16 August, 2010

My Year Without: Alcohol

So, late October last year, I made the decision to go an entire year without even so much as a sip of alcohol. Only a couple months to go and I'm already donning my 'hindsight self-reflection' goggles (but hey, at least they aren't 'drunk goggles')

Why did I make this decision? A few reasons:

1. My Christian faith
This is not the sole reason, but seeing as how my beliefs make up so much of who I am, it had to come into play. I don't disagree with alcohol, I have no problem drinking, or with other people drinking regardless of religion. It's a massive grey area, but in terms of what is 'right' and 'wrong' generally drinking is fine, getting drunk is not. I have been drunk before, and see why drunkenness can be bad. Probably some of the most funny times in my life, but things could potentially go downhill very quickly in that state of mind, though they never have for me.

2. Leadership role at my church.
I am a youth leader at my church, and this is more-so what prompted the decision. If I wasn't a leader, I think my liver and I would not be such great friends. This time last year it was a big thing in the culture of our young adults and youth leaders to go out drinking, and it was fun, but I didn't quite agree with the amount of it, the fact that we were supposed to be role models, the dramas it created, and the status of 'cool' placed upon it. So starting My Year Without was, in a way, a counter-culture stand, and a way to pull back from that atmosphere. I couldn't reconcile drinking too much every other weekend with trying to teach kids and teenagers about what it means to follow Jesus.

3. Depression and dependence.
While I've never really come right out and said it to everyone, I've had depression for all/most of my teenage life, undiagnosed and untreated. I've heard teachers and doctors talk about alcohol as a 'depressant' and as a substance that will exaggerate your mood. Depressed people do stupid things while they're drunk (and sober) and I obviously don't want to aggravate that.

I didn't drink before I turned 18, and I didn't drink all that much afterwards. But I noticed a trend that at social gatherings, I didn't feel comfortable unless I was a little tipsy. I needed the alcohol to calm my 'socially awkward nerves' and to gain confidence. I was starting to rely on it to be happy, have fun, and connect with people. That was a path I did not like.

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It hasn't been too difficult, on the whole. When it's come up in conversation and I tell people a lot of them are gob-smacked: "What!? How do you do that!?" There have been times when I've wanted a drink, been at weddings and vineyards and not been able to take advantage of all the freebies, but considering I didn't drink very regularly, it's hardly been a sacrifice.

Things have certainly changed though, in the past year. Like things do every year, but I think some is directly related to My Year Without.

1. My friends have changed.
As they always will, but the difference is in the circles of people I hang around with, and what we do when we hang out. I'm still great friends with the people I was before, and I've met new people too, but now the focus has changed from hanging out to get drunk to just hanging out. I've found a new appreciation and love for my friends because I rely on their company for the fun times, not just a temporary stimulant.

2. My confidence has soared.
Whether it's just been the awkward teen stages, the girly hormones, or the depression, I've always lacked confidence and self-esteem, been withdrawn and shy in a lot of social situations. That is why the alcohol helped so much. But having to live without it, and stand on my own two feet has taught me a lot. I still have many awkward moments, of course, but I can laugh at myself, I've learnt and am still learning how not to be the recluse, the wallflower, I've learnt to see myself in a new light and how to function socially, sober. Good, yes.


I'm thinking about going without something next year as well, just for the shiggles. You'll have to help me think of something, oh deserted blogworld.
A couple months to go... I won't know what to do when it ends! Celebratory drinks, perhaps? Or does that defeat the purpose? Expect another update come late October!

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Also, thanks to Judy and Vicki who have helped and supported me with my decision.

5 comments:

beth said...

Wow, emily, this is a great piece of writing and giving of yourslef. Thankyou for putting it out there. I am a tad older than you, but have chosen not to drink at all, for many of the same reasons...I have a large creative world inside me that is so vulnerable to depression. I'm not easily able to do things just a little bit. It's all or nothing. So "nothing" has been a much safer decision. It's a tough one in Australian Culture, and I'm surprised as well how many Christians find the decision not to drink hard to understand. In fact I get more support from those who aren't followers of Jesus.
Anyway - I just want to say "yay" for your courage.

Emily said...

Thanks, Beth, your words are really encouraging! And I fully support your choice of no alcohol, I know many people who've made the same decision and I admire it. It gets so much more difficult when you cross the line and step into grey areas that it's often a lot wiser to just say 'no' altogether.
I'm unsure at this point where this year will lead me in the future, but I would like to think I've learnt something from it that I can carry with me into the rest of my life. Perhaps it may lead to a decision like yours, to say 'no' once and for all.

David said...

I completely understand the socially awkwardness. Very excited that you have made it, and that is has been rewarding.

Emily said...

Thanks, Dave, I'm excited too! And now that it's all finished... I don't even really want to drink again all that much... I need to blog an update!

Anonymous said...

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