Alcohol: just somebody that I used to know

Coming up on ONE THOUSAND days sober, I wanted to check in with my relationship with booze. Where are we at today?

It’s so crazy you guys. I fantasized about a time like now, way back when. So many of the times when I said “I’m never drinking again” I’d also imagine a future life that seemed unattainable. The life I was envisioning was one where I wasn’t letting alcohol make me feel, look and act shitty on the regular. There was none of the anxiety, depression, regret or guilt that stemmed from binge drinking and the behaviours that go hand-in-hand, during or after. I saw a vibrant, peaceful, fresh life where alcohol didn’t have a place. Out loud, I would test out what it felt like to say “I don’t drink“, but then I’d feel sad because I didn’t think it was possible to get to that place. But it is a place. It’s a thing. It’s awesome.

I don’t drink.

Guess what else? I don’t think about it much. That’s where me and Booze’s relationship is at. Like an ex who I’m truly over, or an old friend from the past who I’ve lost complete touch with. Or remember that cartoon Denver the Last Dinosaur? I think about drinking about as much as I think about Denver. That was random.

Never before has the name of the website tiredofthinkingaboutdrinking.com made so much sense. Even thinking about drinking was exhausting, and I can see that now that drinking isn’t a part of my life. Alcohol is not on my radar.

It took so much commitment, learning and change to get to this place, but it has happened. Just like a break-up with a human being, after I “dumped” booze, I had to make a ton of adjustments and reassess my time, what I did, who I spent time with, where I hung out, etc. Even after a year there were things I was still dealing with and working on. It wasn’t easy but now I find myself 965 days sober and the happiest I’ve ever been.

If you ever have the fantasy I used to have, about being able to say “I don’t drink” out loud and for it to be true, it can be and you can do it. Trust me. If I can, anyone can. I wish I had someone telling me that when I needed it, so I’m telling you in case you need to hear it!

#yodo

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Sober Project Update: How I get buzzed lately. (I haven’t had alcohol in 444 days).

It makes me sad when I think about the fact that for fifteen years of my life I incorporated alcohol into as many situations as possible, no matter what I was doing or who I was with. This is not an exaggeration. Don’t worry, then I get really happy because it’s not like that anymore. I try all the time to understand why I (and bazillions of others,) feel like alcohol is essential for a good time, or even an “alright” time. It’s so fucked up.

Living is how we learn things about the world and about ourselves, and we all do it at different times and rates and in different orders, but now that I’ve had a significant time away from booze and can see that I used it to blur the lines of life for so long, I have a new perspective and I’m just sharing a piece of it with you in case it’s helpful in any way. I’m not an alcohol hater and I’m not trying to preach, just sharing.

Before I began the sober project at the end of 2015, I didn’t really know I was doing it but I was constantly trying to use booze to feel more confident, care-free, relaxed, funny, adventurous or warm and fuzzy, just to name a few feelings that we are socialized to believe alcohol provides, or enhances. Why? I either didn’t have the personal resources to create those feelings on my own, at the time, or it could just be that I never tried! Drinking, I felt, was fully required to enjoy, succeed at or simply handle:

  • basically any meal with friends, family, acquaintances or strangers
  • work functions
  • meeting new people
  • a day off
  • bike riding
  • catching up with someone
  • time spent at the beach
  • cooking
  • shopping
  • casual walks or exploring
  • campfires
  • flirting, dating, romantic experiences
  • coping with loss
  • being the passenger on a road trip
  • winding down or de-stressing after work
  • boredom
  • watching TV shows, movies or sports
  • playing softball
  • golfing (yes, I’ve golfed a little)
  • riding a bus, train, ferry or plane
  • holding conversation at social functions with people I had nothing in common with
  • cleaning the house
  • enjoying a bath (or sometimes shower)

Okay, that is like the longest list ever. It’s SO EMBARRASSING!!!! (my opinion). I feel like I could sum up it all up by saying something like,

“hello! I have no real hobbies, interests or passions and I’m so uncomfortable in my own skin/head that I partially numb myself to all experiences! I also don’t like my friends or family (or myself) enough to enjoy spending time with them in my right mind!”

HAHAH like wtf!? Okay that’s an extreme statement and I’ll stop being mean to myself now, because that’s not cool. I was just trying to make a point. Most of the things on the list above are really fun, if you actually like the task or activity at hand, the people you’re with, you are in the right mood and have an open mind. It’s so simple now that I have a new frame of reference. Alcohol was decreasing the authenticity of all my experiences and therefore my life as a whole, as well as my future. For real. I feel like I’ve made the discovery of a lifetime!

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Kate is right!

