Two Years No Beers Follow Up Questions

Today’s post is a follow-up to my One Year No Beer and Two Years No Beers posts written specifically about my sobriety journey. I decided to ask you what you were most curious about, and these were the most commonly asked questions. I hope you enjoy reading my responses. I plan to write more about this topic moving forward because if I’ve learned anything in the last two years it’s that many of you are sober curious – very sober curious. If I can help just one person by shedding light on living an alcohol-free existence, then I am happy to do it.

Did you “relapse” and start drinking again after you quit?

This question is interesting because after thinking it over I came to the realization that I had been “quitting” for years, I just hadn’t realized it yet. My husband and I had tried a few strategies to reduce our drinking, like limiting a night out to three beers. Strategies like these inevitably fail because three beers is just enough to inhibit your decision making capabilities and sabotage a plan. My husband quit alcohol for a while years before we both quit, but I did not, and because of my inability to see alcohol consumption outside of the “alcoholic / normal person” binary, that ultimately failed as well. However, because I was still living under the assumption that alcohol is safe and in denial about it ruining my mental health as long as I drank it in moderation, I did slowly reduce my consumption and stopped drinking anything other than beer, or champagne on a “special occasion.”

I give all of these examples because over the years I did everything except actually quit. Because I was afraid of what life would be like and because I was afraid of what that might mean I was. Not because I was actually physically addicted. When I look back, I can see someone who was desperately trying to break free of alcohol, I just didn’t have the tools to do it yet.

Once I made the decision to quit, after years of alcohol being more of a problem in my life than something “fun,” I did so with 100% certainty and conviction. It was like going vegan. I had that symbolic last drink and that last slice of cheese pizza and off I went into the unknown – happily. To say that I quit “cold turkey” in either situation would really be a lie. I had been quitting alcohol for years, and I had been quitting all animal products ever since I went vegetarian. It was only a matter of time. So no, I have not “relapsed” since making the decision to actually remove alcohol from my life. And because I have never questioned my decision, I will remain sober.

Was it hard to quit?

There are two things I want to say on this topic. One: Not quitting and continuing to live a life you know deep down is wrong for you is exponentially harder than the very temporary discomfort of quitting. Two: It is hard at first, but that passes quickly.

What is actually hard are hangovers, and wasted time and potential. Fighting with your husband for no reason. Emotional instability, repressed trauma, depression, missed work, horrible periods, sabotaged healthy eating, and not exercising because of lack of energy. What is hard is letting your sense of creativity, imagination, and sense of wonder die in your skull. Work days that never end because of your fatigue and brain fog, and regularly hanging out with people or in places you can’t stand without the use of alcohol to numb you. Not being able to find joy and happiness in the “little things” (which are actually the big things) because your dopamine receptors have been trained not to – by alcohol. Those are the hard things. What is hard is knowing you could just stop but choosing not to, for years. I really want to emphasize that those things are what are actually difficult, because you’re perpetually trapped.

Quitting, on the other hand, was hard at first but is very temporary. It was not difficult on a daily basis, but the “firsts” were an initial struggle. The first wedding you attend sober, the first family gathering, the first party, the first holiday, the first night out with friends. Those will be hard. In the beginning I constantly had a mock-tail in my hand that I used as a safety blanket and a way to deflect conversation away from my not drinking. As a woman, this can be especially challenging because if I ordered a diet soda I got the: “Are you pregnant” question more than once. So I would go to the bar before anyone got there and order a soda water with a splash of cranberry and a lime. No one would even know it wasn’t a cocktail.

The weird thing about this is that my real friends were aware I quit and were supportive – this charade was something I put on for my own comfort, and for the comfort of people who really weren’t my friends anyway. Isn’t it strange how we’re so conditioned to think drinking is normal that we protect the feelings of those around us that do drink? I didn’t want to “make anyone feel weird.” Would you act this way with cigarettes? Pretending to smoke so that you wouldn’t make your smoker friends feel uncomfortable? What a strange concept.

