Mental Health Benefits Of Being Alcohol-Free

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It’s a fact: alcohol is everywhere.

No matter where you go, there it is.  Every restaurant you walk into, and at every celebration, you best believe there’s an opportunity to indulge in an alcoholic beverage.  It doesn’t take much thought- drinking is a huge part of everyday culture.  It’s expected, and in fact, it can even be confusing to people when you tell them you don’t drink.

But do you ever stop and think how alcohol affects your brain

On a sunny Saturday, probably not.

As I walked through the Greenway in Boston the other day (one of my favorite urban gems), I passed not one, but two areas designated for outdoor boozing.  Then, a couple of days later, I passed a beer garden in the Charles River Esplanade.

I used to absolutely love these opportunities.

However, as an ex-drinker, my days of beer gardens and brunch always began much happier than they ended- in fact, the mere idea of drinking was always better than the actual consumption.

For over 15 years, little did I know that I was quite literally drinking a depressant.

While drinking, I was snappy, agitated, and impatient.  I was anything but mindful, always awaiting what was next- the next drink, the next bar, the next thrill.

Over the years I’ve realized that my drinking was directly linked to my mental health.  Mental health is just as important as recognizing a physical problem.  Anxiety, depression, and PTSD are serious health conditions that can be just, if not more, crippling as a physical disease.

For me, my anxiety and PTSD are heightened when I consume just one alcoholic drink.  I used to think something was seriously wrong with me.  I would wake up in the morning feeling empty.  I was nervous about the people around me.

Then, when I stopped drinking, those nervous feelings stopped.

I’m not alone.  Millie from Sober Girl Society (one of my favorite Instagram accounts) shared with The Telegraph:

“I knew quite early on that hangovers affected me mentally just as much as they did physically. I’d wake up feeling on edge, like I’d done something wrong or upset someone – even though my friends all told me I’d been perfectly well behaved. Towards my late twenties, even just having a glass of champagne would make me feel uncomfortable and uneasy. Hangover anxiety began to permeate my everyday life. I lost all confidence, motivation, and some hangovers even left me bedridden; not because I was sick or tired but because my mind had gone into overdrive and I was sweating and shaking in panic.”

Our society is quick to provide “quick fixes” for mental health, including medication, material gratification, or even more alcohol to calm the nerves. Having a drink after work or popping a Xanax probably isn’t the answer for long-lasting change, but I can say from experience that meditation, spending time in nature, exercise, and- gasp- abstinence from alcohol- have provided a solace in my soul better than any quick fix.

I’m confident these simple things can work for you, too.

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Sober Vegetarian Cat Person

Dating is a funny thing.

Dating is awkward as it is, but it’s even more awkward when you’re sober.  I used to drown my discomfort in a glass of wine, telling stories my date couldn’t follow, but since moving to Boston in 2016, I’ve barely dated at all.

Well, compared to when I lived in New York City, that is.

Sure, I’ve met people in various ways- traveling back from NYC on the Megabus, substitute teaching, through recovery circles, and on an app here and there.  Each interaction lasted for a very short while, most likely because I detected their bullshit and realized I was something much different than what they created in their mind.

Next.

This morning I noticed that The Fix quoted me in their recent article, “Are You Ready To Date Sober?”  Ironically, I’ve been thinking about that question a lot lately.

My default answer the past year or so has been “I’m not interested in dating anyone at all.”  That’s actually not true, though.  I would be interested in dating someone- but only if they were interested in a sober vegetarian cat person.

I’m done with pretending I am someone I am not.

I’m also done with changing for someone, switching my views, or doing things I’m uncomfortable with doing- and I’m certainly not going to pick up a drink just to make you feel more comfortable.

Part of recovery is learning to love and accept yourself for who you are- loving yourself for what your heart says, not the world around you.  Despite being someone who prefers to stay in on a Friday night, sautéing up vegetables while drinking a seltzer, I’m confident there’s a lid to every pot…

and mine will be here when I’m ready.

Loving The New You

For years and years, I tried to hold onto the Kristin I once was.

I romanticized old lovers and bad habits, altered the person I was to fit with the people around me, and questioned who I was to the core.  I continually ran from myself, jet-setting to a new city only to discover I was still exactly where I always was.

You can’t escape your soul.

The same people or places I tried to avoid would resurface no matter what neighborhood, city, or state I was in- they may have had a different face, but they were always the same.

Everything I tried to steer clear of would manifest in one form or another until I learned two valuable lessons:

  1. I needed to love who (and where) I was
  2. I needed a new perspective

I couldn’t change what was going on around me, but I could accept where I was at- but most of all, accept myself.

Since I started writing about my sobriety, a whole new world has opened up.  I have stopped thinking I needed to sugarcoat my struggles, and I am no longer ashamed of the person I am.  The quirks that make me who I am are ones I want to celebrate- not hide!

Maybe that “you” who you love isn’t new after all, but it’s one who is authentic.  Embrace her- she’s worth it!