Six months ago I made the decision to redesign my life and embark on an alcohol-free journey with a one-year goal in mind. This wasn’t an impulsive decision. Looking back I had been flirting with the idea for years. A little voice in my head grew increasingly louder and my questioning around “why” and “what’s the point” intensified. Sleep issues stemming from menopause had already led me to a pretty clean lifestyle. Alcohol was my last vice.
On my 51st birthday, I engaged in my yearly ritual of spending the day in the woods. Although I am usually empty-handed, this year I dragged a lawn chair down the cliff in our backyard, propped it alongside our creek and opened up my newly purchased book. This Naked Mind: Control Alcohol, Find Freedom, Discover Happiness And Change Your Life by Annie Grace spoke to me and on that day changed me. I did what she does not recommend, I read the book in one day. That evening I celebrated my birthday with a few of my siblings who were visiting and I made the announcement. I am ordering a dry martini. And if I don’t sleep well tonight, it’s my last drink.
I didn’t sleep well and that indeed was my last drink. For me, going alcohol-free meant a bigger redesign that I initially thought. And I am not going to lie…it was super difficult. The following are some things that really helped me and if you too are considering going AF they just might help you too.
I often get so enthusiastic about my latest projects that I just can’t hold back saying to my husband, “OMG, you gotta read this or do this… It will change your life!” Historically, I have been so caught up with my own enthusiasm that I lost sight of the fact that sometimes that just isn’t my husband’s thang. Or he is knee deep in his own projects. So when I recommend things, I have also learned over the years that if he doesn’t get to it or it goes unread, it simply isn’t part of his journey. After reading This Naked Mind, I simply couldn’t hold back. I wasn’t attached nor did I have any expectations that my husband would read the book or stop drinking. Although he enjoyed a drink, he was always very moderate. To my surprise, delight and now complete and utter gratitude, he read the book a day after me, finished it in less than a week and hasn’t had a drink since. I recognize this has been a significant benefit to me on my journey. I am not walking this new lifestyle alone. So not only have I personally redesigned my life, as a couple we have redesigned how we interact and the activities that we choose. He has been a support system to me and is always an enthusiastic mocktail maker or receiver. We also have a space to declare all the benefits of being alcohol-free.
Immediately after I made the decision to go alcohol-free I set up an accountability group on Facebook. I invited my FB community to join me in my one year AF challenge. Caught up in my enthusiasm I apparently had delusions of grandeur as I thought lots of people would want to give it a go. Three people signed up. And probably by my third month, I was posting to myself (and my husband). We got a lot of giggles over this. Writing helps me process and so despite going at it with just my husband, after a while I still found it beneficial. You just might have better luck starting one. And I know there are already very active ones that you can join. A community can be so helpful when we are trying on a new way of being in the world.
2. AF Groups on Social Media
My Instagram is filled with like-minded folks who are also on an alcohol-free journey. I find these folks incredibly inspirational and I also pick up different tips and ideas of how to maintain my new lifestyle. Facebook also has some great articles.
One of my favorites on FB is One Year No Beer. The founder is also great to listen to. When I scroll my feed, it is positive and uplifting and I know I am not alone.
And Podcasts I am still discovering new ones. They are fun, informative and help me keep my eye on the ball.
3. Read, Read, and Read Some More
Basically, I devour everything I could and can get my hands on that highlights sober free living. This Naked Mind has been a bible and I do listen to her podcast (not as good). Hip Sobriety and Soberistas are also excellent websites and are led by women that have truly started a movement.
Sober free living is here and getting bigger. I also love the new online magazine started by Holly Whitaker, The Temper. People to follow are Anne Grace, Holly Whitaker, and Laura McGowan. Really, the sky’s the limit! There are a lot of amazing individuals living a life of sobriety out there. Knowledge is power.
I so appreciate how more and more people are seeing our relationship with alcohol on a spectrum and ditching the word alcoholic. Removing shame from the equation is helping so many people choose healthy from a healthy place rather than from a place of shame.
