Why I Stopped Drinking Alcohol 95% of the Time

naty michele drinking coffee in nyc apartmentI want to preface this post by saying I’ve always been a social drinker, but over this past year I started to ask myself the question, “Have I been drinking too much?” Quarantine became very isolating and it forced me to uncover and confront a lot of internal conflicts head on. One of the main things I realized as I looked back on life pre-pandemic was that I did not have the healthiest relationship with alcohol.

I would occasionally buy a bottle of wine for my apartment and typically save the drinking for events and outings with friends. During those first 4 months of lockdown my drinking at home began to heavily increase. An occasional bottle of wine turned into 2-3 each week. One glass with dinner turned into more. I live alone and the drinking by myself led to a lot of anxiety and depression that I didn’t initially realize. When I lost my grandpa last April I noticed that I started to drink more as a form of self-medication. It became my quick escape from whatever I felt in the moment. I thought it was numbing my grief, but ultimately it only made things worse.

My sleep became severely affected. I’d wake up late and feel anxious. This would set the tone for the rest of my day. I felt sluggish and lacked motivation. I tried to ignore it and push through, but eventually it all caught up to me and I realized it was time for change. It wasn’t until last July that I finally did something. I have been very open about this journey on Instagram and wanted to do a little more of a deep dive here on the blog.

My past relationship with alcohol 

As I mentioned above I have always been a social drinker and because of this I never really questioned the “why” behind my drinking. Once I was at home alone for such a long time I started to connect the dots and realized a lot of the drinking I did over the years was because of social anxiety. I can be a very outgoing person, but I’m also an introvert. When it came to events in my industry I always had this uncomfortable feeling as if I didn’t belong or people were judging me. Having a drink became my crutch and helped calm my nerves in those moments, but one glass always turned into three.

I was having a conversation with a friend several months ago and she said something that really stuck with me. We were talking about how I stopped drinking majority of the time and I mentioned that I realized I had social anxiety at events. She said, “You know now that you mention it, I noticed you would always be by the bar.” That hit me because if she was able to recognize that then others probably did too.

Whenever I would go out with friends for dinner or happy hours I’d let socializing get the best of me and didn’t always know my limits. I had no boundaries. There is absolutely nothing wrong with going out for several drinks, but a lot of the time I overdid it. I would always have this anxiety the next day wondering if I embarrassed myself and questioned whether or not I drank too much. It was a shitty feeling. I can think back to certain moments and events where I’m able to recognize now that I went overboard.

When everything shifted 

The first step for me was acknowledging that I needed to make some changes. I vividly remember going out to lunch with a friend and having an Aperol Spritz. When I got home I said to myself, “Ok, that was your last drink for awhile. No more.” The next day I went for a run with a friend and that was the beginning of an entire new chapter in my life. There wasn’t one particular thing that happened to give me that “aha moment” – I think it had been slowly building up since March and I finally got to the point of being ready to actively make a change.

I say running saved me during the pandemic and that’s because it did. It became a big part of why it was easier for me to stop drinking at home. Don’t get me wrong, the beginning days were definitely a challenge and this last year has been a process. Once I got into the routine of running it was something I looked forward to. I wanted to wake up early and do it in the morning to set the tone for the rest of the day. It changed my energy and helped with my anxiety.

It was important for me to completely cut out alcohol for awhile and doing so made me realize how much better I felt without it. Not having it in my apartment became easier each day. I used to have a wine rack out on my kitchen counter and I ended up replacing it with an air fryer. I think that helped too because there wasn’t anything in my apartment reminding me of alcohol.

Since we were still mostly spending time at home and I didn’t have any events to go to that definitely made it easier to stop as well. I had been fully removed from that environment. I remember going out a few times with close friends during the beginning and I ordered mocktails. It wasn’t until mine and a friend’s birthday at a winery that I had my first drink in months. After that I’ve made a conscious effort to keep my drinking to a minimum.

I used to feel this social pressure to drink even when I didn’t want to. If other people around me were drinking it always influenced me to drink too. If someone said, “Come on just have one” I would instantly give in because I had no willpower. I had a problem with saying no and worried too much about pleasing others instead of myself. None of my friends now ever pressure me to drink if I don’t want to and they don’t question it. Over the years there were definitely some people in my life and in social circles who pressured me into it. The hard truth is that if someone doesn’t respect your boundaries then they probably aren’t someone you should be friends with. I’ve learned this the hard way. Also, if a friend wants to have several drinks and you don’t they can do that whether you drink the same amount or not.

My boundaries with alcohol now 

Boundaries are so important and not just with others but with yourself too. One of the biggest boundaries that I have placed with myself is no drinking at home. I haven’t bought a bottle of wine or any other alcohol for my apartment since last July and I’m very proud of that. Not having it so readily available to me has helped me break the habit. And here’s the thing. I don’t have a roommate or a boyfriend or a husband. I live alone and I started to use it as an emotional crutch. That’s when I realized it had become an unhealthy habit.

