I quit drinking the Summer of my 39th birthday. I wasn't an alcoholic and seldomly drank excessively but between the ages of 30 -39 my drinking had increased a bit much for my comfort levels. My main reason for quitting was due to what turned out to be symptoms of IBS.
Before I reached 30 I generally only drank on "special" occasions - a holiday, a friends birthday party and sometimes during work events but mainly I would just hold my glass of wine throughout the night so that no one would ask me they could get me a drink. Early in my career when I was doing International pageants it was frowned upon the be seen in photos holding an alcoholic beverage. So it was until after I retired from pageants that I learned that my skill for holding a glass of alcohol to "blend in with the crowd"without being inebriated was actually useful.
Looking back, my drinking increased shortly after I got married. That should've been an indicator something was off. I remember during our first winter holiday getting plastered with our neighbors on shots of Vodka - terrible idea. I don't think I'd ever drank so much up until that point.
Fast forward to moving to DTLA, I started drinking more socially with my new discovery of Happy Hour and so many themed bars popping up everywhere. Outside of networking, going out was also an escape from my personal life and a way for me to meet new people. Prior to moving to DTLA I don't think I actually really understood the significance or place Happy Hour has in people's lives.
The Summer after I got divorced, I was 34. My drinking was at an all time high for me. I was celebrating my liberation with libations. During this time I started dating someone who was a heavy drinker. 40 drinks a week heavy. I knew that was not a lifestyle I had any interest in keeping up with. Lucky for me, as the relationship progressed; he was ready to transition minimize the role alcohol and bars played in his life. I still had a lot of girlfriends in my life who loved Sunday brunch with bottomless mimosas, wine Wednesdays and turn-up Thursdays. So there was still pressure to socially drink.
By 36, my drinking was back to "special occasions", maybe 1-2 a month. My boyfriend had almost completely stopped drinking, only grabbing a beer with a friend here and there. Around this time, I started having digestive problems - feeling bloated, constipated, and experiencing inflammation. Although it wasn't anything anyone would've noticed - I noticed and was experiencing discomfort. As a naturalist of sorts, I tried different food eliminations tests, tonics with ACV, did more hot yoga, abdominal massages, etc. but most of it was just temporary relief. And then one Summer. The Summer of 2019, I started having terrible reactions to alcohol. On a few occasions after having drinks at dinners, events and so forth; I would vomit terribly as if I was having an allergic reaction to alcohol. The last time this happened was around August 2019. I had gone out for a work dinner with a group of developers in which we were all celebrating a milestone project. I had my usual whiskey neat. By the middle of the night I was vomiting so much that I fainted. That was the last time I had a drank. It turns out I have a mild case of IBS. Alcohol was just exacerbating the situation.
In a twist of irony, although I'm much happier not drinking even on the occasional basis, it did not resolve my IBS issues. Since 2019, my IBS got worse and peaked during the pandemic. I'll save the drama for a future post and just say that the cause of my IBS has been resolved.
2020 happened and while much of the world spent their days drinking away the trauma of Covid, isolation, and boredom; alcohol never occurred to me as something to partake in. Removing alcohol took me back to my pre-drinking days of my early 20s. It's like alcohol doesn't exist because there's too many other things to do.
As far as socializing is concerned, I will say that now that I know most people who drink kind of expect you to participate, it is a little awkward to say, "No thank you, I don't drink". Some friendships have ended because there's no longer that "girls night out" activity that held the relationship together. To be honest, I don't miss it. There is the element of not being included in things because I don't drink but I maybe I'm a little anti-social to the extent that I don't feel the effects of that. I feel perfectly fine going to bars and not ordering a drink. I think the one thing that has changed for me is that I don't feel the need to hold a drink in my hand that I have no intention on drinking. Put simply - I just don't care about alcohol.
We went to a few weddings last year in which there was an open bar and of course the "obligatory" toast. At one wedding, the groom (who is very close friends with my boyfriend), supplied us with ample sparkling water and kombucha. So I filled my champagne glass with sparking water. At another wedding, absolutely no one noticed that I lifted an empty champagne glass.
In post-pandemic work events, my boyfriend who was a long time drinker suggested I reply when asked if I would like a drink, " No, I don't drink anymore." However, I've found that that's an invitation for the other party to inquire about why I stopped drinking and as you've read, the story is pretty anti-climatic. So instead, I just say, "No thank you, I don't drink." and continue with the prior conversation.
Through my 9 year alcohol experience, I've learned this much: the saying that alcohol is a social lubricant is very true but I don't think it's necessary. In my line of work, alcohol is everywhere, all the time and there's a lot of pressure to drink in order to be more likeable, relatable, less stressed and anxious. Alcohol is a distraction from the core attraction - the product, the work and the goal. I think this can be applied to almost anything - business, dating, and general socializing. I'm not against alcohol. I still think whiskey is the greatest alcoholic invention ever and maybe one day I'll return to enjoying a whiskey neat every now and again. It just won't be under the same terms as before.