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I Haven't Drank Since San Jose

Updated: Dec 6, 2022


True story!

AND this title of my 1-year anniversary of NOT drinking alcohol has been looming for well…ONE YEAR!!!


Yep! I quit drinking!


Now I know it’s rude to ask folks “why don’t you drink?” AND I’m happy to answer this question - especially if you are considering the switch. OR if you are like me - and didn’t think it was possible to quit.


I quit because I was curious...

Is it possible?


I never really considered myself a problem drinker BUT there have been more than a few times that I’ve been a problem while drinking.


My brief-ish story with alcohol:

Like many, my first drink came from my unknowing parents - sorry dad - but pretty sure you already knew that I snuck a Mic Lite from your fridge one summer day. As suspected, it was disgusting and I threw most of it out. I was maybe 14ish.


The first time I got drunk and the first time I threw up were both in high school (16 and 17, respectively). I really thought drinking was dumb based on my few experiences and much preferred plant medicine instead.


Fast forward to college - and I obtained the nickname “orange throw-up girl” because you guessed - I threw up orange, a few times! We can blame V8 splash for one and some cheese puffs for the other. I didn’t turn 21 until March of my senior year (I graduated early - nerd alert) and I looked super young so I never tried to drink and didn’t care to obtain a fake ID. I moderately enjoyed going out - mostly because someone of my friends purchased a bar and it was the thing to do.


A few years out of college, I had random drug tests and found my way to drinking - or rather I found a way to get as f*cked up as possible in a short amount of time.


Hello tequila - I’m talking to you!


During this time period, I was dating a musician who had shows often. In the beginning, it was just me and some friends - and drinking helped me not give af that I was the only one dancing. I felt freedom during these rather blurry days. I even dubbed my alter ego: Cely Kleaveland (yes the spelling is intentional - she was a bit of a wild card).


For many years, Cely had a blast. She did the things that Grace could never dream of. She danced on stages, she was confident about her body and wore short dresses with high heels, and she took fun photos. She also blacked out, had many messes to clean up later, and did a lot of throwing up and apologizing.


I’ve quit drinking - more than a few times -in short-ish spurts. I did dry January, before I even knew it was a thing. Although no experiments lasted more than 6-months-ish.


Each time - making the decision was KEY. Knowing my answer was/is NO is an empowering place to begin.


I never really purchased alcohol for my home until 2018 - this is also the first time I lived on my own. Previously, I had a strong rule about having alcohol in my home. It didn’t seem like a good idea, and I didn’t care to drink at home anyway. Coincidentally or not, this is also when my food delivery service habit started - because I knew I needed nutrition but drunk me was unable to follow through with cooking.


In 2020 is when everything changed…obviously for the world and surreptitiously for my alcohol consumption. I know this part of the story isn’t unique - many of us were confronted with our demons during this time. Loss of income + nothing to do + lotsa lotsa stress = perfect excuse to not give af and do whatever without boundaries.


For me - add in some trauma, both new and buried from childhood - and I would find myself losing track of the last day that I DIDN’T consume at least 1 beer. It was such a far cry from who I had been the rest of my life - and yet I couldn’t really stop myself.


I have been journaling around quitting drinking since my birthday in 2019 - spent with 0 alcohol and surfing in Costa Rica + retreat life.


Synchronistically, it was in San Jose, Costa Rica where I had my last official drink(s).


I was in the midst of traveling for a few weeks, and I knew I needed to work to maintain some sort of routine. And HA! Of course routine went out the window - and tossed to the ocean and mountains and waterfalls and sloths and turtles and monkeys! Looking back, it’s obvious that I was headed towards a breakdown (through) and sure enough it came in the form of a panic attack after 2for1 Sangria night.


Also, synchronistically I had therapy scheduled for the following day. My therapist says that a panic attack may come when our brain chemicals take a quick switch. That resonates with my experience that night, and after talking with her for our hour - we decided to give alcohol a rest, and let my brain settle itself out for a bit.


While I didn’t have specific goals, I started with “Well maybe I can make it to my birthday. And then IF I want to have a drink, I totally can.” My birthday approached and I decided that I didn’t really want - so why force it?


I then became curious IF I could make it a whole year?! It seemed impossible, but also possible at the same time.


A few obstacles lay ahead:

  1. Retreat to Mexico - margaritas are my favorite!

  2. Wedding guest at a brewery - what do I even do?

  3. Trip to Vegas - um, Sober Vegas, is that even a thing?!

Reality:

  1. Margaritas come sin alcohol! And hello aqua frescas!! (Mango pictured in photo above!)

  2. You can in fact get a hangover from too many kombuchas - learned something new!

  3. HELL YES - sober Vegas is a thing! And sure, it looked a bit different and that's ok.


Now you may assume that some sort of “what I learned from my year without alcohol” section coming…


Honestly, this blog isn't about how quitting drinking changed my life and all my issues suddenly evaporated. I mean sure - my bank account is less sad, my digestion is slightly better, and I have less headaches.


But, drinking alcohol was never my main problem - merely a symptom of uncleared/undigested trauma.


Talk therapy, difficult conversations, EMDR, creating art, setting boundaries, seeking support and diagnosis - those are the unsung heroes of the past year - and beyond.


And now the $100,000 question: will I drink again?

I don’t know!


Currently, I don’t really have a desire to drink - and for that ease in decision I am eternally grateful. I know that for many alcohol has a much more controlling grip, and I don’t take it lightly that my journey has been relatively easy - once I decided.


For the future, I would like to keep my expectations loose. There may be circumstances where I decide that having a drink makes sense. I may change my mind. I do feel that I will use more discernment when/If I do drink again.


Ok but seriously, what did I learn?

That decision is everything. AND it requires effort.

Trauma is the gateway drug. AND I can move from Victim to Survivor to Victor.

I CAN follow through with my promises to myself. I AM trustworthy.


Ending with the wise words of Maya Angelou, with an addition inspired by talks with my therapist.

“When you know better you do better.” Maya

“And you work to love the part of yourself that did they best they could when you didn’t know better.” Me + Therapy



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