Imagine this scene.
A woman wakes up in the morning hustles to the kitchen after nudging her kids awake and makes breakfast and lunches for the entire family. She argues with the kids to hurry and dress, despite the fact that the morning routine hasn’t changed in years. She finally rushes the kids off to school just in time to make it as the tardy bell rings. When she comes home she switches her focus to cleaning the kitchen, which is a disaster after the meals she just knocked out in a frenzy for her family. She then walks around her home picking up dirty clothes that were left lying around, despite her nagging reminders to her children to put them in the laundry bin. With arms full of dirty clothes, she treks down to the laundry room to start a few loads, trying desperately to stay on top of the mess. She comes back and throws on some mindless Netflix show for ambiance in the background as she cleans up the house and knocks out the remainder of the laundry. In between loads, she proceeds to check emails and work on a few volunteer projects that need to be completed, scattering in a few dog walks in between. She completes all the laundry just in time to look down at the clock and realize that school is being let out, so she literally runs to the school to pick up the kids, albeit a few minutes late.
Rather than greeting her with hugs and kisses, the kids complain that she has forgotten a snack for them and on the walk home they bicker with each other. They drop their bags at the front door and proceed to drop garments of clothes all over the freshly cleaned home as they start to unwind after school. She lays out snacks and reminds the kids to get their homework done and pick up their clothes.
The kids beg for television and she continually says no, encouraging them to get their homework done. The table is left full of dirty dishes from the snacks and she finds the kids in their room playing with toys, no homework complete. The nagging begins.
She finally gets the kids to complete their homework and after some considerable arguing, they clean up their mess. She gives in and allows them to watch some television.
She looks at the clock. It’s a few minutes before 5 pm. She decides to get dinner going.
She feels frazzled, under appreciated and exhausted.
She opens a bottle of red wine and pours a glass for herself.
The smell of the wine lets her know that soon she can unwind. She feels the first sip warm her insides as she swallows. A few more sips in and she notices herself letting go of the tension.
It is going to be alright, the day is almost over.
Can you relate?
This was my 2017.
And for me, it was not okay.
It had become apparent that I was using wine as a crutch to help me unwind at the end of the day. The only problem was that the end of the day, had become dinner prep, and one glass became two or three over the course of the entire evening. Now, it was not nightly, but it was enough to add some unwanted padding to my body and to throw off my desire to get up early in the morning and be productive.
I knew that coming into the new year I had a lot of goals I wanted to achieve, but that it was unlikely I was going to be able to reach those goals unless something changed.
I had given up alcohol for a year once before a few years ago and found that my productivity went up significantly. So, I set the challenge for myself. One year without drinking.
Three hundred and sixty five days of pure sobriety.
I am now almost complete with my year and I am so grateful that I made the decision. 2018 brought on a lot of personal challenges with loss being a common theme. I know that had I not made this personal commitment to myself that I would have drowned my sorrows in wine, but instead I was able to focus my grief in positive ways such as advocacy.
That said, I’m always intrigued by people’s reactions to my choice not to drink. I think it makes people uncomfortable. Perhaps they don’t want to look silly as they let loose and worry about judgement, but there seems to be a large desire for you to drink with them.
I typically try to hide the fact that I am not drinking as to help other people with their discomfort around it. I’ll order a sparkling water with lime and sometimes a splash of cranberry. I don’t lie when asked what I’m drinking, but people just generally assume it’s alcohol.
Although I have plenty of friends who could also care less if I’m drinking or not, I do often have to explain my decision not to drink.
I think people fear that I will judge them. This is not the case.
My feeling is – You do you, I’ll do me, and at the end of the night, I’ll be your DD!
I’m worried about the effect of drinking on me, not on you.
And I have for far too long used it as my crutch and my reward at the end of a stressful day.
My kids and I would joke about how I liked my wine to help me slow down and relax, but I realize that I did not want my children to think this is how it is done. That they need alcohol to destress.
What I do not like about alcohol is that for me it is consuming. I rarely have only one drink, which means that hours are spent clouded by the judgement of alcohol. It may be minimally, but it is still an impairment and unfortunately alcohol is a depressant – so I can easily get into a woe is me mentality, which does me no favors.
I struggle with depression and am easily led into that path, but know that I am also a person who thrives on light and positivity. The problem is that I know I need to intentionally flood myself in the light in order to combat the pervasive darkness and I can’t do that if I am drinking. It just doesn’t work for me right now. This may change as I get older and as my self care habits evolve, but for right now, I am a better person without alcohol.
I know several of my friends have been looking forward to the year ending so that we could enjoy some libations together again, but I don’t think that days going to happen just yet. I am still working on becoming the best personal version of myself, and at this point, I just can’t do that with alcohol. And to be totally honest, I really don’t miss it. I’ve crowded it out with other good things and I just don’t have room in my life for it at the moment.
There is a lot I have learned about myself through engaging in this personal challenge, and I’d like to share Five Quick Tips and Tricks to Not Drinking I’ve learned this past year:
1. Make a commitment to yourself!
Whether it is one month, one year, or a lifetime, be clear with your commitment to you. This decision is for you and only you. We need to be able to follow through with the promises we make to ourselves about anything else.
2. Be accountable
Announce to your friends, family, coworkers, etc. that you are taking on this challenge. Putting it on social media can be a good way to publicize your efforts, create accountability, and also gain support. Using hashtags such as #notdrinking #hipsobriety #focusingonme #mocktailsonly can help you tie into a group of likeminded people who can offer you extra support.
3. Take it one day at a time!
I found that the first month was the most challenging because I still craved a glass of wine. So I focused on one day at a time and before I knew it I was 11 months into my challenge. It can be challenging thinking about a timeline in it’s entirety. If you have a greater struggle with alcohol, you may need to take it hour by hour, but I promise you – it gets easier with time.-
4. Have a game plan
Know what you are getting into and create a game plan. If you are okay going to events with alcohol, then just be wise for how you will order your own drink. There are tons of great mocktails for you to enjoy, or do as I do and grab a soda water with lime! Also, be prepared on how you will handle questions from others about your decision not to drink – especially if not drinking is atypical for you. If you don’t feel comfortable sharing all the details, you could just simply say “I’m on a cleanse”. Don’t let other people’s insecurities about you not drinking derail your efforts.
5. Ask for support
Reach out and gain support from friends, family, loved ones, or a dedicated support group such as AA if you need. You do not have to do this alone. The more you struggle with alcohol dependence, the more support you may need. That is okay! There is a lot of strength in knowing when to ask for help.
Have you ever thought about or successfully completed a time period where you cut out alcohol? I’d love to hear your story! Thanks for listening to mine!