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It’s no secret that alcohol is revered in our society.
It is seen as the special sauce, the social lubricant, and the party maker. It is seen as a newly 21-year-old’s rite of passage.
Everywhere we go, it’s there—every restaurant, every event, every party. It’s at the beach, the pool, and the movies. People think, a party without alcohol…boring. Seriously, what are we supposed to do?
It seems like it’s nearly impossible for people to socialize without it. We use it to become more attractive, more social, more outgoing—masking our true selves.
And the media doesn’t help—commercials and ads, shows and movies, YouTube and social media. Ever see the studies on Facebook noting that wine is good for our health? In moderation, of course! Because one glass of wine is always enough. (Check out this article—it makes total sense.)
How about music? We can’t listen to five minutes of new music without hearing at least one song about drinking.
I’m not talking about just a casual drink—a glass of wine with dinner or a beer at the game. I’m talking about binge drinking. Binge drinking is celebrated in our society. It’s laughed about and made light of. It’s normalized everywhere we look and in so many interactions we have.
Binge drinking is considered four to five drinks or more, and unfortunately, in a lot of places in the United States, a six pack to yourself is seen as normal. So many people say they use alcohol to cope with stress, to blow off steam, to relax, but I think it doesn’t really do those things. Not for me at least.
It makes life harder to cope with, and although a few or five drinks may seem to help us relax, usually the next day is killer. And it’s hard to be productive or attentive when we’re hungover. The sad reality is that we are trading our authentic selves for a buzz. Life is hard, but instead of figuring out how to use healthy tools or habits, we use alcohol to make it “easier.” But when we take a step back and examine what it’s doing to us, nothing about it is easier.
People don’t like to or don’t want to talk about the side effects of alcohol. Depression and anxiety were the big ones for me. But there are a whole host of others for mild to heavy drinkers—it’s scary. Check out this infographic—mind. blown. Not to mention all the stupid sh*t we might do or say when we are drunk. (Hello! This lady right here—queen of the stupid sh*t of doing and saying.)
I used to be quite the drinker. My 20s were one huge party. Little did I know the intense havoc I was wreaking on my body (many issues I am still dealing with today). Although my diet was equally as bad, I attributed my leaky gut and autoimmune issues mostly to alcohol consumption. But why? Why did I drink? Why do any of us drink?
Sadly, we are socially conditioned to think drinking is just part of life—it’s what we do. Celebrating? Drink! Dinner? Drink. Sad? Drink! Party? Drink, drink, drink! I know there is a whole slew of other psychological and cognitive reasons…to socialize, to fit in, to socially lubricate, to regulate a mental illness, to cope and deal with stress, to numb or deal with trauma. For me, it was to deal with my depression and to fit in—to be in with the crowd. Because seriously? I thought who doesn’t drink when they are 21. Or 25? Or 26, 27, 30, 35?
I was also a lost person with a lot to figure out. Aren’t we all at some point in our lives? Thankfully, slowly over time, I have figured a lot out about myself, but there were some rocky years in there. Eventually, I started learning about nutrition and health. I slowed my drinking. Only drinking occasionally and rarely more than a few. I gave up gluten, which meant no more beer.
I did a Whole30—no sugar, which meant no alcohol at all. After that, I had a couple of moments but usually only drank once or twice a month. Slowly, I started examining how I wanted to live my life. What kind of mom and wife did I want to be? I wanted to be a mom who didn’t suffer from depression. I wanted to be a mom who wasn’t stressed. I wanted to be a wife who was open and loving. I slowly realized that alcohol served no purpose in my life and only made the issues I did have much worse.
In the beginning of 2019, I decided to have a dry year. I wanted to try it out and see how it made me feel. I heard lots of comments like, “You hardly drink,” “You’re not an alcoholic,” and “I’ve only seen you drunk once!” But why do we have to have an addiction to quit? Can’t we stop an unhealthy behavior just because we see the small ways it affects us?
I wasn’t a huge drinker before I decided to try this, and it has still made a huge impact on my life—it’s truly amazing. Although I was only indulging a few times a month, those few days had a big impact on me. The day after was always a low productive day for me—even if I only had a few. And my depression symptoms were markedly worse for several days after.
2019 was one of the best years of my life, and it has only gotten better. So many positives have come from something I thought was just a small change. My depression and my anxiety? Significantly better! I sleep better, and I’m more focused. I’m motivated and driven. My Sundays are productive, and I’m truly paying attention to my kids. I’m calmer and have a clearer mind. I’m a better mother and a better spouse. My relationship with my husband is amazing. I’m more open with him than I’ve ever been, and that has created true intimacy.
Many of the changes in my life have come to fruition because of the positives that have come from quitting drinking, and those positives allow me to work on building a life I don’t want to constantly escape. Of course, I’m also working on accepting that life is hard sometimes. We all have those moments where we wish we could slip away, escape, and bail out on life: responsibilities, pressures, parenting.
To help with building a life where those feelings are less frequent, I work on self-care, daily, in all forms—nutrition, exercise, mindfulness, meditation, life coaching. I’m taking care of myself so I can be there 100 percent for the people in my life (myself included).
I’ve realized a small change can make a big difference. For so long, so long, I put a label on wanting to give up drinking, putting myself into this box that society has created (that I have to be an alcoholic to want to be sober). But that just isn’t true.
We need to create a change in our society and how alcohol use is normalized. A change in how society has conditioned us to believe the way we use alcohol is just the way. Because it’s not. There are other, better ways to cope with life, to socialize, to have fun!
I know everyone’s journey is different and everyone hits different stages of their lives at different times, but if you’ve ever thought about quitting drinking, but have that voice of society in your ear, push back against that voice; don’t listen! Give yourself a chance. Try it out.
I did and I am so grateful I didn’t listen.