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Does Drinking Make Me Happiest?

When it comes to alcohol and fulfillment, we are asking the wrong questions.

We eat our fruits and vegetables. We consider our sugar intake, limit our processed foods, and eliminate meat or gluten. We strive to be healthy and mindful. But in our society, it’s often taboo to look into our drinking habits. We have been taught that only people with a “problem” need to cut back or quit drinking alcohol. Nobody wants to admit they have a problem. Most of us don’t feel we are anywhere near the stereotype of an alcoholic. So we assume we are fine and continue our merry or not so merry way, and drink by default. Have you ever been to a birthday party and not drunk alcohol? A BBQ? How about a dinner out on the town? What about a Saturday night? If you answered no to most of these, your drinking habits have likely been conditioned by the society around you. Our society has taught us to drink to socialize, to celebrate, to relax, and to commiserate. It is considered unusual to refuse an alcoholic drink at a social event. Plus, you know, wine Wednesdays at home, thirsty Thursdays, and Sunday fundays. It doesn’t help that alcohol is highly addictive and we learn to depend on it in these situations.

Alcohol is not a benign drink. Even the lightest drinker will face negative effects from alcohol as it is processed and alters the body and brain. The effects of alcohol compound over time. It ruins our sleep, it lowers our moods, it makes us sick, and it messes with our intentions.

And when we question these negative effects for the sake of our health, our happiness, or our confidence, we are automatically led into a rabbit hole that no one actually wants to go down. We are led to believe that if we question our drinking, we might have to admit we are alcoholics.

I know so many women who strive to be healthy, mindful, and successful in their careers and family life. They run marathons, do yoga, eat kale, avoid meat, meditate, care about their sleep, and live successful independent lives. Yet these women drink far above the recommended health guidelines, which used to be only one drink a day for a woman, and now the medical community says there is no safe limit of alcohol consumption for health risks including cancer and heart disease. I was one of these women. I loved to party when I was younger. But as I got older I strove to be healthy and thriving. Yet on my best drinking days, I had two to three drinks. On my worst, I experienced horrible hangovers and self-hatred. I drank socially and every weekend, because well, isn’t that what adults do?

We have been taught that drinking issues should be evaluated by asking “am I drinking too much?” or “do I have a drinking problem?” We always know a friend who drinks a lot more than we do and we just cannot relate to the person with a whiskey flask hidden in their purse. So we come to the conclusion that our drinking is fine. But is it holding us back from our fullest potential? What if instead we asked ourselves, “does drinking make me happiest?” Alcohol neurologically changes our brain chemistry and regular drinking over time makes us more depressed and anxious. So the science says, probably not.

If you are not completely happy, fulfilled, and proud of your drinking habits, there is absolutely nothing to lose by trying a break. We all know what a drinking life feels like. Have you ever tried an alcohol-free one? Experiment on yourself. I recommend 90 days to benefit the full effects. Though 30 days is also a good start. You might be pleasantly surprised by your new lifestyle. No more hangovers, deep sleep, euphoria, energy, and zeal for life.

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    People look for retreats for themselves, in the country, by the coast, or in the hills . . . There is nowhere that a person can find a more peaceful and trouble-free retreat than in his own mind. . . . So constantly give yourself this retreat, and renew yourself.

    - MARCUS AURELIUS

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