December 16th, 2017 - Went to a party. Drank the beer I brought. Then said, “I’m not driving,” after being handed a bottle of Jim.
December 17th, 2017 - Woke up too hungover to go to church. Which has never happened to me. Ever. Even when I was heavily partying in college. I mean, I definitely got hungover - but I wasn’t going to church, so this hungover + church thing was new for me and I didn’t like it and I don’t like it.
I remember feeling so much shame that morning. I woke up, trying to get myself together and feeling SO sick. Then I started worrying about, well if I go - will people be able to tell? Will they know I’m hungover?
I cried alone on the couch.
When did this happen? What am I doing? This isn’t me. This isn’t even remotely me. This isn’t who I want to be and this isn’t who I am.
That day, I decided. I’m going sober for an entire year.
I couldn’t quite put my finger on it, but for some reason, this year  - I had gone WAY beyond my limit multiple times, had sworn I’d never drink again multiple times - and then kept at it.
I didn’t understand why, suddenly, I was having this issue.
I didn’t want it to be an issue any longer, so I decided enough was enough.
Embarrassing myself, nearly throwing up in front of my friend’s daughters, fighting with Carl, posting drunk videos on Instagram, throwing up on a cruise ship in Europe on my way to Helsinki [the place I had been planning to go for years - going to the sauna our first day there was a crucial happy accident], embarrassing myself at dinner parties and now not being able to go to church. I was done.
I shared the news with the ladies in my eGroup, pretty much immediately, that I wasn’t drinking for a year and that I wanted to tell them for support and accountability.
They were immediately on board reassuring me that they were here for me and that they were proud of me for making this realization and doing something about it.
The first few days weren’t very hard because I never got to a point where I was dependent upon it. I know alcoholism isn’t cut and dry and that it has varying degrees and I don’t know if I would have been clinically defined as an alcoholic but I do know that I could no longer stop myself from drinking too much whenever I drank - unless we went out to eat, because we’re cheap and on a budget and wouldn’t buy more than two drinks.
But at home and at parties and on vacation - when I was empty, I’d fill up or grab another immediately. No pauses, no pacing myself, just going for it.
I have a theory as to why I developed this habit this year…
For the last 5 years, I’ve been systematically ridding myself of everything holding me back from the life I want. We’ve gotten rid of SO much of our stuff, we’ve gone on a budget, paid off debt, I cut out dairy, then caffeine, we cancelled cable, then Netflix, then sold our TVs, we stopped smoking shisha - and now all that was left was alcohol.
I believe, that because I had been so diligent in so many areas over the course of the last 5 years and that I was getting exponentially better at letting go, when it came to relaxing and having a good time - I was making up for it.
I would have drank at Christmas dinner. That was one of the first times I passed on drinking - and it wasn’t that big of a deal…
I would have drank on New Year’s, but I didn’t. I went to bed early, then woke up 30 minutes before to watch my Pastor preach in the New Year.
During the first initial weeks, I felt worried about being boring at gatherings and or being shy. After all, it’s not called liquid courage for anything. But I did have some concerns.
I knew I wanted to sing karaoke this year - how would I do that without booze?
What about travel? If we go anywhere this year… drinking is part of the fun of travel. What do I do then?
What will I do with my hands? When you’re out and talking with people - it’s nice to have something in your hand.
I haven’t quite figured out how to fill the silence yet - and that’s another thing. I feel like it’s my responsibility to fill the silence when silences come.
If I were drinking and talking with someone - there wouldn’t be awkward silences, or if there were, I wouldn’t notice them. The two or three or however many people were there would just keep talking.
Not so when you’re a sober introvert talking with a not sober person. And then I worry - do they feel this awkward silence like I am? Hmmm. No, probably not.
Now it’s January.
My best friend came to visit! It was amazing seeing her and catching up with her and showing her my city. I told her the reasons behind why I wasn’t drinking and she was supportive. We went out to eat a few times. I ordered ginger ale at a bar while she had a flight.
I didn’t care that she had a flight. If I were drinking I would’ve done the same, but I felt like I made her uncomfortable because I wasn’t drinking, or at least not drinking the same amount.
We talked and eventually an awkward silence came and she even expressed that she wouldn’t drink all of her drinks and that we could go. I reassured her that it was fine and she was on vacation and that I had been in the same situation before and that I really didn’t mind and wanted her to enjoy herself.
That’s something I’ve noticed. I feel responsible for filling the silences and I feel responsible for reassuring those who ARE drinking that I’m totally fine with them drinking. Do they need that reassurance? No, probably not. And if they do, is that my responsibility? No, probably not.
At one point the bar tender said she could give me half a glass of something if I wanted - in case I was worried I wouldn’t be able to drink a full one.
I was a little confused since my ginger ale came in a can… she could sense my confusion and explained, “I wasn’t sure if you weren’t drinking because you didn’t think you could finish one or if you weren’t drinking today or January - because that’s a thing - or if you didn’t drink at all.”
Girlfriend responded saying, “She’s not drinking for the whole year. Isn’t that awesome?!”
That definitely shocked the bar tender and I told her I started December 17th, so I was at least going until then but might just do all of 2018 - I hadn’t decided, to which she replied, “Yeah, that’ll make Christmas and New Year’s nice.”
Will it? Will being able to drink for Christmas and New Year’s make it nice? No, probably not.
I’m not very far into this whole thing and I already feel so WOKE.
Later in our visit together, we went out to dinner and I felt like our server was annoyed that I ordered Root Beer. Was she annoyed? No, probably not.
