What a Month of Not Drinking Alcohol Taught Me About My Habits


What a Month of Not Drinking Alcohol Taught Me About My Habits | Wit & Delight
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Editor’s Note: This article explores alcohol consumption habits from the personal lens of the author and is not meant to be a professional recommendation for how others should approach their relationship with alcohol. If you’d prefer not to read a piece that discusses alcohol, you may want to sit this one out. If you or someone you know is struggling with substance abuse, please consider reaching out to a resource such as the SAMHSA (Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration) Helpline at 1.800.662.HELP (4357).

I first decided to take a month off of drinking on the sledding hill. It was January 1 and I had lugged my children down the block to get some fresh air. It was a bright winter day, around 10:00 am, and I had a gnarly hangover, as many do on New Year’s Day. I felt ~fine~, but under the feeling of ~fine~, there was a sea of anxiety and sweatiness and nausea inside me. 

A friend was also on the sledding hill. He mentioned that he was going to do a dry January this year. I immediately jumped on board. I knew I needed a little break. I needed some time to reset.

Strangely, everyone I spoke to the following week was also doing a dry January. I didn’t even know “Dry Jan” was a thing. I’d never heard of it before, but Dry Jan was everywhere. Perhaps a lot of us had been leaning a little too heavily on the old, comforting crutch of alcohol. It makes sense, what with the global pandemic and being locked up at home and all.

I’ll say here that I’m not an expert on anything related to alcohol. What I’m sharing are my personal notes on being a consistent drinker who took a break. Nothing more.

I’d also like to preface this reflection with the statement: Talking about alcohol is weird. Weird and intimidating. It feels a bit taboo, right? Like you might say the wrong thing and accidentally paint yourself as a raging alcoholic, even if you don’t feel like one. Or, you might offend someone by categorizing them as an alcoholic without intending to. Not that being an alcoholic makes someone inherently bad (Agh! Another landmine!), but you don’t want to use the term in reference to someone without their consent. Are we together on this?

There are aspects of my drinking habits I’m not proud of. I started drinking in high school (Sorry, Mom!) and have continued drinking at a pretty steady pace until, well, now. It was a routine and something I looked forward to after a long day.

Obviously, I took breaks when I was pregnant, but as Braunwyn Windham-Burke discussed on the RHOOC 2020 season finale, there’s a difference between taking a self-imposed break from alcohol and taking a break to have a baby. The framework behind choosing to take a break and having to take a break are much different.

The first half of Dry Jan was not hard. Once I decided to not drink, not drinking wasn’t an issue. Sometimes, midafternoon, I’d feel bummed when I’d remember I couldn’t look forward to a glass of wine that evening, but it was a fleeting feeling. And that was mostly the extent of my chagrin.

I noted many positives. Of course, I felt better in the mornings. I had more energy that lasted until later in the afternoons. I was able to exercise more often and I read more books. 

Alcohol had been giving me a spike of energy to chat (not a bad thing) but without it, I’m more likely to read, follow up on my skin-care routine, and go to bed early (also not bad things). It could be that I’m a bit more in tune with my natural ebb and flow of energy when I’m not drinking. 

It felt weird admitting this, but I felt less social without alcohol. You’re probably thinking, duh, but I didn’t see it coming. Pre-January, I’d gotten into the habit of calling friends in the evening after I got the kids to bed. It was nice to reconnect with dear buds who live far away. We’d set dates and have drinks together over the phone. Once I stopped drinking, the calls did also. I wondered if I was even as social with my partner in the evening when I wasn’t drinking. It felt icky to consider that alcohol might be the only access point for connecting with others.

I sat with this uncomfortable idea for a bit. Then I thought, Maybe I’m just tired in the evenings and that’s ok. Alcohol had been giving me a spike of energy to chat (not a bad thing) but without it, I’m more likely to read, follow up on my skin-care routine, and go to bed early (also not bad things). It could be that I’m a bit more in tune with my natural ebb and flow of energy when I’m not drinking. 

Still, wondering if alcohol made hanging out more fun, especially with my partner felt…like a bummer. It took a few weeks, but I began to see that alcohol didn’t serve the function in my life I thought it did. I thought it helped make things lively and silly. But, when Caleb and I watched Survivor during Dry Jan, we’d discuss live tribals with the same intensity. (Sidebar: Survivor is a really good show and Caleb is probably going to be on it someday so keep your T.V. critiques to yourself.) We still made millions of weird, stupid jokes throughout the day, which is our love language. We were still as goofy with each other as ever. It just took a few days to recalibrate. 

