Friday, January 7, 2011
For many of us, giving up alcohol is more difficult than we'd like to admit – especially when weekends or social gatherings pop up. That's probably because mindlessly drinking in social situations is a habit we picked up a long time ago.
Most of us started drinking in our younger years when we were awkward and experimental – when alcohol was something new that helped us feel more confident and outgoing. But even after we’ve cultivated our own brand of panache, we continue to say yes to the wine served at dinner parties, the drinks ordered with colleagues after work, or the beers cracked during Sunday football games. We no longer even think about it because drinking is just “what people do.”
The habit of drinking is deeply engrained in our lifestyles and psyches. And it’s scary to think about upsetting the status quo. The first time I cleansed I didn’t go out until Day 18 because I didn’t think I could sit at a bar or have dinner in a restaurant without ordering a glass of wine. And I didn’t want to make other people uncomfortable (I actually thought that what was in my glass had some bearing on how other people perceived me!). But on Day 19 I was obligated to go to a dinner party. I was certain I’d be the most boring – and bored – person in the room. But no one even noticed that I was drinking water (which I’d poured into a wine glass – probably more as a crutch for me than anything else). And to my surprise I had just as much – if not more – fun as I would have had with a couple of glasses of wine in my system.
That night I realized that my habit of alcohol wasn’t as necessary as I believed it was. I realized that I didn’t need it in social settings. And that made me think about the other times I would turn to alcohol, particularly as a reward for a good day or a pacifier after a bad one. Now I know I can stop and ask myself, ‘Do I really want this?’ And chances are that, more often than not, the answer will be no.
This cleanse gives us the chance to retool our approach to alcohol. There may be some twinges or urges to head for happy hour or uncork a bottle, particularly now that the weekend is here. But when we feel those habitual pangs we can ask ourselves, ‘Why do I want this drink now?’ And once we have an answer we can ask, ‘Is there anything else I can drink – or do – that can take the place of a drink right now?’ If it’s about relaxation, a half-hour Yoga or meditation session works wonders. As does half an hour with the stillness of a good book.
And if you're in a social setting, try my favorite NA drink, a little cranberry juice shaken with soda water (just like a Cosmopolitan, but without the booze) and served straight up in a martini glass with a twist of lemon. It’s got all the sass without the shlosh!
Going booze-free brings a clarity and balance to life that can be disturbed by just one glass of wine a day. And one of the greatest things about letting go of alcohol is waking up in the morning. There’s no lag time – no need to recover from the night before – you can start living immediately... And you don’t look like you drank the night before!
Cheers to a great weekend, everybody