Sober Thoughts 3: How Going Alcohol-Free Changed The Way I Drink

Since so many people resonated with my sober update last April, I thought it only fitting to talk about what it’s like to return to life post-sober.

I never intended to give up drinking forever - and even surprised myself when my non-drinking spree continued months after the end of ‘Sober January.’

Still, I knew the benefits to my health and wealth were far reaching.

My relationship to alcohol was changing.

I knew the day would come eventually for me to see how my new mindset played out in real life.

So in late Spring I decided to take my first sip in nearly 4 months - that’s 120 days. One-third of the year.

A glass of red wine at a friends’ wedding reception.

The heavens didn’t open up. Neither did the gates of hell.

It was pretty anti-climactic, to be honest.

But after that night and a few more nights out - on the town and out of town - I gathered some important notes on how my relationship with drinking has changed:

  1. I don’t need more. Those first couple sips at the wedding were enough to get me all the way through dinner and to the dance floor.

  2. A glass I would’ve previously downed in 20 minutes will now wait an hour or two for me to finish it. And I actually like it that way.

  3. I can be conscious of my consumption without judging it.

  4. I can enjoy the moment without sacrificing the morning after.

  5. I can limit myself without limiting others.

  6. Drinking tonight is not a reason to drink the next night and the next night.

  7. Wine pairings are just a suggestion.

  8. Just cause it’s free don’t mean it’s for me.

  9. When in doubt, I can always lean back on my sober thoughts from the past.

  10. Awareness is the key.

I’m thinking of taking another break from booze this Fall to see what other lessons are out there.

Beyond the obvious benefits, taking time off is a great way to gain perspective - and now I know there’s no wrong way to do it.

What Success Looks Like

I’ve always known that the definition of success is different for everyone.

What I didn’t know was that my own definition of success would change over time - depending on the life stage, the circumstances, and the priorities that follow.

Now I work on reminding myself that every minute of every day I get to choose what success looks like for me.

Today? It looks like being sprawled across the bed, cheek buried into arm, silently tapping out a draft on my phone.

Why? Because I know the demons I dealt with to get to this point - the procrastination, the fear, and the faux-busyness that threatened to take me out the game of creating altogether.

Starting a draft is small, but the feat of slaying those existential dragons is not. Calling this a “success” is part of a larger narrative I’m learning to live by:

Success looks like progress,

Success is sustained effort,

Success looks like slowing down, but never stopping.

These self-sustaining definitions of success keep me focused on the process instead of the result. Admittedly they’re not the sexiest, but certainly healthier than the alternative.

There’s a daily deluge of messaging out there scamming us all into thinking we’re a little less worthy for not being on some 30 under 30 list, winning a high-profile prize, or writing a bestseller. And that’s not cool.

If we put blood, sweat, and tears into a thing only to discover that the fruits of our labor don’t exactly taste how we imagined, we need to know that it’s okay.

What’s that? You didn’t blow up overnight? 10,000 hours weren’t enough? Mo’ money, mo’ problems?

The started-from-the-bottom success stories which we were so convinced could be ours may be possible, but none of them are guaranteed. Some of them aren’t even true. 99.9% of them are just not our stories.

For my own peace-of-mind, I’m working on unhooking myself from oppressive definitions of success that are no longer realistic or relevant.

I still dream and I still work. I still miss my old ways and mourn the feeling of a very certain fulfillment that was just beyond reach.

The difference now is that I’m making room for the next iteration, the next episode, my next definition of success.

Loving Where You're At

I’ve learned that the greatest key to getting what I want out of life is wanting what I already have. It’s the energy of gratitude that allows me to open up and see opportunities in unexpected places.

The alternative? Well, that’s a recipe for downward spiral and unproductive procrastination - narrowing my focus to all the “likes” I’m not getting or the “looks” I’m not landing.

Clearing away that endless pining for the better thing has ironically been the best way for me to move onward and upward.

Want to make better art? Appreciate wins and lessons from stuff you’ve already made.

Want to get in better shape? Thank the legs that move you when they’re tired and the breath that doesn’t quit when it’s short.

Want a better relationship? Acknowledge any bright spots and double-down on those moments together.

It can’t hurt to try. Loving where you’re at might get you farther than you ever thought you could go.