Making Mindful Choices
In South Platte Counseling’s ongoing blog series, “Mental Health and Me,” we invite one of our clients to write openly and anonymously about their mental health journey on a topic they’ve personally experienced. We are showcasing this series to help de-stigmatize the conversation around mental health. We want to let people know mental health is an individual journey and a ubiquitous life experience. With that being said, let’s read about one person’s experience with this week’s topic: being curious about living alcohol-free.
Editor’s note & warning: This blog includes hints of mild language. Please take care while reading.
When I became “sober curious,” it was because I knew I was drinking quite a bit. I didn’t even know there was a name for what I was thinking about – I just felt I had to check in with myself.
I had recently moved to Colorado after an agonizingly heartbreaking divorce. Looking back, I was so lost in my life but didn’t feel like I was. At the time, I thought I was doing pretty ok, considering. But in actuality (and hindsight), I was merely hanging on and existing at best.
I wasn’t drinking to run from or numb the complicated feelings I had from my divorce. I had already put myself into therapy at South Platte Counseling because I sincerely wanted to heal from this traumatic experience and put my broken heart and shattered life back together. I was ready to sit in the discomfort and do the emotional work needed for my own healing.
No, I was often drinking for a different reason. I wasn’t drinking because I needed it. I had absolutely no problem stopping after one whilst out to dinner or even going days without it. But I was drinking frequently, and I was drinking because I didn’t know what else to do.
Let me explain.
I refer to this as “bored drinking.” I was bored – what else was I to do? I was in an unfamiliar city, didn’t know anyone, and it’s sometimes challenging to make new friends as an adult. So, most nights, I would open a bottle of wine whilst making dinner for myself – I felt it was a pleasant way to end the day. A few hours and a bottle of wine later, I’d go to bed and that would be that. No harm, no foul.
I wasn’t exactly “hungover” the following morning, but I most definitely wasn’t my best self, either. There was no getting up early and going to the gym or journaling for my personal growth. No, that snooze button on the alarm clock got pushed with sluggish frequency more times than I care to admit.
I’ve read that real growth and healing starts when you get sick of your own sh*t. And, after some honest self-reflection, I was definitely sick of my own sh*t. I wanted to heal and become the best version of myself, and I came to the realization that this nightly pattern of empty comfort and stagnant habit was no longer serving me or what I wanted to achieve.
It’s not an easy pill to swallow, realizing you’re the reason you’re holding yourself back.
So I took a real, hard look at myself in the mirror, and I knew I had to reconsider what I was doing and if this thing was benefitting me. Currently, in my life, I believe it wasn’t. This was my sober curious moment.
I decided to take a break from alcohol for 90 days.
Now, I didn’t feel like the term “sober” suited my situation – I just said that I was currently “alcohol-free.” I wanted to reach my personal goals more than I wanted to stay where I was. It was important for me to take a moment to reevaluate my relationship with alcohol and mindfully consider when and if I decided to have a drink. There is definitely a difference between sobriety and the choice to go without drinking. I was experimenting with the latter.
Did I miss drinking? Yup. I’d be lying if I said I didn’t. This was a significant lifestyle change to make. About two weeks in, my motivation started to wane, and discipline had to take over. I just started focusing on what I had to gain (the kind of person I wanted to be) and not what I was giving up (an unconscious and ill-deliberate way of living).
Personally, I liked to find different ways to stand on ceremony. When I was making dinner for myself, instead of opening that bottle of wine, I would drink water out of my wine glass. What worked best for me was that I could still have the ritual of familiarity of what I always had done but without the need for alcohol. I also got into the habit of making a cup of tea before bed. I made it a point to drink it out of fancy teacups – you know the ones I’m talking about. The ones you have *just* in case the Queen of England drops by unexpectedly. (No? Just me?) Well, in any case, my new teacups were fun to shop for and brought me a bit of small, quirky happiness whenever I used them.
There were a lot of benefits to my drinking hiatus. For one, I felt great. Like, a fantastic kind of great. I had no problem leaving that snooze button alone and getting up when I originally intended to. I had the time and mental clarity to do the things I wanted to do. There was no brain fog or an “I’ll do it later” mentality. I got out of those 90 days exactly what I wanted, and even a bit more. By becoming alcohol-free for three months, I had also lost over 10lbs. That was quite an unexpected perk, and I wasn’t upset about it.
After my 90-day alcohol-free experience, I had a new appreciation for what I actively chose to have in my life. I knew I didn’t need alcohol to occupy my time or keep me company when I was bored. I didn’t have to reach “rock bottom” to say that the amount of alcohol I was consuming no longer served me and the life I wanted to live. My situation hadn’t become unmanageable, but I wasn’t living my best life, either.
I do still enjoy a glass of wine here and there, but I now make more mindful decisions around my choice to have a drink or not. I choose a more mindful path when I have that glass of wine and why I feel I want it. I am more cognizant of my relationship with alcohol and how I want to thoughtfully live my life and not work against myself.