45 days prior to turning 25, last October, I wanted to do something for myself. To prove that I was up for a challenge I randomly decided (with very little thought) to give up drinking.
Growing up my parents never drank wine or beer at dinner so I did not adopt the habit of having a nightcap. My relationship with alcohol was purely social aka partying excessively. I honestly didn’t see this as an issue. I could have a half opened bottle of wine in the kitchen for weeks and not feel tempered once to finish it. I tricked myself into believing that was an indication of having no addiction issues. I now realize that I was only fooling myself. When I went out I would often drink until I time traveled (read: blacked out). Everyone’s bodies react differently to alcohol and genetically I do not have a high tolerance, which sadly never stopped me. It happened so frequently that I was used to it. I started drinking at 15 and it took me a decade to recognize that this habit was not serving me or my purpose. That is was holding me back from my full potential and worse. It was making me hate myself.
Don’t get me wrong, there were plenty of times where I was responsible and where it enhanced my experience. It definitely helped me make friends when I moved to a new city after college. And there are still times when I will participate. If I am somewhere with a good coffee cocktail or Paloma on the menu I may feel like indulging but, overall I have released the need to drink.
The hardest part was beginning. I am a natural extrovert, I don’t experience social anxiety so I wasn’t worried about conversing or having fun sans alcohol. Being on the dance floor, as I always am, without a drink felt like I was missing a limb. What the heck was I supposed to do with my hand now? Sometimes places would have kombucha or Topo Chico but, not as often as I would have liked. I would either just get water or go without. Not as exciting but, that was a minor adjustment that after time didn’t bother me.
After the first two weeks it got easy. Like really easy. I will acknowledge at the time I was deeply involved with my yoga crew so when we would go out and I wouldn’t order alcohol they were extremely accepting. No peer pressure or serious ridicule. I believe, just like anything with else, who you’re around is important when trying to create a new habit. Having people who support you is crucial to your success. You don’t realize how many conversations revolve around alcohol until you’re not drinking. There were a few friendships that were built solely on being under the influence that did not sustain my drought and I recognized that was okay. I was changing and that meant I had to let go of those who weren’t inspiring me evolve.
After my 45 days were up I continued on until the weekend when I started drinking again. My habits did change, my pace slowed. I participated every so often throughout the next two months as holiday season began and there were parties to attend. I decided that I would go back to not drinking in the new year. Almost four months in and I think I have drank a total of 7 days so far. The first week I moved back to Florida I went out to celebrate and had a little too much fun which was a nice reminder of why I didn't want to drink anymore.
Sometimes in a social situation if whoever I am with orders a drink and I do not they feel the need to explain themselves. I am not judging those who drink. I do not believe that I am above anyone because I choose to not consume alcohol. For those who knew me in high school, college, and in Atlanta my first two years can tell you I loved a good party. I have been there and done that and now I am trying something new. This is my journey, this is my experience and right now alcohol is not included in it. I am not claiming that I will never drink again. This is what I am doing now because it works for me.
I do think it is beneficial to give it a try just for a week. It doesn’t mean you can’t be social but, it will force you to evaluate your habits which I think we should be naturally doing every so often anyway. Plus, there are so many other side effects from being sober....
Things that happened from drinking less alcohol:
Saved some money
Felt better: slept more, woke up earlier, didn’t drunk eat, no hangovers :)
Shed relationships that weren’t serving
Got creative with alternatives (drinks and social activities)
The biggest lesson I have learned so far in my “sober curious” exploration is that I have the power to choose. For all of my adult life and most of my teenage years I have had the habit of socializing with alcohol, of celebrating with alcohol, of occasionally using alcohol to numb the edges of anxiety and transport me from reality for a few hours. I now decide how I want to experience life and I choose clarity. Now I meet friends for coffee or tea instead of a drink. You bet I still occupy the dance floor, my moves with both hands free are a work in progress though. I am genuinely excited to see how far this takes me. At this present moment I have no plans of stopping anytime soon.
* By the way, “sober curious” is the new term coined for choosing not to drink. If you’re interested you can look this up to find others who are participating and their experiences. *