Content warning: Mention of substance abuse
I have an empty bottle of Captain Morgan spiced rum sitting on the windowsill next to my bed. The ‘rgan’ is crossed out, and the label is slightly faded after a year in the sunlight. I bought this bottle in early Feb. 2018. It is the last bottle of liquor I ever bought, and it’s a reminder of how far I’ve come.
On March 1, I celebrated the biggest milestone of my life so far: One year since I quit drinking. To be clear, I did not just spend a year sober—I don’t think that this year would have been possible without nicotine or weed—which fills me with shame, but that’s the truth.
I first tried to quit drinking in Oct. 2017. I knew I had a problem when I collapsed on my neighbour’s kitchen floor, clutching an empty bottle of gin, most of its contents in my veins, slurring my words and pulling heaving sobs from my throat. I was coping with grief and guilt, and the only solution I felt that I had was to drink. I knew it was unhealthy; I knew I needed to stop, but I didn’t have it in me for another four months. In that time, I spent most nights drinking, alone or with friends, blacking out and being cleaned up, trying again and again to quit. I still resent myself for the trouble I caused.
It is easy to just keep drinking at McGill, where Frosh and other drinking events like Science Games and Carinval welcome students, filling the time in between at clubs and bars with weekday specials. It’s much harder to not drink at McGill, surrounded by people who ask if you’re sure when you tell them you quit drinking. Of course I am sure, I didn’t make the decision lightly, and, no, I don’t want to try just a sip. There are also the holier-than-thou straightedge students who were horrified at the idea that I ever got to the point where I had to stop drinking. Hearing their derogatory remarks just makes me want to drink more.
But, the hardest part of sobriety is not the external pressures, it’s the internal realization that the parts of yourself you despise don’t disappear when the alcohol leaves your system. I know people who have never been drunk or who never had more than a few sips of wine because they are terrified of losing control. Since quitting, I have said and done horrible things like when I consistently drank, only, now, I remember it, and I can’t blame it on the alcohol. In reality, the alcohol was never to blame in the first place; it just exacerbated all of my qualities. It has taken me a long time to admit that I am responsible for everything I did while drunk, the good and the bad, what I remember and what I don’t.
Remembering my actions provides a necessary clarity that I didn’t have before to feel better and be better. Knowing that I just got through a whole year without a drink gives me hope that I can do better, that I do have it in me, even when it’s hard. I might not be able to drink again, if it means that I can regain control over my life and relationships. But, I’ve come this far, and I intend to keep going.