Dry January … and Beyond?

I’ve never thought of myself as a problem drinker in the Afterschool Special sense of the word. I haven’t killed anyone driving, or been on either end of domestic violence. I’ve never had issues performing academically or advancing professionally. And I’ve never had any difficulty not drinking, sometimes for months at a time while I’ve trained for competitions.

There are some powerful and undeniable upsides to drinking. Who among us hasn’t found the first 30 or so minutes of a grip & grin event so much more tolerable with a glass of Pinot in hand? My recent girls’ trip to relive the movie Sideways was super bonding, in no small part due to the fact we were warm, smiley, loosened up and Kalyra-wine-honest. Booze can be liberating, filter-removing, and just plain fun.

And throughout college, all through my 20s and for much of my 30s, I was the instigator. The party girl. The fun one. And while I may not have resembled the societal definition of a true “problem drinker,” there is no doubt that my drinking has caused problems.

You see, when I do start, I have a very hard time stopping. When the music is loud and the Apple Pucker shots are flowing, I struggle mightily with finding the “off” switch. Most of the time, nothing truly awful happens. I may screech out some karaoke (Pat Benetar), get too friendly with pillars, or say really, really dumb things to co-workers. But generally, I get home safe, pound some water and tear through a Heggie’s pizza (the one with the crunchy green pepper slices on top) with no lasting damage done to mind or body. Maybe a little residual embarrassment.

Except sometimes, it doesn’t end that way, and a little booze inspires a need for attention that’s long plagued me.

On New Year’s Day, fuzzy-headed from one glass of champagne that morphed onto five plus, and inspired by the Dry January movement, I did some soul-searching. After assembling a colorful rogue’s gallery of romantic relationships over the last two decades, I’d really like my present relationship to be my last. And while I’m not trying to use drinking as an excuse for anything, exactly, there’s an inalienable truth: I’ve never made a poor behavioral decision sober.

So, I’ve decided to be done. And I have to say, I feel great. Really, really good, with a sharp brain and clear skin (I won’t proselytize about all the health benefits of drying out – you can read a few of them here). I’m sleeping much better, and overall , I simply feel happier. My relationship is better than ever, too. We just don’t need it.

I love, love, love waking up headache-free, without stupid comments or horrifying dance moves playing on a loop in my head. I have a crispness and clarity all week long, and, instead of Sunday highlights featuring Egg McMuffins and Forensic Files re-runs on the couch, I’m packing the day with active fun and new challenges like the Hunt a Killer mystery box (review forthcoming)!

There are downsides to new, wholly sober T, of course. I do miss a spicy bloody on Sundays, and sipping a glass of red while prepping dinner. I’ve noticed just how much drinking is just part of the deal at pretty well every social event, and fending off questions can be awkward. I find myself wanting to connect with friends, but hesitating, wondering how they’ll react. What do I suggest doing instead of happy hour?! People also assume I’m passing a moral judgment on them, which I am not. Drink up, ladies and gents. It’s just not for me anymore.

And you know what? I’m still a fun one, even with a glass of straight tonic water in front of me. I’ll stand up in front of a crowd with you anytime, and I’ll perform the girl part of Paradise by the Dashboard Light with not a modicum of shame.

50 days in.

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