If one or more of the above is a regular mantra for you, I am here to tell you that you are selling yourself short. You are doing yourself a disservice and I think you deserve to give yourself a lot more credit than you currently are. I believe that is it entirely possible for you to live a full, happy, relaxed life while having crazy stupid fun at social gatherings completely sober.
I think you can have the best time this holiday season, alcohol free. So stop giving away your shine to these terrible thoughts and replace them with much better ones. Let me explain…
Sunday the 16th November will mark 9 months since I made the decision to quit drinking. It was a decision that was a long time coming, but a life changing one that I am so proud of. It really is amazing of what you can accomplish when you start to work towards what you want.
The other day I was alone in a cab going from after work drinks to a friends dinner (two events one night?! Crazy!), and I was shuffling through my old iPhone Notes trying to find a recipe, and I stumbled across a message to myself dated November last year from after I read Tony Robbin’s book ‘Awake the Giant Within’.
The note to myself outlined my 3 most desperate wishes for change:
- Eat a healthy clean life style
- Cut back my drinking and do 1 month alcohol free every 3 months
- Manage my emotions and stress levels.
Back then, I was sick and tired of being sick and tired. I always felt I was cleaning up after the messes my emotions go me into. Everything stressed me out, I was often angry that I had to struggle so much for what I perceived others got so easily. In short, I wasn’t happy with how I was managing myself. I was bored of being this person and I didn’t want to live my life being so unhappy. I also knew my emotions were preventing me from getting to my next stage in my career, and I knew if I wanted to get to where I wanted to be, I needed to address this quickly. I didn’t realise then that alcohol was half the issue to this problem, and by eliminating alcohol and implementing some other changes, in less than a year, I was able to go beyond my goals.
When I read this note to myself, I was so humbled by how much I had exceeded the list, that I cried. I had become the person I wanted to be. It was truly amazing.
This isn’t a story about that though, you can read that here and here, I just want to illustrate why I wanted to change, and why there is no way I would ever go back to that lifestyle, and how it is possible to live your best life; alcohol free.
A bit of background about alcohol and the body….
The affects of regular alcohol consumption can rear its ugly head in a lot of subtle forms. By regular I mean multiple times during the week (For instance, 1-2 glasses per night or every other night) or even binging only on the weekend. Signs such as: you might get stressed easily, you may be anxious often without knowing why, you might be irritable and snap at people when there really isn’t a big problem or you might have social anxiety without it. It might also be growth related, preventing you from developing the skills to need because you use it as a quick fix for and of the above.
If you drink regularly you might find that alcohol solves the problems that it actually causes. Biochemically, alcohol clogs up the liver. Your liver is amazingly good at prioritising what it needs to detoxify. Substances foreign to the body such as alcohol, take priority over naturally occurring substances within the body such as hormones. With regular consumption of alcohol, your body becomes so busy dealing with the alcohol that it doesn’t have time for the normal lovely stuff – such as regulation of your hormones. Physically, this can result in weight gain, bad skin, brittle nails, difficulty dealing with that time of month such as tenderness and bloating and so on and so fourth. Mentally, it can mean emotionally you are not able to cope as well as you should, and that little things that are a minor issue seem like a big deal. In short: you have a few to drink at night, which may cause you to have an emotional roller coaster of a day, which was so stressful and busy, that you then fix by drinking.
The last 9 months have been amazing. I am barely ever stressed, I am able to manage myself and regulate my emotions much better – and I don’t mean I am ‘controlling’ my anger, I mean there just is none. I get along with difficult people better without overreacting to them. My weight is stable and my head is the clearest it has ever been. I know exactly what I want now, and nothing is holding me back. I won’t lie and say I’m a happy bag of roses 100% of the time, life still happens, however dealing with it all is much easier and now only real problems are problems.
So, if sobriety is all great… Why isn’t everyone doing it?
Well, it all comes down to perception of alcohol and how people think they need it to socialise. Once you get your head around how to do without it, it is very easy. So, let me debunk the 3 biggest self deprecating myths towards alcohol, the empowering alternative and how to mind-hack your way into a full, fun life; alcohol free…
Self Deprecating Myth #1: “I NEED alcohol to relax”
The most common things I hear at the end of the day (or during!) from people at work is: “today was so stressful, I need a drink!” or “I need a drink to relax”. When I first wanted to cut back on drinking, I thought I would never be able to relax again. I am glad to report that I am more relaxed than ever. Let me explain:
Imagine yourself coming home from a busy day, where you have had no time for yourself. During the day you received hundreds of emails, were in an out of meetings, working on a billion projects all due last week, juggling friends, dealing with family issues, managing staff and running errands. It doesn’t end there though, back at home, there is still dinner to prepare, washing to fold, things to tidy up, kids, animals or spouses to feed, kids animals or spouses to pay attention to, extra work to catch up on, lunches to prepare, leg waxing to deal to etc etc.
