Are you alcohol-free but still feeling deprived?
Do you pine away at other people drinking their cocktails? Salivate when the waitress delivers glasses of wine to another table? You know that drinking alcohol is not good for you, but you still feel punished or cheated being sober?
You may ask yourself, “Why can’t I just be ‘normal?’”
In the beginning of my sober story, I felt the same way. I struggled with the idea of sustaining my sobriety after the novelty had worn off. I felt like I had set myself up for failure and I started feeling sorry for myself. But rather than just accepting my hopeless situation, I started to think about what I needed to live my life alcohol-free and not just live it, but enjoy it.
What would it take for me to feel fully content and at peace with living sober?
First, I needed to feel complete freedom from alcohol, which meant feeling confident and happy about my decision to stop. How was I going to feel the confidence I needed to stay sober if I wasn’t all that happy about it? If I wasn’t all that happy about it, how was I ever going to be able to have fun again? How was I going to have fun again if I felt deprived all the time? If I felt punished or jealous of other people drinking alcohol around me, how was I going to relax and enjoy the situation I was in?
I am going to be exposed to people drinking around me for the rest of my life. The way I saw it, I had two choices: hide from life, or change my mindset around alcohol. First, what I believed alcohol was and, second, what benefit I believed alcohol provided to me.
Let’s take smoking cigarettes for a good example. If I walk into a room today and everyone is smoking cigarettes, would I feel deprived or sad that I do not smoke? No. Even if all my friends and family were smoking? No. Why is that? Well, for a lot of reasons! First, I believe that cigarettes are hazardous to my health. Next, I believe that cigarette smoke causes cancer and I believe that smoking makes a person age quicker and makes them smell bad. I believe that smoking cigarettes is not a good example to set for my kids. I believe that, overall, smoking is a nasty thing for me to do.
Now, if others want to smoke, I could not care less. I may ask to sit outside with them so that I can breathe some fresh air while they smoke, but I am not opposed to others smoking. Adults can make their own choices. I am a non-smoker and I don’t feel deprived that I don’t smoke; instead, I feel grateful that I don’t smoke—notice the difference?
There is a book called This Naked Mind, by Annie Grace. This book was my starting block to changing my mindset toward alcohol and finding happiness and contentment being alcohol-free. I am not getting a single penny from this author for saying this, but I believe that her work is a game changer for alcohol and those that want to stop drinking it. It is a staple read in my sober community.
Her work is all science based. It is not a collection of opinions—it is a collection of facts. In this book she reintroduces alcohol to the reader, stripping it from every single bit of glamorized marketing. She explains exactly what it is and what it does in our bodies in a way I had never, ever, heard of or thought about. It was an eye-opener.
I used to drink alcohol mindlessly. I never looked at it as a drug, ever. I never questioned what it was or what it was responsible for doing in my mind or my body. All I knew is that when I drank too much of it, which was often, I felt like sh*t. I never researched it more than that because, frankly, I didn’t care—I just wanted to keep drinking it!
It wasn’t until I stopped drinking that I had an insatiable need to find out why I started reaching for it so much, what it was, and how it slowly got its hooks in me.
Similar to cigarettes back in the 80s, the more people learned how toxic tobacco it was, the less desire people had to smoke. These days, you are hard pressed to find anyone really “proud” of being a smoker. Everyone used to smoke; now, only a few people smoke. Why? Because we all have been educated on the truth.
Now, let’s flip the script to alcohol.
I know the truth now about alcohol. If others want to drink alcohol around me, I couldn’t care less. Even if all my friends and family are drinking? It doesn’t matter. Why is that? Well, for a lot of reasons! First, I believe that alcohol is a depressant drug that is hazardous to my health. Next, I believe that alcohol causes cancer (it is, in fact, a Group 1 carcinogen, same as tobacco), and it feeds my anxiety—it doesn’t help it.
I believe that drinking alcohol makes a person age quicker. I believe that drinking alcohol is not a good example to set for my kids. I believe that drunk does not look good on anyone.
The more facts I learned about alcohol, the more grateful I felt that I didn’t have to drink it. I felt grateful that I got past the cravings and that my body was rid of the drug. I felt grateful that I was no longer dependent on alcohol for fun or stress relief or relaxation like other people were. I felt grateful that I could go to a party and drink something else—I felt empowered that I had a choice.
With some hard work, I was able to shift my mindset from, “I feel deprived” to “I feel grateful.” Once I was able to make that shift, I rarely, if ever, feel like I am missing out on something. I feel the same way I do about drinking alcohol as I do about smoking cigarettes—it’s not for me. That mindset is the same now, and it has drastically changed the quality of my sober life.
Our beliefs determine how we feel. If we believe we are missing out, we will feel like we are missing out, and vice versa.
It’s not that I can’t drink alcohol, it’s that I choose not to. It is a choice I get to make every day and one I am deeply proud of making for myself.
Armed with the truth, I am unapologetically alcohol-free and could not feel happier or more content about it!