I have always been a social drinker. If I am anywhere where there could be booze, I will be drinking, including beach days, BBQs, baseball games and dinner parties. You get the idea.
It's the norm in my social circle. And it's not that we necessarily overdo it; we just do it regularly.
One morning, I awoke foggy and hungover after being out late, and I decided I need a break. My friends, of course, could hardly believe it. It was November 22.
"What about Christmas parties?” they argued. “It's the holidays!"
To be fair, December is a tough time to avoid booze, but I took it as part of the challenge. If I could attend social gatherings and abstain, it was a true test of my willpower.
My intention was to live my life as normal. I knew locking myself in at home would keep me from drinking, but where is the fun (and challenge) in that?
Truth be told, I only intended to do it up until Christmas Day, just over a month. My body and my bank account were crying for a break.
I had never gone any substantial length of time without drinking. I knew it would be difficult, but I believed in myself. People do it all the time, right? Game on.
Turns out, my friends had a point. I didn't last until Christmas. I lasted 23 days. But I learned a lot of things, including the biggest, and probably most important lesson of all: It wasn't as hard as I thought. There were ups, downs and lessons galore, and this is what I took from it:
Day 1 To 4:
The first few days are the toughest. You want a cold beer, and you've been dying to try that malbec.
I implore you, don't do it. It gets easier, truly.
There is just that hump you need to get over, and admitting defeat so early would be humiliating, right? You got this!
Day 5 To 15:
After the first week, you get into it. You realize most establishments have cool non-alcoholic cocktails that are delicious, your dinner bills are significantly cheaper and non-alcoholic beer tastes almost like regular beer. You discover that drinking sparkling juice out of a wine glass feels just as fancy as actual wine (try it).
You start to google things like “delicious things to drink when you're not drinking” and bookmark the results. You realize your friends don't mind when you tell them that you're not drinking, and you get really into herbal tea.
You find yourself beelining into frozen yogurt shops, craving the sweetness for reasons you can't explain. Then, you contemplate how much sugar must actually be in wine and cider because of how badly body is wanting sweets when you take a break from drinking.
Day 16 To 23:
You notice you are turning down an exorbitant number of beverage offers. There is always something. Birthdays, friend catchups, happy hours and concerts are places where you usually would be drinking.
In my 23 days of sobriety, I had 16 potential drinking encounters. You start to think, “I could really do this!” and feel like (placebo or not) your clothes are fitting better.
You arise every morning without the hint of a hangover and reflect on how productive you've been lately. You are killing it at yoga and haven't eaten midnight pizza in weeks.
My resolve crumbled like a shortbread cookie at a Christmas party. Bang on, friends, bang on.
But you know what? I was still proud of myself. I had gone over three weeks without drinking. I had gone to the bar a handful of times and danced the night away, sober.
I had sat at the bar with a friend while he ordered rye after rye, and I drank virgin mojitos (delicious). I had celebrated multiple occasions and clinked my alcohol-free glass.
I had shown myself that I can still be social and enjoy life without alcohol. I thought long and hard before I decided to drink that night, and I didn't beat myself up about it after.
Day 24 And Onward:
I feel like I have a better understanding of my relationship with alcohol now. Although I am back "off the wagon" for the moment, I am viewing alcohol with a different approach. I don't need to drink so much, or as often.
I can show up for events and stay sober. I can volunteer to be the designated driver sometimes. I don't have to let "going for a drink" turn into an all-night dance party. (Well, maybe sometimes.)
If you're like me and you are a social drinker, I encourage you to take a break. See how good you'll feel. I feel like it's opened up a whole new world of awesome that I intend on exploring further.
And all that extra money you have from not drinking? Go buy yourself something nice. You deserve it.