It was a Wednesday at 3pm, and a lady in a pencil skirt and glasses was blending frozen margaritas on the floor of my office. I winced at the floor margaritas, and took a full gulp of seltzer from my desk—this was going to be a long month, I thought.
My therapist with the mermaid hair's words kept echoing in my head – "Sometimes, you have to be a good parent to yourself." This was in response to, well, about a year of casual recklessness, alcohol, and the mentality of "I was always such a good kid, now I can misbehave responsibly."
Except – it wasn't really working and I just felt off. I was broker than I should be as someone working full time and freelance, had weekly moments of next-morning embarrassment, and never got anything done of value on Sundays. I needed to see what it was like to eliminate alcohol from the equation of my life, starting with the month of May. I knew my core group of friends wouldn't care, as long as it meant I wasn't totally going into hiding – it was my work environment that made me nervous.
Alcohol, and the experiences surrounding alcohol, have a glamorized, bonding quality to them. Sip after sip and strangers become friends and a night out becomes an adventure. Working in publishing, a work event becomes a blurry Uber ride at 2am more times to count and the next day camaraderie of hangovers can be more addicting than the drink itself. The sense of belonging and achieving is intertwined with those shared experiences.
When I shared with friends and co-workers that I planned to stop drinking for a month, I got support, but a lot of eye rolls and "just don't do it!"s. I had a feeling that the peer pressure I clearly hadn't outgrown would be harder to withstand than the actual act of drinking.
Even as early as a week into my sobriety, my head felt clearer and my body felt lighter. Despite the fact that I was more a weekend drinker than a daily drinker, I sprang out of bed to work. My Sundays were full – yoga and writing and cleaning. My moods shifted, I required less attention from others and could focus on myself and the relationships that mattered to me.
Clearly, it's known that alcohol is a depressant, but I never realized that it very literally depressed me. Those grumpy drunk moods that would overtake me at times, where I felt attention hungry and neglected, it completely went away. I remembered how much I liked being by myself.
I said no to a few events, but I still went out. Without a glass of casual poison in my hand, I realized that not drinking was easy (a fear I had since addiction is so wrought in my DNA) – it was social anxiety I had a problem with. Without a glass of bubbles or amber liquid over ice, my brain was wrought with insecurity. "Am I talking too much or not enough? Was that a dumb thing to say? Do I look dumb? I knew I shouldn't have worn these shoes. Did I just laugh too loud?"
That voice shocked me, I didn't know that girl was still there. What I found though, was that if I just hung in there for a little bit, that voice went away. I didn't need the alcohol to silence her – time did that.
I also realized that I have a somewhat skewed view of alcohol because my whole life has been immersed and surrounded by addict and recovery terminology and the mentality that substances are dangerous. Once the veil of drinking was lifted, I became unsure of what was healthy and okay and what wasn't.
I found myself judging others for weekday drinking, or my boyfriend for having a beer at night. I realize that's my issue and somewhat-off perception, and I still am unsure what is problematic and what isn't when it comes to alcohol.
The most surprising thing was, once I stopped drinking, I stopped caring about drinking. I would find myself saying things in casual conversation like "Christ, I could use a drink," then realizing I actually didn't mean it. I had more energy. My skin became clearer. I exercised more, and just felt so hydrated. I started a web series I had been putting off for a while, and I started pitching stories way more.
Counting drinks, drunk food, late night Seamless, and Ubers, I saved upwards of $300. Alcohol hadn't exactly been making my life worse, but it definitely hadn't been making it better. I had never given myself such space within my own head before to decide what I want out of life. Substance over substance, if that makes sense.
The first drink I had come June was lackluster and anticlimactic – a single serving of rose on a marble bartop. It was like when you grow up and Christmas isn't really that fun anymore – there was a sadness to that $15 glass, but also a sense of freedom for seeing it as what it truly was – just a glass of liquid that I could take or leave.