I’ve never been a big drinker — a glass of wine here, a cooler there, a beer if it was the only choice — it’s just never been “my thing”. I never really understood the appeal, but of course my peer-pressure filled teens and twenties involved a crazy keg party or two. I really didn’t even start drinking until I was in University (you’re welcome mom and dad), cut to my mid to late twenties — also known as my “lightweight years” — and I am the cheapest of cheap dates. One glass of wine and this girl (imagine this said with two thumbs pointed in my direction) can’t drive home. Don’t be mistaken, I am the lover of a good, full-bodied red wine. Right from the get-go I was a $25 bottle of wine kind of girl, I enjoy the taste, I love the warm feeling it gives me in my chest — heck, we even got engaged at a winery, we centred our dining room decor on alcohol (see below). But, this year I’m giving it up. I’m giving all of it up — red wine after work, a drink at a networking event, a hot toddy when my throat is sore, a gin and tonic on the beach. It was nice knowing you, alcohol. You just got kicked off the island.
I am giving up alcohol for 2017, but the decision to turn total teetotaler began in the summer of 2016. I remember stepping out onto the balcony at a good friend’s wedding. It was hot inside and I was the designated driver for the night, so the sloppy shenanigans on the dance floor got old fast. There sitting on the balcony all alone was the groom.
“What are you doing??” I asked. “Get in there and get a drink and get dancing – it’s your wedding!!!”.
“I don’t drink anymore,” he told me. “I realized at some point that it makes me feel really anxious the next morning, so it’s just not worth it anymore.”
I’ve blogged here before about my penchant for worrying and the work I’ve been doing to keep myself in the “anxiety-free zone”, especially as a small business owner. That one moment got me thinking, is my anxiety worse after drinking a few glasses of wine? I tested it out for a few weekends and I slowly came to the realization that my friend was right. on. the. money. In hindsight, I would drink a few glasses of wine and the next morning I would wake up with an unsettled feeling in my chest. Not hungover, but a little shaky, a little misty and a little stressed out. Could it be that my love affair with red wine was making my worrying worse?? The answer is 100%: yes.
It seems silly that it never even occurred to me before. Of course alcohol makes me anxious, alcohol changes levels of serotonin and other neurotransmitters in your brain, it changes our brain function to make us feel groovy – so, why wouldn’t it leave you feeling worse once the pleasure wears off? I was never more than a social drinker (of course, 25 years ago people called themselves “social smokers”, but we — and every life insurance company — know now that a smoker is a smoker is a smoker), but I never considered what the small amount of alcohol was doing to reverse all the good work I was doing on myself with yoga, meditation, exercise, journaling, reading, etc… What was I really getting from alcohol that I couldn’t get from reading, sewing, focusing on breath, stretching, colouring – we all need some kind of escape, but for this year alcohol’s not it for me. When people ask me why I stopped drinking, I now mimic my very wise groom-friend… “It’s just not worth what it feels like for me the next day, so I’m taking a break.”
It’s been two months and I am no expert at this whole “dry” thing, but one thing I’ve noticed is how much alcohol (specifically wine) is targeted at women. It’s made out to be the solution to almost anything. Bad day? Wine will fix it. Want to blow off some steam with the girls? A box of wine should do it. Need a break from your kids? Attached the IV. As women, we are constantly inundated with the message that all our our problems can be solved with a glass of alcoholic grape juice. And it works. We never show up to a friends how without a bottle of Girl’s Night Out (Coconut wine, anyone?), we make wine dates when we are sad and need a friend, and we swoon of the perfectly delicate red wine glasses we somehow think will make us into Olivia Pope overnight. Wine. Is. Everywhere. Every fourth post on my Instagram feed says something witty about wine, athletic t-shirts are emblazoned with “I run for wine” slogans, for some of us wine is even placed in the grocery store right next to our other crutches – Ben & Jerry’s, frozen pizza and tubes of cookie dough. Not targeted by the wine culture? It took me about 1 minute to pull these social media posts as examples.
Don’t get me wrong. I LOVE wine. A nice glass on red wine and a good record are my idea of bliss, but for me – at this time in my life – wine just isn’t right for me. I have had many a wonderful night drinking wine with some wonderful friends – drinking anything with friends, but it just doesn’t give me the same joy anymore. My intention is not to give up drinking forever (my husband and I have a 5 and 10 year anniversary bottle on that hutch above), but for now I am going to give it the old heave-ho and see how I feel. I will still bring a bottle of wine when I’m invited to dinner. I will still give wine to my clients to celebrate the New Year. Alcohol is very much part of my world, I just won’t be making it part of my diet for the next few months.
It’s actually nice for the people around me, I think. I’m a built in designated driver, and I’m a little more present at a party without a drink in my hand (read: Avery doesn’t fall asleep at parties as much when she’s sober). I’ve realized I don’t even need the influence of alcohol to dance like a mad woman at a wedding. In fact, I recently got chased down the street by a man who thought I probably shouldn’t be driving my friends home… assuming I was out of my tree based on how much silly dancing I’d just done on the dance floor. He was mistaken. I might have danced my butt off like any good drunk girl would… but I hadn’t had a drop.
Also, a shout out to my beautiful friend over at Wild Bella Life – she took on ‘Dry January’ and blogged about what she learned. Check it out here – 5 Things That Happened When I Quit Drinking for a Month.