4 months and counting.
Whilst studying George Kelly and his framing of personal constructs, the challenge came swiftly and sharply. Before I had time to process, evaluate and decide, and naturally work out what’s perceived difficult but doable, it came. ‘What would you give up, or add in for a year?’. Well, ‘either alcohol or coffee. I love the social aspect of going for a coffee. And alcohol, well, that would be hard.’ Oh shit. I said it.
The set up prior to the direct question, was around how you are perceived by others. The role we play. How others experience us. Could we change that? How would it be to change?
My first vodka and orange was at my sixth form Christmas party when I was 17. In fact I remember having 10 and still, so I believed, was reasonably sober. It was the night of my first kiss. On the rocks by the old pier, with my 2 year crush. Aside from sickness, a stint on the clipper race and the occasional, no socials in my diary for a few weeks, I’ve not chosen to abstain. That’s 25 years. I wonder how much money I’ve spent. What fun I didn’t miss out on. I wonder what decisions I would have taken differently. What I wouldn’t have gotten up to. Who I wouldn’t have kissed. What relationships I’d chosen not to be in. The truth is. I’ll never know. The truth is, I don’t know who I am, without alcohol in my life.
I’ve abstained for a year. 4 months in, and it’s an eye opener and a topic of much debate.
1. A shift from maybe to no.
Difficult to articulate. But there’s less procrastination and persuasion. I’m asking myself, ‘does this work for me?’ And if it doesn’t then I say no. That in itself means that I’m doing things because I want to do them. That I’m doing more of what I love. Choosing not to stay in a job that jars with my very nature and core values. I’m making decisions about who I spend time with. It’s the tiniest of moments that demonstrate and signify something much bigger to myself, ourselves. Saying no to alcohol. To those who say ‘oh go on, it’s a special occasion.’ Or ‘why don’t you just drink once a week’ ‘it’s my birthday.’ ‘I haven’t seen you for ages, and you’re not going to drink with me?’ The list goes on….and saying no each time says to me, I’m putting me first here. I actually don’t want to. I don’t want to wake up feeling rubbish. I don’t want to feel tired, feel anxious, stay out later than I had planned. In the words of Olivia Pope (Scandal for those US series fans), I’m choosing me! And man oh man, each time I have that conversation, it feels empowering.
Can I do more of what I love? I believe so.
2. Am I boring?
Can I still have fun without being drunk or feeling a little tipsy? Or is it actually more about what others think about me. For some friends I hear them say ‘well what am I going to do?’. How can they have fun, if I’m not up for playing. But it’s also been about how I tap into my playful side. How do I let go of inhibitions without the booze key. I wasn’t a heavy drinker. University days and early London days made for plenty of partying, but in London there’s always a perceived reason to have a glass of wine. With dinner. It’s Friday night. Haven’t seen you for a while. The sun is out. Celebration of a new job.
For now, I can sense more joy in the immediacy of feeling more present. Feeling that I am truly listening, and not just day dreaming in and out, or allowing the alcohol to control those emotions. They’re mine. Heightened by my reality. And that, for me, feels more real and therefore more intense and clean.
Can I still be fun? I believe so.
3. Listening to my body
Alcohol suppresses emotions, or enables us to hide from what’s really going on. Of course, many other things can also do that. Drugs, busy, digital attachment, exercise, food and sex. I’m sure the balance isn’t as clear as dropping the alcohol and doing nothing, but sitting in my meditative yoga pose. There will be ‘fillers’, unconsciously creeping in to play. But for the most part I know I’m listening more to what my body is telling me. I’m seeing a Chinese herbalist and watching how my body reacts. I’m sleeping more deeply and longer. Sometimes I could use alcohol as a pick me up to raise my energy for a night out. Now I choose to rest when I know I’ve overdone it. I’m also not 17. My skin looks better. I feel better.
At first, I missed the unexpected turns an evening could take when a couple of glasses of wine were sunk. I missed the silliness of a group of best friends. I don’t have the answer for an alternative quite yet. But how can I. It’s been 25 years of doing it one way. Now let’s try another and see. What else I can create. Who I am. Sober. True. What brings out that crazy girl.
Can I do that myself? I believe so.
After all, it’s just a game.
4 months and counting…