Sober Surprise

As part of my yoga training certificate, I gave up alcohol the months of October and November.  There was some self-congratulating take place for sure as I told myself, I can’t believe this is all I have to do–in the bank, piece of cake.  I don’t have a history of alcohol abuse;  I’m a social drinker with an I can take or leave it relationship with alcohol.

During my sobriety,  I felt the need to defend my decision not to drink.  As I’d say, “Oh, it’s for my yoga pillar project…” people politely listened and inevitably the follow up question was, “When are you going to start?”  Changing my ways and habits may have felt threatening to them. Who knows? One friend issued an invitation only to rescind it when she remembered I wasn’t drinking.  I think the lesson here is the need for self-comfort regarding my choices: My opinion is the one that matters; however, not drinking did change my life and rocked me emotionally. 

I was out and listening to music; I stood next to a friend, someone I’d call a good friend, and I found myself struggling to connect.  When I woke up the next morning I thought, Was that element of disconnect there all the time, but with one or two drinks under my belt I didn’t care?  What’s really going on here?  It was then I realized drinking, even little to moderate drinking puts up an invisible glass wall around me and my experience.  I can feel it and touch it but it’s all blunted and unclear. I don’t want that anymore. I’m 50 years old with only so many spins around the planet–blunted experience is not appealing.  Now I go to social events with new eyes and heart. I can see my perceptions and misperceptions in all the stories I write about in my head for what they are: Untrue, especially with alcohol.

I can be shy and I wonder Do I drink to alleviate the anxiety of not knowing what to say?  I’m sure on some level I did.  I remember in college thinking, Wow, parties are way more fun when I’m loosened up with beer, and that motivation continued into adulthood.  Ironically, when I let myself feel those moments of shyness, I enjoy myself socially more than ever before.  

Last night, November 30, I, along with my husband and two close friends, had my first alcoholic drink.  A gin and tonic–my favorite. Sipping it, I tasted the sweetness of the tonic and bite of the gin. I didn’t drink it quickly as I’d have done in the past.  I drank 1 drink for 4 hours. I felt woozy, tired, and a little like, that wasn’t as great as I remembered. It tasted delicious but there was definitely an emotional buzz and let down.

At yoga, Natalie shared a quote about suffering not taking away from joy.  At some level and some point in time, alcohol, with its postgame fatigue and emotional hangovers, became a source of suffering or, at the very least, hiding for me.  Did I hide in alcohol?  Does it add to my joy? Does it help me connect to me, others, my experience?  These are the questions I’m taking with me into 2020.

How my decision to drink less will impact others in my life is tricky.  I don’t want to be preachy and evangelical about “how to live”. When I give myself permission to simply share, “I’m drinking less and feeling good”, maybe that’s all anyone needs/wants to hear.  I don’t need a large sphere of influence, agreement, or engagement regarding alcohol consumption.

My biggest takeaway is this question: What habits do I have in place that take me away from feeling and perceiving my direct experience?  I want to sit in powerful pose as I go through life.  I want to know and feel like me and my experience is enough just as it is.

Written by Rachel Grubbs