I’ve been hesitating sharing this story. It’s not a particularly popular topic. When you tell people you don’t drink, unless you have an excuse like you’re allergic or you’re on antibiotics, the reaction isn’t always… enthusiastic. No one wants to question their own alcohol consumption. And think about it, what was the last social activity you did that did not involve alcohol? How far back do you have to go? I only noticed how prominent alcohol was in my life once I decided to stop partaking in the most socially acceptable, celebrated and damaging mind altering substance out there. Everywhere you look, alcohol seems to be the star of the show. You can’t go to a social event unless there’s a promise of wine. And today women more than ever are getting on board the binge drinking train. How many memes do you see equating heavy drinking with a liberated badass woman all in the name of equality? In Montreal especially, us women pride ourselves on our high tolerances and our ability to drink hard liquor ie Jamieson straight, without batting an eyelash.
The thing is, we aren’t made equal. Our bodies don’t metabolize alcohol the same way mens’ do. And literally 90% of bad decisions I have made in my life were under the influence of alcohol. I’m not excusing any of my behaviour, I take full responsibility for my choices. I’m just realizing that goddamn is life better since I made the decision to live more consciously.
I have to say, not everyone drinks the way that I did. I never called myself an alcoholic. I always had friends that drank way more and often than I ever did. I was “just” a bit of a binge drinker. All or none. The second the taste of wine hit my lips I was off for a wild ride. The feeling in my chest, the pull, for more more more. And I loved it. I’m an extremist, I love to indulge and go all in, with whatever I do. Balance has never been my forte although it is my ultimate goal.
And just to be on the same page, for a woman, binge drinking is considered more than three drinks in one sitting and more than seven per week. Seven in a week… not a night. I laughed when my general doctor told me that. I was sure he got the numbers wrong. But, fact is, alcohol hits women harder than it does men. Biology is sexist, I know.
So after my last year of major self-reflecting and about five months alcohol free, I can clearly see I was in fact self-medicating all throughout my twenties. Taking off the edge, calming my social anxiety, turning myself into a likeable, flirty, fun version of a me I wasn’t fully comfortable with. A palatable version of myself that others cheered on. Fun, witty, carefree. Or so I thought. Until it got out of hand. Until it got so cliché I couldn’t stand it anymore.
Stupid decision after stupid decision. Blackout after blackout. But honestly, I chose it. I didn’t want to feel. I wanted to be a tough chick who didn’t give a fuck about feelings. So here I was, sacrificing hurt AND joy. I felt nothing. Although a lot of the times I was enjoying myself, experimenting, learning, meeting new people, laughing, dancing, going to the cool kid parties. But I had enough eventually. I wanted to feel.
Alcohol was a means to numb myself. Every week I could escape my pain, my fears, my feelings of inadequacy and unworthiness. In oblivion, I found myself. I was free. I could be whoever I was in that moment. With no recollection other than a feeling of floating free. Finally. Unencumbered by my own self-judgment.
But with no thought and no reflection, who was that really? An exacerbated version of myself. A false confidence helping me play the part of who I thought I should be, who everyone wanted, denying my true feelings and true self in the process.
Many people look at me funny now when I say I don’t drink. Some get offended. Many have called me boring and honestly, have shamed me for it. And I’m not going to lie. Quitting drinking has been isolating from nearly everyone around me. But it’s allowed me to connect to myself. I can hear myself when the answer is no. When it’s time to go, when I’ve had enough. My intuition is strong. My choices are clear.
The first couple of months were hard. I mean, summer in Montreal… people travel far and wide to blow their brains out in the city that is known for its joie de vivre and legendary party scene. So ya, I had a couple of freakouts. There was a lot of discomfort especially in social contexts. A lot of loneliness. Feeling left out. Watching people on Instagram looking glamorous at a nice candlelit dinner, on a patio, at a rooftop party, on a boat, always holding a glass of champagne or fancy summer cocktail. Carefree, blissful, in the moment I thought. Wow, and I’m here, alone and miserable on a Saturday night.
But I’m not one to feel sorry for myself for very long and it slowly got better. Alone and miserable pretty quickly turned into alone but not lonely. I had time to think and reflect and get to know myself.
