January 30, 2024

My Relationship with Alcohol: 5 Ways I Learned to Lean on It

At the end of December, I decided I wanted to cut out alcohol for a month. It’s been a tug-of-war internally for a while, so I decided to jump on the Dry January bandwagon. For me, it wasn’t about punishing myself from the stuff. I wanted it to be a discovery of my relationship to alcohol more than anything, although I didn’t quite have those words when I began. For several months I’ve been listening to and catching up on Mel Robbins’ podcast, and one of the episodes was about alcohol. There was so much clarity that came from that podcast episode that I wanted to put it into my own words in case you’re interested in doing the same thing. Or wondering what your own relationship to alcohol is. These are some collective reasons we lean on booze, some more than others. For most of us who do enjoy drinking, some or all of these will ring a bell, if you’re honest with yourself. Here they are.

Time to Relax!

Setting that Boundary

Typically revolving around my work day, I like to “shut it down” by pouring myself a nice glass of wine. It tells me that I am allowed at this point in the day to turn off the work mode and get into the relaxed mode. Because I own my own businesses (two, in fact) working can bleed into all hours of the day. I’ve perfected my morning routine, as it's established after months of practicing. The phone goes on its charger in the evening and doesn’t come out until we reunite for our bathroom time together. Don’t look shocked. Many of us take it with us; I’m just not embarrassed enough to not admit it. My evenings, though, can get a bit more diluted. If a client calls or needs something after my mental off-time, I may answer. My relationship with alcohol was definitely serving as a boundary-setter for my work-life balance. Guess what, though? My fun mocktail did the same exact thing, I discovered. The best part is that I slept like a rock through the night, and each day I felt like a million bucks.

NY Sour is Ready for a Celebration

A Reward - I Deserve a Drink!

For doing all the great things in my day, I get a drink! My relationship with alcohol definitely could be celebratory. Why not? I made a sale, kicked ass at my workout. Of course I deserve a cocktail. That’s how many of us celebrate and I don’t want to be left out. Birthdays, parties, milestones…all of these reasons were good enough for me to pop open the wine, a beer, or a New York sour, and toast. Usually to myself, because I definitely earned it. As I went through January without that crutch, I realized I could still celebrate a lot of things. Again, I chose a mocktail or even water. I’m not a soda drinker, so a fizzy water could work just fine. Even when attending events or being around others celebrating, I didn’t feel like I wasn’t part of the celebration. I just knew I was driving home stark sober, and that’s always a good thing! No flashing lights in my rearview. Whew.

It Feels Good to Belong!

Feeling of Belonging

The first thing many hosts ask (including myself) when having people over is: what can I get you to drink? I’ve always been a water bottle carrier, so I’d be armed with water or whatever I had other than alcohol to appease the question during my month with no booze. Don’t you just feel like you’re part of the gang, though, when someone busts out a bottle of delicious wine and offers you some? You want to take part in that tasting. As the person Mel was interviewing said, you are entitled to have an urge, but your higher brain can simply acknowledge the urge. Say hello to it, tell it you see it and hear it, and then move past it. We don’t have an urge all day everyday, do we? The desire to belong to that wine drinking group will pass, and you will be the only one whose sleep is uninterrupted, conquering the day. I think that sounds better, and I keep my relationship with alcohol in check.

It's 5 O'Clock Somewhere

It's a Habit

Habits are easily formed and hard to break. We all know that. I’ve been struggling with this inner issue of whether to drink, how much to drink, and on and on. This has probably been going on for years. When I decided to re-evaluate my relationship with alcohol, I realized much of it was simply a habit. Each night, it is a habit to end my work day, similar to the boundary-setting. But even on days I wasn’t working, I still poured the red stuff into my glass and enjoyed the time I had with it. Breaking the habit took a couple of weeks, but after that I wasn’t really thinking about it. I filled the space with yoga, cooking, or some other activity so I wasn’t obsessing over the habit that I happened to really love: alcohol. On the couple of days I thought I couldn’t hold out, I let the urge pass me by, and moved on. Alcohol is not stronger than I am, and I found new habits to replace the old one. And I’m much healthier for it.

I'll Take Two

Take My Stress Away

How many times have you cried out “I need a drink!” After a particularly difficult day or event? I can’t count how many for me. I bet my relationship with alcohol as an stress-reliever sounds familiar to you, too. Who doesn’t feel like they deserve to blow off steam by having a delicious cocktail or glass of wine? While I was going through my month of not drinking, I realized that that is not the type of coping mechanism I want to have with something so potent, and let’s be honest, unhealthy for me. When I’m stressed out, a much better option is going for a walk, doing some yoga, or unwinding with a good TV show and popcorn. Leaning on alcohol as an stress-relieve was not only counter-productive (since it’s a depressant), it was just latching onto a crutch.

This is a Mocktail!

No, I’m Not Cutting It Out Forever

While I have made the decision that my intake will be far less, I’m not cutting it out altogether. Wine is still a very big interest for me, but I don’t need a glass every single night. My relationship to alcohol wasn’t abusive, but it was dependent. And frankly alcohol just wan’t that great of a friend. It kept me up at night, made me a bit sluggish, and clouded my reasoning at times. We are much better if we downgrade to acquaintances rather than being the good friends we were. This revelation came to me after many years of mulling it over, and figuring out how I’m going to go 31 days sans alcohol without breaking. When I made the decision, though, I stuck with it and have zero regrets. I know myself better, and I know how I want to proceed from here on out. Thinking about doing something similar? I support you. Reach out if you need an accountability partner. You’ll be a better human for it, I promise.
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