So it was hard in the beginning. I created rituals at home to replace my beer at the end of a long day. Usually some type of sparkling water in a fancy glass with lemon. It achieved the same desire – helping me wind down with something fizzy – it’s all just part of a ritual. After a month, I didn’t do that regularly anymore, only when it really was a tough day at work or a sparkling water just sounded good. And I stopped going to events I didn’t want to go to, and hanging out with people I didn’t like. I stopped staying up late (because I hate it), I learned to say no to clients and their fundraisers (I will still donate, just not attend) and I started having real boundaries.

And just like that, after a handful of awkward dinners or parties, it became easy.

And not only easy, it became AMAZING. When you’re the only one able to get up at five am the day after an event to workout, have a smoothie and a quick magazine read, it feels better than good. When you go to Pilates and work on your blog on a Saturday morning instead of laying in bed all day, it feels amazing. When you can get all your office work done in one block of a few hours instead of spread out over the entire week, it’s magic. When you’re so productive you knock your work week down to three and a half days, it’s almost hard to believe that that time existed before and you were just wasting it. And that’s just the beginning. I will tell you it gets better and better as you grow into yourself and heal those parts of you that you used alcohol to suppress. I can sense that even two years in, I’m only just scratching the surface of discovering myself and what I’m capable of.

How do you deal with friends and/or family members that don’t support you or understand? Or people who give you a hard time or call you “no fun?”

One of the ways I realize now that I was quitting alcohol long before I quit is through the company I keep. Several of my closest friends do not drink alcohol, or drink very little. Alcohol and drug dependency and addiction is common on both sides of my family, as well as mental illness. So I also have several family members who have quit alcohol and drugs. I am very fortunate in that way – everyone seems to understand, or at least on some level, get it.

Because I haven’t had to deal with this personally, I cannot give you advice on what to do aside from tell them it’s the healthy choice for you, and that they should respect that, just as you are not disrespecting them for drinking.

I do and have however, dealt with comments like that regarding my choices to be vegetarian and then vegan. All I can say to that is if you know in your heart it’s right for you, the judgments they pass on you are simply a reflection of what they see as flaws in themselves or challenges to their own moral frameworks. Otherwise they wouldn’t care so much. In other words, when someone judges you negatively for evolving, changing, or growing into a new (and hopefully better) version of yourself, it is typically not about you. It’s about them, and the fact that they are having to confront their own growth, or lack thereof. Hopefully looking at it in that way helps. The “you’ve changed” comment shouldn’t have a negative connotation. I’d rather change than be the same person for the rest of my life.

Before I wrap this answer up, I did want to mention one more thing that I have experienced, and that is weird. When you get sober and no one gives you a hard time, but also NO ONE talks to you about it. Ever. For me personally, I write because it helps me to be creative and expel ideas that would otherwise spin around in my head until they drove me insane… with the intention that maybe those ideas can resonate with, and help others. This topic (which by the way has exponentially more readership than any other topic I blog about) is no exception. I love talking about sobriety and my choice to quit alcohol, but to this day, no one has asked me about it directly, or brought it up in conversation. I’m not sure if this is because people are afraid this will offend me, or are not sure how to start the conversation. But I know it’s definitely not because of lack of interest or curiosity. You all want to know about it. So I’d say, in order to normalize not drinking alcohol, don’t be afraid to ask your sober friend questions, or just talk about it like you would anything else.

Do you just smoke weed now instead (or use other substances)?

No. But this question can get complicated. Depending on what school of thought you subscribe to, I could be considered not sober because I still consume things like caffeine, the occasional Ibuprofen or CBD. At this stage, I’m all about defining sobriety for yourself, and for me personally, I choose not to consume anything that inhibits my ability to be productive in ways that bring me joy. I know that I cannot get high or drunk (or even a tiny bit “buzzed”) and enjoy listening to a record, or drawing, reading a good book, or writing an article. I become a blob of anxiety with the capacity to basically only watch The Bachelorette and sleep, and nothing more. I want to be able to work on my business, enjoy time with my husband – drive somewhere. I want to be able to start a new project, hang out with my dogs, watch a documentary or reorganize the house with energy and awareness that I just do not have when I have mind altering substances in my body. I feel like it robs me of a lot of my joy, mental health, and self love, and does not align with my lifestyle or beliefs.

