The first time I got drunk was in my freshman year of high school. I grew up in New York City and my friends and I found that one bar that would let us in, and in the years following we’d learn how to take back tequila shots, vodka shots, and gin and tonics; and, although, it all tasted disgusting the search for self-discovery, a sense of freedom, and adventure were all more alluring than the taste.
For the next four years and into college I continued experimenting with alcohol. I learned I liked margaritas. At first thought, I liked the way they made me feel. At second thought, the acidity of a margarita made me want to throw up. And a few times, either due to the acidity or combination of side-effects, they have made me throw up. Since the first time I got drunk, I have been attracted to the arousing and freeing feeling one or two drinks gives me. But, what I don’t like is losing myself in-between sips of alcohol to a point where the alcohol takes over me, Sydney.
Most young adults who consume alcohol have an alcohol related story – one we’re proud of, one we’re not too proud of, and for some, one we only know through other people’s stories – I have a story for each. One of the main factors driving my desire to consume was the pursuit to live life to its fullest. (Remember when YOLO– you only live once – was such a huge saying? I mean it still sort of is.) Just like many teens, young adults, and adults I search to feel fulfilled. And the act of getting drunk every weekend was giving me false senses of fulfillment.
In December, at 22 years old, I decided to stop drinking for one month. I just graduated college this past May, where I consumed more alcohol than I can remember and partook in what our society has deemed binge-drinking behavior. For the past two years, I have wanted to cut back on my alcohol consumption, (realizing what was normalized college drinking behavior was not bettering me as a person and was getting in the way who I want to be,) but it felt as though there was never a good time to start cutting back. As with most decisions you’re scared of there will never be a perfect time.
After a long weekend of drinking, I made a choice. A choice not mandated by any particular person and a choice decided and ran by me. I made the decision to cut back and stop drinking for one month. I most definitely don’t have the most self-discipline when it comes to sticking to a plan, such as a workout routine or following a particular diet, but this time I had this feeling in my gut that I knew, at this moment in my life, I had to follow.
Since graduating, I have been more confused than ever of who I am, who I want to be, and what I want out of life. I also know it’s completely normal to contemplate these aspects of your identity in your twenties. But, what I’ve come to terms with, is alcohol is only distracting me in false senses of who I am. Of course, abstaining from alcohol for one month wasn’t going to solve all of my problems and it wasn’t exactly going to tell me who I am or who I want to be, but it did teach me something. I learned a bit more about myself and for me that was so worth every moment I struggled to stick to the plan.
I want to be upfront about my experience, and there were two instances during my month of sobriety where I consumed alcohol. I know that’s such a contradictory sentence. There was one night where I had a sip of my friend’s Margarita and there was another night where I ordered a glass of wine with dinner. Do I feel guilty for not completely sticking to the plan? Yes and no. Right now, as I am writing this article, I feel like a contradict and I wish I could honestly write that I perfectly stuck to the plan. But as a human, I am not perfect and I didn’t perfectly stick to the plan. Did I really need that sip? No. But instead of becoming consumed in a battle between my plan and my actions I have decided to focus on the journey.
For anyone thinking of taking a month off from drinking, or cutting back, I can offer a bit of advice. Being around drunk people when you are sober can get annoying, but remember you too were once one of them. When you decide to embark on this journey, your job right now is to focus on you. There will most likely be moments when you feel like joining in and giving up, but remember you are doing this because you want to learn. Alcohol is a facilitator of most of my social interactions, it’s been 7 weeks since I got drunk, and there hasn’t been a Friday or Saturday where I haven’t thought it might be a bit more fun to get drunk.
I want to be young, dumb and 22. But I also know it’s important to trust my gut and know when I’m being too young, dumb and 22.
I don’t know what the future will bring. But, at this point in time, I knew it was important that I followed my heart, trusted my gut, and made a change. Life is of course a journey and you decide what instruments you want to play along your ride. There’s no one life prescription or one proper way alcohol should play a part in your life. I will continue to push myself to reflect on a substance that may be normalized around me, but can have detrimental effects and hold me back from growing. By limiting my alcohol consumption I have saved money, I have more energy, and above all I have gotten to know myself a bit better – and that’s priceless.
I will leave you with one more question to think about – What truly fulfills you?