Forget your perfect offering. There is a crack in everything. That’s how the light gets in.
Moderation Management (MM) supports the practice of doing a month-long abstinence period to redefine our relationship with alcohol. Indeed, the rising popularity of “Dryuary” and “Sober October” show society is shifting its alcohol consumption.
Of course, the pandemic helped shape our re-evaluation of booze intake. In the beginning, cringingly relatable memes of people trying to make the most of social isolation by drinking at mid-day in their PJs eventually made us all feel a little uncomfortable, even queasy. Like day drinking, in theory this “freedom” to imbibe “consequence free” sounds like a fun idea. Once the hangover starts to set in and it isn’t even suppertime yet, we are suddenly exposed to the frightening downside: only continual drinking can keep those icky feelings at bay, and frankly, that is not sustainable.
As the pandemic stretched on, we came to realize maybe we should use this enforced downtime more wisely. Maybe we should attempt to correct our habits by examining what exactly booze is offering us. Even before the pandemic, studies are suggesting younger generations are becoming more sober-curious . No and low alcohol sales are booming. If you’ve been questioning your drinking, you’re not alone.
There are many benefits for doing extended periods of time alcohol free. For me, the first major benefit is learning to deal with cravings. The more I surf urges, the more resiliency I rediscover to cope with situations that used to send me into the arms of my frenemy: wine. I am grateful to be leaving the binge-restrict cycle in my past, and I feel increasingly proud of myself with how I am managing my emotions and trusting my own strength. A big part of this success is sitting with my negative emotions and allowing them to process. I could only do this alcohol free.
The second major benefit is rediscovering the natural joys of life. The intensity of these joys are subtle in the beginning stages of being alcohol free. Instead of them being an intense spike of dopamine like a glass or three of wine, they are more of a lightness of heart, a sense of well-being and contentedness. In my experience, I needed more alcohol-free time for this well-being to gain traction.
The third major benefit is less anxiety. Way less anxiety. Added boons to being a temporary teetotaler include successfully handling awkward events: the only way to learn how to deal with those tricky situations alcohol free is to be alcohol free. Not to mention the endless health benefits that come with not drinking. These transformative things have space to happen when we commit to doing a month-long period without alcohol.
Now, the dark side of doing a month-long period of abstinence.
The first big issue is the demoralization we experience if we drink in our 30/31-day endeavor. I don’t know how many posts I’ve read in the MM community of people gutted with their choice to drink, despite their best intentions. The level of self-loathing is bleak. The same often happens when someone successfully completes a 30/31-day period without drinking but then over-indulges almost immediately after it’s completed. The language folks use to describe themselves, and how they convince themselves they are failures and must start back at “day one” only to be caught in an endless cycle of Day Ones…. How is this helping us change our drinking? How is this self-mortification making our lives better? Usually, chronic negative feelings lead to the urge to numb them or escape them, making us more vulnerable to increased drinking once again. The endless Day Ones create a Groundhog Day existence.
I believe this tendency to beat ourselves up comes from us hitching our identity wagon to the pursuit of perfection: to some of us, 30/31 days alcohol free is a form of perfectionism. If we can do 30/31 days AF, we can prove to ourselves, once and for all, that we are good, worthy people.
Yes, it is natural, and maybe even helpful for us to feel disappointed when we let ourselves down. The key to success in changing our drinking is to use that disappointment to spur action, and that action is picking ourselves up, dusting ourselves off, giving our hearts a hug, and getting back on track. Not starting over but getting back on track. Relentlessly chastising ourselves does not work. If it did, we’d all be “perfect humans” by now. Is your goal to punish yourself for your perceived shortcomings or to make progress?
Sometimes I see counting alcohol free days like a child dependent on collecting gold stars of approval from their teacher. As adults, that “teacher” we are seeking approval from could be our inner critic, someone who hurt us in the past, or a dire need to control things. Is the point of being alcohol free only to collect these gold stars? Or is it to improve our quality of life?
So maybe the question is less about if we should do a 30/31 and more about how we do a 30. Alcohol free time is massively beneficial if we focus on how to live our best lives instead of collecting sober days.
MM’s logo is a set of balanced scales, and yes, moderation is a form of finding balance between drinking and our lives. But the scales symbolize finding balance in all areas of our lives, including our thinking. It is our minds that influence our drinking. Balance our minds; balance our drinking.
Drinking during Dryuary and thinking we are failures tips the scale dangerously to one side. Some people fear attempting a Dryuary because they worry they will fail, and this anxiety may keep them from trying at all. Yes, aiming for 30/31 completely abstinent days is a worthwhile challenge, and the difficult times will be the most rewarding if you stay alcohol free. If you drink despite your best intentions, use Dryuary as an opportunity to find the way to restore balance. Be curious about what works and what doesn’t for you. Don’t use the stumbles as evidence you can’t do it, use it as proof you are learning a new way of being.
Submitted by Lisa H.