I’ve been thinking a lot about this year’s journey. It’s been a deeply freeing year. I’ve had to let go of so many things to create space for new ideas and behaviors and personal (and professional) growth to emerge. I don’t think we give each other enough room for any of that. We are taught to operate as producers, but we are operating in a constantly shifting and changing world. After a year of letting go, I’m realizing I needed to give myself enough room. Room to grow. Room to make mistakes without holding onto them forever. Room to prioritize myself. Room to let go of big things and patterns and people. Room to breathe and focus and stop covering (for myself and others around me).

I haven’t talked much about this part of this year’s journey because it is layered and I’m still untangling it, but I made two decisions on February 6th of this year. I decided to quit drinking and to take control of my health. I haven’t had an adult beverage (that’s what we call them in our household) since that day. I want to be careful with how I choose to share this part of my journey for a number of reasons. Number one: Like I said earlier, I’m still untangling all of it. Number two: I don’t know where any of this is taking me and so I’m not making any declarations or decisions about what any of this means for the future. I’ve been deliberate about this part and it’s working. Number three: I’ve noticed that sometimes the non-drinking folks can do more harm than good when professing their newly found freedom from alcohol. I’m treading carefully here because it’s important to note that there is no shame or blame associated with the decisions I’ve made in the past. I did the best I could with what I knew then. Number four: It’s not easy in these alcohol-free streets. The world revolves around it, so there’s no wonder why many of us struggle with it. I know I’ve participated in pressuring others to partake because I wanted to feel better about my relationship with alcohol. I don’t want to make it harder for folks (or myself for that matter) anymore.

Like I said, it’s incredibly layered and personal, but integral to my journey this year. When I stopped drinking, I made better choices. Full stop. I could stay focused on my Optavia plan because I wasn’t distracted by alcohol. I could make better choices at work because I was starting each day focused and clear. Let’s be honest, I also FELT better. But at the end of the day I’m here to say that none of it was easy. I had to break patterns, expectations from others, and I had to stop participating in some things. Even today, I have to cancel plans if I’m not sure how hard it will be. I’ve learned to accept what that may mean for me and for others, but I’m doing the best I can with what I know now and I’m not ready to risk any of it.

I share all of this because it’s important to do so. There are a few folks I watched from the sidelines for years and I appreciated them sharing their journey in thoughtful and intentional ways. Maybe by writing this I am doing the same for someone else. I’ve made it through social events, vacations, stressful work days, big changes, fundraisers, holidays, good and hard days, and everything in between without drinking. I’m healthier than I’ve ever been and I owe so much of that to the freedom I’ve found by not drinking. I didn’t realize that the drinking (and eating) was taking up so much room (remember what I mentioned in the first paragraph?).

Okay so after putting all of my business out here (phew), I can understand this week’s journey a little better. On my walks, I usually listen to different podcasts and this week I couldn’t get enough of the two-part series on Brene Brown’s Unlocking Us podcast. She interviewed Bono and it was so good. SO GOOD. In it, she referenced how U2’s War album impacted her. She said, ” Your music, War specifically, was the first time I had ever experienced music where there was enough room in the songs to hold me. There was room for my rage, there was room for my grief, there was room for my questions. They were big roomy, spacious songs that you could really move around in and ask a lot of questions.”

I think that not drinking this year left room for me to experience all of these things and more. I can’t express how thankful I am that I didn’t wait to do it next year because there’s still so much healing to be done after what we all experienced because of COVID. Life is hard enough, but I don’t think any of us was prepared for the extra challenges we had to face collectively and individually over these last three years.

Thanks for giving me the room I’ve needed to share this part of the journey. May we all afford each other the room we need to do and be better — not just for others, but mostly FOR ourselves.