Sober In Sonoma


Years ago,  I was listening to an interview with the late, great Dr. Wayne Dyer as he discussed his own realization that in order to do the work he was being led to do, he knew he had to eliminate alcohol from his life. I could feel then that my life would move in a similar direction. I had no idea in what ways, but his words resonated deep within my heart. I had an inkling in that moment that my path as a teacher-healer would mean being clean & clear all the time, but it would take me many more years to surrender. Oh how I loved good wine!

 During my fathers battle with pancreatic cancer from 2009-2012, I got super healthy. I think it was my way of feeling some sense of control as I watched him fight death. After his death in 2012, I remained committed to a clean lifestyle and I began what I can only describe as a deep dive on a personal journey toward inner wholeness. I ate healthy food and exercised regularly. I started seeing my amazing therapist and did a shame intensive out in Texas (yes, shame intensive). I was surrendering and awakening in many ways. Except for drinking wine & Prosecco - that took longer to give up. I didn’t want to give up the bubbles and so I didn’t. Eventually I gave up wine, but not the bubbles! I could feel my time with Prosecco approaching an end. It’s not a feeling I can describe as most of an inner journey is too sacred to explain, but let’s just say no one around me wanted to see the bubbles go and especially not me. It was not an experience of angels singing and me peacefully moving toward my destiny. It was messy and yet beautiful.

In 2015, one of my closest childhood friends (more like a sister in this life) died from brain cancer. In the following 12 months after her death I drank Prosecco (or Champagne) almost every day. My motto was “life is short, better drink bubbles while we can!” I had given up all other forms of alcohol by then and participated in a liver cleanse several times a year. I think I did the cleansing as much to prove that I could stop consuming all toxins as much as believing in the overall benefit to health. I had skipped the summer and fall cleanses that year after Angela died and so had decided to cleanse for the month of May. The cleanse was actually pretty easy but then came Memorial Day.

I had said to my therapist at least a couple of times that spring that I could feel my body/mind/spirit telling me to be done with all alcohol. I just wasn’t sure how I would give it up. I mean, would I drink occasionally? Maybe on vacations and my birthday? Cleansing during the month of May was fine, but what about forever? How would I do our trip to Sonoma without wine? Seriously, no Champagne in Paris? And perhaps even scarier, how would I do my life completely sober? Not even a little buzz to help me with my parenting of teenager woes?!

Not even a little buzz indeed. It turns out that I had my last drink (okay, bottle) of Prosecco on Memorial Day 2016. You might think that I celebrated but I did not. I cried. I told no one what I was feeling and I cried alone. My family was around, but I was alone in this. We traveled home from the beach the following day. I saw my therapist as soon as I could get to her office and expressed that I thought I was really done. She said, “Yes.” That’s it. Just a calm smile and gentle nod with a firm “Yes” was I got form her.  I remember thinking, “Oh shit, even she knows that I am done.”

 I woke up on that third day a changed human. Nope, no angels singing kind of changed, but knowing that I was never going to be the same. Drinking Kelli had died and so I wept. I got ready for work weeping. Not the kind of crying that even makes a noise, just tears uncontrollably streaming down my face. The weeping would subside for a moment and then a thought would come & weeping resumed. Thoughts like “how did I let this happen?”, “what are we saying (by we I meant my therapist and I), am I an alcoholic?”; “do I need to go to AA?” And then again “how did I let this happen?” I managed to get out the door and head to work. Pulling over once to weep, I checked my face in the mirror and decided to keep driving. I made it to work.

I remained sober on the trip to Sonoma, and then Paris, and have survived every parenting woe so far. I did begin to fancy hot chocolate in Paris which is a story for another time, but let me say here that just because I don’t drink alcohol doesn’t mean I don’t struggle with other over attachments. Speaking of struggle, parenting while sober is hard. I’d much rather numb my parenting pain with a big glass of wine. But I don’t. Truthfully I do not miss drinking. I’m eternally grateful that not only do I have one less thing to give up, it was a thing that kept me from being fully alive and in alignment with this life that I so love. Feeling every feeling is not always fun, but I have learned that I can tolerate hard feelings. I can be brave and scared at the same time. I not only do my life sober, I really enjoy it.

Cheers to sober-ness! Even in Sonoma.

Kelli Ritter