Over the weekend, I got on a plane to Las Vegas for a work event. And I guess it just never lined up in the past but here I was at almost 27 years old, standing in front of The Strip for the very first time. A few years ago, I would have dove head first into the culture of Vegas- the lights, the party's, the drinks. But today, I felt nervous. I was walking into a weekend of conference events, late night networking, and lots of opportunities to drink...
With the intention of staying completely sober.
Something I have not yet outwardly shared on social media is my relationship with alcohol and the decisions I have made around it over the past couple of years and what I have learned about myself following those decisions.
So here we go..
Around the beginning of 2016, I started feeling this strange pull to drink less. At the time, I really didn’t completely understand why I was feeling that pull because I didn’t think I had a bad relationship with alcohol. In this day and age, binge drinking feels normal and I didn’t feel like my habits were much different than those around me. All I knew was I had a pull to stop and the only thing I really understood was drinking didn’t make me feel good anymore.
As I started digging into personal development and looking at my relationship with all of the things in my life, I realized drinking had become one of my primary ways to numb out - a way to just not deal with what I was feeling. As my relationship with food and exercise started to heal (my way of controlling what was out of control or distracting my mind when things were feeling crazy) I found myself unknowingly turning to other things to not deal with my feelings, and that thing for a while was alcohol. “Oh I am stressed, let’s have a beer,” or “oh it’s been a frustrating day, let’s grab a drink,” or “oh I just don’t want to deal with that right now.. I’ll have a glass of wine.”
About a year ago, I started listening to a podcast called Your Kickass Life by Andrea Owen. Each year she runs a series of Recovery Podcasts and interviews multiple women regarding their relationship with alcohol and who have decided to live a life of sobriety. At first, I thought “oh okay well that’s not me,” but the more I listened to their stories, the more similarities I found in my own drinking habits.
All of these stories range from women who have hit rock bottom with their drinking to women who have just decided it isn’t good for them anymore. I learned there were many women who felt like me, that they no longer wanted to turn to things in their life to numb out and shove their feelings deeper and deeper into the subfolders of their brain. That while I always thought drinking made me more social and have better conversations, it never actually led to those deep connections I had been so desperately craving. I thought it made me funnier and easier to be around, that it gave me an excuse to relax and have more fun. But it made me feel empty. I was more tired and less willing to get up and take on the day.
In the end, nothing in my life was actually elevated from drinking.
All if it made me curious, what would it feel like to just not drink? To be honest, the thought of “sobriety” scared the shit out of me. Yeah right I could give up drinking forever. What would people think? What would I do to celebrate? What would I say when all of my friends were drinking and I get water instead?
But the yearning to weed out the things that were not serving me anymore was constantly weighing on my heart. What if this decision to not drink wasn’t a big deal, what if I didn’t have to call it sobriety or commit to a time frame?
What if I could just see what it feels like to honor my intuition?
Fast forward to today. I have been experimenting with that calling for about a year now, on and off (I didn’t drink from March-July and now since November). And let me tell you, (especially the second time around) it is one of the most freeing, wonderful, amazing things I have ever done for myself. Not only am I seeking and finding deeper connections, feeling more motivated, awake, healthier, and aligned with myself/my values but I have been forced to deal with things as they arise rather than shoving them away (which never works … they always find their way back around).
Back to my trip to Vegas…
I am really learning my triggers are (music and being surrounded by others who are drinking.. a fancy glass of wine with dinner) but through that I have been able to ask myself “why do I want to drink right now..” and the answer was always to fit in, to seem fun, to relax. What I have learned is that I really don’t need alcohol to do those things and after long days at our booth and extended nights of networking, a good night of sleep is something I have come to value more. The next morning I was always SO thankful that I was clear, awake, and ready for my day.. not to mention I was able to do things I really enjoy like moving my body before having to attend to my agenda.
By understanding the things in my life that are in alignment with my values and with what feels good to me and my body, I am able to make it through the hard stuff – the stuff that challenges those values (like peer pressure, or feeling less than, or just not wanting to deal)
Because in the end, I am thankful for listening to my intuition and for honoring those values.
What kinds of things in your life are truly important to you? Putting social norms and “shoulds” aside, what habits do you want to do more of or even eliminate all together in order to honor your body and happiness?
What has helped me is getting quiet and making a list of things that fuel me vs things that don’t and prioritizing it. Then making it a goal to add more of the “fuelers” in my life and weed out the “non fuelers.” Try it and see what it does for your overall level of happiness (and if you do – let me know!)
We don’t have to conform, especially if it goes against your “fuelers” list. It does get challenging, and people might question you but honoring myself has never been something I regret.