was doing this for me, and I didn’t need anyone’s comments or suggestions. Without intention or really knowing, I had shifted my focus. It had shifted to one of self-care and gentleness. This time was different… something had clicked.

Courtesy of Andrea Winslow

At about 30 days, I made a decision to invest in myself. Because this time was different, and I wanted it to stick so badly. My first task was to figure out my ‘why.’ Why did I actually want to stay sober? What was going to keep me going when things got really hard? ‘It should make you cry when you figure it out,’ my coach would say. I went for a walkthat’s what I did when I needed clarity. Out on my favorite trail is where my jumbled thoughts would come together to form actual ideas that would make sense. Why? Why? Why? After at least two hours of wandering, it finally came to me. ‘This is it.’

Tears streaming down my face again, but this time it was amazing, and oh so welcome. I stopped and found a fallen tree to sit on and rest my shaky legs. My emotions had taken over and I couldn’t stand. I let myself take it all in. This is it. How could it be so simple, yet so profound? These three words have been what holds me steady when I start to feel I’m on shaky ground. This. Is. It. I don’t get a do-over. Life isn’t like getting a pass to rewrite an essay because you didn’t do well the first time. This is it! I have been given one chance at life and I want it to be a beautifully-full life.

Courtesy of Andrea Winslow
Courtesy of Andrea Winslow

In sobriety, I have found my voice, my confidence, my courage, my energy, and my happiness. There are so many people who have walked beside me and held me up when I needed it most: my hubby, my bestie, and my parents. They never wavered in their belief in me. To the authors who have courageously shared their stories, I will be forever grateful, as I know going against the crowd is never an easy journey. My sober sisters and soul alignment coach have encouraged me through so many ups and downs, and often challenged my thoughts and made me look deeper. My best advice is to create a community that supports you. The sober Instagram community is just one of the most encouraging and supportive places to hang out during this time of isolation.

Courtesy of Andrea Winslow

Sobriety has brought this amazing sense of freedom, but it has also required me to step into the unknown and force myself to be uncomfortable. This is where growth begins. I continue to spend my days learning and understanding my mind, body, and whole being, and by allowing myself to be uncomfortable. New doors of beauty have started to open.

This quote from Glennon Doyle speaks so beautifully to my search and the God I believe in: ‘The God I decide to believe in is the God of the bathroom floor. A God of scandalously low expectations. A God who smiles down at a drunk on the floor, wasted and afraid, and says, ‘There you are.  I’ve been waiting. Are you ready to make something beautiful with me?’

Yes, I am finally ready.”

Courtesy of Andrea Winslow
Courtesy of Andrea Winslow

This story was submitted to Love What Matters by Andrea Winslow of Guelph, Canada. You can follow her journey on Instagram here and here. Submit your own story here, and be sure to subscribe to our free email newsletter for our best stories, and YouTube for our best videos.

Read more inspiring stories from sober warriors:

‘A guardian angel called 9-1-1 as I convulsed in a coffee shop parking lot. At 18, I’d lost 20 jobs and been arrested 14 times.’: Man 13-years sober after long battle with addiction, ‘We’re not meant to live in darkness’

‘You’re under arrest.’ My HUSBAND called the police on me. I woke up in the back of a cop car.’: Woman gets sober, delivers rainbow baby, ‘I can’t live my best life while drinking’

‘Mommy deserves a treat.’ Drinking two bottles of wine a night was my norm. I felt like I was failing at life.’: Sober mom shares recovery journey, ‘Let’s show our kids sobriety’

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