Embracing Sobriety

My latest nose-dive into a book has been ‘The Unexpected Joy of Being Sober’, by Catherine Gray (absolutely recommend). I bought it, half on impulse, half because it called to me.

I’ve been alcohol free for about 6 weeks now. I drank my last can of beer with the rest of the quarantine crew in our hostel in Sri Lanka, the night before COVID forced us to cut our 8 week trip short and head home to join the rest of the medical workforce before the peak. There’s no single reason why I decided, imperatively, to give up liquor. It was more of a gut feeling. A quiet, intuitive voice that whispered that it’s time to stop for a while. Listening to said voice has been one of the major changes in my overall spiritual awakening. She’s a little louder, a little clearer and much harder to ignore.

One year ago, the notion of giving up alcohol would have been unthinkable. It’s a social lubricant, after all and almost authoritatively normalised in western culture. Binge drinking to go out clubbing is seen as standard weekend practice. It’s acceptable and normal to stumble face-first into a greasy kebab at 3am on a Sunday morning. It’s okay to black out and forget how you got home and perfectly ordinary to wake up in the bed of someone you don’t know. Blame it on the alcohol.

The sober curiosity started when I realised that I’m not sure my drinking is coming from a conscious place. If a glass of wine is put in front of me, I always seem to pick it up and start drinking, without really asking myself whether I actually, truly want it or not. I’m drinking…. because that’s what everyone else seems to be doing and I want to join in the fun. Now, there’s no denying, with hoardes of scientific evidence to prove that alcohol is addictive. And when you drink one… it’s so much easier to reach for another. Furthermore, on a personal level, as each year has gone by since the age of about 21, my hangovers have gathered more rage and stamina which means they’re fucking debilitating, last longer and make me feel like complete shit. Every time I woke up in that state, I’d be reminded rudely of one thing: our bodies aren’t really designed for the consumption of alcohol. The liver recognises it as a toxin that it chemically excretes and the hangover is the body’s way of making you stop everything, just so it can recover.

It’s also not that I plan on never drinking again either (although if that ends up happening, I’m unashamedly okay with it). Like the majority of us, I have used alcohol to decrease awkwardness, lessen inhibitions and to relieve stress in the past. The fact is, however, that this wasn’t coming from a place of awareness; rather it was born of the fear- of looking like a loser in front of people or from the fact that female-wine-culture is overtly glamorised everywhere I go.

Embracing sobriety has prised my eyes open to a number of things I was previously in the dark about. The things I intend on weaving into the fabric of awareness before I decide to pick up another drink.

The first sip placebo
You know where you take your first sip of drink and you feel a bit woozy even though surely it can’t have it hit you yet? Well, I got the first-sip-placebo when I poured slimline lemonade into a gin glass and adorned it with a few cut up strawberries and a couple of mint leaves. Am I tipsy?! Definitely not. My brain just thinks it knows what’s about to happen after this drink… and the next and the one after that. Well, brain. You were wrong. Three skinny lemonades later, I slipped into bed and fell into a booze-free, headache free, well hydrated, uninhibited slumber and woke up fresh as daisies the following morning. Now I know it’s a placebo because when I take a sip of my non-alcoholic vino, six weeks of sobriety means I don’t expect the mini pleasure wave. And I don’t get it. And I don’t even miss it.

Alcohol is not accountable. You are.
I recently took an online self help course, called ‘Becoming The One’ by a movement called ‘Rising Woman’ a team of two amazing, trauma informed women who provide the most invaluable teaching materials to those looking to have more conscious relationships; with themselves and others. This course was hugely beneficial to helping me identify where many of my core wounds come from and how they play out in my relationship with R-. As part of this, I realised that, when drinking, some of my boundaries were so blurred that I had become a doormat having let a very drunken R- say and do things around a moderately drunk me that I’d otherwise be pissed off at if we were sober. This wasn’t self honouring or fair on either of us. I feel like this is really common in relationships when couples find themselves chucked into an alcohol fuelled state of conflict, mid night out, fighting on the street, mascara streaking mercilessly down faces, our partners perching on the cold, harsh, plastic bus stop stool, head buried deep in their hands. We’ve seen it and I’d take my bets that we’ve also been it. Once the drinking session is over, it’s easier to blame the alcohol and not face the problems that the alcohol was actually exacerbating. But the fact is that the drink didn’t cause the argument. Your psychological wounds did and you held the alcohol accountable instead. It was easier. A target. A scapegoat. But honey, what you did when you were drunk was still you doing it. It wasn’t alcohol’s fault. The harsh truth: it’s yours. Sobriety has opened my eyes to just how much shit we blame on alcohol and made me challenge the delicious allure of drinking culture. Our egos love a scapegoat. Our egos also operate from our fear based wounds and not our love based best-interests. I’ve learnt that consciousness is a gift and we can only evolve spiritually if we begin to own our shadows rather than masking them in tequila and hoping they go away.

OMG am I a closet introvert?!
Like the author of the book I mentioned… I’ve always considered myself an extrovert. I’ve been told I’m the life of the party more than once; having no trouble relaying a funny story with ease and confidence, being able to relate to anyone and adjust my level of conversation to the subject in question and thereby form connections that leave the other person feeling good. However, the more inner work I’ve done and the more I’ve grown up, the more I’ve begun to realise that actually, this is a very unique grey area for me. As a child, I was actually really shy and always felt wired with anxiety in social settings. Extroversion evolved as a social mask that I put on, having perfected the art of low-key working people and being ‘likeable’ as a coping mechanism for not ‘fitting in’. And drinking lubed up my social gears until they moved with impeccable smoothness; such that by the end of the party, everyone loved me. If I strip away the alcohol I actually find the exact same social settings remarkably draining. As if I need a full day of being alone to recover from an evening out. This is called introversion, darling. And it is exciting as fuck. I am so excited to embrace this going forward.

My head just feels clear.
There is a haze. Like a fog in which my brain was permanently suspended whilst I was drinking, even when it was only in small amounts each week, like a glass of wine here or a gin there. The fog has now lifted and I feel remarkable. I understand increasingly why some religious texts deem alcohol a sin because it kind of is one to cloud our consciousness like that. It’s this tempting elixir that keeps us stuck in the matrix, inhibiting the evolution of consciousness and keeping the planet’s vibration low. I would roll my eyes at people who said this and now I see it. I get it. I’ve officially joined the conspiracy club and I’m alarmingly okay with it.

So what next?

I’m at this bizarre point in life where I genuinely don’t know if and when I will drink again. My own internal speculation has suggested that I become one of those really occasional drinkers. Like an elusive rare bird that sips mulled wine on Christmas day or raises a single glass of champagne at a wedding toast. Or I may go back to enjoying one glass of red every Friday night. Or someone who even gets drunk from time to time but just doesn’t blame stuff on alcohol anymore. I really, honestly don’t know.

In any case the only thing that I am promising myself that I will only do so when the time is right and the place is woke. That operates out of consciousness and not ego.

‘Till next time,

Gowri xxx

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