Sitting in a small open-air diner in Guatemala, still shaky from over-consumption of booze at the bar the night before, I felt awful. It wasn’t so much the physical aspect (though the dehydration and overall lethargy certainly were not worth a celebration), but it was the fact that I did this to myself; I was responsible for my current state of misery.
For the past 10 years I have been a daily drinker. In fact, I cannot remember the last time I went more than a day without a taste of booze. If I am at home, I will have a couple of beverages as I cook my meal and one more with dinner…and maybe one more on my way to bed. If I am out with friends, it varies but I still drink enough to alter my state of consciousness. Oh, and, of course when I get home one more nightcap is generally part of that routine as well.
That particular morning at the diner, I realized that I no longer wanted to feel both physically exhausted and psychologically riddled with guilt the morning after. I had been praising this idea of self-introspection and authenticity ever since I left the United States on my journey of self-discovery yet, deep down, part of me felt like a faker because I had chosen to ignore this last crutch in my life. Despite all of the ways I had changed and improved myself over the last few years (quitting my job, moving to Costa Rica, cultivating my own spiritual practices, experimenting with different ways of eating, like vegetarianism and raw foods), I had never even considered giving up alcohol. That would just be too hard. Alcohol is how I mark the end of my day. It is how I relax into the evening and it helps me fall asleep. Lots of people drink everyday so I can too, I reasoned with myself.
However, comparison with others is a slippery slope. The fact was (and had always been) that it didn’t matter what other people did. All I needed to know was that giving up alcohol – even temporarily – was something that was being begged of me for a long time and that I chose to ignore. In every other aspect of my life, I had listened to this little voice within me, except for this one. Thus, the decision was made. I would give up alcohol and see what came up for me due to this life alteration.
That brings us to the present. It has been a week without a drop and here is what I have learned:
1. It’s not as hard as it seems
I am not saying it isn’t hard, but I had always thought it would be impossible. Sure, when I cook dinner I miss having my margarita as part of the routine (though a super spicy virgin bloody mary is a good substitute for sipping) and I envy my friends at dinner when they take big gulps of wine in between bites of their meals (but a fresh watermelon blended with ice ain’t bad either), but the lack of drinking alcohol doesn’t consume my thoughts as much as it did when I relied on alcohol, which brings me to number 2…
2. Less concern with managing alcohol consumption
It has been refreshing not to have to keep up with access to booze. Every drinker knows that feeling of discovering that there are only a few drops of wine or vodka left in the house and, even though the last thing we want to do is go out shopping, we do it anyway. Similarly, if I am headed to a friend’s house, I don’t have to wonder if they have wine already or if I should pick some up(?). These sorts of thoughts are immediately erased from the equation.
3. Saving Money
I suppose I could look at my bank statement and get a rough estimation of the amount of money I have spent on alcohol over the past year…but I also don’t want to die of absolute horror either. Yes indeed, drinking is quite expensive. In fact, I have had several dining experiences where my bill for alcohol exceeded the cost of my meal. It adds up!
It’s not all sunshine and roses either. I find that, while spending time with a couple of good friends is just fine sans alcohol, I can no longer tolerate large groups of people for very long when I am not drinking. I find myself becoming bored and uninterested and then quite irritable (especially if they are drinking). Perhaps this will change as I grow more accustomed to life without relying on a need for booze…or perhaps this is means that I am a person who doesn’t much care to be around large groups of people, instead preferring the intimacy of smaller gatherings.
I never used to be thirsty. I could get by all day on a cup of green tea, maybe a smoothie and, of course, my evening alcoholic beverage. However, living without booze, I am far more thirsty and now find myself consuming massive amounts of lemon water.
I always thought that alcohol helped me get to sleep at night. However, I am finding that I am falling asleep just as well, if not better, without it.
The biggest benefit for me is that I am proving to myself that I can do this. Shedding myself of this last vice that I thought I needed brings me to a whole other level of freedom. After all, now that I have successfully learned to live without so many things I thought I never could (a relationship, most material possessions, my home country, alcohol), there isn’t much left I can lose that I haven’t already chosen to live without. And this, my friends, is the most freeing way to exist, for it opens the future up to endless possibilities without fear.
2 weeks later…
After a few more days, I decided to re-introduce alcohol back into my life. I realized that I learned what I needed from this experiment and am still reaping the benefits of it today.
The fact of the matter is that I enjoy having a drink most evenings. What I didn’t realize was that it is more of a ritualistic action than a desperate attempt to escape my reality in some way (which is what I feared I would discover). I find that I am now drinking CONSCIOUSLY because I have already proven to myself that I can easily do without it. Instead of drinking from a place of fear (I think I need this), I am now drinking from a place of intent (I know I don’t need this, but wow, this is quite nice!).
Intent, after all, is the proverbial man-behind-the-curtain. When I stop judging myself for my actions but instead go that extra step to uncover the intent behind my actions, I peel back yet another layer of my own self-discovery and take another big stride towards connection with my divine self.