Welcome to the beginning of our new series, where we focus on one individual and their journey into sobriety and the world of non-alcoholic beverages. For the introduction to this series, we talked to Suzi Storm (Instagram: @suzistorm) from Syracuse, New York. She has been sober for six and a half years.
Her story is unique, yet relatable to anyone who at some point came to the realization that they needed to ditch the booze to live a better life.
Suzi comes from a Ukrainian and Irish background. She mentioned being a heavy drinker, but that it wasn’t necessarily a problem. She had a somewhat healthy relationship with alcohol at first.
She had experienced a 100 lb weight loss and the massive whirlwind that came with it. She did commercials for Weight Watchers and even appeared on Oprah.
She didn’t care for beer at first, but that changed for her as time went on. She got into the hobby of brewing her own beer and sometimes used beer as a reward after running. With beer being a huge part of the running culture, it only made sense. She had it under control for years.
But at one point, something changed. It wasn’t about the flavor, the process, or the celebration. It was all about alcohol. When putting together her own six-packs at the local grocery store (some states allow customers to mix and match six-packs of beer), she chose the beer with the highest ABV. With time, she gained all the weight back (but has since lost it again).
“How my liver isn’t totally shot, I don’t know.”
Her Breaking Point
Once she had stopped drinking for enjoyment, it turned into drinking to forget. It became about not wanting to deal with anything.
After a major suicide attempt, she decided she’d had enough. She mentions how the passing of actor and addict Philip Hoffman also hit her hard.
The simple act of drinking was a problem, even with coffee and water. Recently, her doctor told her she was drinking too much water and that she had to cut down.
“I know when I can stop, and I know when I can’t.” Had she kept drinking alcohol, she states “I think it would be the death of me.”
The Most Difficult Part
Early sobriety is difficult in many ways, but some aspects hit harder than others. For Suzi, it was replacing being drunk most of the time with facing the realities of things she used to hide from.
This included having the strength to admit to herself that she wasn’t happy in her marriage. Despite the fact that she loved her husband, she realized she wasn’t happy. As she got sober, they grew apart and went different ways.
Had she still been drinking, she doesn’t believe she would have come to face this. While it was one of the hardest decisions she’s ever had to make, she believes divorce was one of the better and healthier decisions she’s made for herself.
What Does She Wish She Could Tell Herself at Her Worst?
“That it’s going to be okay. You're strong enough to pull yourself out of this.”
The thing that kept her from getting sober earlier was thinking that she couldn’t do it, that she didn’t think it was possible. Facing the truths that would soon follow, including divorce, scared her.
How Sobriety Changed Her Outlook on Life
Back when she drank, she didn’t care to see or do anything. But now she goes hiking, camping, attends concerts with friends, and is a self-proclaimed “introverted extrovert.” She looks forward to waking up each day, which she doesn’t believe she would experience if she were still drinking.
“My desire to want to live, and explore life. I didn’t have that before. I didn’t really care. I just sat on the couch and drank and drank.”
Back when she drank, she couldn’t enjoy coffee. It made her more jittery. Reading made her dizzy. She used to lay in bed until noon, and then get up to drink.
She would tell herself, “Suzi, you don’t want to drink.” But it was the only thing that made her feel better, that regulated her body after drinking the night before.
“Even if there were times where I didn’t want to, I felt like I had to.”
Now, she has reclaimed those weekend mornings.
Saturday mornings are for group runs. But Sunday mornings are her own. She sleeps in a bit, makes a big pot of coffee, and hangs out on her porch as long as the weather is cooperating. She reads a magazine, scrolls through social media, or checks out the news.
Changes in Her Social Life
While she mentions that she was more of a “stay-at-home-drunk” than a partier, there were friends she didn’t care to be around any longer once she stopped drinking. Instead, she found another great group of friends. While they are drinkers themselves, they are some of her biggest supporters in her sobriety.
She got into a run club. After avoiding a particular race with a heavy drinking atmosphere for years, she faced it with this new group of friends. One of them, a heavy drinker himself, even offered to not drink with her. Because of this support, she was able to go back and run this race.
“My best friend, if she saw me with a beer in my hand, she would knock it out.”
How sobriety helped her running
While Suzi has been a runner since her drinking days, she’s noticed huge improvements since she has been sober.
“I remember finishing my first marathon, and I drank so much afterwards. And it was insane. And I got home, and I got up in the middle of the night and I actually passed out.”
When she was drinking the heaviest, she stopped running almost entirely. Now, she’s stronger and has a lot more energy. It’s easier to get in long runs, and easier to get up in the morning for them.
“Maybe it’s replacing one high with another.”
Her Thoughts on enjoying NA beer:
There are many different opinions on NA beer, and many people choose not to drink it. In fact, Suzi found it triggering when she had first tried it years ago. But now, she finds a place for it in her sober journey. She remembers her “why” when it comes to getting sober.
She drinks NA beer for enjoyment, not because of having a bad day.
“The second that I grab that beer that isn’t to just enjoy the beer, is the second that I know I can’t.”
She hopes to see a future where every bar and brewery has a non-alcoholic option besides seltzer water, and she’s excited to share these beers with friends and family who don’t believe they could possibly taste like real beer- minus the alcohol.
“I love that we can still enjoy the taste.”
Suzi’s Favorite NA Craft Beverages:
Anything from Athletic Brewing, especially the IPAs
Hairless Dog IPA
Lagunitas Hoppy Refresher