I started this blog about 4 years ago. In the beginning it was more of a personal diary for myself, rather than a public platform to share with others. I wanted to get serious about healthy living, eating right, and exercising. And this blog became my private space to keep track of that journey. My life has evolved a lot over the last 4 years. I adopted a vegan lifestyle. I traveled all over the world. I got really into minimalism, and the philosophies behind simple living. I also became passionate about the zero waste movement, and sustainability.
And as we enter 2020, a new year, a new decade, I find myself reflecting on other lifestyle habits I’d like to adopt or let go of. Which brings us to sobriety.
But let’s be honest. This is a post about alcohol.
The Challenges of Staying Sober
Truth be told, I’ve wanted to say good bye to drinking for awhile now. Sober life, for some reason, has appealed to me for quite some time.
But peer pressure at social gatherings always had me getting sucked back in. It also doesn’t help that many times, social gatherings revolve around alcohol. Haven’t seen a friend in a long time? Come over to their place for a few drinks to catch up. Need to unwind after a long week? You were just invited to a happy hour. Friend’s birthday party coming up? Let’s go out for a few drinks to celebrate….
Alcohol is often a central component of many social gatherings one gets invited to.
Alcohol: The Good Parts
I don’t think alcohol by itself is inherently bad. It can actually be a really useful tool. For a serious introvert like myself it can be like having a secret cheat card.
I’ve always liked how alcohol allows me to loosen up in social situations. I like how it allows me to transform my naturally shy self into one of those charismatic extroverts I’ve always admired. I like how alcohol allows me to be less socially awkward at outings, and have effortless conversations with others.
Alcohol: The Bad Parts
It’s not all roses though. Over the years I learned to hate a lot about drinking too, like the morning hangovers. In my early 20’s hangovers were nothing; a walk in the park. Now in my late 20’s they’re earth shattering– like someone is trying to scoop out my frontal lobe with a melon baller. I guess it’s a sign I’m getting older, but headaches from drinking are completely unavoidable now.
In recent years I’ve also become really frustrated with modern drinking culture. Alcohol is everywhere. To the point where it almost seems like an event or outing is incomplete without alcohol being present. It seems it’s not enough anymore to just enjoy an experience– a mimosa or cocktail in hand has to be included.
Not only is alcohol everywhere, but in my opinion modern drinking culture has also become increasingly pushy. Unfortunately peer pressure is alive and well, even in adult social circles. And I find it fascinating that alcohol is the only drug where if you choose not to partake in it, especially in a party setting, you can come across as weird. Or you will be relentlessly asked why….
The Relentless “Whys”
- “Why? Are you pregnant?”
- “Why? Is it for religious reasons?”
- “Oh come on, just one drink!”
- “Why? Oh, you don’t want a beer? How about a mixed drink then. No? I have wine too, or cider. I’ll make you a mixed drink, you’ll love it!”
- “Why? Are you on some medication or something?”
- “Fine, how about a shot then…”
- “Why? Are you the DD tonight? Just call an Uber.”
- “I’ll feel weird if I’m drinking and you aren’t. Come on, just one!”
- “Why? Is this some new health thing you’re doing?”
- “Why? Liquor is vegan you know, it’s fine.”
- “What do you mean you’re staying sober tonight? Do you have a problem? Are you an Alcoholic?”
I’ve been asked variations of all these questions before, rapid-fire-style. It can be exhausting to navigate. Having to say no, no, no over and over again.
That last question really grates on me too. Because I feel like society has done a great job at warping our perception of alcohol. Either there are “normal drinkers” who can drink any amount of alcohol, any time, with zero consequences. Or there are “raging alcoholics” that get the shakes when they go too long without a fix, day-drink out of brown paper bags and sleep under overpasses. And as long as you’re not in the second category, then you’re fine… right? This is totally wrong and unhelpful.
