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.

_____

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/

Monthly Resource Collection: August 2020

Hello Readers!

This month flew by. Between going camping for my husband’s birthday (a nice break with absolutely no cell phone reception) and what seems like an endless list of work responsibilities since resuming operations, I simply haven’t consumed as much information. I found myself reading more as a quiet method of active meditation, and watching less. Sometimes the noise of the world becomes too much for me, and I just need extensive periods of quiet time or immersive time in a good book. I’m learning to be okay with that.

I also hosted my first unlearning.is.rad book club meeting, through Zoom of course. Because I redirected my book club to social justice themes, I will include our selections in monthly resource blogs.

I hope you will continue to find these posts useful, and inspiring.

-Liz, The Real Life Vegan Wife

_____

Books:

  • Born A Crime: Stories From A South African Childhood, Trevor Noah

Born A Crime is without question one of my favorite books ever. This wonderfully written memoir chronicles the early life of Trevor Noah – now the host of The Daily Show – during the dismantling of apartheid in South Africa. Noah tells much of the story through his mother’s experiences, which forms a more intersectional and personal narrative around topics of racial segregation, poverty, colorism, and sexism. “The personal is political” is woven throughout each chapter as systems clearly help to shape personal outcomes. I haven’t laughed or cried harder reading a book, probably ever, and I think everyone should read this.

  • So you want to talk about race, Ijeoma Oluo

*Book Club Pick

So you want to talk about race is an accessible introduction to topics like privilege, intersectionality, cultural appropriation, microaggressions, police brutality, and the school to prison pipeline. Oluo outlines effective ways to engage in difficult conversations about these topics, while also emphasizing the importance of presenting facts and explaining the real-world implications of incidents that many would consider isolated personal events, but are in fact symptoms of a greater and more complex racist system.

  • The Undocumented Americans, Karla Cornejo Villavicencio

Cornejo Villavicencio beautifully wrote this book to tell stories about people. People who have immigrated to the United States, people who are undocumented, people who cannot be simply defined as one dimensional “workers,” or “dreamers.” People who’s worth should not be tied to the word “workers” to make their existence more palatable, or to justify their existence as a human being. They are complex and emotional and flawed; they experience joy and sadness, grief and happiness. They live their lives, sometimes exciting, sometimes mundane, but these people are defined by more than what they can produce for a country that renders them invisible.

Bookstores to Support:

https://keybookstore.com

https://www.semicolonchi.com

https://eurekabookshop.com

https://bookshop.org/shop/Elizabeths

Notable Podcast Episodes:

  • America Did What?! W/ Blair Imani & Kate Robards, “Episode 1: Redlining and the GI Bill.” 7/3/20

https://podcasts.apple.com/us/podcast/america-did-what/id1519365900?i=1000485381107

This episode explains exactly what the GI Bill entailed and why many Black Americans were excluded from it’s benefits because of practices like “redlining,” and the far reaching implications of this systematic denial of government provided services.

  • The Robcast, “We Hung Our Harps.” 7/21/20

https://podcasts.apple.com/us/podcast/the-robcast/id956742638?i=1000485667858

This sermon-style talk helps name the feelings of grief and disillusionment many Americans are currently feeling as we strive for a better way of being and let go of what we thought we had.

*For an in-depth analysis of my feelings around this topic, see my post The Word of the Day is Lament: https://thereallifeveganwife.com/2020/08/08/the-word-of-the-day-is-lament/

Must Read Articles:

“Anthropologist Wade Davis on how COVID-19 signals the end of the American era.”

Too White for Some, Too Black for Most | Guest Feature by Stephiny Chandler

Too White for Some, Too Black for Most

This is my truth. 

“You talk white,” is something I have been told my entire life. As a small child I remember wondering what that meant, and by the tone the phrase was stated, I knew I had to somehow stop it. I looked around, and thought “talking white,” was one of the worst possible things to do; as I watched my aunts curse the white women’s’ hair, that grew from my head, as she raked and pulled and braided. Forever reminding me that I was too white, my braids didn’t stay, my edges had far too much frizz, my skin was too pale, more of a “high yella’ like a Jap,” was often a slogan used to describe me. I would learn to say, “hey girl,” in my best “black girl” voice, though my aunt would laugh and roll her eyes. In those black eyes, the ones I looked up to for so long, I wasn’t black, I couldn’t identify with their struggle, I didn’t know how it felt to be black, no, I was white. 

