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The Thousand Little Reasons I'm Reconsidering My Relationship with Alcohol

And why I'm not drinking for the next month.

Two years ago, I woke up with my last hangover. I can’t even remember what I did to deserve it, not because my night was that “fun” but because it was genuinely that unmemorable. What I do remember is the following morning. Jonah and I had plans to go on a hike, and though I usually wake up before him, he was already fully dressed by the time I opened my eyes. I went to sit up, but my head felt like an over-inflated balloon. It was beautiful out, but I could barely open the curtains, let alone get out of bed. In that moment, I felt miserable: I was physically ill, but worse than that, I felt incredibly sad. The drinks I’d had the night before didn't come close to making up for missing an entire day and beautiful hike, and I promised myself I'd never do it again. 

It wasn’t difficult to stick with my decision. Jonah’s even less interested in drinking than I am these days and was all-too-happy to leave bars with me at 10 P.M., the time when I find myself choosing between another drink and bed. I choose bed. I can’t remember the last time we finished a bottle of wine together before it went bad, though I used to down a bottle without much help—and for a long time, that never felt anything other than normal.

For as long as I can remember, drinking has had positive associations for me. Gallo beers taste like evenings at my family's home in Guatemala, talking well into the night while watching Volcán de Fuego pop off. When Jonah and I first started dating, we bonded over our shared love of the Danish brewery, Mikkeller. I'm told that I take after my grandmother, my namesake, who was the life of any party. I've laughed until I've cried, drinking Negronis with girlfriends in New York and road-tripping through wine country in New Zealand. I'm amazed at alcohol's ability to immediately bond together people, history, cultures, and places. For a long time, my love of it felt like part of my identity: I've always been the girl who can order a beer, brew it, serve it, and tell you all about it. Which might be why I've chosen to ignore the less-than-savory elements of it.

In college, I shouted the lyrics to "Chug a beer!" more times than I can count. I've thrown-up in frats and out of cars. I once stubbed my toe so badly walking from a friend's dorm I needed stitches. I drank PBR like water the year I dated a frat DJ. I've kissed people drunk I never would have kissed sober. And granted, most of these events happened in college, but it all felt normal. By the time morning rolled around, with its hair-of-the-dog mimosas and greasy hash browns, the cringe-worthy decisions of the previous night were already harmless funny stories.

In her memoir Nothing Good Can Come From This, Kristi Coulter writes, “This is the summer I realize that everyone around me is tanked. It also dawns on me that the women are super double tanked.” And something clicked when I read that. I grew up babysitting for families with quippy signs in their kitchens: I cook with wine, sometimes I even add it to the food. Home is where the wine is. Uncork and unwind. We celebrate "rosé all day," go to bottomless brunches, and scream the words to Drunk in Love. It's normal! It's fun! (For the record, I will always scream the lyrics to Drunk in Love when it comes on the radio.) But it started to not be, for me at least.

There isn't one moment I can point to, like a "rock bottom" or irreparable mistake. I've never been blackout drunk and, at my worst, I've only embarrassed myself. But recently, I've felt the weight of a thousand microscopic mistakes I've made because of drinking, and I'm not so sure anymore that the pros outweigh the cons, for me.

Yes, a lot of this comes down to the natural process of growing-up. I'm no longer in my early twenties (or have an ID that says I'm in my early twenties). I know to say "no" to a tequila shot, and my friends are as happy as I am to meet for an after-work hike instead of drink. But even drinking occasionally and in moderation, I make small mistakes I wouldn't otherwise—I spend more money on dinner than I intend to, I sleep badly, wake up groggy, and I occasionally have a glass of wine to avoid addressing my anxiety or a socially awkward situation bravely and head-on. 

So the question I'm asking is: What would happen if I stopped drinking altogether? The question itself feels as extreme as the word "sober," which is often reserved for those bravely recovering from addictions, but lately I've felt a shift in the narratives and normalcy around not drinking. A "sober curious" movement is on the rise, led in large part by Ruby Warrington's book Sober Curious. Anne Hathaway recently told Ellen she's quit drinking for the time being, and The Atlantic reported that Millenials are "sick of drinking."

To be clear: I don't judge anyone for drinking (first of all, I'm in no place to, considering the thousands I've had) and am in no way preaching that anyone else stop, but it may be time for me to. Maybe for a month, maybe for an extended break, maybe longer. To be honest, I'm not sure yet (and at a girls' trip this past weekend, I didn't drink but narrowly avoided having a glass of wine about ten times and simply hitting "unpublish" on this article). 

For the next month, I'm going to abstain from alcohol. Will I feel healthier? Miss out on social opportunities? Sleep better? Feel a loss of identity? Save money? Struggle to unwind after a long day? I'm not sure. I'm also not sure if I'll continue to abstain after the month is over, though it's something I'm seriously considering and will report back on.

Until then, I'd love to hear: Am I the only one who feels this way? Are you "sober curious"? Do you have any tips for, or feelings on, not drinking? Clearly I have a lot of unanswered questions... Tell me in the comments below!

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