There’s a whole spectrum of middle-area that’s missing from that picture. Countless groups of people that don’t feel like they fit in society’s black and white boxes of “teetotaler” or “alcoholic” –and so they don’t know where they belong in the discussion on being alcohol free. You don’t need to assign a label to yourself though, in order to quit a habit you’ve decided no longer has a place in your life.
And to me, it really doesn’t matter what I call it. The real question is, would my life be better without alcohol in it? For me that answer is yes. True, I’ve never had a classic “rock bottom” moment from drinking– but that doesn’t mean I haven’t questioned my relationship with alcohol at different points in my life.
After many long hours deep in thought, I finally decided to try “sobriety by choice” out. I don’t know how long my experiment will be for, but the answer to that question isn’t important to me right now.
And so, a few days before a new decade began, I decided to simply stop drinking for a time.
December 31, 2019 I went to a new year’s eve party, and it was my first sober new years eve in a long time. I also lied about it.
My Sober New Years Eve Experiment
Remember that little devil on my shoulder I mentioned? Peer Pressure? Well I straight-up just didn’t want to deal with it that night. I didn’t want to get hounded with the “Why” questions, and have to tell a bunch of people over and over no I’m not pregnant, no I’m not this, or that. And so I came up with a great idea. My husband and I went to a liquor store before arriving. I bought club soda and cranberry juice, and the entire night I made myself mocktails that looked pretty convincing on the outside, but were sans-liquor on the inside. And do you want to know what happened?
I had a great time! I had no problem flowing from one conversation to the next. I didn’t worry about “not coming out of my shell” enough, or being the quiet weirdo in the corner. I had a genuinely amazing night with friends I hadn’t seen in awhile. And at no point was my “fun” reliant on alcohol. It was an incredible feeling.
And let’s not forget how INCREDIBLE I felt waking up on January 1st, fresh-eyed, no hangover, ready to start the new year off with healthy food, a yoga session, and other good-for-me habits!
I have another secret little trick I used recently over the holidays. After my husband and I arrived at a party, I’d wait to “get a drink” until my husband finished his first beer. After he had one he would take the bottle to the kitchen sink (sneakily), rinse it out, fill it up with water, and hand it to me. Boom. I had a drink in-hand all night!
Only he and I knew that it was a beer bottle filled with water though.
Lessons Learned From A Sober New Years Eve
What I learned about staying sober on new years eve, was that all the nervousness I built up in my head ended up being for nothing. I was peer pressured a little bit that night (when I didn’t have one of my mocktails in-hand) but I didn’t give in. I was worried about needing alcohol to “loosen up” and be social, but that didn’t end up being true either. I was worried about being bombarded with the “Whys” but my mocktail deception came in for the win. I was worried about the night not being as “memorable” or “fun” without some kind of alcohol-fueled spontaneity, but that also ended up being untrue.
My biggest takeaway though, was the overwhelming feeling of how proud I was. I navigated one of the heaviest drinking nights of the entire year without giving in to a habit I’ve decided I want to let go of. And that will always feel better than any hard cider or vodka-cran’s effect on me.
Tips For Those Curious About Staying Sober
To warp this post up, I’d like to leave you with some thoughts if you’re someone like me. Someone who thinks that maybe they’d like to try sobriety out for awhile. Let me say this as simply as I can:
You’re not alone.
You’re not alone in thinking that your life could be better off without alcohol. You don’t have to label yourself as an alcoholic to decide to stop drinking either. Remember that it doesn’t matter matter what you call it, it matters what you do about it. So what do you want for yourself?
Also remember that quitting something you love (or love/hate) — be it a doomed relationship, or martinis — rarely happens in one moment. It is an accumulation of failed attempts. Don’t beat yourself up too badly if you vow to stop drinking for awhile, then find yourself back in old habits shortly after. Quitting habits is hard work. Just keep trying.
Tips For Those With A Sober Curious Friend
Next, I have a few closing thoughts I’d like to leave for people who may know someone that is trying out sobriety.
Be supportive, and leave judgement at the door.
