5 Inspiring Lessons I Learned in My Third Alcohol-Free Month

Self on 03.19.13
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Photo: Kyle May / Creative Commons

Last year, I frequently complained about feeling chubby and tired. This was understandable. My responsibilities range from caring fulltime for my 2-year-old, working as a freelance writer, and learning how to run my own business. I often looked forward to my nightly glass (or two) of wine to calm my nerves and help rid my head of all the details before going to sleep. Life was exceedingly…normal.

But I didn’t want normal. I wanted phenomenal. I wanted more restful sleep. I wanted to get into great physical shape. I wanted to stop numbing out and to start living big. I wanted more energy so that when the day was over, I still had the drive to throw myself headlong into growing my fledgling business. And so a decision was made: to stop drinking wine for a whole year.

My year without alcohol is going slowly, but probably not for the reasons you’d expect. It’s because I’m in my second youth; I’m accomplishing so much, and the changes I’m undergoing are so radical that time has slowed down.

I’m very proud of the free (for a limited time) eBook I created for Monarch Company newsletter subscribers called “10 Steps to a Blissful Life.” I’ve been using these steps myself to ditch bad habits while making big, bold changes in my life, and I couldn’t be more pleased with the results. I’m refining my business offerings, and I’m making amazing friends in the process. There’s nothing like diving headfirst into the world of entrepreneurship to help my world bloom with new connections and experiences. My life is now, in a word, exhilarating. Here are the lessons I’ve learned this month.

1. I have just as much confidence without booze at tricky social functions.

Photo: Katsu Nojiri  / Creative Commons

I used to walk into a party and scan the room for familiar faces and the nearest social lubricant. A glass of wine in hand was like a shield. They don’t call it liquid courage for nothing. Of course alcohol lowers our inhibitions and makes it more likely that we’ll feel chatty and easygoing. However, it also punches holes in our verbal filter and makes us more likely to commit a faux pas.

Last week, I had the pleasure of attending two different social functions full of people I didn’t know well (or at all). There were no old friends or acquaintances to hold my hand or help me to feel secure, and of course I wasn’t drinking, so there was no security blanket there, either. The funny thing was that I became “social drunk,” a term coined by one of my new friends to describe my giddiness. At the end of those evenings, my cheeks hurt from perma-grin, my voice was hoarse from laughing, and I felt so in love with the people I was meeting and hanging out with. In the past, I would have credited alcohol for the over-the-top fun time, so it was perfect to enjoy the same level of awesomeness without alcohol in bars where other people were drinking.

And of course it was nice to walk away without worrying too much about having committed any social blunders. Plus, I’m thinner now, so looking better is a nice confidence boost.

2. I’m enjoying an upward spiral.

Photo: Antonis Lamnatos / Creative Commons

Rather than spending my spare time watching TV or surfing the internet because I feel tired, I’m now finding time for exercise early in the morning, to build my business, and to read and listen to other authors or entrepreneurs write or speak about what inspires them. Every day, life is getting bigger and more blissful. My body is becoming stronger, healthier and fitter. My mind is becoming sharper, and I’m happier now than I’ve been at any point in my life prior. I’m challenging my beliefs every day about what’s possible. I love my work! I mean really and truly love it.

I gave up my nightly glass or two of wine because I wanted to sleep better and have more energy so that I can play big and to accomplish great things, but the reality of this dream is more gorgeous and fun than I’d anticipated. Because I’ve been so happy with my own results, I’m building on my eBook by writing a much more comprehensive book and program that will help people stop numbing out and playing small, to ditch their self-imposed prisons, and to find ways to live the best lives they possibly can.

3. Problems roll off my back and I do less complaining.

Photo: Derrick Tyson / Creative Commons

It’s a little embarrassing to admit this, but in the past, I used to sometimes chalk up reasons during the day why I deserved a glass of wine that night. Minor or large, frustrations or problems might be catalogued and sometimes even fumed over – I now believe for the express purpose of feeling justified in having a drink to relax.

