I have family visiting from overseas at the moment. I haven't seen them in a few years so it's been a great chance to catch up. We've had a couple of days in a rented house in Hanmer so everyone has very much been on holiday mode (which, for them, has included drinking alcohol of course).
The last few days have revealed to me how far I've come in all the ways that matter to someone who is trying to give up alcohol in our booze soaked world; being around alcohol and drinkers and not feeling tempted or that I'm missing out, not feeling self conscious about being a non drinker, not feeling the need to talk about it or justify my non drinking (it just is what it is, no more no less).
It hasn't been a booze fest by any means for my whānau, just a few drinks over the afternoon and evening, or with lunch as I used to do on many a Mount Maunganui family holiday - a relaxing time away. There were no drunken antics in Hanmer. Far from it. But alcohol was very much along for the ride, part of the scenery. In a lot of ways, being around my family members as they enjoyed a wine or a beer put a mirror up to my own past drinking (or the times I was able to enjoy it in moderation at least).
It's interesting to me these days that I find being around alcohol and drinkers makes me not want to drink again. It's only in the unguarded moments when appealing thoughts of drinking might seep in. The reality of seeing drinking is another thing. At lunch at a winery near Hanmer, when my wife smelled the bouquet of her freshly-poured Pinot and exclaimed how beautiful it smelled, I asked for a sniff too. These days, alcohol smells like diesel to me. The spell is broken for me.
If I think back to my first uncertain days of sobriety to how comfortable I feel now in my sober skin, I feel grateful I have been able to ride the ups and downs. Any real change takes time to bed in. The key to it has been starting with a solid decision. Everything that went before, every drunken episode, every hangover, every drinker's regret, steeled my resolve to walk away from it and try something else. That "something else" has been a true gift. Drinkers can't imagine how good it can be living sober, but every drinker can find out if they want to. I certainly never thought living sober would be so positive for just about every aspect of my life. I was scared about giving up alcohol because I thought I needed it. I thought I would be wasting my life without alcohol to make it better.
I thought so so wrong.
I don't tend to give advice in this blog, but if there was something I'd say to you it would be to persevere through your uncertainty. If you are thinking of trying your life without alcohol, do it and see where it takes you. If you are trying to quit but battling a crippling temptation to drink again, sleep on it and make a decision when you are in a different frame of mind. You'll almost certainly feel differently in the morning. Don't give up. One day you will be in a place where alcohol holds no appeal or power over you and you will thank yourself for holding on through the stormy weather.