Alternate title: It's Probably Just Me and I Don't Want You To Worry About Me (But Please Worry About Me)
I can't tell you how many whispered conversations I've had with girlfriends about drinking. How many of us have apps on our phones, make committments to ourselves and others to quit drinking, and then find it uncomfortably hard to do so? We set out to hit a week, a month, a year alcohol-free and then falter and wonder what is wrong with us?
Eventually we ask ourselves why we're drinking in the first place. What is it doing for us, or meant to do for us? If it's aimed to relieve us from some of our difficult life, is there a better way to do that? Can we find the peace, the fun, the freedom we're looking for elsewhere? Cuz I'm pretty sure this stuff is making me feel like garbage; it's messing with my sleep, making me short-tempered and anxious, making me feel bloated and giving me indigestion. I don't like how it makes me feel, so why do I keep going back to it, like a bad boyfriend?
Late-night Googling will define alcoholic in terms of ounces and drinks/day. Many of us find those comforting, because "I don't ALWAYS drink that much; I don't HAVE to drink that much; I could stop drinking that much if I wanted to..." Really, what it comes down to, is drinking is a problem if it's negatively effecting our mental or physical health and we know deep down what that means for us. Is this benefitting me? If not, why am I doing it and how do I stop?
Is it meant to be solving problems? Did it start as a little treat and become a crutch to cope with the hard stuff in our lives?
Opening a bottle is one of the only socially accepted ways to express stress, rage, and grief. We see it modeled all the time- "Had a tough day?" Beer. "Want to relax and blow off steam after parenting nightmares?" Wine. "Ready to enjoy yourself with your friends?" Cocktails.
It's almost a requirement, this unspoken expectation that we drink. And if we DON'T drink? We better have a good reason why and be ready to defend it all the time. Booze is sold as connection and freedom, but really....is it giving us that?
How often are we not allowed to cry because it would upset someone? How often were we encouraged to bury our feelings and discouraged from finding mental health help? How expensive and unavailable is it?
For me, the first year of the pandemic, the year I turned 39, I realized that I was leaning HEAVILY on wine to cope with the stress of kids, our family business, marriage, fear, anxiety, and eventually I realized that when I drank I was actually MORE anxious and less patient and peaceful with my kids and spouse. I didn't want to PAY to feel like shit anymore. So for my birthday, I gave up booze for a year. And wrote about it here.
It wasn't an easy year- I got a lot of shit from people about not drinking, about how I wasn't fun anymore (we equate drinking with fun) and, I think, people felt a little judged by my abstaining. BUT I'm convinced that not drinking saved me in that first horribly stressful year of the pandemic. And since then, since that reset, I've had a much easier, healthier relationship with alcohol. I can drink one glass, I can skip it all together, I can go months without buying any, I can opt for non-alcoholic options at restaurants, I can choose things that I know won't make me feel like shit. Occasionally, I'll slip back into turning to wine for comfort, but then I'll interrogate why I'm needing comfort, and get into it with my therapist, and I'll take a month off from booze. I'm on one of those month breaks now, which, incidentally, is helping me with my fitness and weight-loss goals, too.
I don't want it to own me. I can't feel indebted to/inservice to anything else. If it doesn't ENHANCE my peace and contentment, health and joy, I don't want it. If it's actually making the things I struggle with worse, it's got to go.
So, today I want you to know if you're "sober-curious" you are NOT alone and it is possible. Also, it feels really fucking hard to give it up because it IS really fucking hard. We get a LOT of pressure to solve our problems with alcohol and positive feedback when we drink....but you know yourself best. If booze is negatively effecting your health, your mind, your relationships, your life- find a way to quit.
If you miss the taste of it- there are options. I used a lot of kombucha and apple cider vinegar in water, drank a TON of tea, and there are some decent alcohol-free booze alternatives that make for mocktails. More dry bars are popping up around the country. More people are embracing the alcohol-free life. You're not alone and there's nothing broken about you wanting to make a change. THERE IS NO SHAME IN ANY OF THIS.
Now, if you find that your body starts rejecting your attempts to quit drinking- you get shaky, nauseous, headachy, have GI issues, etc- please see your doctor to help you through it. The body does get dependent and then withdrawal is very real. Don't mess with it without help, you can have seizures and stuff. This is all about taking care of you. NO SHAME just get the help you need.