These days I have no reason to problem fondle; I’m obviously not waiting to have a drink to soothe myself. (That really would be a long year!) Now when confronted with a problem, my choices are to either let it roll off my back or to solve it. I still have a tendency to worry and to want to vent (loudly) when things go horribly wrong, but I can also see that inclination receding both in frequency and duration. My default response, more often than not, is to quickly and quietly solve it or forget it with little or no griping.

4. I’m absolutely on the right path in my approach.

Photo: Simon Sterg / Creative Commons

From the very first month, many readers of my article offered the opinion that if I had a reason to give up alcohol, then I must have a BIG problem and that the only way to solve such a problem was to head to the nearest AA meeting. While AA is wonderful for lots of people, it’s certainly not for everyone.

I stumbled across two articles this week that offered proof I’m on the right track, and that the popular perception of alcohol use has not caught up yet with reality. The LA Times reported on the largest and most comprehensive study of alcohol use in America:

Perhaps the most remarkable finding of the epidemiologic study was how many Americans experienced an alcohol-use disorder (either abuse or the more severe dependence) at some point -- and how many recovered on their own.

About 30% of Americans had experienced a disorder, the research showed, but about 70% of those quit drinking or cut back to safe consumption patterns without treatment after four years or less.

"For a long time there was an emphasis on alcoholism as if it were one thing," says Carol Prescott, a psychology professor at USC who has studied alcohol-use disorders. "I think that has been abandoned. People with alcohol-related problems don't all look the same at all. Some people only have problems for a short time."

This LA Times piece verifies what I reported last month – that a LOT of people – 30% of Americans at some point in their lives according to the study – get a little too excited about their favorite intoxicant, much like I did.

I read another article about a woman who wanted some help cutting back on drinking. She headed to New York City's Center for Motivation and Change, which helps people figure out what they want out of life and help them start to achieve it. People are less likely to engage in numbing behaviors when they feel fulfilled.

It was really fun to read about, since I developed my free eBook based on a similar premise. I already had total belief in my method, but it’s nice to feel validated and affirmed by seeing other professionals take a parallel approach. It bears repeating that feeling conflicted about alcohol doesn’t automatically mean that you’re addicted or powerless. There are far more ordinary people who are able to change their relationship to alcohol than there are people who are ruled by alcoholism, and it’s time to cease believing there’s a one-size-fits-all problem and solution.

5. I was afraid of my magnificence.

Photo: Shek Graham / Creative Commons

Now, before you start thinking, “Oh, well isn’t she full of herself,” you need to know what I believe:

We are all valuable human beings who deserve to live a magnificent life.

I think that the “system” is set up in such a way that we seek to numb ourselves and avoid living extraordinary lives. We are trained that the right thing to do is to get educated, and to get a job – meaning we sell the time we have on Earth to a corporation. We get paid in money to sacrifice the majority of our precious lives indoors in a desk chair under fluorescent lights while we perform unfulfilling tasks for an oftentimes faceless organization.

It’s my belief that we all have a purpose. My purpose is to help people get out of their self-imposed prisons – whether it’s their fears, their unhelpful beliefs, unfulfilling work, or numbing habits, whether that’s shopping, eating, watching TV, etc. All of these things – the system, our fears and beliefs, our jobs, and numbing habits – work together to ensure that most of us don’t live extraordinary lives.

That said, let me be clear! We are all magnificent, no matter how we spend our time. We are all amazing and valuable human beings, no matter what we do, no matter what we say, and no matter how we think and feel. Busting out of the status quo of our lives is terrifying. I’m no different from anyone else. I was scared. I wasn’t used to owning my power – I was used to drowning it out with distractions like surfing the internet, watching TV, and of course, enjoying wine a little too often.

Stepping into my power and choosing to shed my distractions was frightening; it brings a lot more responsibility when you decide to find and pursue your purpose. I was afraid of the stress and the overwhelm. I feared the complexity of new friendships as much as I desired them. I’m still not sure how everything will unfold, but I trust that I’m a powerful adult who can learn my way through anything life throws at me. I decided that life in a box (a corporate office) was more painful than facing the unknown of making big changes.

One thought that has buoyed me and proved true time and again throughout my journey is this: there is no such thing as failure, only growth, learning, and the evolution of the human spirit.

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