In March I began training as a group facilitator for a women’s empowerment community. I’m currently shadowing a life coach as she facilitates 11 women through a 4-month personal transformation program. On the first day, the coach invited the group to abstain from alcohol for the duration of the program. “100 days without alcohol” is what she asked for, and all of the women agreed to try. But then she told them I would also be joining them in this endeavor.
I certainly hadn’t planned on giving up alcohol, and I didn’t see it as something that was getting in the way of my own personal development. I definitely don’t have a drinking problem, and if anything, I’d probably be better served by giving up cookies. But I agreed to try it. After all, it’s not like it would be bad for me. And I was curious to see if I noticed any positive effects from this “spiritual detox.”
Aside from a few sips of wine one night while on vacation with BF’s parents, I’ve so far managed 106 days without drinking. And I’m glad I had that lapse with the wine. Here’s how it happened, and why I was grateful for it.
First of all, BF’s parents drink very good wine. It started with a sip from BF’s mom’s glass, and later I asked for a very small glass of my own. I literally meant like two tablespoons, but she poured me half a glass. One of the other guests took it, and I specified that I really only wanted a tiny bit, but I was again given more than I wanted. I drank it anyway, so as not to waste good wine, but I felt guilty about it.
Even that little bit left me feeling less clear than I’d grown used to feeling. I was going to do something that night after I’d gone up to bed – write, or work, I can’t remember – and instead I messed around on Pinterest. (I might have done that anyway, though, to be honest.) But the lack of clarity was noticeable. The urge to be productive had diminished. And after that small glass of wine, I wanted more. I became more aware of the desire to drink, because I do enjoy the taste of wine, beer, and cocktails. After that glass, it became harder to order seltzer at a bar, to turn down wine at dinners with BF’s family, to sit next to BF while he drinks a beer without asking him for a sip.
And THAT is why I’m grateful for the lapse. It showed me how easy it is to get off track. It showed me why self-awareness and recommitting to a goal is so important.
After I’ve had a drink, there’s very little chance that I’ll manage anything creative or productive with the rest of my night. I know this about myself. So my drinking habits have been cocktails when I’m out with friends, wine with BF’s family, or beer when we’re having a quiet night in watching TV. All times when I won’t have to do anything afterward. But sometimes I’ll want to do some writing when I get home, or work on a freelance project. And it doesn’t happen. These days I don’t even drink enough to get drunk or hungover, but one drink is enough to throw off my productivity. One drink clouds my clarity.
The past 106 days without alcohol have shown me that I can manage to be productive and creative at any time. I have less resistance to doing what has to be done, and less desire to zone out in front of the TV or with a book. I’ve done a lot more drawing and writing. I’m doing work that utilizes a larger range of my skills. I feel like more of a responsible adult.
The program is running a little longer than planned, and I’ve decided to do a full third of the year instead of 100 days. That’s 122 days. Or maybe I’ll keep it going through all of July, since I’m doing Camp NaNoWriMo. (More on that later.) But this exercise has made me far more mindful about my drinking habits.
A few more observations:
- I don’t stay out as late when I’m not drinking alcohol.
- I’m definitely saving money!!
- I tip higher when I just order a seltzer and pineapple juice at a bar.
- I have a hard time saying no when a waiter asks if I want to order a drink. (Even though I had no problem saying no before.)
- The smell of good wine or craft beer makes me want it.
- Being at restaurants with drink specials that I know I like is a challenge.
- I felt like an ass going to a speakeasy and not ordering alcohol. They made me one of the drinks my friend ordered and left out the booze, and didn’t even charge me for it. (Saving money!)
- Free drinks are not a reason to drink cheap wine. (I can’t count how many free drinking opportunities I turned down. It was a lot easier when I reminded myself of the quality of the drinks.)
- I’m much more concerned with the sugar and calorie content of a drink when it doesn’t have alcohol in it. (I normally don’t drink soda or juice.)
- IT’S TOTALLY POSSIBLE to take a break from drinking. I had a lot of friends say they wouldn’t be able to do it. But that’s bullshit. You can if you decide you can.
- I am capable of being creative and productive right up until I go to sleep and immediately when I wake up. I can be creative at any time of the day. Saying I can’t, or that my creativity is restricted in some way, is just another bullshit story.
I’m not giving up alcohol completely. But going forward, I’m going to choose my drinks more carefully. I’m not going to drink something I don’t like just because it’s there, and I’m not going to drink if I don’t feel like drinking. I’m going to be more mindful of how I’m feeling when I drink, how much I drink, and when. (These sound like great thoughts to apply to food, as well!) I’m grateful for this experiment, which I never would have done if the coach hadn’t called me out in front of a room full of people. I like challenges that show me what I’m capable of.