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

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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

18
Leave a Reply

Natalie

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

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 »

Cheryl

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

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 »

Charles

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

Karen

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

Thank you Karen.

Judy A Beilhartz

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

Rachelle France

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.

Melanie

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

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

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

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

This was very much needed.

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

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.

Bernadette

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

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.

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