Then we went to Dot Dot Dot and got put on the waitlist, so we went to Midwood Smokehouse to grab a drink and wait. Girlfriend and Hubs ordered drinks and I tried to get a kombucha [seeing as there was a Lenny Boy tap handle] but was informed it wasn’t kombucha.
I don’t want to go from drinking pop once or twice a year to now drinking pop every time we go out. This is not what I want. What are my options? Just water? I need something for my hands…
So I stood there, empty handed and out of small talk. Did I make them uncomfortable? No, probably not.
I was hoping there would be fun things for me at Dot Dot Dot - and there was! I asked our server if they could do virgin mock tails for me and she said ABSOLUTELY! I ordered something herbal and spicy.
I wish I had asked what was in it - because it was the best drink I have ever had! When we went home and started playing board games, they kept drinking while I had some homemade kombucha.
The next day, after church, we went for lunch - and Girlfriend got a beer. We sat there talking while she drank her beer and again, I was empty handed. Am I making this weird? No, probably not.
I’m used to drinking on the weekends. I’m used to having a beer when we go out to eat. I’m used to having drinks at friends’ houses. I’m used to drinking for celebrations and holidays. I’m even used to the random drink on a Tuesday because I feel like it and the glasses of wine because I’m PMSing.
I’m not used to sitting at a bar and drinking a ginger ale. I’m not used to awkward silences with friends who are drinking. I’m not used to sitting and waiting while friends drink their drinks. I’m not used to being empty handed.
They say when the student is ready, the teacher will appear… ever since making this decision, I’ve come across so many resources and people talking about going sober - talking about gaining their confidence from within rather than from booze.
Sometimes I worry that all of this intentional living is going to make me a social outcast and so completely far away from “normal” that I’m no longer relatable. And what’s worse - I’m transitioning to Veganism too.
Christian. Doesn’t believe in debt. Minimalist. Zero-Waster. Hates Plastic. Doesn’t own a TV. Sober. And now Vegan too?
As my coworker would say, “Why are you torturing yourself?”
Yeah. That’s me - for now - until I add another layer on that moves me even further away from “normal.”
All of this is gradual though. Once you start living intentionally and choosing to be your best self, you become aware - very aware - of the things in our society and culture that we gloss over and have bought as “normal,” of the things designed to keep us lulled in a state of survival instead of pursuing our best lives and a state of thriving.
Why? Because then ‘They’ would lose money. And ‘They’ don’t want that.
Is it normal to be a Christian? To believe that Jesus born of a virgin, performing countless miracles and dying on the cross did all of that so that I could have a relationship with God, live immeasurably more than I could ever imagine here on Earth and then live out eternity in Heaven? No, probably not.
Is it normal to hate debt and credit cards and frequent flyer miles and student loans and car payments? To work ferociously at paying off your debt and dream of a Credit score of 0 because all your credit score measures is how well you hang out with debt? No, probably not.
Is it normal to be a Minimalist? To HATE the attachment between you and things and to desire freedom and peace outside of “normal” mass-consumerism and shopping out of impulse or convenience? No, probably not.
Is it normal to live a Zero Waste lifestyle? To say NO to single use plastics because they’re killing us, our animals and our planet, to uncover how much lighter I feel by using less, to discover the blessings of stewardship by reducing your waste? No, probably not.
Is it normal to not own a TV? To realize that cable and Netflix and the TV in general are sucking up too much of your time, that they’re keeping you on the couch and not making moves, that by switching to watching shows on your husband’s phone you’ll watch WAY less because his phone will die and that’s a super tiny screen anyway? No, probably not.
Is it normal to not drink? To realize you don’t want something having that kind of control or even influence over you, that you don’t want to feel sick or exacerbate your allergies because a poor liver makes your allergies worse and alcohol causes a poor liver, that you need to learn that your confidence comes from who God says you are and not a beer or two or three? No, probably not.
Is it normal to stop eating or using animals? To realize that one time four years ago when you did that one cleanse that cut out meat and dairy that it was the best you ever felt in your life, to realize how much WASTE goes into the meat industry and that it’s killing our planet, to realize how much CRUELTY goes into the meat industry and that it breaks your heart to know that a Mama cow runs after her baby that’s been torn away from her so that you and I can drink her milk instead of her baby? No, probably not.
Do I want to be normal? No, DEFINITELY not.
Am I perfect at any of these ways of life I’ve decided to adopt and live out? NOPE.
Will I mess up and accidentally use a plastic straw or eat a burger because I can’t take it any longer or curse at someone in my mind or drink too much or spend hours watching Gilmore Girls on the couch or buy something for the sole purpose of loving it and thinking it’s beautiful?
Yes, absolutely yes.
Will I be a hypocrite when I mess up? No, probably not. I'll be a human, doing the best she can.
When we make changes and accept titles that are out of the norm, it does something.
It rubs up against the norm and everyone living in the norm. It makes them want to point out where you’re slipping up instead of taking the time to examine where they could start making small changes themselves.
If you get defensive over someone’s life choices - there’s something in there for you to learn. It doesn’t necessarily mean that the choice they’re making is a choice you NEED to make and that you’re getting defensive because you’re afraid to make it - but could it? Yes, probably so.
But it definitely means that you’ve got a lesson to learn. Do I know what that lesson is? No, probably not.
So. I’m living out of the norm on a multitude of levels. I’m. WEIRD.
Do I like it? Is it making me better and my life better and my ability to serve others better? Yes, absolutely yes.
Will I stop any time soon? No, probably not.