Messaging around alcohol permeates every aspect of American culture. We see it in ads and commercials, but also in endless numbers of memes, and in the kinds of lifestyle curation represented in magazines and other types of media. These messages put forth the idea that alcohol makes celebrations special, it makes dating easier, vacation more fun, it makes us stylish and interesting, it even helps us parent!
When the pandemic hit, we learned that alcohol helps us home school, it takes the edge off pandemic anxiety — plus, Zoom happy hours! To live in a culture that purports these ideas, to turn and face it and say, “I reject this,” that is a powerful statement. Especially now, because in our current pandemic age, so many people are drinking more. Until recently, I was one of them.
In March 2020, The Journal of the American Medical Association reported that alcohol sales increased 54% compared to the same month the previous year. Three weeks later, the World Health Organization warned that alcohol use during the pandemic may potentially exacerbate health concerns and risk-taking behaviors.
Liquor stores early on in the pandemic were considered an essential business, and images of empty shelves of beer, wine and spirits populated social-media feeds across the country. People were bored and stressed, and those of us who were already in the habit of having a drink at the end of the day did it more often.
But something else also happened; we slowed down. For me, this slow down led to a little voice in my head whispering to me when I would pour a glass of wine: This is not helping. For so long, I had allowed the messages we’re all fed to create a kind of confirmation bias that helped me justify my choices. I was making so many other good ones — exercise, therapy, healthy eating — I shrugged off the choice to end most days with a drink. What’s wrong with a little wine? But as the weeks passed, I started to resent the need I felt to have it. So, I quit. It hasn’t always been easy, but there are loads of books, podcasts, tons of resources that help explain what alcohol actually does to our minds and bodies. Knowledge is power, and having it makes the decision to quit much easier.
I don’t think I’m alone in the ways I’ve questioned my relationship with alcohol. If you drink alcohol — regardless of how much — and you don’t like the way it shows up in your life, consider making a change. If the last year has taught us anything, it’s why wait? Despite what our society might say, life without alcohol is in no way less than.
A meditation I was listening to recently included a quote from author and teacher George Mumford. He says, “Respond from the center of the hurricane, rather than reacting from the chaos of the storm.” This really resonates with me in my life post alcohol. I have two young children, and I am often surrounded by a kind of chaos. Back when I would end the day with a glass of wine, that’s what I would be thinking about in those moments. “Is it 5 o’clock yet?” Not anymore. Now I’m able to meet the world head on with a deep sense of well-being. The highs, the lows, I welcome it all. Going on four months now, I enjoy ending my day with some hot tea, time with my husband and the most restful sleep I’ve had in ages. Is it an act of revolution? On some level, I think it is. It’s an insistence on being my best self, on my own terms. It’s freedom.