My New "Sober-ish" Lifestyle
For those who have been around for the past year or so and follow my IG stories, you know this is a topic I’ve been dealing with for awhile now: “sober-ish” living. About a year ago I wrote a pretty in-depth piece before regarding my thoughts on, and relationship with, booze; discussing, mainly, that it is possible to live a “healthy” and “balanced” lifestyle while still enjoying alcohol and how to go about that. However, as expected, my life has continued to evolve since writing that piece. While I still believe and support all of the statements made, I now find myself facing different struggles and adjusting my life accordingly. Most importantly, whenever I discuss this topic on my account it seems to resonate with many of you, so here I am sharing more.
I want to start by saying that I am in no way a trained professional on this extremely serious topic. If you are, or know someone who is, struggling with alcohol addiction, please seek guidance and professional help.
Now, let me give you a quick recap of my history regarding alcohol and its role it has played in my life. To keep it short, I grew up in a house where alcohol was always around. Not in a bad way, but more in a way of it being “normalized”. Plus, my family likes to have a good time and celebrate and, more often than not, that includes alcohol. In high school, I had a very open relationship with my parents regarding alcohol and my social life: I was allowed to drink at parties if there were parents supervising and I was either sleeping over or getting a ride home from someone who was 100% sober. Because of that, I went in to college knowing my limits, understanding the effects of alcohol, and comfortable with drinking. I didn’t have that “I’ve never seen alcohol before so I’m going to go bat-shit crazy” that happens to some the second they step on a college campus. By not viewing it as a forbidden fruit, I never really felt I took advantage of it. However, I partied. I had a hell of a good time and I had many and many of drunken nights. My college tolerance was so high that it actually pains me to think of the amount I used to consume on a typical night.
Post college, my drinking habits continued. I moved to NYC, where saying its night life is “lively” is an understatement, and worked at a job with a very alcohol-focused social aspect. I always felt, and still believe, I had a healthy relationship with alcohol, but there was definitely a large and often consumption. To answer the question that everyone dreads and never really answers truthfully, “how many drinks a week do you have?”, I would say that last year, when I was 26, I typically had around 10-15. To break it down, I drank every day of the week other than my self-imposed “sober Monday’s”. That may seem extremely high for some, average for others, or even low for a few of you. That is because we are all different; there are years when it was much higher (in college or the year following) and now, much lower. I love the taste of a good cocktail, or a crisp refreshing glass of wine, or a nice cold IPA with my meals, so that’s what I had. To me, alcohol adds to the experience of food and a night out and it, unfortunately, is a large focus on the socialization aspect of New York.
So, what changed and where am I now? I know, I didn’t keep that story too quick; my bad! Things really changed after my concussion in March 2018. I mean, a hell of a lot of things changed (hello, this new job), but my drinking habits is a very tangible and noticeable one that I am currently dealing with. Immediately after my concussion, I was obviously booze-free for the 2-month recovery period for healing purposes. After I was cleared to go back to work and “healed” (I use quotes because, as I’m learning, this is a much lengthier and ongoing process), I began returning to my normal drinking habits. I was still suffering from minor headaches, but they were few and far between and I wasn’t really aware of the effect alcohol had on me. It wasn’t until my heavy metals detox, beginning in January 2019, that I started cutting back on my alcohol consumption. In an effort to make sure my liver and kidneys were working at prime optimization to flush out the toxins, my doctor advised that I limit the amount of alcohol drinks I had per week. Instead of restricting myself completely, I decided to limit myself to 2-4 drinks per week, something that may be either standard or, even still, high to some of you but, again, this is my journey, and it was a big change. While going through this 4-month detox, I kept to this practice. However, it became more and more evident to me, at this time, that the alcohol was something that was affecting my post-concussion headaches. Unfortunately, I do not have all, if any, of the answers regarding why my headaches are returning and reoccurring over a year after the accident, but it is something I am working on separately finding the answers to. Nonetheless, this has led to a further cut down of my alcohol consumption.
Currently, I am rarely drinking. What does that mean? It is ever-changing, and will continue to be, but right now it is about 1 drink some weeks, 3 another week, and 0 some weeks. There is no number I am keeping myself to, but, instead, going off how I am feeling. As you can tell, I don’t have the answers, so that is obviously not what this post is meant to provide. Instead, I am sharing with you what I have learned to help anyone else who may be going through this journey.
