Hi, I’m Kelly and I’m not an alcoholic; I’m a non-drinker.
I’ve always prided myself on my ability to change my mind. I used to believe that I would never want to live anywhere but New York, that I would never marry or have children or ― most frightening of all ― get a tattoo. Now I live in Seattle, I’m planning a wedding while daydreaming about baby names, and I have half a dozen tattoos.
But the most momentous, life-altering thing that I’ve changed my mind about has also been the most difficult and complicated adjustment yet. I never envisioned my life without alcohol. And yet here I am, at the age of 31, writing this with a glass of chai by my side instead of wine.
Over the past year, I slowly but radically changed my mind about alcohol’s place in my life, ultimately deciding to become a non-drinker. This was an unexpected development to both myself and the people around me ― not because I had a drinking problem, but because I didn’t.
My belief that only alcoholics need to quit drinking was the barrier that kept me from ever analyzing my relationship with alcohol. Instead, I drank socially for more than a decade, bolstered by everyone around me doing the exact same thing.
I never questioned the strong drinks (more vodka than cranberry) that my older boyfriend would ply me with in college. I never questioned the fact that all of the worst fights I had with loved ones were preceded by drinking. I speculated that my health was being affected by some undiagnosed condition ― PCOS, chronic fatigue syndrome, depression ― and not the very normal drinking habits that I saw reflected in my friends and family and in the media I consumed.
“Drink responsibly,” we’re told. Like many others, I took that as a reassurance that moderate drinking wouldn’t hurt me.
Also like many others, my alcohol intake increased during the pandemic. A glass or two of red wine, previously a bright spot at the end of the occasional hard day, suddenly became the only bright spot in a life that had become extremely small, stressful and dull.
Then three things happened at once: We moved apartments, I decided to do Dry January, and I joined a friend in reading and discussing Holly Whitaker’s “Quit Like a Woman.” Any one of those things would have been fantastic for shaking up my routine, but together they managed to wrench me free of alcohol’s grip in a way I’d never experienced before.
Whitaker’s book in particular not only helped me to complete my dry month but made me actively not want to drink. This quote was one of many in her book that made me feel like I was seeing the world in a new light:
I believe that alcohol will experience its own ‘cigarette moment’ ― a reversal in public opinion and a rejection of it by mainstream culture, seen as something …….