Let me just preface this with that fact that alcohol has always been a major part of my social life. From dining out and wine tastings to girls’ nights out and drinking wine while watching Netflix. with m y husband and the kiddos. So had someone told me a year ago that I would be writing an article about how I quit drinking, I would have called them crazy.
It was March 2017 and I had just gotten back from celebrating St Patrick’s Day in Chicago. Right before that was the big South by Southwest Festival in my hometown of Austin, Texas. Basically two straight weeks of parties, fun, and lots and lots of libations. From the outside, I wasn’t drinking any more than the average American female, it just so happened I had two big multiple-day events that lined up back to back. For two weeks I was floating in between states of being buzzed, drunk, hungover, or getting my act together. All the while trying to be a good momma, wife, and employee. And for the most part, I was. It’s not like I was a raging alcoholic. I wasn’t a neglectful mother or partner, and I was doing just fine at work. The thought hadn’t ever crossed my mind that I might want to quit drinking.
(Little did I know how much better I could have been doing!)
However, I felt bad. Not just physically – the hangovers, the headaches, and the bloating that came from drinking – but mentally too. It’s like I hardly had a time to reset and get into a happy, high-vibe state of mind. If we weren’t out somewhere fun having drinks then we were at home having wine or a cocktail or two, or at a restaurant with our kiddos having margaritas…nothing crazy. But alcohol was always present. It was involved in nearly all of my plans. Nearly all of my social interactions. And when I took a good, honest look at my life, I knew it was a factor that was holding me back from being my happiest, healthiest self. Slowly but surely tiny thoughts of me quitting drinking started to bubble up.
After Chicago, I had made a decision that I just wanted to cut back on the amount of alcohol I was consuming. My liver was screaming at me to take a break, and I was tired and kinda needed a break from the whole drinking scene anyway. So I made a decision to make a concerted effort to simply cut back with no time limitations or expectations. Looking back, I think the fact that I eased into it and made no rigid expectations was one of the most pivotal points in the process. It was 100% my decision, and I was supported by my partner who was also reeling a little from our crazy weekend in Chicago.
So I started by telling myself that I was going to have drinks whenever I wanted, but that I was going to switch to water as soon as I felt the familiar feelings of a buzz coming on. For me that meant as soon as I heard my words slurring a bit, or felt a little “floaty” I would switch to soda water with lemon or lime.
Nothing changed in our social lives. I just simply slowed down a little and wasn’t getting crazy drunk. So not only was I less hungover, I was going to sleep a little earlier than usual because my nights were coming to a close a bit earlier due to cutting back.
After that, I decided to quit drinking on the weekdays. During this time, my mediation practice was growing stronger and I was able to rely on my practice for stress relief. I also implemented and strengthened my stress-response tools and strategies like deep breathing, journaling and gently observing my thoughts. By doing this, I created a much healthier way to respond to seemingly stressful situations rather than by numbing with alcohol. (I’m sure you can imagine how positively this impacted by mental state too!)
Alcohol, however, wasn’t the only thing I was cutting back on. For quite some time (I’m talking years) I had significantly and slowly changed my diet. I cut out processed and refined foods, especially sugar and foods with lots of additives and preservatives. I was eating real food. Alcohol was the one glaring part of my diet that didn’t really fit. So as I made more of an effort to really cut back on alcohol, I noticed two things that happened when I did decide to have a drink.
The first was that the negative physical effects were intensified. Because everything else in my diet was pretty clean, my body got really good at telling me that alcohol was a toxin. The hangover effects actually worsened as I cut back. When I had the occasional drink, It’s like my body was like “AHHHHHH, WTF is this?! You are poisoning me!!! I’m going to give you this massive headache just to mess back with you!”. And that wasn’t fun. It sucked actually. Secondly, I started asking myself things like is it this drink really worth the awful physical side effects. And the answer was almost always no.
On a subconscious level my priorities slowly started to shift. Again, I wasn’t being forceful with myself. I simply was becoming more and more mindful of the negative impact alcohol had on me, both mentally and physically.
By this time a few months had passed, and rather than planning on meeting friends for a drink or happy hour, I was suggesting “dates” like going for walks, yoga classes, lunch, or just meeting for tea at my house. I found that friends who really just wanted to hang out with me at a bar kind of fell off, which I was OK with. I was doing more things out in nature and having more time to myself. In the evenings, rather than having a glass of wine while watching NetFlix, I did a mediation, journaled, or did something creative. As a result, I was able to really bring focus to my goals and saw a direct positive impact on my professional life. This quitting drinking thing was really starting to shake out.
Around this time my spiritual development was really flourishing. When I thought about alcohol, I realized how much it cut me off from my authentic, truest self and from Source Energy (the Universe, God, Love…whatever you like to call “It”). Reflecting, I realized how sensitive, easily offended, and egocentric I became when I drank. And that’s not me. That’s my ego. I honestly no have no desire to willingly put myself in a situation where I am numb and disconnected from my true self and handing my experience over to my ego. It’s just not how I want to experience life anymore.
But here’s the thing…I never once said no to an outing, event, party or dinner that I felt drawn to for fear of it being all weird because I wasn’t drinking. Did I consider saying no…of course! I was going through a major transition. But ultimately, I kept an open mind and decided that I wasn’t going to hole-up and never doing anything socially where alcohol was present. That’s just not realistic. So now when I go out, I just drink soda water with a lemon or lime (in a fancy glass, thanks), and I don’t make a big deal out of the fact that I’m not drinking alcohol or that I quit drinking. I don’t even mention it, honestly.
I’m now creating more enriching experiences for myself, because I’m thinking outside of the box. I’m able to process seemingly stressful situations more easily, quickly and gracefully because my mediation practice has been strengthened. I feel better. I sleep better. I’ve lost weight. My relationships are better because the stupid catty disagreements that come out of drinking no longer occur. I’m never hungover on a saturday morning which means more quality time with my kiddos. And I just get way more done! Plus the late-night alcohol-induced pizza binges are no longer a thing, so that’s always a plus!
Do I think everyone should completely quit drinking alcohol? No. But I do think everyone who want to improve even one single facet of their life should really consider how much they are drinking and the areas of their life that it impacts. And if you think it’s controlling more than one facet of your life, then try cutting back. Don’t make it some big deal where you feel sorry for yourself. Make it a decision that’s for you and your well-being. Just test the waters and see what it would be like to simply cut back a bit. What do you have to lose? Who knows what can happen?! Maybe your whole life will change…you never know until you try.
- If you or someone you know is or may be dealing with a drug or alcohol addiction, please seek professional help. This advice is not intended to help those who may be battling drug and alcohol addiction but rather for those who are considering a change for health and well-being purposes. Meg Sylvester is not a doctor and is not offering medical advice.
Meg Sylvester is a Spiritual Success & Wellness Coach who specializes in guiding clients to living a life that lights them up, and showing them how to feel great in the process. If you are interested in working with Meg, click here to send her a note: http://megsylvester.com/getstarted/
Remember….nothing changes until you change something.