“I quit drinking.”
I just know what is coming next. The person to whom I am speaking drops their shoulders, tilts their chin, leans in closer while shaking their head and says, “I am so sorry, I had no idea that you had a problem.”
Wait, WHAT? I am proud of the fact that I quit drinking. I lost 20 lbs, my clothes fit better and my complexion is clearer. I have more energy, I’m sleeping better and I’m 10x more productive. My head isn’t cloudy, my memory has drastically improved and I am an all around a much happier and healthier person and if you put all these things together, I am a stronger, more confident, better educated, champion in life. I’m not sorry, I’m so excited for all the great benefits that have resulted from this decision that I can’t wait to share it with people!
I do have to give credit to some a select few who do know me and have responded with “Good for you” or “I’m proud of you”, but most often I hear the follow up comment as, “I could never do that!” Yet I’m the one gets sympathy?
Just for kicks, what if we changed the conversation over to, “I quit smoking, I stopped gambling or reigned my dead-end job? What if I gave up carbs, cut back on social media, am avoiding refined sugar or I decide to join Weight Watchers?” Regardless of how bad my problem was in these areas I would likely hear, “Good for you”, “That’s awesome”, or, “I should [fill in the blank].”
Is there a difference? Yes, stigma!
If you Google “Drinking capital of the US“, the top search will bring you to a 2018 article from USA Today that lists the top 20 drunkest cities and my great state of Wisconsin holds 10 out of the 20 cities listed. Not that my geography has anything to do with my choice to consume or not consume alcohol, but I live smack dab in the middle of the #1 and #3 ranked “drunkest” cities; Green Bay and Appleton. This means that by mere per capita, most everyone that I am sharing this news with probably has an alcohol problem too, but they, within their own state of denial, are extending pity on me? I think it goes without say, but we need to feel sad for them.
It’s been 110-ish days since I personally and consciously made the decision to refrain from drinking alcohol, yet I find myself having “the conversation” and proceed to deny that I have had even a hint of a problem; primarily out of fear, shame or risk of being labeled as an alcoholic – or worse – getting that sympathetic reaction from people.
This reaction that makes me feel ashamed and weak as if I’m an outcast and the local weirdo.
We need to get the word out that people who quit drinking are not victims, sufferers and not everyone who quits drinking has hit some rock bottom that they picked themselves up from. Instead, I would rank them among societies hero’s, conquerors and dedicated over-comers because they have unbelievable will-power, are surrounded by a huge support system and, like me, are empowered to live a better quality of life and are able to see life in vivid technicolor unhindered.
1 Thessalonians 5:6-11, “So then, let us not be like others, who are asleep, but let us be awake and sober. for those who sleep, sleep at night, and those who get drunk, get drunk at night. But since we belong to the day, let us be sober, putting on the faith and love as a breastplate, and the hope of salvation as a helmet. For God did not appoint us to suffer wrath, but to receive salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ. He died for us so that, whether we are awake or asleep, we may live together with him. Therefore encourage one another and build each other up, just as in fact you are doing.”
I also found this Tedx Talk by Clara Pooly and she does a great job of articulating this. We have similar stories and share the same opinion, I encourage you to check it out.
To all my fellow non-drinkers out there. Keep fighting the good fight. Our lives are better for it and next time someone shakes their head and asks surprised that they didn’t know you had a problem, do a better job of standing tall. I have some work to do.