I've been meaning to get around to this post after I decided to follow the new trend and try my own "sober January". Last month I decided to cut out alcohol for 21 days for a couple reasons, to start the year off a little healthier and, more importantly, to check in with myself. I've seen people close to me struggle with their relationship with alcohol, which pushed me to see what it would be like to go out to the bars like I normally would and skip the drinks. Yeah, the health benefits of not drinking are great – you don't get hungover, you get better sleep, your skin looks so much better – but seeing what it would be like to go through my normal weekend routines without it was much more important to me.
What I learned made me realize how much of what I do involves alcohol and how easy it is to rely on drinks as a security blanket, but also how not having it doesn't dictate how much fun you're going to have. I'm definitely not going to sit here and tell you to stop drinking because, don’t get me wrong, I love having wine. But, I will tell you how not drinking and still going out taught me some really valuable lessons.
Here we go:
1. Pretty much every social activity we do at 25 involves alcohol and I can guarantee it doesn’t change much as you get older.
I spend a lot of time going into restaurants and bars with my friends, especially in this big city during the wintertime, and honestly, I have a great time. My weekend plans usually involve going to get brunch and mimosas and dinner and drinks, and I love doing these things because I get to spend time with my friends and try out different cool spots.
But, I did realize how hard it is to do these things and not drink. When you go to a restaurant, the waiter gives you a drink menu and goes around the table to ask everyone what they want. Your friends start ordering their drinks and then when it gets to you it feels awkward to explain you’re not drinking. It really shouldn’t be because no one cares, but when you feel like the odd man out you also feel like you’re obligated to explain yourself, which leads me to my next point.
2. Sometimes it feels like people care that you’re not drinking, but they really don’t.
I was kind of worried my friends wouldn’t want to hang out with me when I told them I’m planning on not drinking when we go out or that people would think I was being lame, but they really did not and do not care. The only thing they really said was, “wow, I can’t believe you’re doing that, I should do that”, which was a relief. It also showed me how supportive good friends are when you’re doing something to improve yourself.
I also thought people out at the bars would notice, but they didn’t. I ordered soda water and lime and no one ever questioned me. But, I did notice how I was using my drink as a way to avoid people asking if I wanted another one and then having to explain myself, which leads me to my third point.
3. It’s easy to rely on drinks as a security blanket, especially if you aren’t super outgoing.
I held onto my soda water and lime the same way I did a vodka soda. There’s something about having a drink in your hand that makes you feel more relaxed and open to conversation.
Am I crazy? I would love to know if other people feel like that.
There’s also something about standing there with nothing in your hand that makes you feel awkward, like you’re clearly not drinking or engaged in the situation.
Again, am I crazy? I think a lot of people can agree, especially when you’re surrounded by people you don’t really know.
I have definitely been in some situations where I end up over drinking because I feel like I have to to make myself feel more comfortable. What I learned from my 21 days is that it’s all in my head. I make it awkward, no one else. So, if you’re like me then yes, definitely have something in your hands if it helps you feel more comfortable, but also know that all those social anxieties are in your head. Onto my final point.
4. Checking in with yourself gives you more confidence.
It’s true, I promise. Going out without relying on drinking to make me feel more comfortable made me feel so much more confident. I felt like I had better conversations with people and I didn’t have to second guess everything I said, which is a side effect of drinking alcohol since it’s proven to give you more anxiety the next day. Heeellllooooooooo Sunday scaries, how are ya?
I also realized I could cut alcohol out of my life if I had to, which isn’t easy especially if your brain reacts to it in a different way, and my friends and family would be there to support it.
Moral of the story, you’re awesome the way you are, with or without some drinks.