Once a week– if we can get our schedules to correspond– three of my girlfriends and I get together for girls night. One of us cooks (never me…I’m the worst), and we all wear our pajamas while watching The Bachelor(ette) or some other form of mindless entertainment.
A few weeks ago, while downing homemade key lime pie and making fun of Chad, we somehow got on the topic of mixing Xanax and alcohol. Don’t ask me why. (None of us do that, for the record.) This led to a discussion about addictive tendencies, and the reasoning behind drinking alcohol at all– with or without other drugs involved. Obviously, people who take Xanax probably need to reduce anxiety on some level, and those who add alcohol to the equation probably need to reduce anxiety even more. It’s all about reaching that feeling of calm.
Now, I’ve never experienced super high levels of anxiety, apart from the months following my mother’s passing. In those few months, I will admit that in order to get through a four hour work shift, I’d often drink prosecco out of a paper cup. I never got drunk, or even buzzed, but I simply needed to keep my heart from feeling like it was going to beat out of my chest. Instead of going to the doctor for something to lower my heart rate, I chose to enjoy a bit of bubbly while I waited for time to heal things. Healthy? Meh, probably not. Successful? Remarkably.
That stint of sipping prosecco at work was the only time I’ve ever used alcohol for any reason other than basic enjoyment. My girlfriends and I all agreed that since we don’t have addictive personalities, we’ve never had to worry about why we drink regularly. We can easily say “no” if we need to, and rarely consume more than a couple glasses.
As we were talking, one of my friends told us that her mentor recently asked her, “Why do you drink?” to which she responded, “Just to relax after work.”
Now, she didn’t mean that she was self-medicating in order to reduce anxiety– she was just stating the obvious: that a glass of wine helps her unwind at the end of the day. Her mentor didn’t tell her that she has a problem or anything, but casually reminded her that drinking– even just a single beverage– should be because you enjoy the drink, not because you need the drink to feel relaxed.
All of us nodded our heads and agreed that there’s a fine line between enjoying a glass, and thinking you need a glass. Once in a while, it doesn’t hurt to step back and see if you’re walking that line successfully.
“Enjoying a drink” can mean “enjoying the feeling of being relaxed,” but you should be able to relax in other ways, too. As soon as you can’t feel relaxed without a drink, then you might need to reevaluate a few things. You don’t have to be mixing alcohol with Xanax or drinking heavily to be cognizant and careful about the level of importance of alcohol in your life.
When I was on my 28-day road trip, I drank almost every night. Usually, it only included a single glass of wine, but by the end of the trip, I never wanted to see alcohol again. Most of the time, I drank because my hosts kindly offered me a glass, or it was expected that we’d all have a mimosa with brunch. I never felt pressured, but then again, I drank even when I didn’t feel like it because I didn’t want to be rude. Often times, when you say, “I don’t want to drink,” it can make another person feel bad or awkward for having a drink, themselves.
I’m not going to elaborate in this post about the social ramifications of sobriety (though that topic might be its own post in the future), but I just wanted to say that my month long road trip really made me question alcohol’s place in socializing– why do we need it to give us something to do while we talk? There’s that word “need” again.
For the record, I did refuse any alcohol during a BBQ in Philly on the very last night of the trip, but that was because the group was big enough that nobody paid attention to what I was doing (or not doing). And all of my friends throughout the whole adventure would have loved me the same if I hadn’t had a glass of wine with them. The decision was mine, but clearly I can be a weak-minded individual at times. I just wanted to make that clear, before you think anyone was putting a gun to my head and forcing me to chug Yellowtail or anything.
Since I’ve been home, I’ve significantly cut back on my alcohol intake– not because I was concerned that I was too reliant, but simply because I felt the need to detox. My energy was low, so I needed to listen to my body’s desire for water, vegetables, and rest. I’ve had a drink here or there since my return, but didn’t even finish one full glass during my first two weeks home.
I’ve been very purposeful in ensuring that my reasoning behind drinking in the last few weeks hasn’t been to strictly to relax or socialize, rather to make the glasses part of enjoying a bigger picture outside of the alcohol. For instance, one of the days Aaron was home from work, we wanted to take advantage of the beautiful day. We’d already gone on a long bike ride, so we decided to go to our favorite brewery (where we had our rehearsal dinner!) to sit at a picnic table and enjoy the sun. And you kind of have to buy a beer if you’re at a brewery.
Unlike that one time I spent three hours at Starbucks and didn’t ever buy a drink.
That conversation with my girlfriends lit a pretty big fire in me to lay off the drinking. Don’t get me wrong, I still fully plan on enjoying a beer on the beach– and the very girls night that inspired this post will continue to include wine and The Bachelor— but in my normal day-to-day life, I don’t want to associate alcohol with relaxation or use it as a social security blanket. Of course, I will feel relaxed whenever I do drink, and I’m not going to start drinking alone, but I don’t want to forget that there are plenty of other ways to kick back and/or have fun with people, as well.
Like I said, I don’t have an addictive personality, so I’m not worried about things escalating that far…but I can certainly see how they might for someone else. Ultimately, I just want to know that I’m capable of handling daily stress without leaning on anything other than the love of my friends and family, my faith, and maybe a good movie or a long walk. Some people may need a some medicine to get through life, and that’s 100% normal and fine. But I don’t…plus alcohol isn’t medicine, so I never want to treat it as such. It’s a treat, and something that’s fun to partake in once in a while. Never should it be a habit that you feel lost without. Or an integral part of your friendships.
In case I haven’t made it totally clear, I’m not bashing alcohol consumption. I still plan on enjoying adult beverages in my social life. The point is to take a step back and be aware of the “why” behind everything I do. And if that “why” doesn’t produce an answer that’s entirely healthy or productive, there’s room for self-improvement. As you may know if you’re a regular reader, I believe that self-awareness and self-improvement are pertinent keys to unlocking the best of what life has to offer. So this is just one more topic that helps to keep the personal growth train movin’ right along, and I’m all about it!