With the reinvigorated spirit of January – I had to look at one of my oldest, and most reassuring relationships: My relationship with alcohol.
I alluded to it in a past post but I want to do a more dissected view.
I never really drank much in high school/early college. I went to a party now and then – but as I wasn’t 21, I didn’t really go out of my way to seek out alcohol. By the time I turned 21 – I was well into my Navy career and dove head first into the “21 and up” scene, which included plenty of drinking. I don’t “blame” the military life, or anyone/anything for my drinking history, it’s just a part of my experience, however the military did provide me with many people who enjoyed a good party as much as I did and so I drank a lot more than I likely would have otherwise. We worked hard and we played hard.
Throughout my twenties (and to this very day) I went on to party and drink as much as the next, probably MORE than “the next” depending on who I was stacked next to, but I never saw it as a problem. I had a couple of partners in my life that were much heavier drinkers than I am – but I would sort of adapt and drink a bit more frequently, or not, depending on how I felt. San Diego has a HUGE craft beer scene and I go almost annually to at least 2-3 beer festivals in the city.
Fast forward to post military – as a civilian I later entered culinary school and then went on to work in the kitchen. This lifestyle is akin to the military, in the way that it is a “work hard play hard” type of environment and many of the kitchen staff have long hours, physically intense jobs and like to end the night (very late) with some drinks after shift. Whether getting drinks from the restaurant or the other bars/establishments in the area – kitchen life took a bit of a toll on me and I would estimate that my time in kitchen I drank and partied just as much, or more, than I did in the military.
I don’t regret drinking. I don’t think alcohol is bad. I get that other people do because of their beliefs, their family dynamics, their own physical reaction to it, etc. – all good reasons NOT to drink, however, I enjoy ALL the forms of alcohol (wine, beer, liquor, etc) – just nowadays I try to recognize WHY I am drinking.
I am halfway through “Dry January” and have enjoyed two beers (each on separate occasions) and one whiskey since January 1, 2020. I chose to engage in this “challenge” if you want to call it that, because I had OVERindulged so much/frequently during the holiday season. I don’t know how long I will curtail my drinking – but here’s a few reasons why I am at the moment:
Money. I recognized the financial toll that my drinking was taking. Alcohol is (like many things) not free, or even cheap really. Then WITH alcohol comes outings, which means buying food, or making expensive choices while drinking that I wouldn’t normally (like ride services to avoid DUIs or impulse purchases). Alcohol is expensive at home – but about 4-6 times MORE expensive per drink when it’s at a bar/restaurant. This hit to my budget hurts – but I know that “future me” will thank me for the small change.
My physical self. The whites of my eyes are brighter/clearer now – in just a couple weeks of less drinking. I wake up at 6:15am, and as much as it is a struggle because I am not a morning person, it’s undoubtedly easier without a hangover. I sleep better/more soundly and feel more clear headed in the mornings. I have lost some of that “swollen” or “puffy” look and I’m fairly certain I am down a few pounds – but not sure if it’s JUST the not drinking or a combination of things.
**Side-note** can’t pinpoint if this is JUST due to drinking less BUT I have noticed 1. An unusual increase in my sugar cravings, 2. An increased appetite, and 3. A loss in weight. I started the new year around 147 lbs and currently weigh in at 141 lbs.
Mental Health. My feelings are not so dulled/numbed as they would be – so I am DEF feeling more feelings. While I would previously have drowned them in a river of wine, that’s not the case – and frankly my relationships all around (with myself, my friends, my partner, etc) are better for it. I feel more in control of my mind/body, and I like that.
There are many places/challenges/sites that you can utilize, such as “One Year No Beer” which people PAY to take part in a no alcohol challenge, for a set amount of time. I didn’t choose to use one of those platforms – but if you want to and think it will help you stay focused, DO!
I have friends who drink and some who don’t – but either way, my personal opinion/choice is my own. For people who don’t drink – Please PLEASE remember – they don’t OWE anyone a reason. Don’t badger them. Don’t be like “ohhhhh did you have a PROBLEM?” or “ohhhh – how long have you been sober?”…they will divulge to you if they want – but don’t try and pressure them or convince them otherwise. There’s a myriad of reasons that people drink, and why they don’t – but everyone has the RIGHT to choose and not feel pressured into giving a “reason” so that people will leave them alone and let them drink their water in peace.
Don’t be afraid to get honest about your habits – and realign them as you feel necessary. I won’t say “change now” – because NOONE changes until they are ready, and that’s OK. It’s never too late to change your mind, and the opinions of others doesn’t matter. However, if you drink, do it responsibly and never hurt someone else because of drinking and driving.
If you do want resources – or just to speak to someone – The National Helpline for Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration has a wide array of information and a 24 hour hotline you can call at: 1-800-662-HELP (4357)
**I am not an advertiser, or paid to endorse any program, entity or item**