People often mistake those who take a break from drinking for secretly in-the-closet drunks. However, this is not the case with me. This month marks 500 days sober since I consciously decided to take a pause on alcohol.
I don't have a recovery story nor do people who know me think of me as a heavy drinker. Furthermore, being addicted to drugs or presenting as a messy drunk are not words that people would use to describe me. The way my friends think of me is being clear-headed and pragmatic with no substance use disorder. Why then would I move towards the stone-cold sober lifestyle when I don't seem to have any issues with addiction?
Well, the answer lies in three people. Simply put, my kids, ages 14, 10, and 8 are my driving force to be the healthiest I can possibly be. At 45, I'm the lone surviving parent and have been a solo mom for more than six years. This type of responsibility combined with the looming COVID-19 threat makes regular alcohol consumption less appealing. My approach to life is choosing longevity and striving for optimal health.
Let's be clear, 500 days of choosing the alcohol-free lifestyle hasn't always been easy. Without a doubt, one of the most challenging things on this journey is finding other sober-minded fun folks that are up for a booze-free festive time together.
Since I wasn't a regular drinker to begin with, 12-step meetings did not resonate with me. My goal has always been to find a down-to-earth approach that fits my needs without the dogma and negativity of telling myself that I have no power over alcohol. Furthermore, my drinking was not out of hand. I wasn't choosing sobriety because of alcoholism. However, my social life did revolve around countless cocktail parties with wine and champagne flowing freely. To stay sober for a designated amount of time, I would first have to say good-bye to old French wines and hello to online meetings in the form of a 90 day no alcohol challenge.
One of my favorite Chinese proverbs is from Lao Tzu, "The journey of a thousand miles begins with the first step." In addition, a wise African proverb states that "if you want to go fast, go alone, but if you want to go far, go together." These two truisms reflect my alcohol-free path so clearly. My first step was joining a 90-day challenge from a company called One Year No Beer.
This program continues to provide me with an online Facebook support group, daily emails, and alcohol-free lifestyle podcasts based on positive psychology methods. It has given me an instant cheer squad right from the beginning of my alcohol-free choice. One of the most difficult aspects of giving up the booze is the alienation you can feel in social settings where everyone is drinking except for you. The unspoken sense of peer pressure and feeling left out is where many folks fail in their alcohol-free adventures.
However, I found it inspiring to be part of an alcohol-free group with a shared goal of not drinking. Being part of a collective movement of alcohol-free people around the globe has helped me stay steadfast. I view this chapter in my life as an ultra-marathon and not a sprint to the finish. It really has been all about the journey towards a greater understanding of my motivations and why I do the things that I do.
After my first 90 days of going alcohol-free passed, I had to decide whether I was going to return to my occasional cocktail and wine dinners out. In all honesty, 90 days wasn't enough time for me to take inventory of all the life lessons that were unfolding before me. For example, I realized that in the past, I would nurse a glass of wine to use as a shield to cope with my social anxiety. I mistakenly thought it would numb out uneasy feelings and I'd come across as more relaxed. However, suppressed emotions come out in other ways like sleep disruptions or in aches and pains.
While the default method of a fancy cocktail in hand may have provided temporary relief from dealing with initial social awkwardness, inevitably I would pay the price with my lower productivity the next morning. I decided that I still had a lot to learn about my false sense of using liquid courage to combat the social demons inside my head. As a result, 90 days without a drink turned into 1 year. Then, 1 year turned into 500 days. Meanwhile, I have happily embraced my introverted nature with complete self-acceptance.
Even though I didn't have an impulse control problem when it came to alcohol, it didn't mean that substance abuse didn't run in the family. Pill popping and alcoholism run on both sides of my children's family. Furthermore, how could I even hope to guide them about the dangers of addiction, if they saw me casually drinking in front of them? Research shows that there is a strong genetic component to alcohol addiction. I did not want to risk my children succumbing to any kind of substance addiction. Subsequently, this led me to the choice to not normalize drinking. As a result, my kids hopefully may be less prone to rationalize that addiction can't happen to them. The truth is, it can happen to anyone.
I remember briefly meeting my maternal grandfather only to watch him stumble around the room too drunk to talk or walk and finally falling on the floor. Though I didn't know this man well, it left an indelible mark on me. I knew that I didn't want to turn out that way.
However, drinking can creep up on you slowly. First, with a few happy hours, and then it turns into a compulsive lifestyle. After witnessing one too many friends and family succumb to the ravages of substance abuse, I decided to put the breaks on my casual drinking habit. It just wasn't worth risking my children's future health or mine given my family history.
Now that I'm stone-cold sober, it's time to be candid. I recognize that many of my horrible dating choices in my twenties were due to murky thinking with a glass of wine. My post-college alcohol-consumption contributed to a majority of my dating disasters. I can say with 100% certainty that if I hadn't started drinking, I would have only dated three men out of dozens of bad dating stories. Talk about a hard lesson!
When people think about cutting back on the booze, there is a misconception that a festive sense of joy must be sacrificed and replaced by a mask of dour sobriety. Clearly, I was not going to let this define my path. In my 500 days of booze-free living, I am determined to buck the trend of a joyless existence regardless of what I'm drinking. When I began my journey, my first step was to find some tasty mocktails that I could carry in a delicate champagne glass while sporting a stylish cocktail dress.
Now, more than ever, it is easier to jump on the sober-curious bandwagon as many dining establishments have alcohol-free mocktails on their menu.
Also, much of the supposed glamour in drinking lies in the visual props and rituals of holding a finely cut crystal glass while wearing an eye-catching outfit. It didn't take long for me to embrace all the perks of a lively cocktail party without the headaches or regrets.
People ask me if I'll ever go back to drinking. Although I can't predict the future, I can look at my life right now. If there's anything that I have learned so far, it's that showing up and being fully present in your life reaps huge rewards.
This fruity mocktail is fun for any occasion!
a few seconds
no alcohol ginger beer (or club soda)
pineapple or lime slices or a sprig of rosemary (garnish)
ice to fill cocktail shaker
Mai Pep in My Step Mocktail
Collect all the ingredients.
Pour the juices and grated ginger (optional) into a cocktail shaker filled with ice.
Strain into a chilled martini or cocktail glass of your choice.
Top with ginger beer or club soda.
Garnish glass with pineapple wedges, lime or a sprig of rosemary.
Serve and enjoy!