I learnt that alcohol had been a crutch for me. I was using it to avoid awkward, the most dreaded feeling of my 20s. But awkward is good. It’s so human to be uncomfortable. In discomfort lies growth and learning and acceptance. We end up so disappointed in relationships that start off quickly and end just as fast. We wonder why. Closeness without true intimacy creates distance. If you skip out on taking the time to get to know someone you miss out on all the fun, as well as the signals that maybe they aren’t a good match for you.
Drinking is often the glue that keeps people together at first, helps them bond. It’s a fast track to intimacy. But if I need alcohol to enjoy your presence or connect with you, should we even be doing this? Maybe we just don’t click. Or maybe we aren’t giving each other the time to grow and build and get to know each other. The age of instant gratification makes us miss out on the subtleties of seduction.
Not drinking has been a game changer for my dating life. First off, it eliminates all the guys just looking for a one night stand. It forces the ones still interested to get creative and actually plan a healthy fun date that isn’t just going to lead to premature sex. Hiking and ice cream have been some of my fave “getting to know a stranger” activities lol (I’ll keep you posted on what I come up with for the winter). It’s also a great conversation starter if you’re looking to have more meaningful connections with people about what you’re seeking from life and what your values are, what lights you up and what turns you off.
I’ve discovered so many other activities to fill up my life that are enriching rather than depleting. I’m been way more active this summer and have had time to play volleyball, run five times a week, do essentrics and bike. My body and mind are stronger and sharper than ever. I uncovered so many spiritual workshops like breathwork, sound healing, goddess circles that taught me you don’t actually need alcohol to have an out of body experience. Seriously, breathwork and sound healing have been pretty psychedelic, no drugs involved. It’s pretty insane how powerful our minds and bodies are (but that’s for another time). I take myself out on dates to the museum and to the movies. I read books and listen to podcasts and write and travel. I have more deep, intimate conversations and bonds with friends, family and strangers. I’m living my life, hangover free, guilt free, shame free and… satisfied.
On top of all this going to restaurants is way cheaper and I can indulge in food so much more without even thinking twice about how it will affect my body. Seriously, that’s a huge bonus, I love food so much. Also, fuckkkk hangovers. I’m so much more productive now. No more full days wasted wasting away in bed watching stupid movies with a migraine. I can watch those stupid movies with full attention and clarity now and laugh even harder. Not to mention no more feeling embarrassed about all the stupid shit I may have said or done the night before or texts to exes or boys who don’t deserve my time or energy.
But most of all I just love how connected to myself I’ve become. How much more connected I am to the people around me. How present I feel in my body and in my own life. How conscious and aligned I am. It seriously blows my mind to think about how far I’ve come.
My confidence has increased so much and I’ve impressed myself with all I’ve been able to do without the help of alcohol. I never thought I could go to a concert, a bar, on a date, to a networking event, to an intimate dinner party, to Burning Man, sober. All situations that require social interaction, I would instantly turn to wine. The social anxiety was real. But now that I’ve seen what I can do, that I know I can do it… I bring authenticity and vulnerability to all my interactions. This is me. Awkward sometimes, real always.
And please know, I’m not judging you if you drink. I know how fun it can be. How pleasurable. I get it. Some people can do it in a balanced way where it doesn’t actually get in the way of them living their best lives. But there does seem to be a problem in our culture with how normalized binge drinking has become. I swear to god it felt encouraged most of the time. There’s something deeper going on about acceptance, mental health and self-worth here. And honestly I feel like maybe sharing my story might help someone feel less shame about having issues with alcohol or admitting that it might be getting out of hand. Our favourite national pastime is a harmful and potentially deadly, but somehow normal activity. Maybe that needs to change.
And for me… alcohol was just a bandaid. I was avoiding having to face myself. I was avoiding having to admit that I had feelings, that I wanted more, that I was afraid I wasn’t good enough just being myself. But not anymore. Not drinking has by far been the best decision I’ve ever made for myself. BY FAR. If that’s not self-love I don’t know what is. I don’t hit the lows I used to hit. Ever. And the highs… the highs are real now. I feel empowered by this choice I’ve made for myself, a gift really.
I’m sharing this story to let you know, you don’t need alcohol. If you’re one of those people, like me, unsure of who you are without it, afraid you won’t be fun or have fun. This message is for you.
Never doubt it for a second. Just you is enough.
If you want to read more about the effects of excess: