The last night I drank I was on a girls trip at a beautiful all-inclusive resort in sunny Punta Cana, Dominican Republic. It was my first time in the country and what a memorable time it would be. Now it’s officially the place I had my last sip of alcohol. That weekend in May of 2013 is something I’ve gone over in my head about a million and one times now.
I’ve talked to so many sober people whose last drinks were uneventful or methodical. They spent their last night having wine at dinner, or drinking vodka on their couch, or attending one last happy hour. When they hear my story they always think it was a good way to go out, but for me, it wasn’t crazy, it was just more of the same. My whole life had turned into weekend parties that lasted 4 days instead of 2 and were characterized by blackouts, binge drinking, and drug use. I had made it in my mission in life to be in the craziest places, doing the craziest things with the craziest people. It had become the norm for me.
One thing I am asked often is, why was that weekend different? What made it your last time? Why did you choose that day to quit?
I had become a self-fulfilling prophecy. Deep down I felt like a shitty person. I felt like the world was out to get me and when bad things happened I felt like I deserved them. I thought my drinking issues were all a part of it. As hard as I tried I couldn’t figure out how to moderate my drinking in a way that gave me pleasure, kept me safe, and allowed me to enjoy a light buzz. I equated this with being less than. I felt like something was wrong with me. Every time I got motivated to try harder and figure out the drinking thing, I would fuck up again. I would black out and do something stupid or embarrassing. I would be back to square 1 and I would fail to see the point in thinking I might ever be a “good, normal” person.
That weekend in Punta Cana I had more anxiety going in than coming out. I was there with my childhood best friends, women who hadn’t seen the life I had been living in Cancun. I did a good job of making them think I had it all balanced - a good job, a cute apartment, a loving boyfriend, and a glamorous life abroad in Mexico. I wanted so badly to keep up this façade. I wanted to be on their level. I wanted them to think I was important, successful, and worthy of love, because I didn’t truly believe that myself. Instead, I ended up drinking all day on the Saturday of that trip, blacking out, and vomiting all over the hotel bathroom. Talk about humiliating.
Then I had to spend the next day profusely apologizing to all of them, wading through my humiliation, guilt, and anxiety, all the while pleading with Fer (my then-boyfriend) not to break up with me. It was just too much.
The last night I drank the girls and I went to a nightclub on the property of the resort in Punta Cana. I had two beers and tried to play it off like I was having fun not drinking as much as I normally did. The truth is it was torture. I felt incredibly uncomfortable. Were they mad at me because of how I acted over the weekend? Were they mad because I ruined one of the vacation nights? Was I being judged for not drinking as much as I normally did? It wasn’t fun at all.
The day we left everyone was going to the airport at different times and I got in a taxi alone. I had to explain to the driver in Spanish that I didn’t want to talk. I was choking back the tears before we even got there.
But what was I crying about? It wasn’t unusual for me to feel completely depressed the day after drinking. It wasn’t unusual for me to have a throbbing headache, cotton mouth, and eyes that burned. It wasn’t unusual for me to question every single life decision I’d ever made. It wasn’t unusual for me to call my mom and ask for wisdom from her to make me feel better. I had been doing these things for years.
I looked at my friends that I grew up with and saw them doing these life things - getting engaged, getting married, having babies, buying houses, decorating their houses for Christmas, cooking Thanksgiving dinner, paying their taxes, purchasing cars, and I thought, will I ever do those things? I can’t even day drink at the pool on vacation without ruining my life.
On that day 4.5 years ago, I was fucking angry, angry enough to quit drinking. I couldn’t stand one more day of the same old shit I had been doing for years. I didn’t want to be the drunk girl at the party anymore. I didn’t want to be the unreliable girlfriend. I didn’t want to be the embarrassing friend. I didn’t want to be nursing a constant hangover. I didn’t want to see myself as a parent at the age of 40 with a big cup of booze in my hand watching my child play, counting down the minutes until happy hour or wine night.
What is the only way you can be 100 percent sure that you won’t fuck up again? That you won’t be all of those things that I was? That you won’t nurse the nastiest hangover of your life in the Punta Cana airport? That you won’t take stale tequila from any man that offers it? That you won’t vomit green stomach bile onto the side of the road anymore? That you won’t be blacked out before the stroke of midnight on New Year’s Eve? That you won’t wake up in a stranger’s bed with your thong on backwards? That you won’t be able to clearly define and recognize sexual assault and your abuser?
For me, it was telling alcohol to fuck off for good. I had to be good and mad, and good and ready. I didn’t know that random weekend would be it. I didn’t know I would be talking about it ENDLESSLY on my blog, in my writing classes, and in my memoir.
This is something that SO many drinkers out there STILL do not understand: you do not have to live that way. You really don’t. I thought I did and dammit I was going to try until I figured out the exact equation of alcohol + fun - blackouts & danger = balance. It wasn’t until I got sober that I realized that is impossible for me.
The sense of relief and freedom I feel in never, ever, having to try to figure it out again, is what makes it different. That’s what makes it stick.