I’m probably the last person you’d have expected to write this post.
October 25th, I up and quit drinking. It wasn’t “sober October” or “dry January,” it was a random day in October after a conversation with friends.
I’m typically a daily drinker. I love a cider or cocktail at whatever transition comes post-run, aprés ski, end-of-work-day, or hopping in the hot tub to toast to a day well lived. I then have a glass or two of red wine while cozy into the evening.
I listened to the book This Naked Mind by Annie Grace more than a year ago. It’s a pretty down-to-earth book that explores the cognitive dissonance (mental contradiction) and physical impact booze has on our lives. It provides the pertinent facts and a dose of humility. Once you listen to stuff like that, you can’t really unhear it. I immediately cut back for a couple of months, and became hyper aware of how we speak about alcohol in the norm of our everyday. I cringed when others joked about booze around my teenage nieces… observed how social media memes joked about moms having their “juice.”
By June last year, I was admittedly feeling darkness in other areas of life. I wanted to numb out, and knew exactly how to do that. Red wine was flowing quickly again. Then we launched into a pandemic, which initially felt like a wild celebration – we’re all HOME in our jammies, how fun! All the TikTok accounts being targeted toward me were moms drinking straight from bottles. It seemed alcohol became synonymous with the pandemic, and then the elections, and more.
So I found myself listening to the book again after chatting with friends this October. The conversation was around the benefits of being sober, specifically in being way more in tune with your intuition. And per my last blog post about doing the inner work, you know that kind of thing is high on my priority list.
Thanks also to my new ear buds and lots of time with busy hands (kitchen, handmade gifts, wrapping), I somehow soon got hooked on listening to “quit lit.” I haven’t quite made it through all of these, but here you go:
- This Naked Mind, Annie Grace
- Quit Like a Woman, Holly Whitaker
- We Are the Luckiest, Laura McKowen
- The Unexpected Joy of Being Sober, Catherine Gray
- Sober Curious, Ruby Warrington
- The Sober Lush, Amanda Eyre Ward & Jardine Libaire
- The Sober Diaries, Clare Pooley
- A Happier Hour, Rebecca Weller
- Highlight Real, Emily Lynn Paulson
- Drink, Ann Dowsett Johnston
- Recovery, Russell Brand
Take a look yourself – they all have extremely high reviews. Some may speak to you more than others.
Because I think many of my peers may feel the same, I will say that most of these memoirs are stories I couldn’t necessarily relate to. I’m not finishing bottles, hiding bottles, blacking out, constantly hungover, missing work, waking up with strangers, and so on and so forth. But there are nuggets in here about what really leads us to drink, and it’s all pretty motivating-slash-unbecoming of the human race. And as the authors often suggest, “it isn’t really a problem until it is.”
The biggest takeaway for me is that you don’t have to be an alcoholic to experience the negative affects of alcohol in your life. Literally no one can tolerate alcohol – it’s not that some of us are good at it and some of us aren’t. And because twelve-step programs make it seem so all-or-nothing, of course none of us want to cross that harrowing line. We think we’re safe to keep drinking as long as we’re over here on the “nice girls” side.
I held off on this book at first because I figured it was gimmicky millennial stuff, but the one that perhaps resonated the most for me was Sober Curious (after the mandatory This Naked Mind). You’ve probably heard the term thrown around.
This is where I’ve found myself these past couple of months, sober curious. I have continued to test the culture of alcohol a bit here and there since December. I’ve had a hard cider in the late afternoon of a sunny Saturday, or sipped a glass of red wine while cozied up with new friends. But for the most part, I’m drinking hot tea, hot water with lemon, and a variety of soda waters every evening – all doing quite well to fill the “void.”
Hard to call it a void because I now find myself winding down for bed by 9pm and wide awake at 5am. I feel extremely well-rested and hydrated. As if drawn by some vibrational force, I’m stepping onto my yoga mat immediately in the morning and following with meditation, journaling and reading for the first quiet hours of the day. That’s the stuff that’s sparked joy for me – for you it may be something else.
So much of my mind feels free from thought when it comes to whether or not we have wine, when to go to the store, how much to get, what drinks are available where we’re going (I’m picky), whether it’s too early to drink, or probably time to stop… Again, I never would have said this was a priority taking space in my head before, but wow is it cool to make room for other thinking! What other senseless things could I free my mind of? (my diet, a home improvement project that’s delayed, a relentless niggle at work…)
While COVID has become quite a drinking fest across social media, I dare say it’s actually the PERFECT time to cut back. There’s no pressure to go out and socialize, the holidays are quiet, parties are virtual. No one’s asking me questions or singling me out.
I originally set a goal of 30 days, and at this point it’s been about 60 days of mindful contemplation. I’ve thought a lot about how we often drink to fit in, or even to make others feel comfortable, like maybe my not drinking would seem like I’m pointing a finger at your drinking. We drink to celebrate the good things, and to drown out the sad or frustrating things. Sometimes we drink simply out of habit, which is probably 90% of the case for me.
You know what’s surprisingly a great resource for sober curiosity? Instagram! There’s a huge network of #sobercurious #soberlife #soberaf #teetotaler #wearetheluckiest fiends out there who are sharing and supporting others.
At the same time, I do love the culture and traditions of alcohol. I love the art of distilleries, cideries and vineyards, and the incredible skills of mixology. I do want to appreciate those things in the right moments.
So where will I go from here? Well, much like Ruby Warrington of Sober Curious, I’m not going to define it. I certainly don’t want to slip into $100/week habits again, but for now I’m trusting myself to stay mindful. Nine times out of ten, I’m happier for being hydrated and clear-headed.
My hope in sharing all this with you today is to say that it’s okay to NOT drink, to not succumb to the norms you see online and on TV. It’s okay to take a little pause, a breath, and ask yourself what drinking is truly doing for you. It doesn’t mean you’re a terrible person or that you’re banished forever. It doesn’t mean everyone else is pointing and whispering behind your back (in fact, they’re hardly paying attention). Most of all, you’re not alone. There’s a whole world of modern, tangible inspiration out there, and I know I’m really grateful to have found it. I’m always right here too if you want to chat further.