Do you remember the first time you tasted alcohol?
Maybe it was in high school or college, or for some of us it was that sip of beer your dad gave you when you were little and you just about threw it up because, ew.
Alcohol doesn’t actually taste good. It’s why we mix it with other things. It’s why our initial reaction to it gives us an ick factor. But we like the impact and result of alcohol so we trick ourselves into liking it. Chasers, fizz, mixers, fruit, sugar—all are used to mask the actual taste of the alcohol itself to make it more palatable.
So what actually happens if you give it all up?
In the last few years, alcohol and I have had a tumultuous relationship. As I’ve deepened my yogic practices and developed an expanded awareness of my own body and mind, alcohol has felt less and less welcome. There were times my body literally rejected a single drink. Despite being aware of this, for some reason, last year I decided I really needed to have a good old-fashioned night out.
And that was the last time alcohol touched my lips, and I can say I have absolutely no desire to indulge ever again.
I wholeheartedly believe everything happens for a reason and there are lessons to learn from our experiences.
If you’ve been curious about letting go of vices like alcohol in your life, here are five things I’ve learned in the last 365 days:
1. Alcohol does not make me fun.
Like many of us, I had a notion that I was only fun when I was drinking. I’m a little louder, I dance a little looser, I laugh harder, but I don’t think I am actually more fun. That is not an authentic version of myself. That is an alternate reality Kirsten, and truthfully, I’m not sure she and the sober version would really get along in the light of day.
I appreciate the pure and solid connections I cultivate when I am fully myself and can bring true awareness into every situation. And I’m hilarious! I have great jokes (or rather I laugh hard at my jokes before I can even tell them, which makes you laugh too, so either way, we’re laughing, and I am funny. Girl math.).
2. My body gives cues I should be paying attention to.
You know that company party or family gathering where it feels awkward so you grab a drink to let loose a little? I have been in some uncomfortable situations over the last year and the most liberating part was that I listened to my energy and body cues to excuse myself from these spaces. It is empowering to feel uncomfortable, acknowledge that, and remove yourself.
Why would I mask a warning sign just to make others feel okay about their behavior? We all do it or have done it. An alcohol-free journey has offered me an invitation to say No thanks. This is a boundary and I’m upholding it.
3. Sitting in discomfort is growth.
I know it’s a big thing for women and moms to drink wine. Hell, there is merch out the wazoo pushing that narrative. Have a bad day? Drink a bottle of wine. Kids going crazy? Wine to the rescue! Another sporting event? Mom’s sippy cup! I have fallen victim to all of this in the past.
But those hard days, those tough times, that rough conversation that just wrecked you aren’t going to be solved by drowning in a bottle of something. Sitting in the discomfort and asking yourself, “Why does this suck so hard in my being right now?” is not easy, but it is life-changing.
Chances are it has something to do with your inner child feeling rejected at some point. For me, if my kids aren’t listening, it triggers my sense of belonging and being the youngest sibling who wasn’t taken seriously. I could drink that away, but does that deepen my practice of self-study on the yogic path? I think we all know that answer.
4. Mocktails are delicious.
As I stated earlier, alcohol tastes bad. It just does. But what doesn’t taste bad is fizzy fruit drinks! I get more enjoyment out of celebrating the intricate flavors in a beverage now without the subconscious anticipation of the buzz that comes next. I am completely in the present moment, enjoying what is, not what will be or what I wish I could forget for a while. Not to say that mixed drinks can’t also be delicious—they definitely can be, but I think there is an appreciation that comes with just tasting the natural ingredients.
I had a surprise mocktail designed specifically for my 40th birthday by a dear friend that was all elderberry syrup and rosewater with a foamy egg white topper. I was so high on the joy of the beauty of this drink, the love that surrounded me, and the intention that went into creating the evening as a whole. When we open ourselves up to the possibility that life is buzzworthy, who needs alcohol?
5. A full night’s sleep should not be underestimated.
I never drank alcohol in my adult life to the point of buzz or drunk and woke up the next day thinking that was a great idea. I slept horribly, woke headachy, was annoyed with life, ate like garbage, and it took days to recover from a single evening of “fun.”
If you have ever been sleep deprived (parents, I’m looking at you) you know how valuable a full, restful night of sleep is. Your whole being feels different when you allow space to restore and relax. It’s one of the reasons I also love Yin and Restorative Yoga. It is so valuable to let your nervous system reset and do a deep dive into rest.
Coming home from a party now, going to sleep at a reasonable hour, and waking up the next day feeling the full effects of not drinking is amazing. I’ve repeatedly made comments about how great it feels to not be hungover. And guess what—I still had a great time the night before. It really is possible to have your cake and eat it too.
With 2024 just beginning, there are a million resolutions that are being made around our vices. I’ve already seen about 1,000 posts regarding Dry January. I think the intention of putting alcohol on a shelf is amazing, but if you are going to go that route, I encourage you to notice, really notice, how you feel without it being a part of your life and answer the question: Why am I doing this? Is it for you and your growth or someone else? What do you hope to gain from this shift?
Journal about how you are sleeping and your energy level, talk to your friends and loved ones about how you feel, pay attention to the things that bring you joy in your everyday life, and hold onto that freeing feeling.
Removing the mask alcohol provides can be intimidating at first, but maybe, just maybe, you will find something new and wonderful about yourself in return.