On April 22nd, my husband, a friend, and I took on the challenge of not drinking for 100 days that ended with July 31st’s blue moon. Here are 10 things that came to light:
1. It was easy and enjoyable!
2. There is a huge opening in the market for a non-alcoholic drink to complement a fine meal. There’s something lovely about pairing the perfect wine with a meal that can uplift the whole experience. What non-alcoholic beverage can do that? It seems there should be one. For now, sparkling water seems to do the trick.
3. About a month in, I also stopped drinking coffee. I was an everyday at least once a day coffee drinker, and now I have coffee once or twice every couple of weeks. It seems almost as if the two counterbalanced each other. The coffee would wake me up, and wine with dinner or friends would close the day. But wine before bed disturbs sleep patterns, so more coffee in the morning and so forth.
4. Tea is a wonderful new world! There are so many different kinds of tea to explore, and I have only just begun. The Breville Tea Maker is my new favorite appliance, and I find the Teavana experience lots of fun. Discovering the world of loose leaf teas has a similar draw for me as the world of wines does. They both offer complexity, an exploration of tastes, and an opportunity to open the senses.
5. I feel better about myself, and I second-guess myself less.
6. Not drinking can seem like breaking an unspoken social code. I don’t mind at all if others are drinking around me, but it has on occasions made those we were with uneasy. Eating and drinking are part of our cultural rituals, and ritual is an important part of life. How can we participate in those rituals without fully participating? Or does the drinking part really even matter? Seems it does momentarily and then goes away.
7. Emotions come up and express more frequently and more intensely. In the past, I have used wine and food as well as other things like exhaustion and busyness to cope with difficult emotions. I am not numbing them anymore, so they flow much more freely. While I know this is “healthy,” it does not always feel helpful! I cry more easily. I can get flooded with anger. But overall I am glad to feel more myself, even if I don’t “keep it together” as well.
8. The constant flow of thoughts that can cloud my mind are more easily observed. At times, they are so distracting! But, I am more present with them and able to work with the ones I want to as they come up.
9. During the times when I did want to drink over the past 100+ days, the urge would stay present for all of about 5 minutes, and then I would go on happy with my sparking water, ice tea, or lemonade.
10. Being able to celebrate and reflect along the way with my two buddies made this journey, like most, more fun.
This process has brought presence to what had become somewhat of an unconscious ritual, and that is a great gift. I don’t think alcohol is a cut and dry thing for me. Perhaps the relationship will be like the one I discovered with food. While it’s less “necessary” than food, it can be approached mindfully. Patterns of habit or unconsciousness become signals to wake up and create the space to choose.
As more and more becomes available to us in all aspects of life, it is increasingly important to stay connected in a way that allows for conscious choice. This can be applied to food, exercise, alcohol, work, social media, shopping, television, other people or anything else that we can mindlessly throw ourselves into. The game becomes staying aware longer and coming back more easily. And such is the dance of life.