Giving Up Drinking | What I've Learned About Vices After A Year With No Alcohol
Mindless scrolling on social media, binge-watching Netflix, food, alcohol, prescription pills, gambling, and sleeping all day. What do these have in common? These are things we tend to turn to when we’re sad, anxious, mad, confused, irritated, or annoyed.
We use these vices to turn off the real world and escape to a place where things are “better”. We might choose vices because we feel they’ll bring us happiness, joy, or relief. But do they? Are we using these vices to bring joy or to run away from reality ?
For me, my vice became alcohol. I would use it to get over a tough day, relax, or even be more confident when there was a dance floor present. Now, I will preface this to say I don’t believe I “had a drinking problem”, but I can look back now and see that alcohol wasn’t always the best choice for me in certain situations.
This is also not to bring judgment on anyone. By all means, live your life. Enjoy your drink of choice at the end of the day or that mimosa at a baby shower. This is to share my experience and my journey with giving up what once was my vice. As you read on, it may help to mentally replace my vice with the vices that you currently have - after all, we learn by seeing ourselves in others & their lived experience.
If I had a hard day (mentally or emotionally) I thought a drink would help ease my mind. Hard conversations with Sean? Those would tend to conveniently happen on the weekends when we had plans with friends. So, we’d go out and have drinks and not actually have a conversation about the topic. Or I would think it was necessary to discuss the topic after a couple of drinks - I don’t think I need to tell you how those conversations ended!
Going out on a Saturday night and there’s a dance floor? Liquid courage would help get me out there and be 100% carefree.
Feeling overwhelmed or out of place at a networking event? Excuse me while I have another glass of liquid courage.
When I would be anxious, annoyed, or stressed about the day, Sean would say “have a drink and relax”. While he meant well, I would get extremely frustrated because I would think to myself “I don’t need a drink - nobody needs a drink.” But, often times I would finally pour myself a glass....and dang it if it didn’t take the edge off. I wasn’t proud that it had that much impact on me.
In September of 2017 after swearing off alcohol for 30 days as part of a dietary detox, we decided that alcohol didn’t have a place in our lives for the long term. With Sean traveling throughout the week, me running The Hatchery, being the best parents for Ellie, and keeping the house up to our standards it just did not fit anymore. Our plates are full enough already and we needed to feel like our best selves mentally and physically to reach our goals. Add to that the fact that my own mother struggles with alcohol abuse and it just became very clear for me - this vice no longer had a place in my life, it was time to breakup!
So with a La Croix in hand and plenty of anxious feelings at heart, we set off to our new normal - being “those people” not drinking at the party!
On our first alcohol-free weekend there was an MU football game. It wasn’t too bad! Tailgating was still fun, but we did get some interesting looks. As time went by and more weekends came and went, we realized how incredible it was to wake up every single morning feeling really good. I didn’t realize how terrible a hangover felt until I didn’t have one for a long time. Plus as plenty of you out there know parenting through a hangover? Not exactly ideal.
We celebrated a year of not drinking this past September and while some milestones cause a hankering for a cold beverage, I found myself more excited to wake up feeling 100%. And for me, waking up 100% is worth skipping an ice-cold vodka/tonic to brave getting on the dance floor at a wedding or a Bluemoon on a patio on a hot summer day.
What I have learned in the past 16 months :
I do not want to reenact my mom's life. She struggled (still does) with alcohol. As a child, I saw the affects on her. My number one goal in this life is to be the best for Ellie and I didn’t want her to see me bringing myself anywhere even close to that. That doesn’t mean we talk negatively about alcohol in our house, that doesn’t mean we don’t take her places that have it, nor will we preach to her that it’s not something anyone should ever do. Everything in moderation has its place.
People judged us. Yup. People judged us for not drinking because they assumed we were judging them for drinking. In reading personal development books and remembering previous coaching sessions, I’ve had to remember that the perception of others is not my reality.
To help with the odd looks or being asked if we were expecting, I often order a water or a soda water with lime. Not only does this make me feel more approachable, but it also gives me a little placebo effect. I go to a lot of networking events and totally feel like the oddball. So, this trick helps a lot.
We have found some new hobbies and take advantage of early mornings (coffee in hand of course)
I have had to forgive myself for the many dumb things I’ve done while 5 drinks in. Definitely not forgetting the fun I’ve had, but whew some I’d like to erase from my memory!
Sean and I have had more meaningful and tough conversations. We have recognized that we could still push things down, but we know it doesn’t help. We’ve dug DEEP!
When I’ve had a rough day and think, “ugh this is when I could use a drink” I can quickly remind myself – no, you don’t. I then try figuring out what has really triggered my emotions and actually work through it.
It’s made me very aware of this Mom/Wine culture that has been created. I’m going to get a lot of sly looks, but it’s actually pretty sad. Yes, parenting is HARD. But, I really think we need to take a look at what we’re teaching our children if they’re hearing that we’re “needing” a glass of wine at 9:00am because “we just can’t even.” Again, to each their own and I’m not saying having a drink is the most terrible thing, but I do believe we’re masking a whole lot more than a tough day with kids.
Not being an addict does not necessarily mean something is good for you. Do I need AA? Not at all. Should we all take time to address what we consume (whether that’s negative media, alcohol, Mcdonald’s, or any insertvicehere)? Absolutely.
While we get the occasional weird look, I’ve also learned that there are a lot of people who are interested in giving sobriety a go. If that’s you I would recommend the book Sober Curious by Ruby Warrington - it is SO amazing and super relatable.
Choosing not to drink is different for everyone. So, if someone you know is not drinking please understand that it may not be the most appropriate question to ask why. (Here’s looking at you anyone who has thought I’ve just been pregnant for 1.5 years ;)
Other vices of mine and tips that have helped:
Mindless social media scrolling – I set a limit on how much I can be on these apps in a day. If I go over it will time out in 15 minutes. When I hit that (and again, it’s not for work purposes) I make myself put it down.
Netflix – I can watch TV all.day.long sometimes. If I’m using it to ignore a long list of work, I make myself get a solid 30 minutes of work and then allow myself to turn it on
Anxious snacking – ugh, anyone else? When I’m working on something that’s pushing me beyond my comfort zone or working on mundane tasks I will find myself snacking. I legit out loud say, “come on – sit down and just finish it!”
At the end of the day, we need to really look inside and ask ourselves what we might be running away from. We can’t beat ourselves up about it. Nor can we expect to stop a habit right away. It takes patience, grace, and time. And sometimes therapy or other professional assistance (that’s a-ok as well)! When we can dig into what our feelings are triggered by we can really start to work on making ourselves better.