I was recently asked if why I don’t drink as much anymore is because I live a plant based lifestyle. Interestingly, I haven’t been asked this question before, but I have been asked a lot about my lack of drinking, so I thought I’d write about my relationship with alcohol and where I’m at today.
I still remember the first time I got drunk (like really drunk). I was 18 and I was with people who had been drinking for years, despite them being the same age as me – I knocked back the Smirnoff Ice Blacks and Vodka Cruises (eww). The next day I actually thought I was going to die. My head felt like it was going to explode and my stomach actually hurt (I’m sure many people can relate). I’ve had so many of these same experiences over the years. Alcohol would also be what I’d use when I felt stressed, sad, angry or alone, not because I necessarily loved the feeling it gave me, but it’s just what I got used to.
I was raised as a Mormon (well from about 7ish), so growing up into my early teens was never really around drinking or smoking. I went to a Mormon high school so parties where teens were drinking at 13 or 14 wasn’t something I heard of, saw or really knew existed. Then I turned 17, got a non Mormon boyfriend, left high school and then effectively left church all together. I was quite the rebellious teen (as many people would tell my mum and me). I moved out of home and that’s when I had my first drink, just a casual RTD (ready to drink). Then, when I turned 18, I could go clubbing (wahhooooo Outback, am I right Hamilton?? 😉 ), so it all ramped up. The drinking. The partying. Everything.
I’ve experienced everything you could probably think of thanks to alcohol. All night ragers. Ending up in a house in the middle of nowhere and you and your friend having to walk almost 3 hours to get back to the city. Alcohol poisoning by just not knowing when to stop and spending a night in hospital looking like a train wreck. Using alcohol to avoid deep down issues that I just didn’t want to deal with. Everything. I went from zero alcohol in this little body – to alcohol right into the clean blood stream!
This carried on in various forms and to varying degrees over the years. Never so much that I was dependent on it, but enough to be consistent on the weekends. I never drank so much that I didn’t show up to work and I never felt like I was ever out of control, but I did have nights that I couldn’t remember. I also had nights where I had the best time ever and sometimes I still think fondly of those, the times where I just did whatever the hell I wanted to #yolo.
In 2014, I started dating my ex and it was great fun, however, most of our fun involved alcohol. At the time it was awesome, having the best time ever, out socialising and drinking, out for dinner and drinking, at a BBQ and drinking. For the first six months it was good and happy times, but then things started to change. I started hating (realising that I hated) the idea of going out every weekend to another sociable dinner that’s at a BYO (bring your own) shindig or going to another party.
I felt horrible. I felt alone. I was depressed. I was unhappy. Depression was something I’ve had linger around since I was 15ish and alcohol is the biggest depressant so shit wasn’t going to get any better for me the more I drank. Fast forward 5 or so sad, angry, depressed and horrible months and the inevitable breakup happened. He finally said that he had had enough and wanted out. At the time I was distraught and it was horrible but looking back, even after a month, it was the best possible thing he could have done for me. I was finally ready to figure out what the hell was going on with me.
I was seeing a psychologist for the last 5 or so months of the relationship and I started to recognise all of the things in my life I didn’t like. The drinking, the fact our personalities were so completely different and the things I wanted didn’t fit in with the things he wanted and I covered up my feelings with alcohol.
After recognising so many different things, I FINALLY decided I was done. I didn’t want alcohol to play a factor in how I choose to deal with crappy (perceived crappy) things in my life. I wanted it to be something I enjoyed when I felt like having it, not something I drank as a default because it was a Thursday, Friday or Saturday night or because it was a dinner with friends.
Almost three years on and my alcohol consumption has decreased even more, on its own. Not a forced stop because of ‘Dry July’ or some other social challenge which makes you “give up” something, which might then create a whole lot of different things. I’ve naturally gone off the taste of alcohol and having it on a consistent basis. I just don’t feel inclined to drink or feel like I want it and that is an amazing feeling in itself. I’m not sober. I haven’t made a commitment to not drink, I now only drink if I genuinely feel like having one.
I had a glass of red wine a few weeks ago and I literally felt hungover for two days. ONE GLASS OF WINE!! I had plenty of water and plenty of food and I still felt horrible. There’s a few culprits in particular that make me feel terrible and that’s Pinot Noir (sad face) and very hoppy beers. They hurt my throat. Funnily enough though, I had a vegan sav a while back and it didn’t make me feel horrible, maybe I’ll stick to those more often!
So, because they don’t make me feel good, I don’t have them anymore, or even much of any other type of alcohol. Same went for dairy, it made me feel horrible so I stopped having large amounts of it when I was 15.
So, after a novel of a life story, why don’t I drink much anymore?
- It doesn’t make me feel good
- I can have plenty of fun without it
- It amplifies the negative thought patterns that I work on changing every day; and,
- I just don’t want to.
Oh and because,
- It is wasted calories that you don’t have to put your body through processing on the regular (had to throw that one in there 😉 ) I’m not, not drinking because I want to lose weight – I just want to clarify that 🙂
I used to be a huge drinker, so I totally understood the appeal, but I’m not one anymore and it’s something I’m very happy I stepped away from, purely for my own sanity and health. I have enough battles with my thoughts that I don’t need alcohol to add to that and I generally want to be a healthier person in all aspects of my life. I’ve also become quite the pro of going to a social outing and drinking soda water with lime (fresh, obvs!) or taking my own Kombucha (I’m addicted).
If you’re feeling like you want to give alcohol a rest, don’t wait for the next ‘Dry July’ or no alcohol challenge to make a change; decide for yourself that you want to cut down or cut it out and do it. You can start small by not having a glass of wine with dinner on a Wednesday night, then no alcohol at all during the week, then it slowly becomes easier and easier.
Be strong and don’t let the classic “oh it’s just one”, “just have a beer”, “oh why aren’t you drinking?” detract you from what your intention is. The more you reduce, the more you find you might actually not want it anymore.
Two years ago, I actually had a guy at a BYO say: “why aren’t you drinking?”, me: “I had a beer before, I don’t feel like having another one”, him: “oh. you’re making me feel self-conscious about how drunk I am then”, me: “I don’t think that’s me doing that? That’s you”.
And that was so telling. A lot of the time people question why you don’t drink because it makes them think about why they do and for some that might be an uncomfortable thought.
Stick to your guns and be proud of the choices you make.
If you are looking for support though, there are awesome groups like “No Beers, Who Cares” that do amazing events on all aspects of reducing to completely eliminating alcohol.