Facing those demons, one day at a time

A week or so ago, one of my best friends texted me, asking for encouragement.

In an effort to lose some weight, and just feel better in general, she was trying to kick her three-glasses-at-dinner wine habit, and was hoping for some assurance.

“I’m on day two,” she wrote. “Please tell me it gets easier.”

About a month before that, another friend sought out my advice in her own attempt to go alcohol-free — or, at least, free-ish — while she figured a few things out.

“Man, I wanted a beer so bad last night,” she told me over coffee one morning. “How do you do it?”

When she spoke, the stress was on the “do” — she was looking for tips, some tricks perhaps, that might help, the next time a craft brew called her name.

But the emphasis just as well could have landed on the “you” in that sentence — as in, “How do you, the woman whose social life revolved almost entirely around a bottle, possibly manage to resist?”

After all, it’s a fair question. I have been, for most of my adult life, the first person most my friends would call when they wanted to go out drinking — not when they didn’t.

The girl who could turn happy hour into happy 7 or 8 hours. The one who would always answer in the affirmative when asked, “You want another round?”

Shopping trips ended with cocktails. Movie dates morphed into drinks. A wine-pairing dinner really meant wine for dinner instead.

And brunch — oh, brunch was a thing to behold. An excuse to drink champagne before 2 p.m.? You could count me in.

I mean, come on. It was fun!

Only, it wasn’t. And hadn’t been for a long time.

What it was, was a drinking problem.

The big, rosé-colored elephant in the room.

And so here I am, against all odds, the now-sober friend.

Hi, I’m Katie. And I’m an alcoholic.

Today marks exactly one year since I had my last drink.

(Which, for the record, was actually six — two Old Fashioneds; one Jameson, neat; and three beers. It was a pretty tame night.)

In the year since, a lot of unexpected things have happened. I moved. I adopted a new dog. I wake up, voluntarily, at 7 a.m. every morning and go to bed at 10 every night. I started attending the types of meetings I formerly only knew about from TV and films.

But without a doubt, the strangest thing has probably been becoming the tame friend — the one others turn to when they want to make responsible choices, rather than rubber-stamping whiskey shots at last call on a weeknight.

Go figure.

Do I miss it? Sure, of course, sometimes.

The glint of a wine glass in the sunlight, glittering with liquid possibility: Who will I be this evening?

The wittiest me? The prettiest me? The funniest, the cleverest, the most sophisticated?

The kind of together person who can confront feelings, tactfully and effectively, without wanting to barf?

The fantasy of it, of loosened inhibitions and heightened self-esteem, lingers.

But the reality bears little resemblance to the myth.

It’s like the difference between how hot you think you look when you’re drunk, and seeing a picture of yourself later, bleary-eyed with mascara down your face and Merlot on your top.

Today, I’m grateful that I have the chance to view things clearly.

And that, I tell my friends, is how I stay sober.

I fight the fantasy every day.

But I do it one day at a time.

Support to everyone out there fighting a battle, whatever that battle may be.

Katie McDowell is a lifestyles writer/copy editor for The Dominion Post. Email her at kmcdowell@dominionpost.com.

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