I didn't drink for two months. Here's what I learned (and didn't) now that I'm back in the game
Like we mentioned on Friday, we are in the throes of hot girl summer. Keeping in theme, I want to announce that I am back in the game and drinking again after taking two months off of alcohol. Well, I’m kind of back in the game. Let’s just say I am, k?
From the day after my 28th birthday on May 31st all the way until August 3rd, I didn’t have a drink. Not one alcoholic beverage for two months. This may not seem like a grand feat, but is still a long enough stint that I’m proud of it nonetheless. I’ll write more in the future about why I became sober curious, but the short version is that after two years of business school, my body and my brain needed a break.
What had previously been a glass of wine or two with dinner, some after-work drinks and an occasional big night out became almost compulsory drinking in business school. I was drinking five or six days a week and more than any health professional would recommend in any one sitting. It was an issue of both frequency and quantity, and on my 28th birthday, I woke up feeling like a broken human. It sounds dramatic, but my body and brain were exhausted. It felt like I’d been running a social marathon and sprint, saying yes to everything in sight and filling every crevice of my life with people. And meeting up with people often involved drinks.
When I graduated, I didn’t feel like I could go back into moderate drinking. I needed a true reset to baseline. I needed to remember what it was like to be in my own body in its most basic glory. I needed to see what it was like to be social without drinking and get a few weeks of New York City under me without alcohol. So for the months of June and July, I didn’t drink.
I’m still slowly getting back into the drinking game and so on Saturday night, I went out with a girlfriend and eased myself in with two glasses of prosecco and an extra dirty vodka martini over many hours and it was … fine. I don’t know how to describe it because I somehow missed it, but didn’t miss it one bit all at the same time. It wasn’t nearly as exciting as I remember it being, but I somehow deeply loved having a drink with someone and loved feeling like I belonged again.
Trying to be social and sober was way harder than I thought it would be. I know, I know. What problems to have! But in all seriousness, I’m not a naturally wired extrovert. Social exchanges without a little tequila were super exhausting. Combined with the fact that these exchanges almost always happened at noisy housewarmings or dark, crowded bars - they drained every part of me. Balancing my social life and my short-term sober life seemed far more challenging than it should have been.
I’m still trying to navigate my big return and I’m cautious about when and where I drink, but here are some of my immediate takeaways after not drinking. The list will probably grow, but they felt too obvious not to write down. Like every good millennial obsessed with self-improvement, I’d just like to remember how I felt.
Trying to be social without alcohol is rather isolating. In part it’s so hard because most social activities, whether it’s catching up with your girlfriends all the way to going on dates almost always include alcohol. You can participate if you’re not drinking, but you’ll always feel some level of awkwardness in the best case scenario, or feel outright left out in a worst case scenario
Days are really long without alcohol. Like really, really long. I can’t explain it, but time flashes by so quickly when you’re drinking. The mixture of waking up later in the mornign combined with the evening haze makes the days feel so much shorter. I didn’t miss waking up with a shameover - that horrible anxious pit in your stomach mixed with an all around body ache that makes you question why you even continue to put yourself through this. I didn’t wake up with headaches and my mind felt clear. My body genuinely did feel better and my workouts improved. But wow, the days were infinitely long. This is both a blessing and a curse.
Which brings me to the hard part … my life felt so empty and slow. That’s depressing to write because alcohol doesn’t actually fill your life with joy. But I’d read accounts of other people who had taken time away from drinking and they said that they found unbelievable freedom to go and do exactly what they wanted to do. Many of them said they had abundant energy and actually felt closer to themselves than they had ever been because they filled their life with hobbies! Books! Fitness! Yeah, I did those things, but the aforementioned long days mixed with socially feeling distant from people led me into a period of lethargy that I’m still crawling my way out of
All or nothing works, but also doesn’t work at all. Taking two months off drinking really gave me time to pause and get comfortable with how uncomfortable I felt socially. It’s not something I want to continue with though. I miss drinking. I miss sharing a bottle of wine with someone and belonging to something. I’m someone who works best in moderation - whether in my food or fitness routine or my alcohol habits. It was a great reset, but not how I want to live my life forever. I need to figure out what moderation looks like for me.
I still don’t have enough social time built into my life that doesn’t involve alcohol, and I need to work on that. It doesn’t help that the New York social scene is built around food and alcohol consumption, so removing one of those from the equation somehow really limits the social options. This is still something I want to work on though. Even though I’m drinking again, I want to put more effort into maintaining my friendships through a mixture of both sober and alcohol-inclusive activities. More moderation.
Like I said, I’m still navigating what my relationship to alcohol is going to be during my grand reentrance to the world. I did the whole not drinking thing and it didn’t magically solve all of my problems. I felt physically great, but it wasn’t the bandaid to getting totally comfortable and in tune with myself in the city. So I’m back in the game and so is the prosecco. What’s next beyond this is still unclear