I used to feel sorry for people who I once labeled as alcoholics for lots of reasons. Up until 8 months ago, I could not fathom the idea of passing on a beautiful cocktail. The idea of living alcohol-free felt unnecessary for me and quite honestly incomprehensible. I would often hear myself say, “Thank God I don’t have a problem because the idea of not drinking a lovely glass of wine or a cocktail seems empty and oh so boring.”
It was exactly that thought pattern that got me to stop in my tracks and come to the conclusion that maybe I did have an unhealthy relationship with alcohol after all. I wondered why the thought of living an alcohol-free life felt so unappealing to me. I’d like to say I could take it or leave it, but I was almost always “taking it” rather than leaving it when the invite came or circumstances presented itself i.e. restaurants, parties, etc. Over the years, drinking had become weaved into the fabric of my identity. These past eight months have been about discovering who am I without alcohol being part of my personal landscape.
There are many physical benefits of an alcohol-free life. Check out this video to get a quick summary of some of them! (She has some great resources in the comments)
For me, it has been a fascinating journey of discovery these past eight months. I am continually surprised by lots of things, but mostly by how long it has taken to truly realize these benefits myself.
1. Deep learning.
Personally and professionally. I always lean into books, podcasts, articles, etc. when trying to make a change. And because this particular redesign of my life has been significant, I have leaned heavily into research to help me stay on task. I have made the most amazing discoveries along the way. I absolutely love the latest trend that is looking at alcohol use on a spectrum. If alcohol has touched your lips you are on the spectrum. There is no disputing the fact that alcohol in and of itself is addictive. And like many things, there is a big range on the alcohol use spectrum.
If you drink once a year you are on the spectrum. And if alcohol has robbed you entirely of your life, you obviously would be on the other end. There is movement on the spectrum and anyone who has their game piece on the board of alcohol can quickly shift in either direction.
The shift can also be so subtle and slow and the slippery slope can remain undetected or unnoticeable keeping you fast asleep to the consequences. This fresh perspective that is gaining credence has the ability to put a stop to finger pointing at people we label as alcoholics. The reality is we are all a step away from so many unsavory things, including having a problem with drinking. Taking yourself out of this less than perfect equation might just be what leads you there. The finger pointing is not only shaming, but it also keeps so many people from seeking the help they need when they themselves recognize that alcohol has become a problem. Anyone who drinks can easily shift into the danger zone. I have been amazed to read and hear stories of people who were very late to the drinking game end up in the red zone quickly due to unforeseen life circumstances.
I have also learned that just because I stopped drinking many people assumed I was on the problem end of the alcohol use spectrum. The truth is I was a moderate drinker outside of college (and that one summer in Maine!). The years that followed were smattered with bouts of overdoing it on occasion but never overly concerning.
But I did have a problem with my relationship and I didn’t like how it had become a way of life even if it was just a few drinks.
Also, the fun that I always associated with alcohol was really about the events and the people. Once I had that realization, socializing at parties, bars, and events has become THAT much more fun because I end the day peacefully and wake up refreshed.
2. I am no longer bored.
For those of you who read my blogs at three and six months, boredom was a new norm. If I am bored, I change the scene quickly. My life is so full that I simply don’t have time to be bored. So much to see and do and people to meet.
3. I am beginning to relax….naturally.
Finally! I am still in the redesign of this one. Sleep issues stemming from menopause have rocked me the past few years. The silver lining of navigating menopause naturally is that my body simply will no longer tolerate anything unhealthy. It demands full-on respect. Which means no booze. An uber healthy diet. And it also is telling me to stop pushing past the tired zone and take a nap. The more I do this, the more relaxation is starting to make its way into my world again.
4. I rarely think about alcohol now.
It’s off my radar. Which has cleared my mind space on so many levels!
I am totally confident that I am not going to drink even if I go to bars, parties, gatherings and not drinking. I drive home confident. I wake up confident. Even if its in the middle of the night.
6. My new life design feels much more grounded and real.
It no longer feels weird to not drink. It’s not a struggle. The benefits of AF living have had time to solidify. And because I am totally cool with it, I don’t seem to get the odd looks from bartenders and other drinkers.
7. I am seeing what’s happening in our culture more clearly.
I see mass marketing campaigns. I see how long I was duped and seduced. Especially being a woman. I no longer tune out the images designed to hook us into drinking. I see how alcohol is robbing so many of their health and their lives and people don’t see it. I didn’t see it. I am both relieved that I am out of the dirty fish bowl and I feel sad that alcohol is big money and the alcohol industry is so intentional about ruining so many lives. How do these people sleep at night?
8. This is not deprivation.
I love anyone and any group that is attempting to address issues around problem drinking. However, I feel like there are too many people who are in recovery or have decided to stop drinking who carry the perspective of deprivation. Which will often either lead to relapse or lead people to walk around thinking they are missing out.
I am still the one on the dance floor being a goofball. I still go to bars. I still carry my “out there” way of viewing the world. I still want to hook up with you and have a drink. Mine just happens to be without alcohol. I am definitely not judging anyone either for drinking. Heck, I chose it for years. This is a personal decision due to my personal relationship. This journey has been about acting on an urge to define my life in a different way.
Are You Sober Curious?
If you too have become uncomfortable with your own relationship to alcohol, I want you to know that life can be quite amazing (which has been a huge surprise for me!) and that much more fulfilling and productive.
If you need support with your alcohol-free journey, get in touch with me today!