At this stage, you are itching for a drink and just want to sit down for a little tiny minute. Straight through the door, you rush to the fridge and pour yourself a wine. The second your back hits the couch and that cold refreshing liquid kisses your lips – you let go of everything. The busy day melts away, and you think this has happened because your little buddy alcohol has instantly relaxed you. Thanks pal.
Scientifically speaking, alcohol actually takes at least 10 minutes to enter the blood stream and to have any effect on the body – it is actually impossible for alcohol to instantly relax you unless you freebase 100% pure alcohol into your arm – and even then you would probably just pass out, which I’m not sure can be counted as relaxing.
Self Empowering Realisation #1: The situation is relaxing, not the alcohol.
The most amazing realisation here is that it isn’t the alcohol that has relaxed you, it is that YOU have actually given yourself permission to let go and unwind.
As soon as you let yourself soften into your favourite comfy spot on the sofa, you told yourself it was ok to have some breathing room. You relaxed yourself, sans alcohol, as it didn’t have time to kick in. Sitting on a couch and giving yourself a minute to chillax is generally a pretty relaxing situation, so you would have relaxed either way.
Realise that being able to relax is within you always and is available to you at anytime. Once you realise how powerful that is, you will never need alcohol to relax you again.
How to mind hack yourself into relaxing:
Instead of pouring yourself an alcoholic beverage, try sparkling mineral water over ice and lime – it is just as refreshing but with the added benefit of actually being good for you – no nasty sugar and lime is just great; It tastes good, it looks pretty, and it helps detoxify your body by aiding digestion so you can look pretty too! I find that having this while sitting on the couch triggers me to relax and let go. Fancy that shit up further with mint, basil or even a cucumber!
Creating space for yourself is important, so still take the same time for yourself and allow yourself just one second before cracking on with the evenings activities.
Self Deprecating Myth #2: “I need alcohol as a social lubricant!”
Another big reason people drink is because they believe it somehow relieves social situations. Let me paint you a picture:
Imagine being 5 years old again on your first day of school. Everyone is a stranger, the environment is different, and everything exciting, new and scary all at the same time. At first you are shy and cling behind your mum not sure what to do. Unsure of yourself and how to behave you are paralysed. Suddenly, little Tommy comes charging past chasing a ball. Next, Suzie is running after him full speed ahead. The anxiety washes away and excitement starts to build. Two more kids run past yelling “we need to score one more goal to win!”. Soccer is your favourite sport and you can see the ball and you know just what to do. Suddenly, you have forgotten all about that other stuff and running around, joining in, screaming and yelling just as loud as the other kids.
You spent the most formative years of your life learning how to socialise without alcohol, and I can 100% guarantee that you have improved your social skills a hell of a lot since those years. As mentioned above, alcohol takes a least 10 minutes from when you start consuming it to kick in, if you walk into a bar or party, down a drink and instantly become more chatty, this is not the alcohol doing anything for you, this is what you think alcohol is doing for you.
New situations are awkward. Going to parties can be awkward. They can also be awesome and fun. Humans have a natural predisposition to be cautious when entering into new situations. This cautiousness has guaranteed our survival as a species thus far. Without our tendency to scope out the room to check if we are in danger upon entering these new situations, potentially huge scary lions could be there and eat us. In modern day situations, we could potentially be throttled by big scary douchebags. Bitches be crazy.
Luckily, most people are nice and lovely, and most people at a party are there to socialise and they will be happy to meet and talk to you.
Self Empowering Realisation #2: You don’t need alcohol to socialise.
You need to be patient with yourself and let yourself relax into the situation. Once you see your friends or make new friends, you will be having a good time like everyone else. It’s a party – of course everyone, including you, is going to have fun. Chances are, if a friend or a mutual friend has invited you, the people there will also have a lot in common with you.
If you find you are still uneasy after ½ an hour or so, then ask yourself why? Maybe it is actually because the party is full of judgemental muppets who you wouldn’t enjoy being around even if you were drinking. Maybe you need to practise chatting to new people and building new skills.
This is an excellent opportunity for you to grow, which you won’t do by drowning your anxiety with alcohol. Doing that will help you only for the duration of the party, but what about the next social occasion? You are robbing yourself of becoming the confident person you can be.