I don’t care if you think this is corny or me attempting to stick up for sobriety because it has a bad rap for being boring and lame. Additionally, I understand that many people do not have issues with alcohol and everything I’m saying might be making you raise your eyebrows. This is just my experience, but the feedback I’ve gotten from previous posts about my counterproductive relationship with booze tells me that I’m not the only person who feels this way about alcohol. So back to the point. Now, I get a buzz by actually fuckin experiencing things in the raw. Undisguised, intense and unedited real-life shit!

Legit conversations with people I like and who I find interesting, vs. what I used to do at social events which was make small talk with anyone and everyone, as many of us created a false sense of camaraderie around drinking alcohol. Instead of sleeping in and feeling like shit, getting up before it’s light out to run, get fresh air, maybe see the sunrise and sweat my balls off with my friends before half the time zone has even woken up. Laughing at seriously funny shit and remembering it clearly later. Being by the ocean, on the lake or up a mountain, and fully experiencing my surroundings instead of chugging fireball and being half checked-out of the moment. Feeling fresh, happy and energetic in the morning, ready to start an awesome day because I don’t have a dehydration headache and I washed off my makeup before bed. Getting to enjoy a coffee with my amazing husband, hangover-free. There is way too much to go on and on about here!

For far too long I made the mistake of believing that booze made things more intense. Woooo let’s get pissed and have the best time! Wrong. Not drinking intensified everything in my life and it’s indescribable. Events, emotions, relationships. Not every intensified feeling is positive, don’t be fooled, but even facing shitty stuff head-on and coming out on the other side unscathed with some new wisdom and no hangover is pretty sick.

So that’s my non-drinking update. Yes, it’s stil going really well, and yes, I’d recommend it. No, I don’t miss having drinks, and no, I’m probably not going to ever drink again. My life is better and more fun and exciting than ever before. Okay, and I’m so sober right now and overwhelmed by how happy I am, I’m like crying. That’s some intense shit man ahahahahah ✌✌

What do I drink, then? What do I do at parties??

One of the best things I learned from Kate at The Sober School was how important it is to drink something that you actually like when trying to avoid booze. Whether you’re wanting to take a break from alcohol or get away from it altogether, it’s hard, especially at social events because of the way our society celebrates alcohol like it’s the crucial factor for having fun.

A party or event is usually some kind of celebration and drinking a plain glass of water doesn’t help anyone feel like they’re celebrating. For lots of us, going out and not drinking is like going to another planet. Standing around holding nothing or that boring-ass glass of water is just going to make you feel left out and awkward, plus it increases the chances of super annoying questions like, “What the? Is that water?” or “what are you pregnant or something?

I realize that what other people think doesn’t matter, but give yourself a break. If you decide you want to hit up a party or event and not drink, bring something else you look forward to having. It’s a game-changer; I speak from experience. Again, it’s not about what the other people are asking, thinking or wondering, anyway. It’s about you being able to hang out with your friends, acquaintances and new people and enjoy your “special” drink just like everyone else is without feeling like you’re missing out on something, or like you have “I’M NOT DRINKING” written on your forehead in black marker. Quitting or taking a break from alcohol doesn’t mean you need to hide in your house. I’m not saying it’s easy, especially at first, but here are ten ideas for you when you go out to a house party, the bar or even just out for dinner.

1. The Red Solo Cup

There are drinking songs about them, they are used for Beer Pong and Flip Cup, and they are sitting in a stack on the counter at most parties and functions. Contrary to popular belief, they are not just for beer and highballs. Grab one and fill it up with whatever the hell you want! One time at a friend’s annual Boxing Day party, myself and my equally weird friend drank juice and club soda all night long in red cups and lots of people thought we were pissed. LOL. Nope, just gettin weird and having a good time because it was an actual fun party with sweet people and the appy table of the year. When drunk people started close-talking and repeating their stories, I drove myself home instead of waiting for (and paying for) a cab during Christmas party season.

2. Booze-free Sangria

I made a REALLY good batch of this on my 31st birthday at our place when I was two weeks into the non-drinking project. It was so good that other people wanted some. They may have added vodka, but that’s not the point. It was really good, felt fancy and like something the token birthday girl might want on a special day. That sounds really corny but you know I’m right about wanting something unique to drink on a special occasion. I don’t remember the exact recipe but I used a bottle of dealcoholized red wine (grocery store) a big batch of cold black tea, a bit of Sprite and then added oranges, lemons, limes and strawberries, all in a giant bowl with a ladel. Served in a fancy glass, of course.

3. Wine Glass

Even plain water feels cool in one of these. Or, fill it with flavoured sparkling water and berries, limes or cucumber slices. Whatever you pick, it’s more fun than a regular glass of anything and it looks like a cocktail, which can be helpful for warding off the annoying questions.

