A little over four years ago, the National Holidays were for Manuela Iturrieta (30) synonymous with excess and regret. Being the one who drank the most and being “obliterated” has long been common. Until he realized that wasn’t the person he wanted to be. Today, he has been sober for four years and shares his mocktail recipes (non-alcoholic drinks) with his online community “Alcohol Free Zone”.
When I decided to stop drinking, I was going through a stage where every time I went out for a walk, I spiraled out of control. Even if I intended to only have one snack, it was never just one, I always ended up “turning off the TV” and waking up the next day not remembering anything. I knew I had spent hours on autopilot, exposing myself to risky situations not only physically, but also socially. He pissed me off, he was the one who made me laugh all over the world. The next day I felt a lot of guilt and shame. I didn’t remember anything, it was a shitty feeling that I was tired of living with and despite that, it couldn’t go away and it repeated itself every weekend, without fail.
There were many dangerous situations I exposed myself to; like waking up with men I didn’t know next to me without remembering if I had slept with them or not, if I had given consent, if I wanted to, without knowing if we had taken care of ourselves . I once went to a nightclub and came home without my wallet or anything in it. The next day I called to ask if they had seen her and they told me that They found me sleeping, healed, next to a compound, and sent me home by taxi. It was in Bellavista, a place where people are known to be drugged to rob or abuse them. It made me very guilty to think that I was there, “abandoned”, sleeping next to a speaker, completely vulnerable.
Important dates, like September 18, were crazy; very explosive days, with a lot of excess and regrets. I once had to return early from a beach I went to for four days. I came alone the day before because I couldn’t stand the stress and anxiety. There I realized that I couldn’t take it anymore, that I had a problem and that giving up alcohol was not something I could do alone.
I went to see a psychologist to help me. I naively thought he was going to give me some kind of secret formula to reduce my consumption. But no. He told me that I had to stop drinking alcohol for three months, which scared me, because until then I still didn’t consider myself an alcoholic. He explained to me that he had to do it to lower the alcohol level. At first I was afraid that I wouldn’t make it, but then I remembered that I had managed to quit smoking for a while and that I had also stopped eating meat. How could I not stop drinking for three months?
The first weeks were the most difficult. I had just planned a trip to Brazil. I remember it made me very uncomfortable when other people drank in front of me because I thought it was very unfair. which I couldn’t take because I had a problem with the pompadour. As I was walking I heard they were offering caipirinha and that made me even more angry. This is the emotion I felt.
Then I remember the first time I went to a sober club. It was very crazy because, Since I had always been there, drunk, I didn’t know how to move in that space, I didn’t even know how to dance. Actually, dancing was like therapy, because I started to discover that I loved doing it, that dancing turned me on a lot, and that I didn’t need a pompadour to do it, because I have a good time to dance.
Facing new situations while sober was also a challenge. Like when I came to meetings at friends’ houses where there were people I didn’t know and I had to start a conversation with them. It made me anxious not knowing what to say or do. Before, a single pompadour reduced my anxiety, but now I had to face these fears. And even though it was difficult, I see today that this exposure allowed me to know myself much more; I realized that I could be an outgoing, fun woman and have a good time without alcohol, which was like a sort of mask I was hiding behind.
And then came another challenge, dealing with the culture that exists around drinking. When I stopped drinking alcohol, I often felt judged. And in our society, when we don’t drink, we have to give everyone justifications for not doing so. I still hear reactions to my sobriety like, “I don’t trust people who don’t drink,” “why are you coming if you’re not going to drive,” or “anyone who doesn’t drink is stupid.” There are even still situations in which I am embarrassed to say that I don’t drink alcohol because I don’t want to have to explain myself.
So, little by little, I transformed my life into one without alcohol. And this change was so powerful for me that I thought something had to come from this experience. and I created Zero bar, which is a soft drinks store. I have a mocktail bar that I use at weddings and events. I wish this would help normalize not drinking alcohol; that those who want to drink take, not as social pressure. And of course there are options for those who don’t want to drink, because that’s the other thing that happens, you go to a party and if you don’t want to drink, the options are very limited.
Today, I live a completely alcohol-free life. Since I stopped having these anti-terrorist canes, I have a lot more time to enjoy them: I can go out to do sports the next day or go to the mountains. I also left behind the fear of feeling excluded because I didn’t drink. And at the end of the day, people who love you are much more helpful than anyone else because they understand you and will always help you.
*Manuela Iturrieta is 30 years old and shows her recipes on @ Alcohol-free zone
I am David Jack and I have been working in the news industry for over 10 years. As an experienced journalist, I specialize in covering sports news with a focus on golf. My articles have been published by some of the most respected publications in the world including The New York Times and Sports Illustrated.