In all honesty, I’ve put off writing a post about this topic for quite some time now. Perhaps it’s because I wasn’t yet in a place where I felt comfortable and confident sharing my thoughts. Or maybe I was afraid of how these thoughts would be received by friends and peers. Like most things, it’s probably a combination of all of the above.
But since starting this blog, I’ve frequently been asked by friends and followers to discuss how I incorporate alcohol into a “healthy” lifestyle. While it’s always a work in progress, I feel as if I’ve evolved to a point where I can finally respond in a thoughtful and truthful manner. Before I share my story, struggles and reality today, I want to note that this particular balance looks very difference for each individual. Thus, I hope to help and inspire but also encourage you to live your own truth, with alcohol and beyond.
Personally, I’d be lying if I said I drink (or ever drank) all that much in the first place. Throughout college, I was considered “social”, but I never had the desire or stamina to go out more than a couple times a week at most. Never have I (or will I) be able to keep up and lead the charge every night of the week. For years, especially early on in college, I was embarrassed of my “extroverted introvert” personality and pretended to have way more desire to drink and party that I really did. I’m sure most of us go through this stage, given the desires to fit in and feel accepted are ingrained in us all. But my fear of being considered lame by friends, family and peers was very real for a period of time.
Likewise, since I began drinking years ago, I’ve never reacted to it particularly well. Even a drink or two majorly disrupts my sleep, leaving me exhausted and emotional the next day. Plus, I often found myself waking up in the middle of the night with horrible anxiety for no apparent reason.
When I went abroad the first semester of my junior year in college, my outlook on life, who I am and what I wanted began to majorly shift. I spent those months in Paris without a large group of friends or my boyfriend, and thus I spent a majority of my time…well…alone. This may sound sad and isolated, but I reveled in it (hello, I’m an introvert after all!). I found this time healing and enlightening in myriad ways.
Returning from abroad, I no longer needed to surround myself with friends or go out all the time in order to feel worthy and accepted. You may be wondering, “okay, but how does this relate to drinking exactly?”. Well, this period of self exploration was my first real experience figuring out what made me happy and fulfilled.
Fast forward to post-college. Last fall and winter, I went through a very rough 6 (or so) month period while working my first job. I suffered from severe anxiety and unhappiness (read more about this in SourcePoint Series: Anxiety & My Journey with SourcePoint Therapy). Along with many other factors, I found that drinking did nothing but enhance this anxiety to a point where it was truly unmanageable. Because of that, I began to avoid drinking at all costs, afraid it would only make me feel worse that I already did during those challenging months. Plus, when my life and emotions already felt out of control, monitoring my diet, exercise and drinking gave me a (false) sense of authority over my life.
Unfortunately, that created its own new slew of issues. As I clung to my perceived “healthy”, alcohol-free routine, I sunk even more deeply into my introversion and hid from social opportunities in which I felt drinking was necessary. I’d make excuses to protect myself from anxiety-inducing alcohol at all costs. And you know what? Avoiding happy hours with friends, dreading football games with my family and asking my boyfriend for date nights in rather than dinners out only produced stress and sadness of its own!
Moral of the story looking back? Allowing either of these extremes to define and dictate my feelings was unhealthy and out of alignment with my true self.
Throughout my ongoing journey of self discovery that’s occurred since returning to school for my MBA and beginning this blog, reframing my relationship with alcohol has been top of mind. I will never be one to drink every night of the week (or even every week, for that matter!), as this isn’t true to my motivations and needs. Yet I no longer withhold the same stress and dread that I associated with social events, holidays and more. Instead of fearing that I had to drink in order to be “normal” or “cool”, I now have a cocktail or glass of wine when I want to and abstain when I don’t.
Responding to these situations from a place of honesty and alignment with my true self allows me to come away from either decision with clarity and confidence. Plus, I’ve learned that NO ONE ELSE CARES WHAT YOU DO. Have a cocktail (or 6!) if you want to, but don’t feel compelled one way or another. You’re in charge of yourself, your decisions and how these actions make you feel. Therefore, you’re entitled to act in a manner that’s true to yourself.
But most of all, removing the immense weight I placed on alcohol and how it made me feel resulted in less anxiety around drinking in general. Now, when I do choose to drink, this decision comes from a lighter place that’s in line with my truth. And because of this, I now experience much less residual anxiety after a big night out.
Now back to the question I continue to receive: how do I manage to include drinking into a healthy lifestyle? For me, drinking is a part of a healthy lifestyle, in moderation, of course. Too much or too little of anything creates imbalance that leads to anxiety, unhappiness and a disconnect between our actions and intentions.
Plus, when it comes to being “healthy”, you CAN do it all. Enjoying a martini and dessert one night AND a sweaty yoga class followed by a green juice the next day doesn’t make you “unhealthy”. It means you’re a fulfilled, well-rounded individual who’s enjoying life to the fullest! Overall, when it comes to alcohol, I’ve learned to take it or leave it without overthinking the role it plays in my self worth.
While my situation and story are unique, I understand how confusing and overwhelming the topic of alcohol is for everyone, from individuals in the wellness world to those entering post-college life for the first time. My advice for anyone feeling pressure or stress related to drinking is to take a step back and evaluate what really makes you happy and why you’re choosing or not choosing to drink in the first place.
I’m by no means perfect, and I can assure you that this relationship will continue to evolve and mature as time goes on. But I’m thankful to finally be at peace with the anxiety I associated with alcohol and have a more intentional outlook. Now that’s something I’ll raise a glass to 😉