4. Non-alcoholic Beer

There are some really good non-alcoholic beers and lots of them don’t have “NON-ALCOHOLIC” across the label in huge red letters. I love the taste of beer, that’s why I like drinking these! You can buy them at the grocery store, if you’re wondering. Last year during Seafest (biggest party weekend of the year where I live) someone said to my cousin, “whoa, look at Jamie, she’s really on step tonight!” i.e. they thought I was drunk. If they looked closer, I was actually double-fisting O’Doul’s because someone bought me another one before I’d finished mine, and I was having a blast because most of my favourite people were there, the music was good and the night was just genuinely fun. But remember from the 373 days of non-drinking post, alcohol is generally a not-that-great tasting beverage that people drink for other reasons. So drink whatever it is that you actually like the taste of and if that’s beer, then fake beer might be the perfect option for you.

5. “Vodka Soda without the Vodka”

My best friend has a very funny way of describing and explaining things. One time back in the day when we were being drunk loons at the cabin, one of the many quotes in our weekend collection was “I made a vodka soda but forgot the vodka!” We thought it was hilarious (it is) but it’s also genius hahaha! I personally love soda, it’s like chugging Coca-Cola but without eight billion grams of sugar. Put some limes (or lemons or grapefruit slices or raspberries, whatever you want) in there and you have your Vodka Soda without the Vodka. Who knew.

6. Homemade Iced-Tea

When I was younger I swear there was only one kind of tea. Red Rose. That was the only kind. Now there is every flavour you can think of and places like David’s Tea exist. Make a huge batch of your favourite tea, stick it in the fridge and when it’s cold (way longer than you want it to take, FYI) add ice and any garnish that suits the flavour and pour it in a fancy glass. Or, put the whole batch in some kind of thermos or jug just like people do when they make Moon Juice (or whatever you wanna call a sh#! mix of alcohol) and bring it with you to the party you’re going to. I bet there will be a red solo cup for you to drink it out of.

7. Virgin Caesar

Have you ever had a Virgin Caesar? I have and guess what it tastes like? Yes. A Caesar. I love Canada. Bloody Mary’s are gross. The Virgin Caesar is high on my list. They’re also fun to make! If you aren’t Canadian and you don’t know what I’m talking about I wish I could see your face when you Google “clamato.” Bahaha

8. Coffee

Sometimes all we want is something in hand at a party because we’re used to always having a drink and it feels weird with both arms dangling at our sides. Maybe you’re tired but still feel like socializing for a while so you want some caffeine, or maybe you just effing love coffee. Bailey’s makes a coffee creamer now so if you’re going to tell me you only like coffee with Bailey’s, you’re good.

9. Hipster Pop in a glass bottle 

They have this kind of thing at the microbrewery, Wheelhouse, where I live and it’s awesome. These days they’re carrying soda from The Pop Shoppe. It’s one of the most fun places in town and even though I don’t go there as often as I used to when drinking all the beer was my favourite hobby, it’s nice to have something else to order and it’s friggin delicious. Oh, and NOBODY cares that I’m ordering a creme soda and not a Gilnetter.

10. Ginger Beer

Not all ginger beer is alcohol-free (I’ll tell you a story about that another day…) but lots of it is. I had a large bottle of Fever-Tree Ginger Beer after the Victoria Marathon and it was SOOOO good I wanted to beer-bong it. At Christmas time when we were in Kelowna at my mother-in-law’s house she had this kind here, Buderim, and it was amazing too. Not for everyone, but I think ginger beer is amazing.

I used to think that if I wasn’t drinking alcohol I couldn’t go out because I’d be bored and awkward with nothing in my hand. There are so many things to drink besides booze if you don’t want alcohol and once I learned this from Kate and Belle and did some experimenting, it got way easier. On New Year’s Eve this year I brought bottles of dealcoholized red and sparkling white wine (“Virgin Brute” LOL) and a bunch of cans of club soda to mix because I don’t like drinks very sweet. It was a really good New Year’s party because of the people, the atmosphere, the conversations and the food of course. When I got home I looked as fresh as when I left the house after getting ready, not like Stu on The Hangover.

Please don’t think that not drinking alcohol = denying yourself of good shit. It might take some trial and error but you will find things that work for you and once you get some practice, going out sober is no longer like going to Mars.

 

I haven’t had alcohol in 373 days.

There is a grey area between being an alcoholic and being a party animal. I think what makes a person fall into this space is how the alcohol consumption makes them feel about him or herself afterwards. I don’t even know how I’d define the term “alcoholic,” I never considered myself one, but one thing I do know about myself now is that for about 15 years I was in the grey area, drinking too much alcohol too often and it was affecting me in all negative ways.

