Every question about living alcohol-free answered... finally.

This article was originally written for mamamia.com.au

I met this girl quite by accident many years ago. She was a friend of a friend of someone else’s friend. It was one of those freak meetings where you think, ‘oh, you’re going to be my new best friend.’ You quickly make catch up plans for the following week to check that she is, in fact, the missing piece of your friendship puzzle.

We had coffee and our connection was deep and instant. She became a friend from afar whom circles back into my life for sushi dates and generous heart to hearts.

She mentioned to me on one of our dates that she’d been sober for two years and had met a mutual colleague of ours at AA as I’d just finished a glass of wine. Our catch-ups were mostly brunch, however this was a weekend sunset affair. Her reasons for quitting drinking are hers and I wish to honour that by not detailing the events that led to her sobriety. Instead, I want to share with you my thoughts.

In that moment I thought to myself, wow, what an extraordinary accomplishment. It sat with me for days. Imagine being able to say that you hadn’t had a drink for two years. Talk about #lifegoals. This chick was a sassy young professional in a powerful corporate position. She had access to all the free champagne in the world and somehow had found something bigger than all of that. What a discovery. What an achievement. What had she found?

 

At that point, the closest I had come to parting with my poison was a Dry July (followed by a very wet August). I really only drank on the weekends anyway. This was a number of years ago.

Well guess what? It’s been almost two years and I haven’t had a drink and I have bee asked some interesting questions in the time since. I thought I would take my two-year smilestone (yes, it’s a smilestone) to answer some.

‘WHY DID YOU QUIT DRINKING, DID YOU HAVE A PROBLEM?’

People fire this loaded question at me with a double shot of inquisition. I was drinking a lot but that wasn’t the problem because I was handling it. I kept a great job and was earning great money. I was socially active, fit and fabulous. The problem was I wanted to stop but I hadn’t found reason enough to lose the booze.

I wanted to take action in an area of my life where I believed I was letting myself down. Finding the strength to say ‘no’ to invites, free drinks and nights out and then being confronted with people’s disappointment about my personal choice were all things I knew I would have to navigate. So the problem was finding a catalyst big enough to make it an enjoyable and sustainable choice.

I quit drinking initially to honour the life of my dear friend who passed away suddenly. It’s left a hole in my heart to this day that still isn’t filled. To deal with the grief, my therapist suggested it would be healing for me to start a small goal of not drinking for two months and remembering my friend each time when I said no to a drink. It did help with the grief, and with my countless explanations of why I was ‘being lame-boring-or a party pooper’ by not having a drink.

I met this girl quite by accident many years ago. She was a friend of a friend of someone else’s friend. It was one of those freak meetings where you think, ‘oh, you’re going to be my new best friend.’ You quickly make catch up plans for the following week to check that she is, in fact, the missing piece of your friendship puzzle.

We had coffee and our connection was deep and instant. She became a friend from afar whom circles back into my life for sushi dates and generous heart to hearts.

She mentioned to me on one of our dates that she’d been sober for two years and had met a mutual colleague of ours at AA as I’d just finished a glass of wine. Our catch-ups were mostly brunch, however this was a weekend sunset affair. Her reasons for quitting drinking are hers and I wish to honour that by not detailing the events that led to her sobriety. Instead, I want to share with you my thoughts.

In that moment I thought to myself, wow, what an extraordinary accomplishment. It sat with me for days. Imagine being able to say that you hadn’t had a drink for two years. Talk about #lifegoals. This chick was a sassy young professional in a powerful corporate position. She had access to all the free champagne in the world and somehow had found something bigger than all of that. What a discovery. What an achievement. What had she found?

Listen to Maz Compton chat to Mia Freedman on the No Filter podcast. (Post continues after audio):

At that point, the closest I had come to parting with my poison was a Dry July (followed by a very wet August). I really only drank on the weekends anyway. This was a number of years ago.

Well guess what? It’s been almost two years and I haven’t had a drink and I have bee asked some interesting questions in the time since. I thought I would take my two-year smilestone (yes, it’s a smilestone) to answer some.

‘WHY DID YOU QUIT DRINKING, DID YOU HAVE A PROBLEM?’

People fire this loaded question at me with a double shot of inquisition. I was drinking a lot but that wasn’t the problem because I was handling it. I kept a great job and was earning great money. I was socially active, fit and fabulous. The problem was I wanted to stop but I hadn’t found reason enough to lose the booze.

I wanted to take action in an area of my life where I believed I was letting myself down. Finding the strength to say ‘no’ to invites, free drinks and nights out and then being confronted with people’s disappointment about my personal choice were all things I knew I would have to navigate. So the problem was finding a catalyst big enough to make it an enjoyable and sustainable choice.

I quit drinking initially to honour the life of my dear friend who passed away suddenly. It’s left a hole in my heart to this day that still isn’t filled. To deal with the grief, my therapist suggested it would be healing for me to start a small goal of not drinking for two months and remembering my friend each time when I said no to a drink. It did help with the grief, and with my countless explanations of why I was ‘being lame-boring-or a party pooper’ by not having a drink.

