What Three Years Without Alcohol Gave Me

by Rebecca A. Watson on April 17, 2016

in habits, Recovery

I celebrated three years without alcohol last month. The date snuck up on me this year actually, which I guess is a good thing. I had other things I wanted to put energy into, but I certainly hadn’t forgot I wasn’t drinking. I had just come off my first business trip/press conference sober. Believe me, if you want to be tempted to drink, hang out with a bunch of journalists. It’s practically a job requirement.



But I made it through, partially because I re-read my traveling without drinking advice and partially because it was just a few weeks before my three years without booze, and I certainly wasn’t going to give up that much time so easily.

It also made me realize how much I cherish my life without alcohol, and re-upping for another year was an easy choice. I’m becoming more at ease with the idea of never drinking alcohol again, but I still like making a conscious choice every year. Being intentional about it all means I remain engaged.

As I sat down on the day I thought was the day before my three year anniversary to write about how I felt about this whole idea of no booze for another year, I realized that I’d been experiencing something big this year – a gift that not drinking had given to me. And after listening to a Radio Lab about debate today, I knew for sure what I wanted to share on my blog, because it’s big. At least it is for me.


A little background

When I was a junior in high school, I had a lot of things going for me. I was in debate, in speech, drama, and in every honors class available. I was going on 12 years of piano lessons. I led Bible studies and organized blood drives. I was in marching band, symphony band and jazz band. I held a part time job and played music every Sunday in church. My college applications looked good.

I had no problem being a leader, and going into my senior year of college, I was given the role of first chair trumpet. And while there was at least one musician in our band who was better than me, I was the most confident in a sea of trumpeters. To understand what that means, here is a classic trumpet player joke:

How many trumpet players does it take to screw in a lightbulb?

Three. One to do it and two to say how they could’ve done it better.

I’m not saying I was the most likeable person I knew. Looking back, I think I was pretty insufferable at times, but I will say this: I knew what I wanted and I believed in myself. That’s quite the combination.

haiku queen

No, I wasn’t homecoming queen, but I was haiku queen.

But by the time I got into my senior year, something happened. Well, let’s be clear: a lot of things happened. It wouldn’t be fair to say it was just one. But I quit piano lessons, leaving behind the opportunity for a beautiful senior recital. I dropped out of debate, speech and drama. The only honors classes I kept up with were the ones I knew I could skate through. The only reason I stayed in band was a bit of pride and the fact that we were going to Hawaii that year. I stopped going to church.

I stopped doing most everything. I was depressed. And for a long time I stayed that way.

Alcohol is a helluva drug

It was during that summer I started sneaking out of the house to meet up with friends and drink alcohol. Yes, it’s true, I did drink a bit before that year, but that was once or twice over many years. That summer, I drank more than I had in the span of just a few months. It continued throughout the school year and right on up until I decided to quit about 15 years later. If you take a look at those years, they are not filled with my proudest moments, even if they are part of who I am today.

So fast forward up to November of this last year. I was about 2.5 years into my lucid life when I realized how easy Thanksgiving was turning out to be. I had 20 people coming and it all seemed to be a breeze, especially compared to the previous year.

This made me nervous because we had more people coming, but I figured even if it turned out I forgot something huge, my friends would forgive me. And everything was great. I hadn’t forgotten anything. I pulled it off.

Ingredients for life

This is when I first got a whiff of what had been brewing over the last few years when I omitted the booze from my life’s recipe.

I had found some confidence.

And it wasn’t a fluke.

  • Before that Thanksgiving, I had applied for a job, interviewed and gotten it.
  • I had written and published a book just a week before that dinner.
  • I am going to an office every day, working in an office with a foreign language.
  • I am in an industry I knew virtually nothing about and it’s working out.
  • I have a reading for my book coming up this Friday.

I have started to believe in myself. And once I started seeing it in myself, I started to understand how absent it was in my life before. What I didn’t realize was that I did at one point have confidence. A lot of it. And it helped me achieve a lot of things I wasn’t even that sure I wanted. Imagine now as an adult what a gift that is!

It’s no wonder this song has become my theme song for this year. And he’s sober too, by the way.

While I don’t think that drinking was the sole reason my confidence took a hike my last year of high school, I do think it was a big part of the problem. And since I have only recently had it returned to me, I am counting it as one of the best gifts I have gotten from sobriety this year.

It’s certainly not the only gift and I won’t call it the best ever, because c’mon! That’s like saying I have a favorite band. Or favorite book. There are just too many amazing things in life to choose only one.

But if this is what three years of sobriety looks like, I am stoked to see what year four has in store for me.

{ 1 comment… read it below or add one }

Ashley April 20, 2016 at 6:56 pm

I found your blog several months ago and had liked it and wrote down the name of it in my planner on a side page. Time went by and I had totally forgotten about it until today when I stumbled across the link in my planner. I went to it and I’m so happy I did. Being sober is something I’ve been working on the last 6 months and it is so comforting to read blogs such as yours that remind me that there are other people out there with very similar experiences that I can relate to. With my reconnection and new walk with Christ, and blogs like yours, the sky’so the limit. Thank you so much.


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