It’s been THREE years since I began my “I’m not drinking right now” experiment, and though I’m not talking about it regularly at this point, I’m still going strong, and my relationship with alcohol continues to progress. Let’s do my now-annual update, shall we?
I’m not drinking right now (still)
First, my “not drinking” experiment started in September 2018, when I decided on a whim to not drink for a month. I say “on a whim” because there was no impetus for the choice other than, “I wonder what would happen if I didn’t drink at all?” I wasn’t a regular drinker before, and I certainly have never had a problem with alcohol. To the contrary, since my first Whole30 in 2009, I’d found myself naturally drinking less and less alcohol each year. And when I started dating Brandon in 2017, I drank even less, as he’s never had a drink. Still, every time I did have a glass or two of wine (never more), I wondered… was that really worth it? Did I really need it?
There were a ton of people doing the September Whole30, and though I didn’t need a full Whole30 at the time, it felt like a natural move to experiment with not drinking. So I adopted the phrase “I’m not drinking right now,” which felt accurate and a little less constrictive than saying, “I may never drink again.”
After abstaining for 30 straight days and feeling fantastic about my decision (you can read updates on Instagram under #melissaexplainsnotdrinking and listen to my Do the Thing podcast about the experience), I decided to keep not drinking in a “food freedom” sort of fashion—mostly, it was never worth it, and occasionally, I might decide it was.
Over the next year, I had four drinks total. Two were 100% worth it. I remember where, when, and why (although in both cases, I still didn’t finish the single drink I had ordered). Two were decidedly NOT, and the last one (in November of 2019) gave me even more conviction in my decision to basically not drink ever, unless it was a SERIOUSLY EPIC MOMENT. (And even then I’d think twice, because it’s almost always better in my head than it is in real life.)
I’ve said often, I want to want to drink more than I actually want to drink.
This year, I shared a dirty martini with my sister on my wedding day in April, and it was 100% worth it. Aside from that, I haven’t even thought about alcohol. In part, it’s the pandemic. I never drank at home, so that meant I only had alcohol when I went out or traveled. Since the pandemic hit, it’s like I’ve forgotten that alcohol existed. And that has freed up a ton of bandwidth for thinking about the actual impact of alcohol in my life… and why I’m still not drinking right now.
My four biggest not-drinking takeaways
First, sleep. It wasn’t until this experiment that I realized how directly any amount of alcohol consumed at any time of the day negatively impacts my sleep. It doesn’t have to be multiple glasses, and it doesn’t have to be right before bed. A-N-Y alcohol during the day and I toss and turn for an hour when I climb into bed, fall asleep fitfully, wake up a million times feeling startled and anxious during the night, and generally hate my life for the next 8 hours. It’s the WORST, and I never noticed it until I stopped drinking for a serious length of time. When I ask myself, “Is it worth it?” now, I’m really asking myself, “Are you cool with fighting with sleep all night and waking up tomorrow feeling like poop?” The answer is rarely, “Yeah, that sounds fine.”
Second, energy. Drinking kills my energy, but at this point in my evolution it feels more spiritual than physical. I’m obviously still capable of walking, hiking, exploring, and enjoying my life after a single drink… I just don’t WANT to. Alcohol dims my light and dampens my motivation, such that a “fun taco lunch with just one margarita” turns into “a fun taco lunch with half a margarita and then I just want to go home and sit around feeling icky.” Alcohol is an energetic wet blanket, and it has the immediate capacity to ruin my vacation day or special event. I’d rather skip the 6 minutes of joy sipping on that drink and enjoy the next 8 hours of my day.
Third, presence. I no longer like feeling even a little bit tipsy. It’s no longer freeing, I no longer feel “looser” or “more relaxed.” I just feel… off. And very self-conscious, even though I know for certain that I’m behaving totally normally and one drink isn’t going to send me stumbling. I just hate it now. I hate that my brain feels slower, I hate that my body doesn’t feel as coordinated (and how much alcohol takes me out of my body), and I hate that it feels like my words don’t string together as eloquently. It just feels wrong, and it’s no longer fun, and that’s perhaps the biggest takeaway of them all for me.
Fourth, self-confidence. This isn’t about feeling less confident when I drink (although I think I do, given the above). It’s about how HELL YES confident I feel when I belly up to the bar and say, “Can I have a mineral water?” Or when I order a pot of hot tea at the sushi place on New Year’s Eve. Or when I meet a group of investors for dinner and they all order a drink and I just… don’t. And I don’t feel the need to explain myself or apologize, so I don’t do that either. This sparkling-water-with-lime-drinking person feels like ME. Uncompromisingly holding my self-care boundaries, doing things I know serve my highest good, making no excuses or apologies for it. I like the way that feels. And every time I think about alcohol and say, “Meh, no thanks,” I’m reminded of how much I like my life and I like myself when I just don’t drink right now.
This is my life, my choice, my food and drink freedom. I can do it any way I want… and so can you, in case no one has reminded you of that lately.