And what does it mean for my drinking going forward?
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Well, I’ve done my dry February (plus a few days of January)! I broke the fast with a martini with my boyfriend last night, was immediately tipsy, laughed a lot, and fell asleep about an hour earlier than I normally would have.
And the question on my lips is… what now?
I learned a lot of things about myself and my relationship to booze during these short 33 or so days:
- When I’m alone, the urge to drink is usually to distract me from something — primarily loneliness or boredom.
- When I’m with others, the urge to drink comes from a sense to connect more deeply, or conditioning from the atmosphere, if we’re in a bar, restaurant or at a dinner party.
- Not drinking has made my anxiety MUCH better, but also made my emotions MUCH more all over the place — since the alcohol was being used as a tool to suppress emotions, that makes sense that they might come strongly to the forefront after a month of no booze.
- It’s really easy to ask for non-alcoholic drinks wherever you are. I got went to bars and got mocktails; I went to dinner parties and brought seltzer; I hosted a dinner party where I did not provide wine but welcomed people to bring their own, and it was fine to watch them drink but not have any of my own.
- And now that I’m through with Dry February, I… have no idea what my relationship to alcohol is, should be, or why or when I’ll drink again.
I believe I will continue to drink on occasion, but the question on my lips is now… when? What will the parameters around that look like? Since I was drinking as much as I felt like all the dang time beforehand, by default — happy hours; parties; while cooking; out to dinner; watching Netflix — now that I’ve become more conscious about it, the question for me doesn’t seem to be “How fast can I go back to that state of near-daily drinking?” but instead “What are the situations in which I would actually WANT to have a drink? Where having a drink would actually INCREASE my joy, connection, presence of the moment?”
I’m hard-pressed to think of any, since I spent a month proving to myself that stuff was just as fun sober as it was without the booze. And this is a weird place to be for somebody who doesn’t necessarily want to be sober, but wants to create more consciousness around everything that she does in this lifetime — including imbibing.
So does this mean it’s okay to have one drink home alone, but only once a week? Is it okay to have two drinks when out to dinner with my boyfriend? Will I only drink on weekends? Only when I’m with other people? Only drink when I’m with other people — on weekends?
I don’t have any quick answers right now. I suspect I’ll be mulling my relationship to alcohol for months, if not years to come. But in the meantime, I wanted to share two reader responses I got about my Dry February that may be of interest to the rest of you out there.
Before those: Are you sober? Do you have a conscious relationship to alcohol? How do YOU decide when it’s the right time or situation to have a drink? I’d love to hear.
From Nikki: I’ve been sober since November 2018, so a little over a year now. The hardest thing about it has definitely been facing my feelings — when you stop drinking, you lose not only the alcohol but the distractions of the social situations and some of the friendships that helped distract you from your negative feelings. I’ve gone through a breakup and lost several close friendships because of the changes since I stopped drinking, and then not had alcohol to deal with those breakups! The primary thing I try to do is funnel my anxiety and negative emotions into accomplishing things — I read an Ask Polly column once where she talked about how you have all this fiery energy but you’re using it to set trash fires, and I feel like that’s what my life while I was drinking was all about. It was chaotic, dramatic, and not really going anywhere. Anyway, I’m using the emotions mostly to propel myself forward working on my first book,. I also work out hard a few times a week, which really helps. Lately I’m trying to just live with the feelings, tho, and let them run their course. Because I do think it’s true that if you feel them straight on, they go away faster. (I actually said this in my most recent piece about how to survive a breakup sober.) Anyway hope some of that’s useful!
From Jillian: Thanks for sharing this. I look forward to hearing your further thoughts. I’ve been considering my drinking habits for years now, and have cut down considerably. I’ve also taken week to month breaks here and there for the last couple of years, most recently a month ending a couple weeks ago. Though I know I am not an alcoholic, I know I rely on alcohol as my buffer. And recently I’ve been trying harder to see how alcohol affects my overall mental health. As you know, I’ve been in awful-to-poor mental health for most of the last 8+ months following my breakup. When I went on Whole30 and returned to morning weightlifting, I was shocked by my good mood, how palpably those base activities affected my entire outlook on life. That month was certainly the most normal one I’ve had yet. Then I returned to drinking, traveled to see a friend, drank more than usual with her, and guess what! I just had an awful mental health week. Now I’m wondering if clean eating and keeping dry might be something I actually need to do until my baseline mental health returns — or if that’s, just, like, something I should do for the rest of my life! And it’s left me feeling a bit angry about how much work it is to take care of ourselves, how many sacrifices we have to make and consciousness we have to invest to just feel good. I know that work is worth it, but damn, how I wish snacking on Doritos and having some wine didn’t have to be such a thought-provoking process for me. But the quote you shared from Brooke Castillo really resonated with me. If I just took all that shit out of the equation, what time what I get back? What creativity? I already partially know the answer because of the sober breaks I’ve taken — they usually make me feel like a well-rested, responsible superhero, more of an adult, more like the person I long to be. What a frustrating process!