Chatty evenings fueled by two (fine, three) beers are nice! However, Dry Jan was showing me that I also like being chatty in the mornings with a cup of coffee or during our weekly nap drives* or when I call a friend (fine, my dad) from the car when I’m out running errands. There are just different ways and times for connecting.

The second half of January went a lot like the first. I still didn’t miss drinking as much as I thought I would. A friend suggested drinking La Croix from a wine glass, which was actually a fun substitute. 

The only hiccup came when I recognized how much less anxious I felt every day. It took a while to see it, but things were generally easier when I wasn’t drinking. There was a more even keel. It sucked to admit, but it’s true. 

I decided to make a plan for the future instead of berating myself for my past drinking habits. I recognized that life was nice without alcohol. Noted. Could life also be nice with a little alcohol? Maybe I could employ a more mindful approach to drinking, instead of just automatically opening a bottle of wine while cooking dinner every night. Maybe I could find a nice balance.

I recognized that life was nice without alcohol. Noted. Could life also be nice with a little alcohol? Maybe I could employ a more mindful approach to drinking, instead of just automatically opening a bottle of wine while cooking dinner every night. Maybe I could find a nice balance.

January might be a good time to take a hard look in the mirror, but February is the month for finding flow. Instead of taking up a harsh regiment to moderate my drinking, I’m going to ease back into things. I’m going to do that by being thoughtful about when I’ll have a drink. I’ll take a minute to notice if I actually feel like having some wine or if, in fact, I’m tired or overwhelmed or bored.

So far, this approach is working well. As I write this, we’re done with the first ⅓ of February, and I’ve only had a couple of drinks to mention. One night I did have two (fine, three) beers with Caleb and we had some laughs. Many other nights, I haven’t felt like having anything.

I feel protective of the success Dry Jan brought me. I like feeling good; it’s weird, I know. If I can’t find a gentle, easy flow with alcohol, maybe I’ll take an even longer break. Knowing what I know now, another break wouldn’t seem scary. In fact, I might welcome it, if it felt like the right choice.

For the time being, I’m going to feel out this new rhythm. The amazing thing about being in the groove is, you know when you’re there. I think I’m getting close—closer than I’ve ever been (!!) to my own personal balanced pace with alcohol and I’d like to thank Dry Jan for her help. Couldn’t have done it without her.

*We’re magicians who figured out how to make all our children nap in the car at the same time so we can take long Sunday drives while I read out loud. It’s pretty cute.

BY Meggie Maas - February 19, 2021

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February 19, 2021 6:13 pm

Meggie! This is one of the best, most relative articles on drinking alcohol that I’ve ever read. It really resonated with me. I, too, did dry January and found myself thinking things like “wow, everyday life stuff is not hard?”. “i actually like hanging out with myself?”, “i want to exercise?”. Confusing in a good way. It felt so good that i’ve continued into February and don’t have a real plan to help navigate the future. I like that you’re listening to yourself and trusting yourself when it comes to imbibing. Thanks for sharing! 🙂

Annette Hachey
February 20, 2021 11:40 am

Meggie, your last name sounds Dutch. I’m related to a Maas, Blokhuizen, faas, and others. I really liked your article, it gives a different perspective on drinking in a positive fashion. I used to drink but due to severe inflammatory arthritis and rheumatoid, I can no longer drink because it doesn’t sit well with the medications. When I stopped drinking, there would be the odd hot summer day where I would find myself craving a sleemans clear. There are times that I’d love a Pina colada. I found out quickly that I would rather be doing so many other things… Read more »

February 20, 2021 9:09 pm

Thank you for sharing your story! I love it and I can totally relate. I stopped drinking in October 2020 and I have never felt better. I had allowed alcohol to become a distraction for me which prevented me from discovering, embracing, and executing my true passion and my purpose. I am now on my purposeful pursuit and loving it all. Self care without alcohol has never felt so good!

James Mac
February 21, 2021 12:59 am

Totally jumped on this article because I had to stop drinking right after Christmas due to ER visit over ulcers as I had never had them before. I had to completely change my diet. No more alcohol, coffee, red meats, sugars, chips, spicy foods, fast food, red bulls (daily fav), and all the other food I thought were meals. Stupid “bland diet” is what I thought. I even stopped smoking “herbal remedies” out of personal precaution. Water, certain juices, and certain teas were all I was drinking. I always liked healthy foods like salads, fruits, juices, and teas but still… Read more »

February 21, 2021 8:48 am

Alcohol is an extremely dangerous substance. You’re just kidding yourself if you know you like to drink but think you can “drink responsibly”. That’s a slippery ass slope and it won’t be long till you find yourself at the bottom of it again

February 22, 2021 7:23 am
Reply to  Charles

Edit please: “Alcohol is an extremely dangerous substance FOR SOME.”

