celebrations, challenges

My Superpower

I had the thoughts that many probably do…”Will they still want to hang out with me?” “Will they think that I am no fun?”

All the worries. The anxiety. But years later, I’m happy to say all those worries were unfounded. I still have most of the same friends. Even though I don’t drink. A testament to the quality of my friends.

I have a long history of alcoholism in my family. My dad, my grandparents, many more. I didn’t have my first drink until I was 21 and away at college. But, I quickly made up for lost time. As an adult I fell in love with beer. I collected IPAs as a hobby, but would drink spiked seltzers and sweet cocktails at times too. I did many things I would like to forget. I probably did others that I actually did forget because I was too far gone to remember. It’s not something I am proud of. I am grateful I never hurt anyone.

I gave alcohol up a few times. Once when I was pregnant. Another when I thought I was too dependent. And the last time I put the bottle aside was several years ago, when I decided I was serious about losing weight and wanted to see how much giving up drinking would help. I was surprised not only by the weight loss, but also by how little I eventually missed drinking.

Now, years later, I go to wine night and have a mocktail. I am sometimes the sober buddy for another friend who is attending but not drinking. I recently went on a wine tour for a friend’s birthday and just watched others partake. I smelled the wine. I touched a few little sips with my lips. But in the end I just enjoyed the company. I enjoyed people enjoying themselves. I held everyone’s bags and jackets while they took vineyard photos. (I don’t usually take photos with drinks since I am a teacher and we are under higher moral scrutiny by many.) I ate a lot of cheese and crackers. Win win.

Being the all-time designated driver is not a bad thing. In some ways you can be the hero. Saying no to what isn’t healthy for you can be a superpower. I’m grateful for friends who accept me as I am and value me as a person and not just as a drinking buddy.

celebrations, dare to be different

Toasting A Year Without Alcohol

“So, are you going to the party this weekend?”

“I don’t think so…”

“Why not?”

(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!