As it turns out in a lot of ways I was often just super thirsty. Alcohol dehydrates us which is why with each drink we want more. Now I actually quench my thirst and the fancier the drink, the better. A nice meal and a beautiful mocktail do the trick for me every time.
My most challenging time yet was when I was in Colombia on my first trip for AdventureWomen. The cocktails and wine glasses were absolutely gorgeous! However, my mocktails were even more beautiful. Thanks to our amazing guide, I made it through san alcohol as she always made sure she ordered me a very special drink filled with fresh and exotic fruit…always a work of art. Sure enough, the other women often wanted what I was having.
I woke up each morning refreshed and experienced no altitude issues and was able to handle the physical challenges of the day energized. Making it through this trip allowed me to really turn a corner. It has become easier after I got through each and every challenge.
Sounds basic right? Maybe not. Somewhere along the way during my years of drinking my body moved into craving a drink when I was hungry. I learned even before I completely stopped drinking that if I ate a lovely meal I no longer wanted a drink. So if a craving pops up I now make sure I eat.
I know, it also sounds so basic. But that was my other trigger. Being tired led to cravings. So now, I go to sleep. And it’s pretty early. And yet I get up when I do sleep through the night at 5 am to do my morning spiritual practices.
7. Have a Booze-less Party
That is exactly what we did for my husband’s birthday. One month after we stopped drinking. I made fun mocktails. We had fabulous food. Danced around the campfire. Told stories. And laughed! I was absolutely petrified that I wouldn’t be able to have fun. My husband and I could not get over how much fun we had without alcohol. It was so meaningful to us. And also a turning point for us. If you can’t imagine having a party like this, I would still challenge you to give it a try. And if your friends flat out refuse, it might be time to rethink your friendships and consider building a community that can take or leave the booze.
8. Patience and Letting Go of Expectations
I am not going to lie. I was pretty bored at the beginning of my AF days. There were times when I didn’t (and don’t) quite know what to do with myself. But with each challenge and the passing time it really has shifted. I am rarely bored now. I still sleep like shit and my hormones are still whacky. My AF life has not altered this challenge. I am much more aware that I have a terrible time relaxing.
But it has not altered my resolve to live an AF life. I strongly suspect what started off as a year challenge is really a new way of life for me. I often read how people’s lives have dramatically improved and amazing things happened to them when they stopped drinking. I wouldn’t say my life has dramatically improved. The shift feels very gradual. I am much more aware and the awareness sucks at times.
I feel like I hit a bigger turning point about a month ago. And I really am laughing more when in the company of others. And I love going out! I soooo appreciate how things are shifting and many restaurants and bars have some fabulous mocktails. And no one seems to really care. I was caught up in what people thought and people giving me shit. But that hasn’t really happened.
My tribe is supportive and I think has also recognized I haven’t changed and I am not boring after all. Oddly that was my biggest fear. I feel like I have a long way to go on the “lightening up” path and mastering the art of relaxation organically, but I am up for the challenge.
9. Learn a New Skill
This past winter I made the decision to join a ten-month yoga teacher training program. For me, learning and growth is huge. The essence of yoga is about spirituality and full potential living. Alcohol is not part of the equation. And it is intense. Lots of practice and reading. This is also helping me address my issues around relaxation. To align more deeply with yoga, I have also chosen to ditch the meat and align more with mother earth and attend more deeply to my health. Lots of learning and growth as I study gut health, earth-friendly foods and products, etc. Choosing something that will grow you, stimulate your brain and put you in the company of like-minded folks is a major plus.
Are you sober curious?
Alcohol-free living IS possible. You don’t have to hit rock bottom to stop drinking. Most just need support when you go up against a culture that rebels against someone who chooses not to drink.
In my practice, I walk with individuals who set out to design a new way of living – without alcohol. From my own experiences, I have resources, tools, and techniques designed to support you on this new journey! Together, let’s craft a new way of being in this world that embodies freedom.