Maybe reading a story like mine will make you cringe, and regretfully realize that you were on the “pressuring” side of peer pressure before. I know for a fact that I’ve been a “pressure-er” before. And to those who I’ve pressured to drink in the past– I’m sorry. My intentions were good, but I never considered until recently how my insistence might have made you feel uncomfortable.
You can support your sober curious family member or friend in a variety of ways. You can not drink when you’re around them in solidarity, or try to find activities together that don’t involve drinking. Maybe one of your go-to activities you like to do with your sober curious friend is wine & movie nights at home. You can still watch movies together at home, but having mocktail options, along with cocktail options, would be a really thoughtful gesture!
Remember too, that people quit habits (and alcohol) for different reasons. Some people do it for health reasons: Others because they realize they have an addiction. And some people give up alcohol purely out of curiosity, to see how their life might become better without it. If you have a friend who’s curious about sobriety you don’t need to know their reasons why. Maybe they’ll share those reasons with you, and maybe they won’t. All you need to do is be supportive.
The Biggest Challenge With Staying Sober: Feeling Normal
You can also support your sober curious friend by helping to normalize the choice not to drink. Drinking is so ingrained in our culture. It’s pretty much assumed and expected that everyone partakes in it. When you’re at a social event and you say you’re not drinking you can be met with funny looks, or worse, the bombardment of the “Whys.” Or even worse, the peer pressure can start.
“Come on, one drink won’t hurt…”
You can choose a different path though. By not dwelling on the fact someone’s denying a drink, and treating it like a normal choice, it can go a long way to making someone feel like less of an outsider about it.
Because that’s what staying sober by choice can feel like sometimes. It can make you feel like an outsider at social events. It’s uncomfortable, and it can make others uncomfortable to be around you. As if your choice not to drink somehow shines a light on their drinking, and they have this subconscious nagging in the back of their mind of feeling judged by you. Which of course, isn’t true.
But it’s one of the reasons why every time I tried to cut back on drinking in the past, or quit for a few months at a time, I relied on my “sneaky acts of deceit” to get by at social gatherings. Water in a rinsed out beer bottle.
Sober Life May Be The New Me, Or It May Not
If I learned anything from my sober new years eve experience, it’s that you can 100% have a great time at a party without drinking. So I definitely believe that choosing sobriety should become a more socially accepted preference. All it will take to make that a reality is a little bit of perseverance from those like myself that are staying sober by choice. And a little bit of support and non-judgement from those that have sober curious people in their lives.
If you choose not to drink anymore, that’s ok. If you decide you just want to be more mindful about drinking, that’s ok. If you decide you simply want to cut back on it a bit, that’s ok. And if you want to continue drinking like you normally do, that’s OK too.
I don’t look down on those that choose to drink at all. In fact I feel completely indifferent about it. Drink around me, or don’t drink around me– you do you. My choice to stop drinking for awhile is entirely personal, and has nothing to do with anyone else. So remember that too, when you interact with people who are curious about experimenting with sobriety.
Closing Thoughts On Staying Sober
I think that about wraps up my thoughts on this for now. I never thought I’d write a post on Spartan Life about sobriety. I’m a bit nervous to do so, because it’s a topic I’ve never discussed on the blog before. But at the same time, I was really happy to get some of these thoughts out.
If any part of this post speaks to you, know that you’re not alone. In fact, there’s a growing movement behind you of people that are starting to discuss living alcohol-free more openly. Know that you can make any change in your life that you want to. It just takes a bit of courage to start.
To me, Spartan Life is all about healthy and happy living. Some posts may be a discussion on diet, while others are about consumption and how our lifestyle choices effect the planet. I think sobriety is a health choice that fits with the theme of my writing, so it may be something I write about more in the future.
If you enjoyed this post, or have any thoughts of your own about the topic of staying sober by choice, I’d love to hear them. Leave a comment below and let me know what you think!
As always, thanks for reading.