That being said, I am aware that caffeine and CBD also alter your brain and mood, but I choose to regularly partake because I enjoy them and do not feel as though they are a hindrance to these goals. I plan to write more about this in the future because it is a complex topic, but for today we will suffice it to say that no, I did not simply replace alcohol with other drugs.

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BLM Shirt by https://www.carewears.co.uk

Other blogs you may enjoy:

https://www.google.com/amp/s/thereallifeveganwife.com/2019/08/17/one-year-no-beer/amp/

https://www.google.com/amp/s/thereallifeveganwife.com/2020/09/05/two-years-no-beers/amp/

Two Years No Beers

Today I’m answering one simple question: Why did I quit drinking alcohol?

My original plan was to answer all of your questions in regards to my choice to live a sober life, but once I began writing I realized this topic is a whole post within itself. I plan to answer all of your questions in the future, and explain, in depth, how quitting alcohol has proven to have more benefits than I originally could have imagined. The last two years that I’ve spent sober have revealed more to me about myself and life in general than I bargained for, and I’m so grateful. Being completely sober in the face of political unrest, job uncertainty, and isolation during a worldwide pandemic has challenged me to confront myself and grow, a lot. But those stories are for a different day.

Why did you quit drinking in the first place?

This question is the most frequently asked.

I think there is a common misconception in our society that you are either an “alcoholic” for life or someone who can responsibly consume alcohol for life with no real consequences, and little space for those of us in between. You are either someone with an incurable “disease” that will crave alcohol forever – someone who has hit rock bottom and makes a choice to turn their life around, or you’re just a “normal” person who drinks. I think that this is a completely false dichotomy that keeps many people harmed by alcohol but not “addicted” in a self destructive loop that society deems acceptable. Alcohol is the only drug that after you quit, you are then stigmatized as having a problem. I chose to quit alcohol for two major reasons: the health of myself, and the health of my marriage.

My husband and I have been together almost seven years, married for almost three. We spent the first year of our relationship drunk. That truly is not much of an exaggeration. I was suffering emotionally from years of trauma and the resulting post traumatic stress, aware that I was suppressing my feelings, and therefore, healing with alcohol, but not ready to stop. I can’t speak for Kanan so we’ll suffice it to say that he drank with me, and didn’t contest to the frequency, the excess, or the destructive behaviors that resulted. I don’t think that either of us hit a symbolic “rock bottom” from drinking. Most of the things I did were terrible, but normal in this country, and even encouraged in your twenties, so I didn’t feel the need to confront them until much later. Passing out on the floor of my bathroom and being hung over for three days – must’ve partied too hard! Had an emotional breakdown in the movie theater after a couple pitchers of margaritas? Tequila must make me emotional! The problem with this thinking is that when you miss work because you’ve been drinking (I did twice) or drive home drunk (I’m not sure how many times I did this, but I argue that if you’ve ever consumed alcohol as a driving adult, you’ve likely done it too) you can brush it off as a fluke and move on. Drinking is so normal that we endanger ourselves and others emotionally, mentally, and physically but as long as you’re not “addicted” you’re fine.

As the years passed we were drinking less as we advanced in our careers, had more responsibilities, started working out more and eating healthier. I was trying to work through my issues using mainly diet and exercise but had no idea that the alcohol I was still consuming on a regular basis was keeping me stuck by wrecking my already fragile mental health. At this point, I never went out drinking, rarely had more than two drinks at a time, and thought I was being “responsible” by typically only having one beer a day after work. Just enough to keep alcohol in my system at all times.

I’m going to interject for one moment to point out how absolutely asinine it is to use veganism, lifting, Pilates, yoga, kale, massages, facials, running, stretching, vitamins, juices and supplements to try to obsessively heal my body and my depression and anxiety, while frequently drinking ethanol – a depressant and a toxic substance known to cause a myriad of mental and physical health problems, like cancer, depression and anxiety.

