What I Learned About My Relationship With Alcohol When I Stopped Drinking
Around the time I turned 30, alcohol and I just didn’t seem to agree anymore. Just one cocktail would leave me groggy, depressed, and nauseous the next day. It started making my acid reflux act up and irritated my stomach issues. I couldn’t even really stay awake more than 90 minutes after having alcohol, so having drinks out with friends, hoping for a long night out, just wasn’t an option. I’d need to be in bed by the time we were all just lining up to go into a club. I certainly never had an issue with alcohol. I was never a heavy drinker and could go weeks without touching the stuff without even realizing it. But, I liked to have a drink most weeknights, and a few drinks on the weekends. So, when I was finally fed up with the way alcohol made me feel and decided to quit it, I didn’t really think I’d notice much of a difference. But I actually learned a lot about my relationship with alcohol that I hadn’t previously seen, once I walked away from it.
It’s how some friendships worked
I realized some of my friendships survived solely on the basis of alcohol. There were some friends I only spent time with while imbibing, and when I finally hung out with them and didn’t drink I realized that…we didn’t really have much to talk about. There wasn’t actually the chemistry there that I thought there was.
I do need some way to disconnect
While I didn’t think I was an alcoholic by any means, I did learn something a little unnerving when I stopped drinking: I do crave some form of disconnecting. Alcohol provided me with a couple of hours each night when I got to turn my brain off. Not drinking just made me feel very alert—almost too alert—as if I never got a break from thinking.
Meditation helps with that
Fortunately, I discovered that meditation can provide me with the little mental vacation that alcohol previously had, without the hangover, stomach ache, or other consequences. I really only got into meditation to relax, but then I found it improved a lot of areas of my life from my relationship to my career.
It was causing some over-eating
When I would drink wine on weeknights before dinner, I’d want some snack to have with it—like cheese and crackers, nuts and fruit, or salami. That would easily add a few hundred calories to my meal. Then, if I wanted more wine after dinner, I’d have a little dessert to accompany it.
And some poor food choices
In addition to eating more when I drink, I just don’t eat very well. For some reason, salmon, steamed broccoli, and brown rice doesn’t sound very good after two glasses of wine. But…a cheeseburger or pizza does!
It was interfering with my sex life
When you’ve been with someone for a long time, you know you don’t need one more thing getting in the way of your sex life. Alcohol was getting in the way of mine. While I thought it would put me in the mood, it really just made me tired and when my partner and I did get in bed I just wanted to pass out.
It was causing little tiffs
My partner and I get along very well as is, but I realized that the few times we would get into little arguments, I’d had a drink or two. I’m just not good at letting things go when I drink. I can be more sensitive. I found myself soberly observing something my partner would say, letting it go, and realizing drunk me would not have let it go.
And it was interfering with my sleep
I would wake up three or four times in the middle of the night to use the restroom when I was a drinker. I would also wake up, for no reason really, with a fast heartbeat—I later realized that was just my blood sugar spiking after metabolizing the alcohol.
I used it to avoid difficult feelings
The funny thing is that, even when we don’t think we are alcoholics, many of us probably do lean on alcohol sometimes when we shouldn’t. I, for example, realized that I lean on alcohol to avoid difficult feelings. If I heard something that angered me or had a difficult choice coming up, I would drink so I wouldn’t have to think about it.
I thought it made family time easier
My family and I don’t always get along. So, I used to turn to a few drinks when visiting my family, thinking it would make me more laidback and agreeable. I figured having some drinks would be the only way I’d enjoy myself around my family.
It actually made family time worse
I realize now that alcohol made family time worse. There are a few things alcohol makes it very hard to do and one of those is bite my tongue. I don’t see eye to eye with my family on many things. It’s really not worth it to pick that fight each time those things come up and yet, buzzed me didn’t look at it that way.
It was a tiny part of my identity
I realized that people saw me as a bit of a party girl. I wasn’t a huge partier, but there are a few people who assumed that, on a Friday night or major holiday, they could call me to find where the action was. They could join me on some drunken escapade I had planned (or was already in the middle of). Now people are surprised to find that is not the case.
I used it to create false excitement
At times when there was a lull in my life, I would drink alcohol to replicate some false sense of excitement. But, that was actually detrimental. If your life does feel dull and still, you should do something to change that. Drinking changes nothing. It makes you feel happy for a few hours but the next day, life is still exactly the same. And that depressing thought can lead you to drink again.
And to justify bad decisions
I also used alcohol to justify some bad decisions like engaging in negative Facebook comment threads that I knew would lead me nowhere good or sharing secrets I wasn’t supposed to share. The truth is that I wanted to do those things, sober or drunk, but I felt I could excuse it if I were drunk.
It’s why I wasn’t saving much money
Alcohol contributed to a large part of my credit card bills. First, there’s the money on the actual alcohol. With cocktails at many restaurants costing as much as the food, simply having two drinks at dinner would triple my bill. Then there was the cost of the Ubers since I wasn’t driving. Then there is the fact that I would agree to do other expensive things while already drunk.