“Your hair is always a mess,” was what I was told every day by my white grandmother, she would continuously try to tame my frizz, and curls with no succession. My hair was deemed “crazy and unmanageable.” Big bows were fastened to the top of my head amongst the frizz in attempt to make me look “less ethnic.” My dolls I would play with were called “Nigger babies,” because they had dark skin, and I remember wondering what a “nigger” was; because, I had never heard the word before. Although, somehow that word made me feel ashamed of myself. I decided to only play with the white babies from then on. I loved my blue-eyed babies, they had the same eyes of my grandma, who was constantly correcting my “blackness,” trying to stamp out any perceived “ghetto tendencies,” I may have acquired from birth. In those blue eyes that I loved so much, I wasn’t white, I didn’t possess their privilege, I didn’t know how it felt to be white, no, I was black. 

You see, I am a biracial woman, half black and half white, and I have never been able to fit into any stereotype society attempts to box me into. My skin is light but dark at the same time, my hair is naturally curly, but I iron it flat, I have big lips, but I am missing that “black ass.” There are many things that I know; I know that I am: a mother, a wife, a student, a sister, a friend, a daughter, a grand-daughter, a believer in science, a fighter for justice and truth, a nerd, a Netflix junkie and a gym goer. However, when asked to check the box, “white or black,” I don’t know what to say; and so, I leave it blank. Blank. It sits there like a forgotten text message or week-old Chinese in the back of the fridge. I leave it blank, until whomever I am filling out paperwork for, reminds me that I didn’t check a box. I explain that I am both, and they tell me to pick, one. But how? How do I pick one side over the other? How do I pick more of one then the other? They say to me to pick the one I most identify with. Right. Identify with…. This used to upset me and cause great panic on my part, but I have learned. I have adapted to what it is they want. I usually randomly check one of the boxes. I even sometimes pick a different race, I always thought the Native Pacific Islanders were beautiful, so I pretend, for the sake of the box. 

A box that some would say, “doesn’t matter” or it “isn’t a big deal to just pick one,” but being a person born equally to both boxes, I’m telling you, it matters. It matters to me just as it matters to you to be recognized for who you truly are. It matters to me just as it matters to you that I call you by your name, or that I see you, for you. It matters to me, that you see me. I am not a box. 

I know that when I am in a store I am a black woman. A black woman who sometimes gets followed, who gets asked if I don’t mind if they hold my bag while I shop, who has once been told, “we don’t have the lay-a-way program.” I am a black woman that knows if I were to be treated unfairly and speak up about it, I am instantly labeled the “angry black woman,” who is causing an unnecessary scene. I am labeled an embarrassment, a failure, uneducated, a lower-class woman from the wrong side of the tracks that has no business here. 

I know when I go to the black owned salon, I am a white woman. A white woman who gets ignored, sometimes laughed at and is always referred to as “the bouje white girl.” I am a white woman that knows I must silently take their criticisms about how “good” my hair is and that I shouldn’t even be in there. I know that I am the white woman, that if I were to attempt to defend myself, I would be instantly labeled the “stuck up white lady” asking for a manager who is causing an unnecessary scene. I am labeled privileged, stuck up, an educated, upper-class woman from the fancy neighborhood, that has no business here. 

There is hope; however, within this society-built jail box. Love. Love is the answer that I bring to my life and those who enter it.  I will not bore you with some biblical filled ideology; because, I don’t have one. I have learned to love both black and white people and I embrace both sides of my race and all stereotypes cast on either side. I understand the privilege I have been given and the voice that I am fortunate to have. I see that I am given a gift that no number of stereotypes can take from me. I get to see both point of views, like no one else does. I feel so fortunate and proud to be both black and white. I used to hate my parents for making me both, I would always wonder why they would do something so terrible? I now see that I get the best of both worlds, and I choose to love, and embrace them both.

Stereotypes aren’t going anywhere, anytime soon, they don’t even become cleverer with time. The same stereotype just gets recast into a different direction, without any new engineering, or added original thought. Stereotypes are an annoyance, and at times a danger that are engraved within our society but, how we respond to them, is up to us. How we choose to treat one another, and how we allow other people to treat us, is up to us as well. Stereotypes are just perceived perceptions on how we think someone will behave or react. The beauty of stereotypes is: they are not real, and we do not have to give them truth. We are all in charge of our own lives no matter the stereotype placed on you. I know that someday we will be able to do away with the check box of finality, that forces unwanted labels on people. I believe everyone should live their best lives, doing whatever that means to them, checking whatever box suits them. This, this is my truth.