This is the first installment of a multi-part series. We’ll explore why The Drinks seem to be so cool, while sobriety is like some lame, nerdy cousin. I’ll share a path toward conscious sobriety, a method of getting it to stick, and why we’re better able to party on our own damn terms.
Brew some tea. Crawl into your Snuggly. Let’s Party.
The New Sobriety – Part 1
When we trace our paths backward, we can see most of our landmark decisions that got us here. Maybe it was our decision to take that job, have these kids, or let go of something that no longer served us.
The fulfilling, happy life is a conscious one. It is self-directed, and focused when it has to be. At other times we’re happier to meander around in indecision because let’s face it: decisions can be exhausting.
Research consistently proves that although human will-power is a renewable resource, it gets depleted throughout the day by the sheer number of choices we need to make.
When we’re lucky, our choices are simple and binary: either/or, true/false, or yes/no.
But what about more complex, ambiguous questions like “When is enough, enough?” or “When is too much, too much?”
We seem to consume everything on a sliding scale of satisfaction. It gets hard to tell when consumption brings us joy, or when we’re scratching some itch created by good marketing.
…just when you think that you’ve got enough / enough grows
And everywhere that you go in life / enough knows – Ani DiFranco
Even if habits like drinking never deteriorate into full-blown addiction, we learn to live in a state of limbo—unsure of when, or if we need to get off an elevator that’s only heading down.
If we’re determined to cling to habits that served us well at one point in time, can we be so sure the same habits aren’t consuming us now?
The two biggest decisions that had the greatest
impact on my personal happiness have been:
There’s a growing body of neuroscience that proves a daily meditation practice leads to happiness. But what about abstaining from booze? Doesn’t partying and relieving stress grow our happiness also?
Conversely, doesn’t abstaining from drinking amplify boredom and discontentment, especially when everyone around you is having a Grand Old Time?
The past four years since taking my last drink have given me time to think about how abstaining has made me a happier person. For starters, I only needed to decide once. After waffling back and forth on whether to quit, I simply had enough.
My experiments found that alcohol took more than it gave me. None of my Party Mentors did this simple math.
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My moods would swing wildly and I’d be ultra-sensitive for a couple days after a night of heavy drinking. Every time I took a break, I’d come back a little bit harder either by volume, or by frequency.
For all the laughs and “deep” conversations, it left me with more questions about my behaviors, or motives. Instead of the social lubricant drinking provided in my youth, it started creating a creepy veil between my ego and my soul. It would also create bizarre attachments, or imaginary halos of attractiveness to things or people I didn’t want, or need.
Making a firm commitment to abstain freed up a massive amount of emotional and psychological bandwidth. For the first time since starting to drink at the age of 14, my internal dialogue was no longer on a constant loop over whether I had enough.
Or too much. The space it created could be reallocated to finding deeper, more nourishing ways to party.
Partying became less about escape from my current circumstances or stress. It resembled more of those formative dragons we chased as teenagers: an ability to deeply revel in the magic of life. To laugh at, and love my circumstances.
That first year it felt like I turned down thousands of offers to drink. Because my single decision to abstain was congruent with the person I wanted to become, I didn’t need to repeatedly weigh the options presented by others.
For better or worse, many of us find abstinence easier than moderation. That was the camp I fell into. Maybe it’s genetics, or tolerance. It doesn’t really matter.
Moderation works well for many of us, except that our sliding scale of “enough” is a moving target. We can too easily justify getting over the hump on a Monday, or Happy Hour becoming Any Hour.
Have you consciously quit The Drinks for a month or more? What did you notice when you came back?
If you find moderation to be simple, has it always been that way? Please share below! -kc
Stay tuned for The New Sobriety – Part II