Ditching alcohol in the first month of the new year, Dry January is an annual tradition for many people. If you've participated in this event and have been successful, you've probably been pretty proud of yourself. Maybe you even lost a few pounds or increased your motivation in the process.
Or perhaps you are amongst those who have never been able to stick to it. If this is the case, you might have ended the month with feelings of guilt or remorse. These feelings might even have led you to question your relationship with alcohol. If so, you are not alone. In a culture that espouses drinking as the foundation of happy living, despite its drawbacks, it should come as no surprise that an increasing number of people are rethinking their drinking habits.
Sobriety groups and communities have been popping up worldwide in response to growing concerns from individuals questioning their alcohol consumption. The fact that we actually have months dedicated to setting aside alcohol speaks volumes. There's Dry January, Dry February sponsored by the Canadian Cancer Society, Sober September and Sober October, to name a few.
For many of us, going an entire month without our drink of choice is more challenging than we might have expected. And it isn't until we try to give it up that we become aware of the increasing influence this mysterious potion has on our life.
Advertising and marketing companies would have us believe that anything worth doing is worth doing with a drink in hand. From New Year's Eve parties to relaxing on the front porch after a hard day's work, most activities and events have an associated alcoholic beverage of choice. Drinking alcohol is widely promoted as a regular and integral part of life.
So when we start to wonder if our drinking is taking up too much space, our first reaction can often be one of panic and shame.
In the past few decades, drinkers have been put into two categories "alcoholics" and "normies." For years, we have believed that a small group of individuals are "allergic" to alcohol. They just can't drink. They have a disease. The rest of us are "normies." For us, alcohol is OK! More than OK. It is an expected part of adult life, a rite of passage if you will.
Now, multiple factors play a role in whether our drinking becomes problematic or not. But noticing that alcohol is taking up too much space in one's life is not a rare occurrence. If you are not convinced, check out all the sober communities on Facebook. Alcohol is, after all, an addictive substance. And it's addictive no matter who is doing the drinking.
Our very best lives are created from a place of clarity, strength and focus. If you feel that alcohol is becoming an obstacle to creating your best life, there are many things you can do to change this. And there are many resources at your disposal to support you.
You can start by taking out your journal and reflecting on your current relationship with alcohol. Here are a few questions to get you started.
Have you recently noticed an increase in how much you drink? What are the circumstances of this increase?
Do you drink to relieve stress? What other coping mechanisms do you use to relieve stress?
Do you drink out of boredom? What activities have you stopped doing to make time for drinking?
Have you seen an increase in your anxiety levels after a night of drinking?
Have you gained weight or neglected to exercise because of your drinking?
These questions are not meant to cause embarrassment or shame. Answering them from a place of curiosity and honesty can allow you to cultivate mindfulness around your current drinking habits.
You can then explore strategies for making changes aligned with your true self and your highest goals and aspirations.
Below is a list of books and resources you might want to explore if you wish to continue your journey towards becoming mindful of your relationship with alcohol.
Drink - Ann Dowsett Johnston
We Are the Luckiest - Laura Mckowen
Quit Like a Woman - Holly Whitaker
The Alcohol Experiment - Annie Grace
This Naked Mind - Annie Grace
Easy Way to Control Alcohol - Allen Carr
There are many excellent books on sobriety available, but this is a list of books I have personally read and found helpful.
WFS - Women for Sobriety - https://womenforsobriety.org/
This Naked Mind - https://thisnakedmind.com/
These two online communities and resources both have non-judgmental and inspirational approaches. WFS is an abstinence-based program. This Naked Mind is helpful whether you want complete sobriety or are merely wanting to explore your relationship with alcohol without giving it up for good.
As I was finishing this article, I decided to take a small break and scroll through my Facebook feed. Coincidently, I stumbled upon a post by an acquaintance who had just discovered that February was to be Dry February. His position suggested annoyance at the idea of asking people to abstain given the present circumstances. The government had just announced a stay at home order. I get it; these are challenging times.
A new Nanos poll indicates 25% of Canadians (aged 35–54) and 21% of Canadians (aged 18–34) say they have increased the amount of alcohol they drink while spending more time at home during the COVID-19 pandemic. Given the addictive nature of alcohol, these numbers should be of concern to us.
The truth is, there are other life-enhancing skills and strategies we can turn to when faced with life's challenges.
Self-Love Coach, Workshop Facilitator, Speaker firstname.lastname@example.org
705 229 6436