There are plenty of people who CAN (and do) manage alcohol consumption, and do it responsibly and casually.

Frances D Benjamin-James
February 27, 2021 11:21 am
Reply to  Karen

Thank you Karen.

Judy A Beilhartz
February 24, 2021 7:11 am
Reply to  Charles

I pray for people like you. Our world is up against so much negativity. Compassion and support is the key.

March 1, 2021 9:59 am
Reply to  Charles

Yes, alcohol is a very dangerous substance for all. It is an addictive substance that with enough use, any human would become addicted to (not just some, it’s science.)

But not everyone has an alcohol problem and it’s not helpful to sling harsh words at someone who has just opened up about questioning their own relationship with booze.

Rachelle France
February 22, 2021 9:26 am

Through years of doing dry January, and looking at when and why we drink, we have come to only drink on Fridays and Saturdays. One cocktail at 4:00ish and then share a bottle of wine with dinner. We look forward to it all week. Discuss and research what our cocktail will be that week and which bottle of wine we want to open. Instead of a habit it is a special treat and ritual.

February 23, 2021 8:08 am

I love this idea. I rarely drink during the week (2 small kids, not alot of sleep, full time job and exercise are reasons to not imbibe) but Friday’s my husband makes a fun cocktail for dinner (and makes mine weak) and then we *might* open a bottle of wine and I *might* have some. It’s a perfect balance. Coffee is my new true drug and i’m fine with that.

Judy A Beilhartz
February 24, 2021 7:04 am

I really liked your share. I too have quit drinking. I used to drink everyday all my life. I knew it was taking a toll and I really wanted to change things in my life. I felt alot of what you were saying. I’ve done a complete turn around in my thinking and emotional wellbeing. I even got a full time job recently. I sometimes still crave, but it’s all in my mind,I recognize it and remember how crappy I feel the next day. Unfortunately a couple of friends say I avoid them. I don’t mean to. I TRIED to… Read more »

Robin Folden
February 24, 2021 9:10 am

Hi! I’m trying to find the words Meggie wrote that ended with “Is there drinking on the moon?” (I think those were the words. Thanx! RFH

Robin Folden
February 24, 2021 10:34 am

It has been almost 3 years since I’ve had a drink, or a cigarette for that matter. Been doing both for 30 yrs. Had to quit cold turkey for the liver transplant I needed. Think about wanting (or needing) that one or two more drinks…it may save your life. RFH

February 26, 2021 4:37 am

This was very much needed.

February 26, 2021 4:38 am

I really enjoyed reading this article. Ive been trying to cold turkey it and getting frustrations about how easy its been all this time

patti E dort
February 26, 2021 8:42 am

That sounds like a great thing to do. I drink slot every day and have concerned about my health deteriorating.

You’ve inspired me to go dry march.

February 27, 2021 6:26 am

Hi Meggie I too had a similar experience that began in Jan but my reasons were a bit different one my mother was an alcoholic and being a child of an alcoholic parent is rather well just not pleasant. She died when I was 14 and I started drinking in the military years later especially wines due to being stationed mostly in Europe. I am now in private practice as a clinical mental health therapist and the pandemic increased my clients with many concerns of bad habits and self destruction. Before suggesting an idea I try it out first so… Read more »

Fernando welcome
February 27, 2021 8:09 am

Hi Meggie am so please I got ti read about tour expirience with dry Jan,fondo Joe Dispenza on Youtube it realy work for me.

Lee Ann
March 1, 2021 3:09 pm

My husband and I, both come from parents with drinking problems. Our parents, thought they were social drinkers, they were not. They had a happy hour every single night, that went beyond an hour! When our first child was born, we made a decision to try and break the chain of alcoholism in our family DNA, and we both quit drinking. Done. We wanted our children to have a different exposure to alcohol then we did growing up. Our children are now in their 30’s and we still don’t drink. They have a drink when out with their friends, but… Read more »

November 29, 2021 4:54 pm

About that other people can have this problem – Are there are any other family members you can talk to who “get” your experience and can validate it? A cousin, aunt or uncle, even close family friend? I know a history of a son, who had an aunt who was far more balanced than his own mother, and he and his aunt developed a fairly close rapport. The aunt validated his experience as real, which was an important aspect of his coming to terms with his experience and moving forward. If not, I would advice to read this book –… Read more »

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