There’s a certain romance to drinking. Or at least that’s what advertisers will have you think. In our culture, it has a dignified status. Drinking pretty much anything except beer is glamorous. Charming. Even beer has its own charms, both a down-home girl- or boy-next-door charm and a sophisticated hipster charm.

Not to give too much of my anonymity away, but I live in an area of the country famous for wine. There are advertisements for it everywhere you look. And food culture is big here too. I subscribe to several food magazines, and just about every other page features an ad for wine, or an article about new wines to try, or something about pairing food with wine.

In rehab, I talked about that with my psychiatrist. He described it as “sexy.” And for a good while, I did feel sophisticated and glamorous and sexy being a wine drinker. This was my drink of choice. Any port (no pun intended) in a storm, but white wine was my go-to.

Somewhere along the line, however, the glamour dies out. The sophistication fizzles. The charm is gone. There is absolutely nothing glamorous or sexy about guzzling warm chardonnay at 7 in the morning.

I had a moment where I realized what I was doing was no longer part of the food and wine culture I’d seen advertised all around me. That culture was intended to be enjoyed in moderation. A once-in-a-while thing. For the occasional celebration or backyard barbecue.

I would wake up in the morning and thing to myself, I’ve got to get through another day?! And the only way I felt like I could handle it was with a sustained buzz. I put myself and other people in danger, and I spent money we couldn’t afford, and I let go of all my moderation to get that buzz.

Living life like that was anything but glamorous and sophisticated. In many ways it was the complete opposite. I began to feel like I was no better than the bum I saw passed out on the sidewalk. What’s between my life and that life, I’d think to myself. And the truth was, not much. In fact, continuing down the path I was on would surely have led me there, or to my death bed.

Glamour and sophistication and dignity come from many places. I did not need a glass of wine in my hand at all times at every event I attended to seem sophisticated. It took me a long time to realize that I could be fun, and socialize, and impress people without being seen with a drink, or being buzzed enough to feel “comfortable.” I was living life like I depended on alcohol, and eventually my brain and body felt like I was dependent on it.

And I used to actually be scared of the thought of not drinking. Of never drinking again. How I ever got to be more scared of that than all the things I had to lose in my life because of drinking is a mystery. Just another testament to how the subconscious brain has such control over us. The idea of attending any social event of any kind without the aid of alcohol seemed impossible.

The longer I am sober, the more I notice other people who are not drinking, for various reasons of their own. And I don’t feel so out of place. I’ve been to a couple of functions recently where people drank, but I did not. And it didn’t feel as weird as I imagined. And I never once felt out of place. I was able to talk and be myself and have a good time, without my glamorous glass of wine in my hand.

I had just dug myself into a deep hole that I thought I couldn’t get out of. With the help of rehab and my loved ones, I’ve realized the cost of my addiction and the reality of surrendering to the fact that I can’t drink anymore. I know there will be difficult days in my future. But I have come to accept that alcohol will not help me on those difficult days, the way I thought it was for so long. It will only make things worse.

Real glamour is inside of me already. I don’t need an artificial feeling to put that image of myself out to the world. I only need to be myself and find true happiness in my life. This is real sophistication and dignity.