It was to tip of my hat to remember the generous and deep impact he had on me. After two months of remembering my friend each time I said no to a drink, I realised I now wanted to do this for me.

‘HOW DID YOU DO IT?’

The first thing I did was empower my own choice. I changed my thinking really quickly from, ‘No sorry I can’t have a drink because I’m not drinking,’ to just, ‘I’m good, thanks.’ This was crucial. When you take your attitude from a place of missing out on something, into a pace of actively choosing not to partake, you move from a place of helplessness to hope.

To drive this message home into my own brain, I woke up each morning and made a vow to myself. I would say a daily affirmation and end with ‘and today I am not going to drink’. We are so good at promising the world to everyone else and living up to outside expectations of who and what we should be, but I thought from now, I will start with me.

Everyday I do my very best to honour that vow and so far, I have. That’s one of the keys, you do your best and when you know better, you do better.

 

After a certain amount of time, like maybe six months, you just forget about drinking being an option. It’s not even on my radar. Even at a friend’s recent wedding when I was asked twelve thousand times if I would like a drink, I’d just get a soda water with fresh lime if they had it.

‘DO YOU THINK YOU’LL DRINK AGAIN?’

I don’t really think about it because as I said, it’s just not on my radar. Possibly? I might have a glass of Verve if I get married again, but I think it’ll most likely give me a headache. I am at a point within my body now, where toxins send my brain into free radical mayhem. The thought of a beer makes me feel a bit ill. Not only has my drinking behaviour changed, my diet has changed significantly as well and the way my body responds to what I am fueling it with.

‘DON’T YOU FEEL LIKE YOU’RE MISSING OUT?’

My question back is simply, missing out on what? Are you your best self when you are loaded? I sure wasn’t. Are you able to show up, do the work excellently, thrive, live your life with purpose? If you can do that while knocking back beers and tequila slammers three nights a week then good for you. I couldn’t.

I’ve come to believe that our purpose is way more important than the short-lived approval of others. Feeling the acceptance of friends by doing something that keeps you a stranger to yourself is not worth it. What have you missed out on because of the decisions you made when you were drunk? How much time and how many ideas have you wasted by being wasted?

 

‘WHAT’S THE BEST THING ABOUT NOT DRINKING?’

There are a few millions to be honest. I keep discovering more as I continue on this path. I have connected with incredible people who have similar stories from across the globe. My thoughts are sharper, I am in the best shape of my life and I feel like an expert at something. Sounds cray, but a lot of people come to me for advice and help about this issue. It’s overwhelming how many people are quietly struggling with their relationship with alcohol while having no access to the appropriate help. I love being able to share my story and empower people to reshape their lives. 

Also, I have saved so much cash! Math is not my strong point, but, let’s say you spend $120 on alcohol a week (don’t cough and act like that’s ridiculous). It’s probably way more if you average it out. A good bottle of wine or two with dinner at a friend’s house, and a Sunday sesh at your local. In two years that’s$12,480.

‘I DON’T REALLY DRINK THAT MUCH, ONLY ON THE WEEKENDS. REALLY.’

I find this comment of particular interest as I don’t tend to ask people about their drinking habits unless I have permission to. Yet so many people feel the urge to make a disclaimer that they definitely have their swigs in check.

A common comment I hear is ‘wow, I could never do that’ and unfortunately for you if you think that, then you are 100 per cent correct. Whether you think you can, or you can’t, you’re right. It’s a universal truth. If you say to yourself that you can never do something, I promise you, you will never do it. That is bigger than the bubble of giving up the bubbly. A bad ass preacher lady once said, ‘thoughts become things, choose the good ones.’

‘SO, WHAT’S THE REAL REASON YOU DON’T DRINK?’

Now I believe this story is way bigger than just me getting my head in check because I was over being hung-over. I want to start a conversation; well actually, I want you to start a conversation with yourself.

‘ARE YOU OK WITH YOUR RELATIONSHIP WITH ALCOHOL?’

Can you get through the day without a drink? If you can’t when your kids are driving you crazy, your friend is having a birthday, your boss is being a jerk, you had a bad sleep or your partner forget to pay the electricity bill, again, if you are unable to manage your daily load without a drink, then you have a problem. A ‘drinking problem’ can be redefined as the inability to cope with life’s pressures without a drink, which all of a sudden makes a lot of people fall into that category.

There will always be an excuse to drink. We should try and reevaluate and find a better excuse. One reason not to drink is because you are worth taking care of. Your emotions are worth processing instead of suppressing. Your freedom from a crutch will bring fruit to your life in the most magnificent ways. 

It’s up to you to be honest with yourself about it and do what you can with what you have. What you have now is an example of how to rise above the bottle and take your power back. My life has only become richer and more awesome by managing myself better, that’s what this is all about. You are completely responsible for you and your own choices.

Please choose wisely.