“Tough times never last, but tough people do.” – Robert H. Schuller
Will it always be like this? You know the answer already: “this too shall pass.” I knew that already, too, but I didn’t really know it when I first started trying to put together a few days in a row without drinking. It was hard, but mostly tolerable, and I expected that I would have to keep on tolerating the same hard thing forever, or for thirty days or a week or whatever time I had planned.
At first, every day without drinking was a whole day, despite the fact that I hardly ever had a drink until “cocktail hour,” even on vacation. I was simply not interested in drinking during the day, and yet when I was abstaining from alcohol, I felt intensely aware of abstaining all day long. Some of the time, I was just thinking about it, but other times, I felt like there was a strange kind of electric charge to the whole day. I’ve heard people talk about “the pink cloud,” but that sounds much more pleasant than what I experienced. I wouldn’t call it pink; if I had to choose a color, maybe a very dark purple,melancholy but significant at best, ominous at worst. That feeling, I can say quite confidently, does not last. I’m writing this after more than thirty days of abstinence, and that strange charged feeling is gone, and I don’t feel like I’m abstaining morning, noon, and night. I think about it if I’m planning something later on with friends, or sometimes if I’m planning a meal that might go well with a certain kind of wine, but those are just little thoughts. Now I still might be bothered in the moment when I want a drink, but I’m not vibrating with awareness of it all day, and that’s a lot easier.
When I first started trying to abstain from drinking, it was so hard to get through an evening because so much of my routine was connected with drinking. It seemed so natural to unwind with a glass of wine while talking to my spouse, or to have a drink with dinner, or to continue filling my glass as the evening wore on. All those habits had to be broken and it was painful. I expected that it would feel like an effort each time to make myself take a walk right after work instead of having a glass of wine, or to have some herbal tea in the evening instead of a nightcap. Even when I thought I could make that effort, I expected it would be hard all the time, and in fact, it’s not. It’s hard some of the time, but mostly, it’s just the new routine.
Another difficulty I thought I would have to keep facing was the awkwardness of explaining to people that I was not drinking. It is true that most people at bigger social events don’t even notice, and very few will say anything about it. The problem for me was family and friends who were used to having me drink with them. I hated the idea of making any kind of declaration about it. Suppose I couldn’t do it, and failed in front of them? Suppose they tried to talk me into having a drink to keep them company, or tried to argue that I didn’t need to take a break because I didn’t have a problem with drinking, or worse–suppose they said it was about time I took a break because I did have a problem? Honestly, these thoughts prevented me from starting any extended period of abstinence at first. I was just too embarrassed! Well, by now this is just not a problem. All of my family members are used to the idea that sometimes I am just not going to drink with them. By now, I have had enough practice not drinking with friends that it really doesn’t cause me more than a little twinge of awkwardness once in a while.
Another change is not even about me–it’s about other people. I don’t know how many times in the last three years I’ve had a bit of anxiety about going to see certain friends who’ve always really enjoyed drinking, the kind of people who make special cocktails or have a lot to say about wine, only to find out that one of them isn’t drinking any more or is taking a break or is on a special diet that precludes alcohol or is in training for some kind of athletic competition, or something. Now it seems like half the people I know are doing a Dry January. Oddly enough, when I first contemplated taking a break from drinking, this possibility never even occurred to me!
I suppose all of this is obvious, but it really wasn’t obvious to me at the beginning. When it was really hard, I thought that it would not only continue to be hard, but that it would be hard in the exact same way. When I found a strategy that worked, I’d think I’d have to stick with that forever. When things were going really well, I’d think I had it all figured out. And then things would change. By now, I’ve gotten a lot better at taking breaks of various lengths, and I can say that however it is now, it won’t always be like this. And that’s OK.
Post Submitted By: Summer1, Moderation Management member
NA Drink Suggestion: Athletic Brewing Run Wild IPA (This one gets rave reviews from MM members)