I’m not saying I will never drink at home again, but as of right now I no longer want to nor do I get the urge to. I stick to water, coffee and seltzer. Occasionally I’ll make myself a mocktail if I’m feeling fancy. Recently a brand sent me alcohol as part of a PR package and I brought it to my friend’s bachelorette party because I did not want to have it in my apartment. I also turned down an opportunity this summer to partner with an alcohol brand because it required me to showcase it at home. A year ago I would have jumped at that opportunity, but right now it’s not the best fit for me.

I am at a point where I’ll sometimes have a drink when going out with friends, but only if I want to. I have placed some boundaries for myself around that too. My limit is 1-2 drinks and I spread them out. Before last year it always seemed like I was downing a glass of wine very quickly and following it up with a refill immediately. Learning to pace myself has made a big difference. I will no longer drink on an empty stomach. There were so many times I’d go to events without having dinner and the alcohol would hit me instantly. I also make sure to drink water at the same time, which is something I didn’t do enough of before. These little things have made a huge impact for me.

I’d say 95% of the time I don’t drink. Once I got into the habit of decreasing my alcohol intake it became much easier to go without it. Again, running this past year has played a huge role in this. I replaced an unhealthy habit with a healthy one. There were many instances during the 10 weeks of my training when I ordered mocktails or said no to going out because I had to run the next morning. I think being so focused on a particular goal and knowing that alcohol would set me back also helped to stay away from it.

Dealing with triggers 

I admittedly felt nervous when everything opened back up and in-person events started happening again because I could feel the social anxiety creep in and that was one of my biggest triggers. I went to a restaurant opening last month where the drinks were flowing and I could have easily fallen back into that habit. I had to run 5 miles the next morning so I ordered mocktails the whole night. It felt a little strange because I was so used to drinking alcohol at these events, but I’m very proud that I stuck to my boundaries. For future events I am limiting myself to only one drink (if I decide to drink) and will sip is slowly.

I had a moment this April where I felt a little triggered and needed to process and work through it. I took myself out to brunch for my grandpa’s one year anniversary. Since I was emotional that day my initial thought was to order a mimosa. Now there’s nothing wrong with having a drink at brunch, but I knew that I only wanted one because I felt sad. I went back and forth with this for a few minutes and reminded myself of the growth I had made in that past year. I decided to order a coffee instead and I remember the server said, “Are you sure you don’t want a mimosa or a bellini? It’s complimentary with your food.” I could have easily said, “Ok sure, I’ll do a mimosa.” Sometimes it’s that split second when you have to second guess your decisions that can make you fall back into old habits.

Some of the benefits of not drinking 

My sleep has improved tremendously. I still sometimes get those anxiety-filled nights but now they’re few and far between. I sleep more deeply and wake up feeling well-rested. It’s also turned me into a morning person and honestly, I never thought I’d see the day. Sometimes my body automatically wakes me up at 6am and I’m ok with it now. I have learned to enjoy slow, quiet mornings.

I’ve saved a lot of money by not buying weekly bottles of wine or going out for drinks all the time. And you know New York. One drink can easily cost $18. When I looked back on liquor store receipts from the first four months of the pandemic I felt instant shame. That was definitely a low point in my life but one that needed to happen in order to help me get to where I’m at now.

Between not drinking as much and all the running I’ve done, I feel better physically than I have in a very long time. I’m stronger mentally too. My daily moods and energy have definitely shifted in the best way. I still have those days where I struggle or don’t feel my best, but overall there’s been major improvement from where I was last year.

What I’ve Learned 

My perspective on drinking has shifted so much from just a year ago. I’m in my late 30s now and I don’t need to drink the same way I did back in my 20s. Not to mention my body can’t really handle the hangovers anymore. I’ve finally gotten to a point where I trust myself enough to know that when I do go out and choose to drink I can do it with more control and still be able to enjoy myself. There’s this misconception that if you don’t drink you won’t have a good time or you won’t be as fun and honestly that’s not true.

If someone tells you they aren’t drinking don’t even question it. I admit that I have done this to others in the past and now can recognize how everyone has different reasons for it and they don’t owe anyone an explanation for that. Some people don’t like the taste of alcohol or the way it makes them feel. Some people struggle with addiction or maybe it runs in their family. Sometimes people just want to take a break from drinking. It’s different for everyone and unless they choose to share it’s really not our business.

I asked on Instagram if anyone had questions related to this topic and did my best to answer throughout this post. If there’s anything else you want to know please feel free to ask. I wanted to open up and share more about this because I think these kinds of conversations are important. This has been my own personal relationship with alcohol over the years and these are the reasons why I needed to take a step back from it. And honestly? It’s been the best decision I could have made for myself. Thanks for reading and being here with me!

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