Project #NoBeersies2017 - Update
I was planning to do a little update at 6 months into my year of sobriety, but alas, like many anniversaries in my life, it was forgotten. This is actually a good thing, when you think about it, because it means I haven't been all that fussed about keeping track of how many days there are until I can drink again.
A quick recap for all those playing along at home - In December last year I woke up after a rather too wild night and uttered the classic hungover phrase "I'm never drinking that much again". Through the course of the next week I considered my life choices and my drinking patterns in the past and came to several realisations -
1) I had started drinking more than I used to,
2) it had been gradual, so I hadn't noticed it,
3) I didn't like it.
So I decided to embark on Project #NoBeersies2017, a year of sobriety. No alcohol for 1 year.
Here's what I have learnt so far -
I don't believe I was in any way nearing alcoholism, which is something I am very grateful for, but I was definitely on the edge of a pattern of binge drinking (as so many young people these days are) and it was not a good direction to be heading.
I was spending silly amounts of money on drinks, that I could have been saving for adventures. Twenty drinks at a bar in Wellington (which I would easily go through in a month) cost the same amount as a flight to Sydney.
I was using alcohol as a coping mechanism for not letting other drunk people ruin my night.
Now, I am happy to report that 10 months in I haven't experienced cravings, or caved to peer pressure, or social pressure, or felt any real withdrawals, but - full disclosure - there have definitely been a few moments where I have kind of wished I could have a drink or two.
These moments have been exclusively when surrounded by drunk people, and often when they seem to be having more fun than me. It was also in these moments that I realised their 'fun' often decreased mine, and that being drunk would simply have helped me care less.
Let me clarify that it was not the fact that I dislike others having fun that made me averse to these situations, but the way in which the fun was being had. The jokes weren't funny, people were less sensitive, people were accidentally stood on or elbowed or walked into, people were spoken over and ignored, and at the worst end of the scale people got boisterous to the point of violence, and became verbally abusive.
I realised that the only way I would have enjoyed these situations would have been to also be drunk. I realised that the situations weren't actually all that fun.
This experiment has also helped me learn that I like being able to be in the middle of things (ok, I mostly knew that before) and I like feeling accepted. When I am with my friends I almost always feel supported and loved, regardless of my decisions, but when I am meeting new people, or when I am with people I don't know well I want to fit in. I don't love that about myself.
Matching the behaviours of those you want to be accepted by is a pretty normal thing across many species. Talking in a different way, adopting mannerisms, and consuming similar foods and beverages are common ways of showing you are one of them, or may want to be. Deliberately doing something different seems to be seen as not wanting to be associated with them. Questions and comments that illustrated that to me were these -
"So, I assume you don't want to come out with us tonight"
"Oh, we were going to a bar, so I assumed you wouldn't want to come"
"Don't you like having fun"
"It must be weird for you being the only sober one here"
People assumed that somehow I wouldn't want to be involved in anything as soon as there was alcohol present. Some even took it as a personal affront, because they drank, and I apparently didn't like drinking, so obviously I didn't like them.
The most interesting part was realising they weren't entirely wrong. I didn't want to be left behind (FOMO is so real), but I also liked them less when they were drunk. I don't enjoy people being uncharacteristically sloppy and saying things they don't quite mean as much as I enjoy my friends in their normal sober states.
After explaining this to one of my very good friends he got defensive, and said he felt like what I was saying was a personal attack. My saying that often drunk people aren't enjoyable to be around was translated in his brain to "Cait doesn't like alcohol, I drink alcohol, Cait doesn't like me".
A few days later I went clubbing with him and a handful of others, and they all got drunk. That same friend then said to me "I don't know how you are dealing with all this sober". I had to laugh.
Our relationship with each other and with alcohol is so intertwined with our histories and cultures that they have become near impossible to look at independently.
So, I encourage you all to ask yourselves, non-judgmentally - why do I drink alcohol? Why do I drink the amount that I drink? Why do I drink when I drink? Are the people around me affected by my drinking?
You don't necessarily need to take a break like I did, though it may be very interesting for you if you do, but I think these are important questions to consider. You might find you are quite happy with your relationship with drinking. You may find otherwise. But just like our interactions with other aspects of life - it is important to check in with yourself regularly, to make sure you are still on a positive path. It's so easy to fall into a habit, without really noticing, or questioning why we do it. But these habits shape our lives, so we should give them the time and thought they are due.
And now the question that so many people have asked - "Will you start drinking again when your year is up?"
If you had asked me in December the answer would have been yes.
Now, in all honesty, the answer is that I don't know. It has been easy enough to avoid alcohol in my life, and much cheaper (financially and emotionally). I can always give my friends rides home and make sure they are safe. I always have my wits about me if anything goes wrong. I can check in with myself whenever I need to. I have more control over what I say and am able to measure my words before I say them.
There are certainly advantages to not drinking, so I guess we will see what the next 2 months bring. :)
Thanks for reading along, and if you have any questions, please get in touch.
See you somewhere,