For the past two decades, I thought I was living life to the fullest—I was certainly living it up.
Spurred on by the city that never sleeps — New York — and a work hard, play hard attitude, I was out drinking five nights a week at industry events, endless parties, happy hours and gallery openings. A social butterfly to be sure, it was the sweet nectar of alcohol that, for me, held the most powerful draw. The end result was not always pretty. It was hard to have a positive mindset or to be productive in the midst of an anxiety-inducing hangover.
I was always a go-getter, but no matter how hard I tried to push forward, I realized there was one thing that was always holding me back. The lure of liquor was pulling energy away from my passion: writing.
Giving up alcohol altogether reset my life and reshaped my trajectory. Since my reality was no longer altered by substances, I saw things clearly, perhaps too clearly. I found socializing while sober challenging: in the past, I had been an extrovert, I was now forced to look inward.
The rewards were vast but not immediate. My lifestyle had changed so drastically that at first I hardly recognized myself. I felt boring and I was bored. Crawling back into my cocoon, I holed up in the comfort of my own home, ignoring invitations, avoiding parties, only emerging to meet the occasional friend for coffee. I needed that time to metamorphosize, to discover who I would become.
Without my usual distractions—the constant drone of the city and the buzz of booze—I began to write and I found I could lose myself in the novel I was writing for days, weeks at a time.
I learned taking long walks alone in Central Park could calm me. Breathing in the smell of the earth below me gave me a natural high. Working out at the gym became a necessary release. I relished the heat from the sauna, feeling stress evaporate off of me in waves. I started taking a life drawing class during in early evenings when I used to go to happy hour and found sketching much more satisfying. I wrote. And I wrote some more.
A year and a half later, I found the focus and balance necessary to complete my novel—and the persistence to push forward until striking a book deal with a small independent publisher.
Ironically, it was only in hindsight that I realized that I was looking for the same insights as the character I’d conceived: learning how to find joy, how to live more fully, more purposefully and in the present. Like my flawed protagonist—although under very different circumstances—I’d had to consciously change my perspective and shift my priorities.
From day one I had a working title for my novel, The Year Marjorie Moore Learned to Live. It suddenly seemed perfectly appropriate, as I, too, was relearning how to live. I’m enjoying the process and savoring every moment.
Christie Grotheim is a New York-based writer who has written for Salon, The New York Observer, and Mr. Beller’s Neighborhood. Her debut novel, “The Year Marjorie Moore Learned to Live” will be published by Heliotrope Books in March 2019.