Oh, man - SO MUCH has happened over the past month!
I never thought that this little change (deciding to not drink alcohol for a year) would make such a big difference in my life. As you probably read in my previous blog post, this month I quit my job to start something new.
Over the past couple of weeks I’ve been working my booty off on this blog, finding part-time work, and finding writing and social media gigs. Even though this is all very unknown territory, and even though it’s the last thing I think of when I go to bed, and the first thing I think of when I wake up in the morning - I’m LOVING IT. Absolutely loving it.
Sure, I still have doubts. I worry about when I’ll have another check to deposit into my bank account, and I worry about how long I can stretch out my last supply of groceries. But really, it has been worth it. I don’t know how things are working quite yet, but I’m figuring it out. And I’m excited.
The month of August I had another amazing experience: I overcame a HUGE fear of mine. I attended Girls on the Gorge, a 3-day all-girls whitewater kayaking trip in Montana. I did NOT know exactly what “whitewater kayaking” entailed, but I did know about my terrible fear of drowning. I definitely did not know what I was getting into.
Here’s pretty much how it went:
Chandra, Instructor: “Okay ladies! First thing’s first! We’re going to flip you over, and you’re going to get comfortable with being upside-down underwater while still inside your boat."
Chandra: “You’ll be fine! I’ll flip you right over again.”
It wasn’t so much the flipping part that scared me - it was the BEING STRAPPED INTO A BOAT UPSIDE DOWN UNDERWATER part that scared me.
After watching everyone go ahead of me, it was finally my turn. I took a deep breath and got flipped. I was back up so fast I barely had time to process the whole thing. But I was alive, and just fine. Then it was time to “wet exit” - getting out of my kayak on my own while underwater. This meant staying calm, pulling my tab, pushing my knees together, and pushing myself out. That’s a lot of steps when you’re hanging upside down while submerged in water.
When the time came, I panicked. I clawed my way out of the boat, bruised my legs, yanked my head above water while taking huge choking breaths of air. I can’t remember the last time I felt that terrified. I don’t know what happened, but all of my drowning fears bubbled their way to the surface as I began to sob with every shaking breath.
As I was standing on the beach dripping in all my gear and trying to slow my heartbeat again, I watched everyone working on their techniques and laughing together. I felt like such a failure. I was furious with myself.
After I calmed down a bit, I thought - I can either let this ruin my weekend, or I can get the hell over it already. Yes, I had a fear. But I had to figure out how to get through it. I realized the only way to get over my fear was to do it my way. With baby steps.
I got back in the water, and was ready to give it another shot. I told Chandra (my ever-patient instructor) that I needed to go slow - take it a step at a time. After a couple practice flips, I was ready to “wet exit”. Amazingly I was able to stay calm, and I totally did it. I DID IT. I got out of my boat just fine. I didn’t panic, I didn’t drown, and I didn’t let my fear take over my life.
It was absolutely thrilling.
Empowered with the new-found understanding that it was very unlikely that I would die in my kayak, I was ready to take on our first set of rapids. I was just about to get through a pretty choppy section, when my boat started to tip over. I was out of that thing so fast I don’t even remember being upside down! My confidence only increased.
In a particularly rough part of the river, my friend Nina helped with guiding me through. There were some wave rollers that I somehow plowed right through while Nina helpfully reminded me to “PADDLE! PADDLE! PADDLE!” so that I could keep control of my boat. The waves crashed over my head as I smacked down on the other side (still upright) in a fit of giggles. I couldn’t believe how invigorated I felt!
By the end of the day, I was tearing through the rapids, paddle swinging, smile beaming, and screaming from the top of my lungs: “I’M KAAAAAYAKIIIIIING!!!”
That became my nickname on the trip: Beth “I’m kayaking!” Bogdewiecz.
It was awesome. The girls, the river, the yoga, the food, the camping, the sunrises, the shooting stars, the laughing, the hula-hooping, the fear-overcoming. I’ll never forget it.
I don’t think alcohol would have made the experience any less amazing, but I’m glad I didn’t have it clouding my experience. I think under different circumstances I would have just ended up on the beach and saying “screw it”, cracking open a beer, and accepting defeat. You can still have a fun weekend just hanging out and drinking the whole time, right? After the satisfaction of overcoming my fear though, I don’t think that would’ve been the case. I’d take that feeling over a weekend of boozing ANY day.
Every month, I learn a little more about who I am and what I’m capable of. Yes, I still could have done all of these things with alcohol in my life. But not having that distraction has opened up a surprising amount of possibilities. It has changed my perspective on things. I don’t think I would have gotten to the point of making other big changes in my life if I hadn’t started with a little one. It’s all about taking those baby steps, right?
Money saved in 8 months: Approximately $1,781.00
Weight: Who cares? I feel great, my clothes fit better, and I’m sleeping like a rock.
How I feel: Happy. Amazing. Excited. Fulfilled. Ready to take on the world!