Grief, Health, and Alcohol.

There is a lot of correction of how you handle grief or trauma. Our society is big on numbing, where you can appear to be living your life still, no matter what you are feeling. And there are the socially acceptable and unacceptable ways to grieve. And to numb. You learn this as people push you to handle grief in the socially acceptable ways that make them, not you, comfortable. 

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three tropical drinks. orange, strawberry and raspberry

Grief just sucks. There is no way around that. Society tries to push us to bypass trauma – to push our negative feelings aside and “get back to life” as quickly as possible. Getting “back to life” usually means back to our old life. To our old job, friends, interests. We try to numb our way back to who we were before. I wish it was that easy. Trust me! 

After my dad died, there were very few people who could sit with me and allow me to feel what I felt. Everyone kept trying to remind me I “loved my work” and loved to “go out and be social and active.” They just wanted me to be who I was before. I wanted the same thing, but it was not going to work. I was not who I used to be before. I did not like the same things, the same work, and I could not relate to many of the same people. 

I am glad I honored that, because it took me on a life changing path that I would not give up for anything (well aside from having my dad back of course). Being a logical-minded, skeptic I dug in to see if there was any valid scientific evidence of an afterlife, and I was blown away by what I discovered. I met the most amazing people, learned some pretty fascinating things, and witnessed some things I could only describe as “defying the laws of the universe.” I was so blown away, I decided to write a book and launch a podcast about what I discovered.

There is a lot of correction of how you handle grief or trauma. Our society is big on numbing, where you can appear to be living your life still, no matter what you are feeling. And there are the socially acceptable and unacceptable ways to grieve. And to numb. You learn this as people push you to handle grief in the socially acceptable ways that make them, not you, comfortable. 

Alcohol is one of the most socially acceptable ways people want you to numb. I cannot tell you how many times people suggested I meet them for a drink, or needed a glass of wine. I never wanted to drink when I was in grief, nor did I feel like going out and socializing the way I used to.” Come out! Come to this party. You need to be around people! You need to have fun!,” was what I heard left and right. 

But no, that was not what I needed. I did not want to be around people. I did not want to drink alcohol. I have only ever considered alcohol something celebratory. I had zero drinks during quarantine because I knew it would make me feel even more trapped and lonely. If I’m slightly bored, it makes me more bored. If I am feeling excited and joyful, it enhances that. I knew it would just make my grief feel much worse.

Like most people, I began drinking alcohol in high school, but was only drawn to it when I felt happy.  Which yes, could often be every weekend. Or way too many nights during vacation – but that’s teen life! And it was fun! Then in college, we would hit the bars and fraternity parties Thursday, Friday, and Saturday nights. Being into health, I had no interest in drinking all three. So usually that meant being out and partying one of those nights, but not drinking. And I carried that into my adult life. 

I recently stumbled across a movement called “Sober Curious Lifestyle.” I hope this is one of those small micro-movements that are moving our society towards making it more acceptable to listen to yourself and your needs. Officially “Sober Curious” means you are exploring or questioning your relationship with alcohol and looking to make decisions to cut back, or living as more of an “intentional drinker.” I can’t say I precisely related, as I wasn’t trying to cut back. I drank when I wanted to and didn’t when I didn’t. I always felt I drank fairly healthily. I mean not kale juice healthy, but psychologically healthy. 

Recently I discovered that there are communities and alcohol-free bottleshops like A Fresh Sip that are now being built with a goal of making alcohol-free drinks more accessible and with a mission of making drinking culture more intentional and inclusive. 

I do notice on nights I’ve been out when I didn’t feel like drinking, there would usually be at least one person who would want me to justify this. “Can I get you a drink?” “Why aren’t you drinking.” My answer was usually truthful; “‘Oh I drank two nights ago and like to be healthy’ ‘I want to feel good for a 7am gym class.’ ‘I still have work to do tonight.’”

Sometimes I stayed away from the truth: “This event is super boring and I’ll just be more aware of how bored I am” and I certainly stayed away from “I am missing my dad and I am scared drinking will just make it more real.” In reality I could never understand why anyone cared! It was almost as if it made them uncomfortable. 

So hopefully movements like Sober Curious are another outlet and reminder that everyone does not need to do the same thing you are doing or the way you are doing it. Whether that is drinking, how you date, eat, grieve, or any other decisions that have nothing to do with anyone else. 

I need to clarify, I am not judging anyone who gets through the darkest grief by drinking too much, being around people all the time, throwing yourself into work, numbing with weed so you can “show up for life on the surface,” as one friend in my grief group explained they did – do whatever you have to.

I just coped in a way that was socially unacceptable. And yes if you are wasted every single day and doing dangerous things like driving drunk or still drunk every day two years after your loss, that is both considered by society unhealthy and genuinely a cause for concern. But drinking everytime you go out, or needing a glass or two of wine before bed in deep grief is not only socially acceptable, it is even a bit expected. It is a totally okay way to manage grief, and it also did not work for me. 

I isolated. I stopped working on my startup after I lost interest in it. Luckily I did not have a team or investors yet, because I would never have let them down, so I was in a position where I could. I moved back home. I stayed in bed. I only went outside on short walks with my dog. And I escaped into books, movies, and anything that wasn’t my life. 

This is where I began to read about scientific evidence of an afterlife. Which only added to the “socially unacceptable” way I was handling my life. I grew up in a logical, fact based culture that respected science. Everyone assumed I had fallen into a fantasy world, unable to face what had happened. But I was still logical and science-minded Even if I was exploring evidence of an afterlife, I had not lost my mind. Or fallen into delusion. Despite the social pressures, I am glad I honored my own, completely socially unacceptable grieving process. 

I grew in ways I never would have. I became myself in ways I hadn’t known I wasn’t. I met people that I connected with on deeper levels. I am glad I did not listen to the pressures of society and the supposed to’s. I think the more we do that in small areas, such as whether to have a drink or not, or what to wear, or what we like to eat, the more we will do that in the big, life-changing areas, and the more we grow into ourselves. 

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