30 Lessons From 30 Days Alcohol Free
In February 2018, I made a decision to take a break from alcohol. Goodbye to the glass of wine while cooking dinner (that often turned into 2 or 3 by the end of dinner). I've taken many breaks in the past, the longest being during my pregnancies. Other times it was related to a diet challenge, be it Paleo or Whole30. However, I always looked forward to "breaking the fast" when the challenge was over. My few drinks a week, or every few days, would always escalate to drinking more often than not. I grew tired of the merry-go-round.
This time I let my husband know that I wanted to take a break for a month or so. Through fortune, I came upon a website called AlchoholExperiment.com, and what was a break from drinking has turned into a desire to never go down that road again.
I recently passed 30 days of being alcohol free. In the spirit of symmetry, here are my 30 lessons from 30 days of being sober:
- I am not the only one that falls in the drinking gray area. I didn't (and still don't) consider myself an alcoholic, but I did often have a desire to drink less. After starting this process, I realized there are so many men and women out there in the same boat. Check out Jolene Park's TED Talk on Gray Area Drinking.
- There are a lot of women in my own neighborhood who want to drink less. In my area, there is a large group of area moms on Facebook that has inspired many offshoot groups. One of those is for Sober DAMES. If you are in the Decatur, Georgia area and are interested in joining us, send me a message.
- When I am my true self and acting from love, I don't worry about what others think. I suffer from social anxiety and am an introvert by nature. After going alcohol free, I have surprised myself by attending new events, meeting new people, and even organizing meetings with others.
- I don't have to be an alcoholic to want to reduce (or eliminate) my alcohol consumption. I used to shy away from telling others that I was cutting back, fearing that they would assume I "have a problem." I realize now how silly it is. Don't we all have a problem when it is culturally accepted and encouraged for us to essentially poison our bodies? Why wouldn't I be honest about going alcohol free? I wouldn't be afraid to tell people that I was cutting back on cupcakes.
- You don't have to go to Alcoholics Anonymous if you want to go alcohol free. I have a picture in my mind of an old, wrinkly, cigarette-smoking, washed-up homeless man at an AA meeting. I know this is totally unfair, but I felt intimidated and scared about the idea of going to AA. That I had to be "all in" and know that I never wanted to drink again. If I had doubts or uncertainty, I thought I'd be bullied into signing onto the 12 step program. I didn't want to be in a situation where I couldn't be honest even in AA about my relationship with alcohol. I know these generalizations are unfair, but those were (and are) still fears for me. I have an aversion to joining any kind of group, so took those fears and compounded them with anxieties about quitting the "right" way.
- There are AA meetings that are open and welcoming to all, and they are not all filled with scary people. I have visited a meeting in Decatur, Georgia that I love. I was intimidated in the first one, but afterwards everyone was so warm and welcoming that I've gone back. They are an open meeting, so you don't have to call yourself an alcoholic to attend. I can just say "I'm Stacey and I'd like to share." This meeting has silent meditation and discussion. It can be nice just to hear of other human experiences, struggles, and triumphs.
- My wine habit was keeping on extra pounds from both the heavy carb load and the overeating I'd tend to do once I'd had a drink or two. I've had to deal with some sugar cravings after giving up the wine, but have still managed to lose about 5 pounds and go down a size.
- Alcohol is addictive. This one may be obvious, but I had always thought of addicts as people who would get the shakes and sneak sips of vodka from their desk drawer. I never really thought about the toll my drinking had put on my body and the unconscious reasons why I drank. Annie Grace's book, This Naked Mind, is a great resource for understanding the science behind alcohol consumption.
- My alcohol habits over the years added more and more anxiety to my life.
- I was adding a ton of stress to my life by occupying parts of my brain with thoughts of when, where, how much, and how often I was going to drink.
- I used alcohol to avoid conflict and unpleasant emotions.
- I'm not as introverted as I thought I was.
- There is a entire genre of literature out there of Sober Lit.
- People are more uncomfortable talking about their alcohol use than about their sex lives.
- Alcohol advertising is everywhere.
- My kids are watching everything I do and taking on subconscious lessons from my behavior. I don't want them to get the message that "Mommy needs wine" to be around them.
- I don't really like the taste of wine.
- Other people are only as uncomfortable as I make them when I talk about being alcohol free. If I am confident and excited, the person I am talking to generally is as well.
- I don't have to share my journey with people who don't understand or won't be supportive.
- I am fascinated by Pema Chodron and Shambala Buddhist teachings.
- The world will not fall apart if I just STOP and BREATHE for a while.
- There are memories and bad choices in my youth that I've worked hard to forget. Instead I need to remember, feel, then forgive myself for being human.
- There is power in finding a sober tribe.
- Daring to give up alcohol does not mean that there is something defective in me. On the contrary it means that I am awake and aware.
- I do not want to numb my life. Alcohol does exactly that: Ethanol is a general anesthetic. I need to be mindful of other ways I may numb my feelings: online shopping, to-do lists, work.
- Alcohol is a leading cause of cancer.
- I want to be present now and for as long as possible for myself and my family.
- I can do hard things. Thank you, Glennon Melton.
- There is magic in embracing the hard parts; Loving myself even when I want to hide the ugly parts.
- I am not alone.
- Life is beautiful.