My tips and tactics
Happy Sunday, Soothers. By the time you get this in your inbox, I will have spent 73 days not drinking alcohol (or coffee, or eating gluten, but those are stories for another time), on my way to 90 days without alcohol in my life.
I’ve written a few times in the past here about my relationship with alcohol. I’ve done several dry months at this point in the last few years, and those gave me a lot of clarity and understanding about how alcohol affects me.
The short story is I’m 42, and I’ve known for at least 6 years that my relationship with alcohol overall is… what to call it? Unhealthy? Fraught? Confusing? Dependent, even?? It’s hard to say. I’ve never once identified as an alcoholic, or had massive negative effects in my life from my alcohol use, but at the same time, I was becoming more and more aware over the years that something about alcohol was feeling out of my control regardless.
As a highly sensitive person, I realized I was using alcohol to regulate my nervous system in times of high anxiety and times of low despair. I would use it to bring my anxiety down to a manageable level, especially social anxiety; I would use a drink for a dopamine hit when I was feeling low and or bored or lonely, as something for relief or to look forward to.
I was using alcohol not just for nervous system regulation, but also emotional regulation — or really, emotional suppression. Alcohol would help me numb out or distract me when difficult emotions like grief or despair or anger came up.
I also in the past few years realized I suffer from PMDD, and reading more about alcohol’s (and coffee’s) effect from a hormonal level on my menstrual cycle really got me more interested in the hormonal health benefits of not drinking alcohol, especially as I prepare for menopause in the next few years.
Mostly, I had to realize, all the things I preach to my clients as a life coach and teacher — nervous system regulation, emotional processing, self-care — I wasn’t living those fully because of the way I used alcohol. And that wasn’t in congruence or alignment, and I needed to change that.
So, after spending a big chunk of the summer in rural Indiana where the drinking culture is pretty strong, I decided fall…