If I were to list off every single shitty situation, short or long-term, that I ever ended up in, alcohol was involved 99% of the time. Risky behaviour, arguments or fights with ex-boyfriends, injuries, mental health issues like depression and anxiety, overspending, ignored responsibilities, sabotaged fitness goals, the list goes on and on.

For lots of people it’s not a problem and they can drink without it interfering with quality of life and physical and mental health. This is not the case for me. Since I quit drinking alcohol and talk about it openly now with lots of people, I’m starting to see that it’s pretty commonplace for a person to fall into this grey area and to realize that they do not want to be there anymore.

Kate at The Sober School taught me (and many others!) about how to see booze for what it really is. A not-that-great tasting dehydrating beverage that numbs everything out and changes the way we feel about situations, priorities and ourselves; a disconnect from reality. For me, the best option is to not drink at all. For someone else it might be to moderate. I don’t want this post to feel depressing so I’ll try to talk about why I like my life better without alcohol and not all the reasons I needed to ditch it.

I have WAY more time

Alcohol actually steals your time. Hangovers and sleeping half the day wastes time. Going to the liquor store takes up time. Not being able to drive your own vehicle wastes time. Being drunk or buzzed disconnects us from the present situation and all of a sudden it’s over! Ignoring chores and errands make the next day jam-packed instead of relaxing.

I feel like I have so much time to do whatever I want now because I do not waste time being drunk, buzzed, hungover or procrastinating. No joke, I never have a to-do list because I know what I need/want to get done, and I do it.

FOMO (Fear of Missing Out) isn’t real.

I don’t really know how to explain this one. Maybe it’s because now I know that once alcohol is removed, many parties are just a bunch of random people standing around making small talk and trying to get drunk because it’s “fun.” If there is something going on and I am stoked about who will be there, what we’ll be doing, what will be talked about AND I have the energy and interest, then I’m there. But if not, seriously who cares haha.

I have way more money.

This one is easy. It’s not just the cost of booze that is expensive. Have you ever gotten drunk and thought it was an awesome idea to buy a round for the whole table or the whole bar? Or at 2:30am to buy everyone at 7-11 ALL the taquitos because you love everyone and it’s such a nice thing to do? Taxis. Cover. Snacks you end up wishing you didn’t eat. Shopping after lunch (with drinks) with friends and thinking “YOLO TREAT YO SELF!”and buying $200 gumboots..you KNOW what I am talking about, and it sounds hilarious but when everything is said and done, if there are feelings of regret, guilt, anxiety or worry, that’s a problem. Now I get to spend more money on Oiselle and Lululemon, race registrations, vacations, and dates with my husband just to name a few things. Oh and when I go out for food with my friends the bill is NEVER more than 40 bucks.

I do what I say I’m going to do.

I registered for three full marathons before I actually ran one. Each time I downgraded to the half because I didn’t follow my training plan to be able to complete 42.2km. Don’t get me wrong, I love the half-marathon distance, but I wanted to run a full marathon and wasn’t following through because I really liked drinking a lot of beer or wine (or both) every weekend and many nights during the week! The same week I stopped drinking alcohol I began an 18-week training plan and ran the BMO Vancouver Marathon on May 1st 2016. Boom. Then I did it again. And I’m doing it again in 6 days.

I finally finished my 500-hr yoga teacher certificate that I had ONE project left to complete but didn’t get around to it for over 2 years. I take the freaking recycling to the depot once or twice a month so the bin isn’t over flowing. I get groceries so I don’t have an empty fridge and eat crap (unless I feel like it.) Guess when I get all these things done? Yes, when I am not drinking, hungover or thinking about drinking. Winning.

I look and feel my own age.

Better skin, more energy, looking and feeling alive and not Googling how to hide a hangover with makeup. Work is just fine because I am not exhausted or feeling crappy. Exercising is something I look forward to. My eyes are white and not red. I’m not dehydrated all the time. Everything is BETTER.

I’m mentally healthier than I have ever been before.

I feel happy, confident and grounded 99% of the time. No anxiety. Better sleep. No depression or worries. Minimal stress. Everything is BETTER

If you are finding yourself in that spot between alcoholic and party animal and you’re over it, trust me you’re not alone. Check out www.thesoberschool.com and www.tiredofthinkingaboutdrinking.com and you will see that sober life isn’t boring, lame or anthing bad at all, it’s actually awesome. I used to be the person who thought it was ridiculous to go out and not drink. I still go out whenever I want, for how long I want, I drive myself there and back, wash off my make-up and sleep well, and then I get up in the morning and sweat, get shit done and buy new running clothes. Email me if you feel like talking about this more! oxoxox