“Coffee with Baileys?”
“Espresso martini post dinner?”
“Cheers! Let’s be MERRY, right?”
For the past eight-ish years of my life, the holidays were a time of “over-indulging” on alcoholic bevvies. Oh, how I loved my gin and tonics and red wines. The weeks leading up to December and January were simply the perfect time to “celebrate.” And, in our booze-soaked society, “celebration” equates to ... getting drunk.
These “merry months” at the end of each year rationalize drinking frequently, despite the fact that many do not feel “merry” or “celebratory” at all.
The holidays can be robust with grief, sadness, isolation, change, envy, and loss. Oftentimes, this deep-rooted pain can coerce us closer and closer to the bottle. So many of us have a “firefighter part” (Internal Family Systems) that drinks to protect us from experiencing our exiled emotions and memories like shame or mourning. Interestingly, the parts of us that are working the hardest to protect us can often re-create the very scenarios that we are trying to escape (i.e., drinking to protect us from shame… but then feeling more shameful about drinking).
For the past eight-ish years of my life, I didn’t even realize that not drinking during the holidays would be an option. Drinking during the holidays was usually relatively fun and light-hearted. I didn’t feel as “guilty” for drinking during the holidays. It’s winter! It gets dark at 4pm! It’s the end of the year! We are off work! Vaca! ‘Tis the season! I gave myself permission to “celebrate” and I had every excuse to get drunker than normal.
January 1, 2021 rolled around. I was puffy and exhausted. After drinking for all the weeks of winter, I engaged in a classic “dry January” (aka: “Shit…I really should get my life together in the New Year and start this year off right after being a delinquent for the past month.” (sound familiar?)).
The first two weeks were the hardest; it was a routine to drink on the weekends, and I guess I felt kind of bored. How was I supposed to “celebrate” the weekend, without my glass of wine on Friday?
The third and fourth week were glorious. I felt clear headed and focused. I was on a roll. On January 31st, I celebrated the dryness of January by getting drunk on extra-dirty gin martinis. February 1st was the worst hangover of my entire life.
A few months later, I decided that I wanted to shift my relationship with alcohol. I was engaged in this cycle of highs and lows, and alcohol was the common denominator. I was tired of feeling awful every single Sunday morning. I was tired of being excited for the weekend solely to drink. And I was tired of beating myself up so much during the week only so I could repeat it all again the following. Alcohol was generally depleting my mental health, messing with my long journey towards intuitive eating, and just making me feel inconsistent and shitty.
I initiated my sober curious journey in the spring of 2022 and have been fully alcohol free since August 5, 2022. It continues being the best decision I have ever made for myself.
As I move into my second sober holiday season, I felt compelled to share a little bit more about my journey as a sober curious young adult. I truly never conceptualized the thought of “not drinking” on a holiday like Thanksgiving or New Year’s Eve. It did not feel like an option; I was so engrained in the shelter and reliability of my relationship with alcohol. Alcohol was like holding onto a hot and soothing mug; it felt grounding, safe, and necessary as I navigated reuniting with old friends and family members. I had not realized that grasping onto the mug of alcohol was keeping me shackled to a cycle of self-doubt and self-sabotage. I am now profoundly liberated, and for that, I am grateful.
I once thought that alcohol “enhanced” the joy of life; I now recognize that alcohol depleted and stripped me of joys that exist more wholeheartedly without booze. I now have the capacity to embody the fullness of life. I can copiously devour and embody my gratitude without any form of hangover, guilt, shame, or self-loathing.
I move into this holiday season with a deep connection with myself. I can check in with my needs. I can set boundaries. I can feel present in my body and my mind. I can embrace and embody the merry parts, the chaotic parts, the grieving parts, the heavy parts, and the grateful parts of myself.
So, for this holiday season,
“Sparkling water with lemon will do.”
Thank you for reading :) If you are interested in sober curiosity as a young person, or as any person, please don’t hesitate to reach out or comment to learn more. Community and connection has been everything in my journey thus far.