“So, are you going to the party this weekend?”
“I don’t think so…”
(Pause…stare…long enough to be uncomfortable…finally blurts out)
“Um, I’m taking a break from drinking right now.”
Just one of several moments that stand out in my mind as I’ve worked through a year without alcohol.
A year without alcohol.
I don’t really want to say a year into sobriety. I think of sobriety as something different. A different level of commitment, perhaps. And I do think I’ll drink again someday. So, right now, it’s just been a year of taking a break.
What has it meant?
At first, it was for my weight. Daily beers add up. Or two. Or three. Once in a while, even more.
When I started the keto diet in January 2018, I just wanted to keep my carbs down, so I switched to vodka. Or hard seltzers. Less carbs, but still drinking my calories.
When I started Stronger U in August 2018, where I learned more about calories and alcohol and the effect it had on my body, I decided to try to give it up for a while. Labor Day weekend turned into a month. Then I figured I would try for Thanksgiving, then join in the customary wine we have at family gatherings… but once I got there, not drinking turned out to be just fine with me. I only had to turn down wine a few times, then people left me alone about it. Christmas, same. And so on. Summer may have been the hardest, with beer and refreshment season in full swing. But, once I hit about 6 months, I knew a year was an attainable goal and I wanted it. And now I am here.
I do believe it has played a significant role in my weight loss and body reshaping. I know it has taken a lot of my belly away.
Beyond that, what else has it meant?
I do come from an alcoholic family.
I have “flirted with” or tiptoed on the edge of alcoholism several times throughout my adult years. I’ve always been able to pull myself out of it, sometimes with the help of family and friends. Still, since I was 21, I’ve never been more than a few weeks without a drink, except when I was pregnant. So a year is satisfying personally, knowing I have some measure of control over consumption. (And yes, there were plenty of times I craved a beer this year for whatever reason, but decided not to have one).
What about my friends? I did stumble over my words when I first started sharing it. But for the most part, people have been nice or just nonreactive about it. A few have even been curious. I’ve found a few people who have used it as a conversation starter, to talk about their own relationship with alcohol. Some friends who are trying not to drink have looked to me for support at social gatherings. It’s easier to not drink if you know others are doing the same thing, whatever the reason might be.
What’s been a bit surprising is how few people really care. If people notice or ask, I usually just say I’m taking a break from drinking. But, most of the time when I was drinking before, it was a beer (or three) by myself at home at night. Alcohol wasn’t a huge part of my social ties or traditions. I think people who have after work drinks with friends or other routines and rituals involving alcohol might have a harder time. I’m grateful it has been simple, and has cost me little while I’ve gained insights and energy for new challenges.
I don’t miss waking up with a hangover. I don’t miss feeling out of control at times. I don’t miss wondering if I’ve waited long enough to get behind the wheel of a car. I don’t miss my beer gut.
If and when I drink alcohol again, I hope I look at it just as I would any other indulgence: a treat to be enjoyed once in a while. Until then, I’ll be toasting with my mocktails, offering to be the designated driver.
If you’re trying to drop some pounds or wonder if you can go without alcohol, I encourage and challenge you to try it for a week or a month. You might be surprised what you learn. Share with us in the comments!