What’s a healthy relationship with alcohol and who has one? That’s a hard question to answer, but I think it has something to do with feeling happy, healthy, and proud about your drinking habits, more or less. And beyond that, it can get pretty murky. Alcohol is a complicated beverage and drinking is a complicated habit. For one, there’s hangovers—no one can really feel proud about those. Even if you don’t make yourself sick and unwell, there’s no disputing the fact that alcohol disrupts sleep rhythms or that it causes us to wake up the next day feeling less than our absolute best selves.
Contrary to the hush-hush our society has around alcohol, I think wondering about your relationship with alcohol is actually common. Trying to find answers, we look to the people who surround us, see abundant regular drinking, and conclude we’re fine. Drinking and even heavy drinking is so normalized and so it’s easy to internalize the idea that imbibing often is relatively harmless and safe. It’s such a ubiquitous habit and coping mechanism—we laugh when we see trite sayings like “here’s to wine because yoga can only do so much.” Everything is rosé-tinted and drinking is poised as glamorous. And yet it’s also pretty miserable at times, leaving us to wonder, am I the only one who experiences negative feelings after drinking?
Feeling low after drinking, it was hard to quiet that small inner voice whispering to me that there was a better way. I had to ask myself, “Does my relationship with alcohol make me ultimately happy?”
It’s not an easy question to answer—it took me at least five years to figure this one out. But if you’re getting curious, forgot everything you think you know about who quits drinking and what problem drinking is. Stop asking yourself if you have a “drinking problem” and start asking if this habit makes you ultimately happy. Because if you’re like me, and the after-effects of drinking bring you negative emotions and stalls in your life, wouldn’t it be worth it, even just as an experiment, to see what life could feel like without those painful feelings? It could just be euphoric. Here are eight signs to hone in on to see if you have a complicated relationship with alcohol and how you can listen to your inner guide instead.
YOU FEEL VIRTUOUS ABOUT YOUR DRINKING
Do you have nights when you drink one or two glasses and are so damn proud of yourself? CLEARLY, you do not have a problem. How could you? You can be so good, when you want to. The thing is, we often feel virtuous in areas that we typically struggle in. You may feel extra proud of yourself for sticking to your rules, but it’s usually because other times you really let yourself down. Unfortunately, these virtuous feelings put my guard down. Inevitably, soon enough, I would drink more than I wanted to and lose all that virtuosity out the window.
YOU FEEL UNRESTED AND BLUE AFTER THE WEEKEND
Mondays are the worst day of the week. Period. Not only do you feel low, lethargic, and unmotivated after the weekend, you couldn’t be further from the next one. Weekends are the time for you to let loose, to treat yourself, to relax. Although by Monday morning, you feel like a shell of yourself and can’t wait until you can sleep in again. But by the time Friday rolls around, it’s time to go out! And the whole rollercoaster cycle starts again.
YOU ARE THE FIRST TO OFFER DRINKS TO GUESTS
For years I thought I was the best hostess, so welcoming and generous with my guests, making sure their every need was taken care of—their glasses always filled. You see, nobody wants to drink alone in front of others, or be made to feel like they’re the only ones who crave alcohol. Mitigate this issue by ensuring your guests are drinking too and you never have to feel your insecurity.
YOU CAN FEEL NERVOUS ABOUT A BIG EVENT OR SOCIAL OUTING
There was that one time I threw up in a bathroom sink. Or that other time I only had two and went to bed early. You see, I couldn’t ever tell you, with one hundred percent certainty, which version of myself would show up that night. Was it the Karolina who would have a few beers, have a few laughs, and wake up with my dignity intake? Or was it the Karolina who would have too much champagne, think liquor was a good idea, and lose all my memories of what I said or did. Betting my self-respect on this game of roulette was so nerve-wracking.
YOU DREAM ABOUT A YOGA RETREAT IN BALI OR A WRITERS’ RETREAT IN THE SIERRA MOUNTAINS
You secretly wish for a more idyllic mindful life, one that isn’t filled with so many real-world responsibilities, worry, and your unhealthy coping mechanism, aka drinking. If you could just escape this stressful life, maybe you wouldn’t drink so much. Or if only you could escape your social obligations when you have to drink, you could find peace. Meaning that you imagine happiness can be attained when you are not living in the real world and are too scared to implement the thing that would bring you peace in the here and now.
YOU CAN’T IMAGINE NOT DRINKING DURING YOUR REGULAR DRINKING TIME
Your sister asks you if you can pick her up from the airport. On a Friday night. At 10 p.m. Meaning, you won’t get home until past midnight and will miss your date with Netflix and chardonnay. Your sister can be so rude! But she is family and of course, you go and pick her up, feeling virtuous the entire time, thinking to yourself how it’s Friday night and I am not even drinking.
YOU CAN’T WAIT TO RESET, DIET, CHANGE, RESOLVE
Every few weeks you tell yourself this new thing will change me! You go on a juice cleanse, secretly hoping you won’t want to drink fermented juice. You start an exercise plan and hope you stick with it for longer than a week. It’s a new month, and you lay out clear to-dos and not-to-dos. You make New Year’s resolutions. This will be the day I will become a different person. Except, that unless you actually make changes to your drinking, it won’t.
YOU FEEL ASHAMED WHEN YOU OVERDO IT
Is it possible to have a hangover without having an existential crisis at the same time? Why did I drink so much the night before? Why didn’t I care about how I would feel today? Of course, I also didn’t eat healthy, exercise or do anything that would actually make me feel good. I slunk back in my life and felt so much shame and remorse and like I was the only one who couldn’t figure this thing out. I resolved to try harder. Put more rules and restrictions in place. No more than three drinks per occasion. No drinking Monday-Thursday. No more mimosas. And yet inevitably one of these rules would be broken and send me down a shame spiral again.
All of these signs point to a general unease with your relationship with booze. What does that mean? Well, why not get curious and find out. Some things in our life cause us more pain than they’re worth. But you’ll never know how good it feels to get consistent restful sleep, wake up with energy and calm, smash your self-limiting beliefs, and feel loved by the past version of you until you try it. When you’re in the right mindset and fully ready to explore the positives of a mindful lifestyle, you could discover what really makes you happy.
The thing with a sober experiment is, there’s really nothing you could lose. Who knows, because you already know exactly what drinking regularly feels like. On the other side of fear, you may just discover euphoria. If you’re ready to see if your life could drastically improve without the booze, check out my free guide, How to Take a Month Off Drinking and FEEL AMAZING. Stay curious!