Realise that the ability to fluidly socialise whilst sober is in you always and is available to you at anytime. Once you realise how powerful that is, you will never need alcohol to socialise again.
How to mind hack yourself into being comfortable at parties without alcohol:
Put your focus on others. Find out more about their lives, ask them questions and conversation will naturally start flowing. As an introvert, I find it extremely hard to talk about myself in real life (which is why blogging behind the veil of the internet works so well for me!), but I love hearing other people tell stories. I find that as I learn more about them, things about myself that we have in common naturally pop up and that’s when things get going. It’s ok to not be “on” all of the time and let the group do some of the work.
One of the best things I ever learnt working in the retail shop floor was – make yourself uncomfortable to make another comfortable. Going outside of your comfort zone to say “hi “or make eye contact with a new person can be challenging, however, with practise it gets easier and can really accelerate the rate of how quickly everyone eases into a social situation. It is likely that others will appreciate that your broke the ice as they will likely be feeling just as uncomfortable but too nervous to make the first move. So man/woman up and make friends. If your five-year-old self could make friends sober, your adult self can too.
Self Deprecating Myth #3: “I’m more fun when I am drunk!”
What a bunch of crap. Fun people are fun – sober or drunk. If you are able to let go and be wild when you are drunk, you will also be able to let go and be wild when you are sober. It all comes from you. Remember, fun relaxing downtime, is fun relaxing downtime. The difference is, that if you shout and dance and have a great time while sober, chances are your brilliant, smart, sober brain, which hasn’t had its filters taken off by alcohol, will enable you to stay in control and not do anything stupid.
Sharing your best friends secrets to the whole party, telling your boss what you really think or them or texting your ex because you are suddenly inspired to meet up with them tends to not happen as much to sober people. None of that stuff is fun. Having a good time and building lasting awesome relationships is fun.
The other point to note: Boring people are boring. No amount of drinking is going to make them interesting. If you are around boring people at a boring party, once you are drunk you will be drunk and bored at a boring party. Go do something better with your time. There is nothing wrong with you if they have a personality of a slightly damp dishrag. It’s ok to realise that not everyone will be your cup of tea. You don’t have to be rude to them or cause a fuss, but you don’t need to force what isn’t working for you too. Be confident in yourself and don’t judge yourself harshly if you have these thoughts.
Self Empowering Realisation #3: You can be crazy stupid fun without alcohol.
I regularly go out and dance all night on a couple of espressos and sing and shout just as much as the others – if not more! I get to drive home afterwards and wake up and go to yoga without cringing at all the things I said that I shouldn’t have. It’s the best of both worlds. At the end of the night, there is no vomiting out of taxis, crying in the toilet, losing my phone or not being able to sleep because the world won’t stop spinning. There is no hangover and half my weekend has not been written off.
Think back to a time in your life when you didn’t need alcohol to socialise, e.g. high school – I don’t know about you, but me and my friends went to alcohol free raves all the time and had a great time. We were high on life. Think of situations where you had the best time without alcohol. Times where you laughed so hard that you cried, times where you got really passionate about a subject matter and had the most interesting intense conversation with another, times where you genuinely connected with your friends, times where you acted crazy because you were around like minded people who made you feel comfortable.
Realise that having fun sober is in you always and is available to you at anytime. Once you realise how powerful that is, you will never need alcohol to have fun again.
How to mind hack yourself into having fun at a party without alcohol:
What you focus on is what you become. So focus on letting go and chatting to your friends like you would over brunch. Enjoy the time you have with them and you will find that once you realise you are safe and happy and that you are all having fun, then you too will naturally become rowdy along with everyone else. Chances are, you haven’t allowed yourself to do this in a long time and you will be surprised at how easy it is.
It sounds cliché, but it is a million times more rewarding going out and having a blast, knowing it was because it was a genuinely fun night and that it wasn’t because alcohol influenced you.
The biggest thing to note is that on your journey, you might not always react the same way in the same situations. Sometimes because of whatever reason, you might be a little flat or low on energy when in other similar situations you were energetic and excited. That’s ok. These are normal feelings, and like any feeling they will come and go. You are not boring, you are not dull, you are just feeling flat and low for now. Be kind to yourself – you are more wonderful and amazing that you will ever know.
So repeat after me:
Yes, you can relax without alcohol.
Yes, you can socialise without alcohol.
Yes, you can have crazy stupid fun without alcohol.
Yes, it is easy to do.
Realise that the above is in you always and is available to you at anytime. Once you realise how powerful that is, you will never need alcohol to relax, socialise or have crazy stupid fun again.