On the morning of July 5th, 2015, I woke up and went to yoga. That morning was different, if only for the fact that in years past I would’ve woken up hungover from July 4th shenanigans and hit the snooze button. Though I was tired and a little down, I told myself that I would feel better after going, which I always do. I threw on some clothes and tossed my hair up into a messy bun, grabbing my yoga mat and heading to Sebastopol. I knew that yoga would be the answer to the weekend — though I had had a good time, it was also a new experience for me. On Friday I had gone to an annual 3rd of July party and afterward stopped by the bar where I work to see some friends I hadn’t seen for awhile. I’ve done these things many times before, but everything is different now that I don’t drink anymore. Though it hasn’t been easy and on July 4th only four months had passed since I’d given up drinking, I had been on a good streak. I no longer felt resentment and instead was really appreciating waking up without a hangover, recognizing and being thankful for the changes in my body and my mind through the absence of alcohol and the introduction of yoga as an almost daily practice.

I had had a good time at the party, listening to live music and watching fireworks, catching up with friends and eating great food, but it was… different. Different without a “real” drink in my hand, different without the ability to dull my senses from the bombardment of sights, sounds, scents, people. Going to the bar afterwards was also a bombardment; pretty much everyone was drunk except for me, and I spoke to a friend I hadn’t seen since I had quit drinking. A different friend, in an attempt to be supportive, asked if I was okay, saying how tough the environment would’ve been for her during the time she had quit drinking. I insisted I was okay, almost more upset with her highlighting the fact than going with the flow, but her mentioning it made me stop and take inventory. Was I okay with what was happening? I was fine, I wasn’t yearning for a drink, but I was uncomfortable. As my drunk friend kept justifying her reasons for drinking, over and over, I realized that she was uncomfortable too, only in a different way.

Even now, it’s still surprising that my own personal decision to quit drinking causes some people to feel like they need to explain or justify their drinking to me. Perhaps I’ve involuntarily made them take a look at their own drinking, I’m not entirely sure, but many people have offered up justifications when they drink around me — it’s a birthday, it’s Friday, they’re only having one, etcetera. I’ve come to realize that I make some people uncomfortable or self-conscious, which is an unfortunate but I guess intrinsic aspect of not-drinking. What people don’t know is that I am not looking for justifications. I am also not judging them, I am only hoping that they are happy in their lives, that they are not drinking into oblivion or drowning their sorrows in an attempt to escape their reality, which is what I was doing nearly every time I drank. I was not able to have a couple drinks and then stop, finishing the night with a glass of water and a mostly clear head. I kept drinking until I didn’t even remember going to sleep. I know that not everyone is like this, and sometimes I am jealous of them for this willpower or casual ability, but I am never judging. Who am I, of all people, to judge? I’ve learned that judgements often rear their ugly heads because of insecurity with one’s own foundation, or lack of foundation.

Anyway, my new foundation was not tested or strained, but I definitely felt uncomfortable because being surrounded by drunk people all night is exhausting. The next day I went to my work’s annual softball game, an event I have always enjoyed, but this was the first time I had been to the game sober. I drank my nonalcoholic beer and hung out with my coworkers, and one of my best friends didn’t drink either, yet the experience was somewhat bittersweet for me. Bitter because I was not as amused and entertained as I used to be, but sweet because I could look around me and truly appreciate all the lovely, crazy, funny people I have the privilege of knowing. As everyone talked about going to karaoke afterwards, I knew I didn’t want to go to a bar again. I could go to a friend’s pig roast party nearby, I could go to a different party where my boyfriend was to watch fireworks again, or, which never would have been an option before, I could go home and recharge. 

As I scrolled through Facebook at home an hour or so later, trying to get up the energy to go out, I found myself rather jealous and almost sad, looking at all the photos of everyone getting drunk in their red, white, and blue. Though I felt left out, and all by my own doing, I didn’t go out. I stayed home, eating popcorn and cheese and crackers, re-watching the first season of Girls. And I was fine. When I heard fireworks going off in the distance, I reminded myself that I had seen fireworks the night before, that I had joined society for three different events, that I wasn’t missing anything, and if I was, it was not something that would feed my soul like sitting with my feelings and allowing myself to actually feel them. Getting drunk did not feed my soul, give me a sense of purpose, or create meaning in my life, three things that are now paramount to me. To remember this, I wrote myself a note in my phone:

Drinking does not give me purpose nor does it give my life meaning. What gives me purpose? What creates meaning in my life? Writing, relationships, reading, yoga, creating, marveling at the beauty of the world. None of which are strengthened by alcohol. Alcohol does not allow me to write, it destroys relationships, it disables the ability to read (have you ever tried reading drunk?), dampens creativity, diminishes beauty.

The next day I still felt a little low, depleted and nostalgic for something I could no longer do. Even though I had let go of what no longer served, this triumph did not make the reality any less hard. So what did I do to change it around? I got up early and went to yoga. I rolled out my mat and left my shit at the door, losing myself in the breath and appreciating the opportunity to move my body and quiet my mind simultaneously. On the mat, in that moment, I was free.

I wish you a wild, free life.

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