Four years ago, on June 1, 2018, I woke up and quit drinking. I didn’t know if it was going to be for the rest of my life. I still don’t know if it’s going to be for the rest of my life, although at this point, I definitely hope so. What I do know is that I haven’t had alcohol in four full years.

On that day, I woke up, called out from work, told my boyfriend at the time that I needed to quit drinking, and had him pour my vodka stash down the sink. Then we went out to Silly’s for lunch, where they offered to seat us at the bar and I thought, geez, does the world just want me to drink? And I typed out a column on my phone while sitting and looking out the window at Washington Avenue in Portland, trying very hard not to stare at the pretty bottles behind the bar. And then a few days later, I used this column to announce to all and sundry that my name is Victoria and I am an alcoholic.

A lot has changed in four years. Silly’s is gone (although I’ve heard rumors it may be returning as a food truck. We can only hope). The boyfriend is gone. I’m at a different job. But I’m still here, and still sober, and still somehow writing this column.

I’m mostly just feeling an intense combination of grateful and lucky. (Lateful? Grucky?) Lucky that I was able to stop when I was young. Lucky that I was addicted to a legal drug so I didn’t have to worry about being thrown into the “criminal justice” system while trying to deal with a health issue. Lucky I never had any physical withdrawal symptoms. Grateful for a supportive family and community. Grateful for Spindrift seltzer. Grateful for coffee. (I’m grateful for a lot of non-alcoholic foods and beverages, now that I think about it).

Four years seems like a long time, but in the grand scope of things, it’s a drop in the bucket. It definitely feels like an accomplishment, but I’m in no way qualified to dispense advice. Recovery is such an individual thing – what works for me might not work for you.

That being said: I really have to recommend sobriety. It’s pretty great. And contrary to popular belief, you don’t necessarily need to “hit rock bottom” in order to get sober. Some people do. But I wasn’t at rock bottom. I was functional; I had a job and a relationship and a cat. Things were OK. But now? Now, they’re better.

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Ernest Hemingway may have said “write drunk, edit sober” but my writing has improved since I quit drinking, as has pretty much everything that involves the use of my brain. For instance, if I read a few chapters of a book in the evening, I can now remember them the next morning! And physically, I lost weight, my skin improved, and I finally experienced actual REM sleep.

So, if you think you might need to quit drinking, I want to assure you that your life will improve. Maybe not immediately, because you’ll still have all the problems that led you to drink, but without any beer attached. But by becoming sober, you’ll gain the ability to actually tackle those problems, instead of just avoiding them or making them worse by using alcohol to numb yourself out. Sobriety is like a muscle; it will be rusty and out of shape at first, but the more you use it, the stronger it gets, and the easier the workout becomes.

I don’t have any big celebrations planned for this year. This is because I’m scheduled to close on a house next week. (More details to follow after closing …) It’s a goal I would never have been able to accomplish if I was still drinking; but also, it’s a goal that I probably wouldn’t have been able to accomplish without the help of the personality traits that predisposed me to alcoholism in the first place (obsessive-compulsive behaviors, tunnel-vision goal focus, kilowatts of energy that need to be burned off). Addiction is an illness that comes with silver linings, I guess.

One of my favorite quotes about sobriety comes from, oddly enough, Joe Walsh (you know, the guitarist from The Eagles). In an interview, he said “I have 25 years of sobriety. But the important thing is, I haven’t had a drink today.” So yeah, I’m excited for this milestone.

But the important thing is, I haven’t had a drink today. And it looks like I won’t have one tomorrow.

Victoria Hugo-Vidal is a Maine millennial. She can be contacted at:
[email protected]
Twitter: @mainemillennial


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