As I’ve been incessantly going on and on about, the holiday season is fast approaching. Tomorrow is Thanksgiving and from there, it’ll be the end of the year before we know it. With this time of year comes holiday parties, celebrations, brunches, and then New Years Eve, all of which alcohol can be a big part of.
Let me go ahead and say it up front – I rarely drink alcohol. If I do, it’s usually for a special occasion or on vacation, and even then it’s one and done. It has been this way for about 3 1/2 years. Because of the uptake of parties and events, this time of year always reminds me that I view alcohol very differently than most.
I have been asked plenty of times why I say no thank you to a glass of wine or a beer. I have my go-to answer, “I’d rather have dessert,” which in part is true. Back when I was trying to lose extra weight from college and make healthier choices, I felt I had to cut things out to make progress. I was gifted a massive sweet tooth from my parents, and I find dessert impossible to say no to. So, alcohol was out instead.
But that’s not the entire answer. It was also about control. When I did drink on a regular basis, it was always a social activity. Did I think beer or prosecco tasted better than every other drink? No, but I drank them because everyone was doing it, plus it made socializing easier. Liquid courage. I’ve always been shy and quiet and alcohol allowed me to shed the layer of self consciousness. Once I feel comfortable, I love having great conversations and alcohol just speeds up the process.
I was almost always a “happy drunk,” as they say. I would hug everyone and tell my friends I loved while them over and over. If people were taking photos at a party, you could always find one of me up close sticking my tongue out. I still have no idea why I thought that was a good idea. In high school (yes I drank underage, but not excessively), I would text whichever guy I liked at the time. In college and into adulthood, I would spill secrets that maybe sober me wouldn’t mind if the other person knew, but that sober me was also not inclined to so easily share. I felt fearless with alcohol in my system!
But I was acting on my impulses. I had no filter. I wasn’t in control of what words were coming out of my mouth. And that is what it really boils down to. I started using alcohol as a crutch in social situations, especially in big crowds where I didn’t know everyone. If I didn’t drink, I would either follow someone around all night, end up sitting by myself somewhere, have half assed conversations while feeling uncomfortable, or leave early. But as soon as I had a couple drinks in me, the nerves would lessen, conversations were easier, and I would usually have a good time.
There came to a point where I realized that “drunk me,” or “tipsy me,” wasn’t really me. I value the power of words, so I want to be in control of which ones I say. I value real connections with people, so I want to be in control of who I talk to and about what. I am self conscious in social situations until I get comfortable enough that I’m not anymore. It takes longer to get to that point, but it is possible. So I decided to ditch the crutch, give up alcohol and see what would happen. There were nights where I felt overwhelmed and left events early. There were times that I didn’t even bother to go out at all. To this day, it’s still hard and scary, but I know that at least the people I meet see the real me, flaws and all.
Now if I drink, it’s a conscious decision. I’ll have a drink because I choose to have one, I feel like having one. That is usually far and few between because again, dessert, but it does happen occasionally. I drink because the taste of it sounds good, not to make myself comfortable. I no longer have to have a drink to do that, to enjoy myself. I don’t have to drink to meet new people. I don’t have to drink to dance like no one’s watching. And that is very freeing.
As we move into a drinking-heavy time of year, I invite you take a step back and examine your relationship to alcohol. I think many of us have a healthy relationship with it and enjoy the taste and the artistry that goes into the making process. But I know I’m not the only one out there that feels like it can be a societal pressure. Can you only have fun if you’ve had a drink? Do you use it as a crutch, like I did? Do you know when to stop?
If you’re curious, try going to 1 party/event without drinking and see if it changes your perspective, and how you feel afterwards. If that sounds like the hardest challenge you’ve ever done, all the more reason to do it! Good luck, and I would love to hear how it goes for you 🙂