No matter where you stand on the topic of drinking alcohol, there is no doubt that social drinking is big in this country. People enjoy happy hours with their coworkers, beers at the ballgame and celebratory champagne toasts at weddings. Lots of people even joke about “needing a drink” after a tough day (myself included). Whether a martini at the end of a long hard day actually helps you to relax or not, drinking and the social language around it are woven into our everyday lives.
Why am I bringing this up? Aren’t we supposed to be talking about life coaching and self help?
I’m talking about it because I am a typical American who’s been taught and socialized to drink with my friends, and I have struggled to give it up! I absorbed the cultural message that drinking is fun, relaxing, and something that people do on a regular basis. (Lucky for me, I’ve never suffered from addiction to alcohol, nor been a heavy drinker.)
As I age and my body changes, my body has made it clear that it will no longer tolerate alcohol. It started slow, a few years ago I began suffering horrible hangovers if I dared to enjoy more than one beverage per day. Two martinis with dinner? Not anymore. I didn’t like having to limit myself while others were downing pints left and right, but I knew I would pay the price if I didn’t.
Fast forward to the present and my body has again laid down the law. No drinking alcohol whatsoever! If I enjoy a beer or a cocktail, I will be up all night feeling nauseous. (and really, is there a much worse way to feel?) I railed against this “injustice”, why can’t I enjoy my little drink, my relaxer, my adult beverage? It took me so long to acquire a taste for beer, shouldn’t I get to enjoy it?!
So here is the issue: I want to enjoy a social past-time and my body says NO in big bold red flags. (Let’s just chalk this up to aging). I still want to be part of that happy hour crowd, and, yes, sometimes parenthood and life in general makes me want to escape into a nice gin and tonic. I even joke about drinking as stress relief, even as I give it up!
It’s not easy to change my patterns and rituals. It’s not easy to resist temptation when I’m stressed out and tired. And it’s a big, long boring story if someone wants to know why I’m not drinking. In the end, I have to follow my instincts, difficult as it can be. I hate feeling nauseous and sleep deprived, so I’m slowly making my peace with the new normal.
It seems like a metaphor for so many other things affecting our quality of life. What else should we be giving up in order to live healthier, happier lives?
(When the study comes out that says dark chocolate is bad for you, I’m done!)