There were two things that pushed me to quit. The first was the atomic-level arguments my husband and I would get into if we were drinking. Don’t get me wrong; we still have disagreements, heated discussions, and hurt feelings. We are not perfect and we certainly don’t always magically agree just because we stopped drinking alcohol. However, we no longer have any disagreements resulting from alcohol consumption itself – like someone being out too late or not communicating properly – or any illogical and booze-induced disagreements over random topics that went way too far simply because alcohol makes your brain incapable of logical reasoning. I had a thought one day: How many married couples could have avoided divorce if alcohol was simply not a factor in their relationships? Probably a lot. My parents included. So I made the decision to choose the longevity and health of my marriage over the promise of a nightly “wind down” that you inevitably always pay for in other ways. I am grateful that my husband agreed and we quit together.

The other piece of that story is about me. I drank nightly to help me relax. Not a lot. One beer, maybe two if it was an exceptionally hard day. But it was perpetual and constant. I didn’t ever think I was addicted to alcohol and I still don’t consider myself an “alcoholic.” I had left behind my college days of binge drinking and acting irresponsibly and so by American standards what I was doing was perfectly normal and acceptable. I now owned a business and the stress was unending. The commitments never stopped. One night after popping an edible and washing it down with a beer, my husband frustratingly tried to explain to me that I had a problem. I was resistant – existing in the binary framework of normal versus alcoholic. I wasn’t an alcoholic, so what’s the issue? Until he said something that changed my mind. He said that I was drinking to escape my life. If I needed to get high or drink every night because I was so depressed or stressed, maybe I should figure out why I’m those things in the first place, and fix that.

Holy shit.

And there it was. The person who’s opinion I respect most in this world is telling me that the way I’m living my life is fucked up, and therefore my mental health is fucked up and I’m using a substance (or substances) as a really ineffective band aid to absolve myself of responsibility to fix it. After three months of mulling those words over, I decided to quit. Slowly reducing the amount of alcohol I was drinking bit by bit, until I toasted to a happy life over a table at my bachelorette party, knowing that with the support of these amazing women, and my husband, I could do anything. That was two years ago.

I know a lot of you are probably wondering if I relapsed. If I miss booze. If quitting was hard. If I traded alcohol in for weed instead. I plan to answer all of those questions in future posts, but the short answer is no. Alcohol (and weed and pills) was a weight on my shoulders that’s gone forever and I never want to carry that weight again.

Because I spent so many years being afraid of what it might mean if I quit, I kept drinking how we’re “supposed” to drink in this country – safely and in moderation, only that’s a complete lie. There is no safe way to consume a poison and no way to moderate the destruction that follows. I was drinking just enough booze to keep myself in a constant state of denial. Never reaching my potential. Denial that my anxiety induced depression was a thousand times worse because of what alcohol does to your brain chemistry. Denial that I could eat all the kale in the world and that still wouldn’t change the fact that alcohol is linked to several different types of cancers. Denial that I needed constant therapy and a clear mind to help me remember the things alcohol helped me forget. Because you can’t heal from things you never confront, and I was storing so much trauma inside myself that it was literally killing me.

There aren’t any cravings. There is no regret. There has never been a moment when I’ve doubted myself or wished I could go back. Every once in a while when I think that alcohol sounds good (the same way a burger sounds good if I smell barbecue…even though I’m a vegan) I pour myself a delicious non-alcoholic beverage in a fancy glass, throw a lemon slice in and think about how grateful I am that I quit drinking alcohol.

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For more information on my personal journey with alcohol, see my 1 year post: https://www.google.com/amp/s/thereallifeveganwife.com/2019/08/17/one-year-no-beer/amp/

The Word of the Day is Lament

I haven’t written much about my experiences or feelings navigating the last four or five months. I still have a lot to work through before I feel clear enough to discuss my thoughts regarding the traumatic closure of my business, my scramble to keep afloat, the uprisings all over the country and the way our mainstream political discourse has changed. I’m still struggling daily. Every crack and flaw in our feeble system has finally been exposed. Watching and living that reality through sober eyes has been an experience. It will continue to be for some time. Accepting that new reality is where I currently reside on my grief journey.