Having fun sober is possible, don’t let others tell you otherwise. Just because it is the “norm” to be drinking out at bars, it does not mean it is required. You are able to still have fun while being sober, just be yourself!
There are ways to socialize other than going to bars. Sure, majority of the time when you are in your 20s your social life surrounds around going out to bars and drinking (at least, in NYC it does). Find other activities that are not so booze focused; they can be just as fun! Some of my favorites: workout classes & a meal with a girlfriend, date nights that involve “restaurant hopping” – appetizer one spot, dinner another, dessert a third (all nearby), spending time outdoors in parks or on walks, finding and attending events I otherwise wouldn’t have, and many more.
People have opinions; dust them off your shoulder and move on. Has. An. Opinion. I cannot stress this enough; and it is something I am seriously dealing with. I’d be lying if I said I have mastered this one, as it is a continuous journey, but remind yourself that this is your decision; the opinion of others does not matter. No matter why you are choosing to cut back on drinking, or totally stop, that is no one’s business but yours. Remember that often times when people project negative thoughts onto your decision, it is a projection of their own emotions.
Your relationships will evolve in different directions. Because of these opinions and everyone else’s ideal of “fun”, your relationships may evolve. Some may not be supportive or judge you, and those are the ones you will grow apart from. Others will encourage this behavior, find ways to spend time sober with you, or feel comfortable enjoying their drinks while you are not with zero problems; these are the people you will grow closer with. Find more of these people in your life!
Have the hard conversations. If your close friends and/or family is not handling the situation the way you would like them to, have the conversation. Tell them how you are feeling and what you would like them to do moving forward.
Not being hungover rules. Is there anything worse than being hungover? In my mind, NO. Waking up wide-eyed and with a fresh mind is worth this all in and of itself.
Mocktails are always available and are also delicious. Thanks to this wellness movement, “sober-ish” living is actually becoming kind of trendy (who would’ve thought). Because of that, many bars now have mocktail or non-alcohol options on their menus. Try them out! If they don’t, you always have the ability to make one yourself. Often times if there is a cocktail that sounds tasty I will ask the bartender to make it without the booze or, if all else fails, I will order club soda with a splash of grapefruit juice and fresh mint.
YOU ARE NOT ALONE! If there is one thing I have learned in all of this, we are not alone. Living in such an alcohol focused social life in NYC, it is easy to feel I am the only one going through this. By continuously opening up about it on my Instagram, it is obvious and encouraging that many of you are also going through this. Rest assured, you are not by yourself!
Now that you have some insight into my history and everything I’ve learned, I hope you feel more confident in knowing that you are not the only person going through this. As I’ve discussed on my platform before, the biggest thing I am struggling with is the reaction of others. So, if drinking is still your jam and this post didn’t resonate with you at all, let me at least provide you with some helpful tips on how to react or handle being on the flipside of this situation. For anyone who is in the presence of someone cutting back on their alcohol consumption, here are some do’s & don’ts:
Quit with the god damn badgering. If someone says they don’t want a drink, leave them alone! The answer is not going to change just because you continue to ask “are you sure? Come on, why not? Just one?”. If it does, that is called peer pressuring. Didn’t you learn about this in middle school!?
If you are not their close friend, you don’t have to know why. Not everyone has to have a reason for choosing not to drink. They could be going through something serious or they could just not be in the mood. No matter the reason, you don’t necessarily have to know. So quit asking!
Find ways to make that person feel comfortable. Ask what they want to do to socialize other than always assuming or suggesting a bar. The world is your oyster!
Start offering non-alcoholic options. If you are hosting people for a get-together, throw a mocktail option out there. We now live in a world where the assumption that everyone is drinking alcohol is no longer correct.
Don’t assume or joke that everyone is pregnant. Not much more to say about this other than it is annoying as hell.
Again, this is an ever-growing and continuous journey for me. There may be (hopefully) a day where alcohol does not trigger this type of side effect. When that day comes, I may add booze back into my lifestyle on a more regular basis. I may also decide that it is not as necessary as I once thought it was and that I actually enjoy this lifestyle more. Either way, this is what I am currently going through, and something I wanted to share with all of you.