I have a love/hate relationship with alcohol. I’ve certainly done my fair share of drinking, but I’ve also quit several times, from 30 days to up to nine months (and no, I wasn’t pregnant). It’s always an interesting experience to see how I feel physically and emotionally without booze. But even more intriguing is people’s reactions to my decision and how much they push to understand why I’m not drinking.
I think they’re looking for an easy answer. A simple one-liner that will make them feel more comfortable in their own decision to imbibe. Answers like “Dry January” or “Whole30” are the easiest to give, as they don’t invoke many additional questions. But my reasons for stepping away from drinking at this point in my life live on a much deeper level. The answer lies somewhere along the journey of trying to understand and better myself.
I first started experimenting with drinking in high school, as I think is the case for many people. In college, the dabbling quickly escalated into a priority, a way of life. I was a “drinker” — always down to have a drink, go out drinking, and stay for one more.
Having come from a family of drinkers and boozy friend circles, I started to question how much of it was a proactive choice for me.
That mindset traveled with me after college well into my 20s. I had a regular — albeit very fun — drinking routine almost every weekend, packed with nighttime bar hopping and beachside day drinking. I didn’t even mind the hangovers then. I would either drink through it or relish in the excuse to have a ridiculously lazy day full of nothing but movie marathons and delivery meals.
Then, as I got into my early 30s, something changed. For one, the hangovers became much more brutal. But on a deeper level, I started to question my relationship with alcohol. Why was it my normal but not everyone’s normal? Why did I have this unbreakable tie between drinking and having fun? Why was I even drinking to begin with?
Having come from a family of drinkers and boozy friend circles, I started to question how much of it was a proactive choice for me. Was I drinking because I wanted to or simply because it’s just what everyone around me always did? Was I doing it to let loose or did I need it to have fun? Was alcohol helping me reduce stress or escape my life? The differences are subtle but important to me.
It wasn’t easy to realize my answers mostly stemmed from insecurities, people-pleasing tendencies, a desire to be cool, and a need to escape thoughts and feelings I preferred to avoid. It took a lot of work on myself to tackle all of that and move my relationship with alcohol from habit to a place of pure choice.
Now, I take a break from drinking whenever I feel like I’m losing a grip on my reason for doing it. As soon as it starts to slip into a gray area of insecurity or escape, I take a step back. I give myself space to reset and bring my “why” back into a healthier place. Is that something I can easily sum up in an answer? Should have to? I don’t think so. So, on behalf of everyone taking a break from drinking, unless you really care to know our reasons and will listen with understanding and compassion, just don’t ask.