In the face of challenge or trauma I place myself in a constant state of motion. I’ve learned this through years of writing and a year of weekly therapy. Moving fast helps me to feel productive, like I’m in total control, which I understand is rooted in a deep history of societal ideology promoting capitalism and individualistic bootstrap culture in this country. The guilt I feel is constant; it’s enough to make me sick to my stomach at the thought of possibility of failure. It is with me daily. Were my parent’s sacrifices for nothing? If I’m not producing something, I feel worthless. I would be lying if I said that being Mexican / American – the daughter and granddaughter of people who worked hard and sacrificed everything to give me a better life – hasn’t influenced my relationship with work and my value. With production and permission to exist. It has. The extent to which I feel these things is something I’m working through now. And it’s tough.

I’ve gone through months of feeling unpredictable and intense emotions. And months of trying my best to stay busy and channel them into something tangible and useful. But for the last couple of weeks I’ve been feeling something different. Something that I couldn’t name until earlier this week when I listened to Rob Bell’s podcast episode “We Hung Our Harps” on The Robcast.

I listened to it three times.

“By the rivers of Babylon we sat and

wept

when we remembered Zion.

There on the poplars

we hung our harps,

for there our captors asked us for

songs,

our tormentors demanded songs of

joy;

they said, “Sing us one of the songs

of Zion!”

How can we sing the songs of the Lord

while in a foreign land?”

-Psalm 137

Although I was raised in a strictly Christian household, I am not religious. I fall somewhere on the scale between atheist and agnostic beliefs. What I appreciate about Rob Bell is how effective he is at using the bible to teach lessons that make sense no matter what your religious beliefs may be. However problematic, these words spoke to me, on a symbolic level. They helped me to begin processing that emptiness I started to feel a few weeks after being back to work. I feel disconnected from everything that was taken from me so easily. From my job, from my business, from my relationship with work and to the part I play as a cog in a larger broken capitalist system in this country – that does not care if I succeed or fail.

Bell made two specific points in regards to the Psalm above that gave meaning to my feelings of emptiness and disappointment. The first is that we are on the cusp of a great, collective “lament.” We, as a country, had the opportunity to make something great. To use our privilege in this world for good, and we largely did not. We blew it. And now we’re here. “By the rivers of Babylon, we sat and wept, when we remembered Zion.” We’re mourning many of our privileges, but also mourning our fantasies. The ones we had about who we were as a country and “how far we’d come.” I feel like the first stage of this lament began for many of us, after Donald Trump was elected. Bell acknowledges that even those of us that are critical of our country and it’s flawed systems still, on some level, believed at least something about what our place in this world was. What the United States could stand for, what goodness we could pull together to do if we used all that power in the right ways. We were capable of so much good. But the reality of what’s happening doesn’t reflect those beliefs. I had this personal moment of reckoning when I was thinking about the Muslims currently in internment camps in China. My immediate though was: “How can we help anyone else when we can’t even help ourselves?” I had never felt that way before. Before, I could either be proud of our country or disappointed in our country. Helplessness was an emotion, as an American with white privilege, I haden’t spent much time feeling. “There, on the poplars, we hung our harps.”

A great lament. A mourning for what we had, and what we thought we had.

An acceptance of our painful failures.

The second point that Bell made was in regards to exile. Exile can be a literal, physical banishment from one’s country or home. Or it can be an emotional expulsion. The anxiety I feel knowing that as a US citizen, the mobility and “freedom” that we’re used to owning has been largely curtailed, is intense. What a privilege we had. But the emotional exile is something interesting. A feeling of banishment, of loneliness, of losing the little faith I had in this country to keep us safe. The safety net I thought I had just doesn’t exist and that, more than anything, feels like abandonment.

I’m not bringing up these points to focus only on the negative, or to wallow in self pity. I bring these up to hopefully help others recognize that that sadness and grief for what we had, and thought we had, is real. And it will likely get worse and more intense before the upturn. But that’s the beauty about a lament – a loss, a grief process – once you allow yourself to feel it, you can move through it. With a clear head and a stronger heart you have the freedom to create something better, something new and previously assumed to be impossible. My hope, for all of us who make it to this next chapter in United States history, is that we have the courage to mourn what’s lost, let it go, and build something compassionate and new.