Along with many others during the height of lockdowns and quarantine, I found myself turning to a drink – or 4 – at the end of the day to unwind. The stress of co-parenting, home schooling (terribly), running a startup and staying afloat financially through it all was too much. Wine and beer were socially-accepted coping mechanisms touted on social media as “mommy juice” (a pretty gross term) and totally reasonable ways to survive parenting through a pandemic. I gained weight, I was exhausted and I started to wonder if I was an alcoholic. So after months and months (and months) with a daily drinking habit, I took a month off. Here’s what happened.
I was reading books about being “sober curious” and one of the most tantalizing benefits non-drinking offered was the promise of better sleep. And after the first few days of not drinking I absolutely noticed that I was staying asleep through the night (unheard of for me) and waking up feeling more rested than usual. The quality of the sleep increased as the weeks went on until sleeping well started to feel – dare I say – normal.
I’d been trying to learn to run for more than a block (without dying) off and on for my entire life. Waking up more rested meant I had more energy to take the audacious next step of moving around. On the weeks my kids were with their dad, I got out the front door listening to Peloton outdoor running lessons on my phone. I’d gracelessly haul myself to the local woods where I’m happy to report I enjoyed both the fresh air and not being murdered. I came home feeling a sense of accomplishment (and endorphins) that launched me into the shower and then into my work day.
I saved money
Even with my low rent taste in white wine, drinking alcohol every day isn’t cheap. I was able to substitute with a high volume of flavoured sparkling water and near-beer and still be ahead in the bank account. I did not find a replacement for my beloved sauvignon blanc and did waste some money on ill-tasting devil water masquerading as non-alcoholic wine. Overall, I was winning at saving money and only really missed the real stuff on 2 of the thirty days.
I made it safe for people to open up
I was terrified to admit to my situation (SHAME SHAME SHAME) but finally I posted about my sober curious experiment on my Instagram account. Many, many, MANY people reached out. Most of them were women, and most of those women were moms. Others were feeling the same as me – overwhelmed, panicked, desperate to let go for a few hours – and they too were leaning on alcohol more than they wanted to. This began some amazingly authentic conversations that made me grateful I had spoken up. So many of us – regardless of gender, parental status and more – were just trying to keep going. And we didn’t want to be digging a bigger hole for ourselves long term while trying to clamour our way out of this short term one.
I made people uncomfortable
There was awkwardness. A lot of it. Some people weren’t sure how to navigate what I was doing. Small gatherings were suddenly made alcohol-free. I wasn’t asked to events I normally would be included in. Some of the weirdness was due to pandemic reopening logistics, but some of it was because I wasn’t drinking. There were those who asked me whether I was drinking (no) and if I felt comfortable being around others who were (yes). But there were others who didn’t give me the option. And that, quite frankly, sucked. It’s also a big reason why some people are worried about not drinking. And that doesn’t seem fair.
I didn’t quit drinking
After doing my 30 days alcohol free, I thought long and hard about whether alcohol was going to be part of my life moving forward. Because it had been relatively easy to let go of, I reassured myself that I wasn’t an alcoholic with a clinical problem. My deeper challenge was stress. I needed to decrease the stress in my life to decrease my need to numb myself. I could still drink, but I needed to drink less and find healthier ways of coping. I quit my job instead and designed a new role that was healthier for me. I went out with friends and had drinks (safely!). And I made peace with the shame.
We are all doing what we can to get through these wild times. Taking a sober curious break gave me the opportunity to evaluate my life without rocking a buzz. And where it led me is a gift I gave myself with the love and support of those vulnerable souls who got in the trenches with me and said, “Yup, I’m here too.”