We all make choices that shape who we are, but these choices are rarely our own. Devin Briski reflects on a choice she made and the people that helped her get there.
Recently an old friend asked me for my advice. A week earlier, she drank so much she didn’t remember an entire evening. It wasn’t the first time but she had decided she wanted it to be her last.
In college, we had worked together at a college newspaper, where Blue Moon and Four Loko fueled our late production nights. We were drinking buddies. Smart and ambitious—drinking helped us get out of own heads. Happy hours turned to late nights as we egged each other on to order another, then laughed off shenanigans at hangover Chipotle the next day.
On some level, I always knew my relationship with alcohol was different from my friends. I had more nights I couldn’t remember, crazier, more dangerous stories, and I drank most when I was upset. It was difficult to face this when I quit. I felt flawed—just, bad about myself. But it was a choice I had to make and now my friend was making the same one. Here’s what I wanted to tell her: It won’t be your current life, minus alcohol. It’s going to take awhile for you to figure out what that life will look like. You’ll give things up – the social fluency, the easy relief. These are real sacrifices that you have to make. The reward is never having to wake up with a start, dehydrated and dreading “what did I do last night?”
It’s been three and a half years since I quit drinking. Talking to my friend reminded me of a conversation I had with my dad. Growing up, I always knew that my dad didn’t drink because he used to have a problem. He has a long thin scar on his neck from a bar fight. Every night, he kicks back to PBS with elevated legs and ice packs on both his knees—injuries he got from jumping out a second story window when he was drunk. These are specters of a man I can’t even imagine. My father has never raised his voice.
We talked about my drinking once, shortly after I quit. “I think I’m like you,” I said to him. He didn’t say much, but in the months that followed, I realized that he had given me a path forward. He’s always approached hiking and camping with kind of an escapist urgency. This priority of his took on a new meaning as I figured out what it meant to live sober. You need to prioritize the things that keep you calm and centered. I turned to yoga as an anchoring force. A practice that—like drinking—allows me to get out of my head.
I really feel like without my dad’s example, it would have been difficult for me to imagine what a life without alcohol looks like. Or to see that it was possible. I wanted my friend to have a similar example. And I realized that our conversation was great, but it wasn’t enough.
OUTRO: You can find Devin in Inwood fermenting her own kombucha.