Could I really take a break from drinking alcohol? How would I unwind? Surely a few glasses of wine over the weekend is fine?
These were the questions I used to ponder when considering taking a break from alcohol. I was more worried about the things I would miss out on if I didn’t drink. There’s a cultural-norm that comes with drinking alcohol and I’ve been surrounded by it for most of my life. From taking my first sip in high school, turning 18 and legally being able to buy it, pre-drinks with friends to give me the courage to go out partying and dancing, drinks with Mums as a reward to end our week, family summer BBQ’s, and I’d even go as far as saying that I used drinking as a way to fit in. Drinking was celebrated and encouraged at every occasion. It became so familiar that I began to push the boundaries just a little and became mindless to my actions. After spending a long time in this space, where it was easy to have a drink here or there and where I became comfortable with it offering me liquid courage, the time finally arrived where I began to pick up on some subtle hints and ask myself the question “is it time to take a break from alcohol”?
Finding myself in the space of "being ready to listen"
If I’m being honest, I had been thinking about taking a break for a while however I kept holding on to my reasons for needing a drink or two . The mindless action of drinking gave me plenty of excuses for not taking a break. We often hear that when our Why grows strong enough we’ll change our direction. Or that a major event in our lives can cause us to reassess. Neither of those are true for me, we’ll each have a different “moment” that encourages us to press pause and choose our next response. For me it was the subtle hints from my mind and body growing stronger as well as a few times where I was “aware in the moment”, that guided me to to press pause, reflect and change my journey. It was me “becoming ready to listen”.
The subtle and not so subtle hints
When making the decision to take a break from alcohol here’s some of what was coming up for me;
- I’ve never been a big drinker, however I was someone who would use alcohol for reward, to wind-down, because I was bored or simply because it was the weekend! I’d drink Friday night, Saturday night and Sunday night. I’d drink mindlessly.
- Drinking didn’t make me feel good and would take my body days to process. I was so out of tune with my body it had been giving me hints all along that alcohol did not serve me. From brain fog, to allergies, to having an upset belly, to headaches, mood changes and my mind health (mental clarity and brain health).
- How I acted and behaved when drinking. Not being fully present in my life, not living my true values as my best self and being lazy were huge behaviours I needed to change.
I’ll share an example of how this played out so you can see my context around this; Wine was my alcoholic drink of choice. I’d use it for reward, celebration, emotional reasons and because of boredom. I would literally sit on the couch and enjoy a wine or two or three most Friday and Saturday nights and slowly the Sunday night drinks crept in as well. During and after the drinking session, I’d be lazy and disconnected. From not wanting to cook dinner, not wanting any distractions, to feeling hazy and sluggish to not so mindful choices about what I was eating (hello cheese, biccies and chips). To missing out on the kids morning sporting activities because I’d been out having drinks with friends the night before which left me with such a bad headache and horrible nausea. To ever so slightly pushing the boundaries. These so called “wind down sessions” actually affected my moods and left me lazy and tired. It also didn’t make me feel good and I could feel my body trying to process it. On the nights when I did drink my quality of sleep was affected. Often I’d sleep well for the first hour or two (wine often left me tired) however the rest of the night would be spent tossing and turning. This would then spill out to the beginning of my week; I’d be slow and sluggish for at least 2-3 days as I had developed a real sensitivity to alcohol.
- One or two questions/comments from my children; I remember very clearly a night where our family had enjoyed a summer BBQ surrounded by a number of our family friends. We stayed far too late that night and I had pushed the boundaries with how much I drank and before I knew it the bottle of wine was gone. Clearly I was in no state to drive home so we walked the 2.5kms after midnight. Now yes this was the safe choice for my family and I, and yes there’s nothing wrong with walking. It was the comment from one of my children that stayed with me “well you didn’t make a good choice did you Mum”. At the time I brushed it off and probably said something along the lines of “you’re fine, there’s nothing wrong with walking”. However over the following few days and weeks, it really gave me time to reflect on the choices that I had been making. It also created some awareness for me in relation to the environment that I was placing my kids in - an environment where they saw adults drinking, little to no engagement with the kids during those drinking sessions and then the choices they saw us making. It's important to note here that I reflected on this with no guilt or negativity. My reflections came from a nurturing place where I could really encourage myself to lean-in and reconnect to what was important to me as a Mother.
Choosing my response and my path forward
The moments of reflection shared above opened up the space to make a change, however for that change to happen I need to choose my response and do some self-reflection. I would say it took a few weeks to work through this and to seek some support. My husband has always been a trusted support person for me and open to hearing my ideas and thoughts. I shared with him how I was feeling and that I was ready to take a break from alcohol. And in that moment, that was all that I needed = to share out loud with a trusted person.
As you will know from above, I wasn’t a big drinker, nor was my husband nevertheless this was going to be a bit of a change. I decided that the best way to set out on the journey was with no fixed timeframe or rely on willpower (a disempowering word/term). I didn’t want to create pressure for myself, declare that I would never be drinking again or to label myself as “sober”. This had to be about mindfulness and being in tune with what was true for me, in any moment; at any stage.
My focus also shifted to what pressing pause would give me more than what I perceived I would be missing out on. Getting really clear on why this was important to me “right now” would mean that I wouldn’t be distracted or overwhelmed. Usually when I would make a change in my life (and in particular with my health) I believed it had to be an all-or-nothing approach. Thankfully I had learnt that this approach did not serve me well and left me feeling stuck. This time around I had to lean into the subtle hints and spend time understanding them. This in itself took courage as there were some very personal thoughts to work through. However through my years of learning and experiences I had finally tapped into trusting myself and the insights I was receiving.
Taking this nurtured approach had me feeling calm and empowered about the journey ahead. I knew that I could trust myself to move through it, and I was confident in how I was choosing to respond. This kept me centred when people would try to sway me to have a drink (yes this happened quite a few times early on in my journey), when working through how I was feeling or behaving (self-reflection can sometimes be challenging) to even what life was like without alcohol. Four and a half years into my alcohol break this nurtured approach is still serving me well.
Do you find yourself in a place where you are wanting to create a change in an area of your life? I encourage you to lean into the insights that you have been receiving. You will know when you are ready to take the next step and perhaps change your direction. If you’re looking for some further reading to expand your thinking, I invite you to check out some other nurtured reflections below ~ I’ll also be sharing a post soon on the 5% approach that may also be helpful.
What I know for sure, through my own experiences, is that when you create the space to press-pause and surround yourself in a nurturing energy, you'll uncover your new possibilities.
If this reflection has resonated with you or you have a different take on things, please share in the comments below. I’d love to hear from you.