1 Year Alcohol Free - What I've Learned
Welp, it's crazy how time flies - seriously it feels like yesterday I wrote my blog post - My Break Up With Alcohol - if you haven't read it yet - I'd start there first to see how I got here one year ago! The year has flown by fast & I won't lie - toward the end of February - at first I questioned if I'd be able to make it the full year because I felt so isolated in social settings when I didn't drink. BUT I MADE IT! Here's what I learned on this year of the change!
Identifying Why I Drank
This was huge for me. Until you identify what causes you to drink - I truly don't think you'll ever be willing to give it up. For me - I was a social drinker. For a long time drinking just was for fun at bonfires & social gatherings. Then I slowly started to realize how much I needed it to be comfortable in social settings. How much it helped me to be able to participate in painful small talk with people. You see for me - I used to be a super outgoing, bubbly, social girl, but then it felt like one day I woke up and I wasn't. I learned later in life that this change was actually caused by health issues in my brain. This whole time I thought I was just an anti-social bitch & alcohol got me out of that. The real issue was I do have a mental health condition & alcohol made me feel like my old self, but also caused more damage than I realized. I became super reliant on having it whenever I'd go to holidays, social events, etc. What I had to come to terms with is that I'm no longer that social, outgoing bubbly girl anymore & that's okay. Alcohol just puts a mask on me. If I have to drink in order to engage in social interactions or small talk conversation with people that I don't enjoy - then maybe those are people or places I really need to be around no matter who they are. Now I show up 100% my truest, most authentic & sober self to social settings. It has to be enough because that's all I'm offering.
Make it hard to fail
If the idea of going a year without alcohol sounds hard - I get it. Maybe don't go cold turkey like I did, but give your self small dry windows. Even a week with no alcohol is still something to be celebrated. If you're trying to cut back - limit yourself to certain days on when you drink or leave your ID in your car when you go to the grocery store so you can't buy it at the store when you're there. If it's in the house - you're gonna drink it. If going into social settings will trigger you to drink - avoid them for awhile until you feel strong enough to say no.
Don't be afraid to order a mocktail
When you feel strong enough to conquer social settings that involve alcohol - don't feel embarrassed to order a mocktail. Promise no one is judging. It's comforting because more & more places are now putting non-alcoholic drink options on their menus! Studies are starting to show a more sober society increase in years to come. For those wondering - "Why don't you just get a Coke then?" - because we too want to experience social outings that a bar can offer with a fun drink, but just because we don't consume alcohol doesn't mean we should be dis-included from the experience. Lets normalize having more establishments with non-alcoholic options for those who wants to enjoy time out!
Cranberry with a splash of soda water & fresh lime
Cranberry & pineapple juice with Sprite
Cranberry & Sprite with lime
^ Just a few of my go to drinks when I'm out. Most places have these items in stock anywhere so it's a safe bet! However if a place has an Non-Alcoholic menu with new options - you bet I'll explore that!
Sometimes my mocktail is just a fancy prebiotic drink in a wine glass 💙
Just know - misery loves company
I want to clarify before I go into this topic that not everyone who drinks is miserable. However, I found the ones who were very pushy on me joining them in drinking/wanting me to break my sobriety or kept going on & on about how I don't drink - those were the ones who truly have a problem with their relationship with alcohol, but haven't fully come to terms with it. Yes, some were complimentary of my journey, but others who I later learned had a problem with their own consumption of alcohol, often had a hard time seeing someone stand up to their own problems when they couldn't themselves. I never made a huge point to tell people I didn't drink either when in the moment. I simply get something non-alcoholic & move on. It isn't until they ask me what I'm drinking that I come clean it's a pineapple juice or cranberry & sprite with lime. Then the questions start rising. I feel that just because I chose this path for myself doesn't mean I'm expectant of everyone to not drink around me. But just as I have the same respect that others will still continue to drink even though I don't - I expect the respect of people understanding I don't drink & moving on. One's life choices doesn't need an explanation or some deep story & I want that to be normalized. If I say I don't drink - I don't feel I need to tell a random person a whole blog post of what lead me to not drink. Lets normalize simply saying I'm happy for you and move on. If you're looking to give up alcohol - beware of those who may be struggling with their poor relationship with alcohol. Misery loves company and no one likes to drink alone.
Finding ways to replace alcohol or activities that involve alcohol
This part I know can be hard for a lot of people, but activities/certain holidays/experiences that once brought me a lot of fun & enjoyment no longer do. I traded Friday nights with a bottle of wine for yoga at 9am on Saturday mornings. When I go on vacation, instead of focusing on the coolest bar - I'm more interested in ways to experience local life, going for early morning walks & learning the history of the towns I travel to. My focus now is on gardening, reading books, buying new workout clothes, going to the gym/yoga/ballet, buying probiotic/prebiotic drinks & getting the most time out of my days that alcohol & hangovers once took so much away from me. I marvel at the fact that hangovers are now a distant memory & by 8am - I'm full of energy to hit the day running. I thought I would deeply mourn the loss of alcohol, but I've celebrated the forfeit of alcohol in my life with new interests, better health and more time back in my life.
Search for resources to keep you going
It's hard to go about such a dramatic change without outside help & I can't say I did it completely alone. I listened to positive podcasts & read books encouraging sobriety. My favorite podcast is Mindset Mentor & my favorite book encouraging sobriety is Quit Like A Woman by Holly Whitaker. Don't be afraid to seek out resources! And the coolest part? Being embarrassed for having a problem is literally so 5 years ago. We all have issues so don't feel embarrassed - if anything it's embarrassing to have a problem you don't address because you're scared of what other's will think.
Focusing on the positive
I could sit here and focus on all the things I lost with alcohol & a year ago when I first started this journey it was a huge thing I dwelled on for a while. Once I hit 6 months, it was clear what was really holding me back in life & it was clearly alcohol. Between new hobbies, less anxiety, better sleep, clearer skin, losing swelling in my face & weight in my body. It's hard to say I lost anything with how much I've gained. If you focus on what you're giving up rather than what you're gaining - you'll never move forward.
So what's next....
I plan to continue my alcohol free lifestyle. Living a year without it has opened my eyes to realize that there's so much more to life beyond alcohol and the activities that center around it. Instead of late nights and hungover mornings - I enjoy my full 8 hours with early mornings at yoga or coffee with my husband. I finally feel refreshed and hydrated. There's so much more to life than alcohol & I'm glad that at 28 years old I finally woke up to that rather than later in life. There's so many things to do & experience & I'm looking forward to doing them 100% sober. See ya again when I celebrate 2 years sober! 😘
Mrs. Northern Belle