For the longest time, I struggled with guilt around drinking.
I was very much an all-or-nothing type of person, but slowly I’ve learned (and continue to learn) what balance means to me.
I thought you either had to be a perfect little yogi or a partying wino. God knows the two lifestyles couldn’t be more different, so how could they co-exist—and if they did, could you be considered a genuine person?
But I wanted both.
I loved wine, late nights, and dancing with friends until the wee hours of the morning. But I also loved early mornings, yoga, meditation, and being in bed with a book by 9 p.m.
I think these two extremes relate to the concept of introversion and extroversion. Susan Cain’s book Quiet changed the way I looked at myself, my needs, and how I interact with the world. Being an introvert or extrovert is rarely black or white. We fall somewhere on the spectrum, and through years of conditioning, become chameleons at adapting to the situations we’re in.
I think this spectrum applies to health as well: To be at either end of the spectrum isn’t healthy. Some may disagree, but to eat clean 100 percent of the time, never allow yourself alcohol or sugar, and make it to the gym six days a week is not balance. At least for me, living that way would cut me off from the very people, situations, and experiences that actually “feed” my soul.
For me, finding balance began with acceptance and forgiveness. We aren’t perfect—we never will be. There are nights when I want a glass of wine, and there are others when I genuinely don’t. The thing I rarely did was tune in and listen to whatever need was coming up.
Not listening to those needs led me down the same path, over and over again.
I can’t tell you how many times I wanted to have a glass of wine during the week, but I would deny myself because I “shouldn’t.” However, come Friday, I’d drink too much when I didn’t even want or need it. I went along with the status quo. Cue waking up Saturday full of frustration, guilt, and anger at myself.
It was an emotional hangover even worse than the physical, and it was a pattern I so desperately wanted out of.
In an effort to find balance, I realized I had to feel my way through this battlefield. This required getting quiet and asking myself questions I may not have wanted to hear the answers to. I had to sit with some discomfort at first, but the more I did this, the easier it became.
Then, there are days where I have more energy than usual, I’m craving connection, and a drink at a bar is exactly what I want. It’s a desire that arises, and I’ve learned to trust and follow it.
The more we honor what we really want, the more our path to balance becomes clear. This path is about deciphering between the “shoulds” and the honest wants. We spend far too much time on the “shoulds,” and then wonder why we can’t get out of bed for 6 a.m. yoga, or why when we finally do it, it leaves us drained instead of energized. Did your body really need to go? Or did you tell yourself “I should”?
Be honest with yourself.
For when we listen to our bodies, we may be given wisdom our minds can’t comprehend. So listen. Just because alcohol is being served, doesn’t mean you need to imbibe. If you know it’s not going to serve you, decline.
You may get strange looks and annoying comments, but think about the next day: How do you want to feel? We don’t need to sacrifice our health to make others feel okay about theirs. Order club soda in a rocks glass or a virgin cocktail, and you’ll find when you don’t make a big deal of it, no one even notices the difference.
When we honor ourselves, we show up more fully for those we’re spending time with. Those who value you, will understand. If they don’t? Well, maybe it’s time to find new friends.
So listen, get curious, and be gentle with yourself. It may well be a series of “one step forward, two steps back,” but if we keep taking the steps forward, we’ll go further than we think.
Have your wine and savor it. Wake up and move your body in whichever way works best for you.
Life is one big balancing act, and we’re all just doing the best we know how.