Who do you tell?
The first time I said I was going to go alcohol free for a year was on a zoom group coaching call in 2019 where we were discussing some new goals we all hoped to be working towards… I loved the people and the facilitator and it was an uplifting and joyful group to be in. As we went round the (zoom) room declaring our goals I said “I’m not going to say mine out loud, thanks, I’m keeping it in my head.”
The conversation moved on and dreams were discussed, plans were put in place and futures were talked about as possible realities. Towards the end of the session someone said “Come on Sarah, the suspense is killing me, what’s your goal and why won’t you share it?”
The second part of that question was easy:
“If I share it, it will feel real and then I’ll have to follow through on it.”
The first part – not so easy… I took a deep breath and then said:
“I’m going to be alcohol-free in 2020.”
Well, I’d pretty much just declared myself to be an alcoholic, hadn’t I? What can you expect people to say in that situation?
I fluffed around…
“I don’t drink more than the government guidelines in an average week, I just drink too much wine when I’m out with my girlfriends, I sometimes don’t feel my best in the mornings… ”
I also pointed out that I was only drinking the same amount as everyone else I knew and I was managing to look after my family, do some yoga, go running, take my vitamins, drink my smoothies and y’know generally be a fabulous human in many other ways!
Anyway, the group vibe was one of ‘good for you, well done and let us know how it goes!’ Which was reassuring and now that I’d said it wasn’t a secret anymore and that felt good.
Saying my goal out loud had made it seem more real and that zoom group had been a safe bet for saying it and not feeling judged. I’d plucked up the courage to say it because I wanted other people to know and hold me accountable.
In October 2019 I told my husband I wasn’t going to drink in 2020. It was no big conversation, there were no questions from him and no justifications from me – just a comfortable acceptance. We’ve talked about it since and it’s no biggy in our lives. He carried on drinking when I stopped and my experiment has always been about me and – not him and not us.
The first couple of times I went out after I’d decided to be alcohol free was to friends houses and I didn’t tell them about my choice as I wasn’t yet ready to chat about it. On those nights I acted as the bar maid and poured everyone elses drinks for them. When I was in the kitchen I just topped up my glass with tonic water and everyone assumed I was drinking gin and tonic. The next couple of nights out I made myself the driver as that’s always a valid reason not to drink and no one questions that!
When I was ready to chat to friends I was careful to mention it outside of drinking situations. If we were out for a dog walk, a coffee or at each others houses for a cuppa I chose to mention it then – It felt far less confrontational if neither of us had an alcoholic drink in our hand. I always made it casual and never mentioned the year long time frame I had in mind … I said Oh I’m just choosing not to drink for the time being and I’m feeing so much better for it. No one tried to change my mind and I was able to feel good about the choice I was making for myself. As time went on I became more honest about my intention to be alcohol free for the whole year and it did then start conversations around… Oh but you’re not an alcoholic, you don’t have a problem, you don’t need to punish yourself like that, surely you can just have one or two drinks?
By then I was really feeling the benefits of my alcohol free experiment and these conversations became easier and easier to have. Yep, I wasn’t and am not an alcoholic, I didn’t have a problem with alcohol it just wasn’t offering me any positive benefits, I’m not punishing myself – I’m doing the opposite, I’m treating myself with great love and kindness. I would be fine having just one or two but I don’t want that anymore.
At times I felt slightly uncomfortable because friends would tell me all the reasons why they were fine drinking what they drank and …
hey… no judgement here…. The point is… You do you and I’ll do me!
Whether I drink or don’t doesn’t come up in conversation much now once I was joyful and confident in my choice my decision just wasn’t questioned any more. Where once I had looked for accountability from others – I now found it with myself.