My last few months of NYC had been spent mostly sober. I felt better and saved money for my move. Leaving New York City was like saying goodbye to old Lee. It was my way of establishing new boundaries and giving myself a second chance at life. But it wasn't all fun and games: I slipped up a bunch of times on my road to "recovery from partying". Moving across the country does not make your problems go away. Your problems follow you everywhere and the longer you ignore them the louder they get.
on a new path
I didn’t really know many people in my new city. Coming from NYC, I was eager to make new friends, but the only way I knew how to do that was by getting drinks with people, because that's what people do, right? At this point in my life, I was really wanting to cut alcohol out to heal my body and mind SO BADLY (this is around the time of my PCOS coming on strong), but I was having trouble adjusting to the social norms around alcohol and learning to say "no".
The first few months of living in LA were dark and lonely. I had no friends, I wasn't passionate about my first job, and I felt lost and alone. Not to mention, I was not drinking and LA is much quieter than New York, so the silence really fell on me. I knew I was on the right path, working to heal my body, mind, and soul, but it was not easy. I was doing more yoga, eating more healthy, and searching for more meaningful friendships with people who also wanted to live a healthy life. But I stumbled.
One day, I headed over to the beach to meet a friend who was in town from NYC and some of her LA friends. I was excited at the prospect of making new friends. They were hanging out day drinking at a bar. I knew I didn't want to drink. When I showed up, they were all drinking mimosas. My heart started pounding through my chest and I had a moment of clarity. Why was I here? If I was trying to escape this old life of spending my days drinking, why was I surrounding myself with people who did that? It didn't make sense.
They asked if I wanted to drink. I hesitated for a second, and then said no. And I felt left out. Everyone was loud, having a good time, laughing, smoking cigarettes and taking pictures. It was in this moment that I realized this life was very behind me, and I needed to make an effort to make new friends with people who saw more eye-to-eye with me.
I even attended a few AA meetings when I first moved to Los Angeles 3 years ago, but I never really connected with them.
As time went on, I got better at saying "no". I noticed that if I'd cave and have a drink, I'd actually end up feeling much worse about myself than if I had just stood my ground and said no. Not least because I was engaging in alcohol, but because I wasn't listening my own needs. I was projecting that I'd be making other people feel uncomfortable if I didn't drink.
drinking just because other people were drinking lowered my sense of confidence and self esteem. surprisingly enough, saying "no" when i did not want to drink made me a feel stronger, more empowered, and true to myself.
I never liked how alcohol was one of those things people need to always have a "buddy" to do it with. If you go to a bar with a friend and they order a beer and you get a water, people may get uncomfortable with that. It's not like if you go out to eat with a friend and they get a taco and you get pizza, they'd be weird about that. It's understood in society that people have different preferences when it comes to food. So what is it about alcohol that makes people so uncomfortable when they have to do it alone? Something to ponder.
Making New Friends
As we know, we are social humans and we can't go through life alone. When one is transitioning from the party phase into a new phase of life, one of the most challenging aspects can be finding new friends and forming new connections with people who hold the same interests as you. It's kind of like the first day of elementary school all over again. Wherever you live, there will be an alcohol and party scene. But what I also learned that if you search in the right places, you will discover many other scenes and communities to be apart of. They key is hanging out and engaging in activities you'd want your ideal friends to also be interested in! Sure, living in Southern California helps: its nice here all year long, the green juice flows like water and there are hikes across the city. But that didn’t make it 100% easy to make a new community! As mentioned above, I slipped up and drank when I didn’t actually want to, but felt like I had to, just because I wanted new friends. But with time, I made new friends who held the interests and hobbies. Their lives are full of hope and passion, and not just about the next time they’d get a drink.
Things I did to make new friends:
AT WORK I started waiting tables at a local restaurant to help supplement my income as a new blogger. It was a great place to start and get an "in" into different circles. Whether it's a smoothie bar, boutique fitness studio, cafe or library, working and making friends at a place where you feel comfortable is a great place to start.
IN COMMUNITY With this supplemental income from waitressing, I was able to join a local yoga studio and made friends through that safe space. I am a huge proponent for building friendships this way. The great thing about making friends through yoga/fitness studios/gyms is that you already have a bunch of things in common: you probably live in the same area, you both enjoy yoga and feeling good, and you most likely want to improve your life and take care of your body. Those are some solid foundations for friendship, if you ask me!
ON THE INTERNET I’ve made a handful of close friends through Instagram. Trying to be healthy and break off from drinking can be scary and hard because it can seem very isolating. Instagram is a great way to discover local people in your area who have similar interests. I even met a boyfriend online once! Of course, use your better judgement with meeting people from the internet. If something feels fishy or off, notice and honor it. I’ve thankfully never had any issues with it and won't let a few creeps online to ruin the opportunity of making some really solid friendships through it.
REMOVE YOURSELF This was perhaps one of the hardest things, but over time, I HAD to separate myself from my party friends. I’m not saying that you should go out and ditch all the people you know and start living on a mountain in Tibet, but the truth is that we need people who uplift and support us to get through life. And when you do remove yourself, you don't have to be rude or mean about it. I let my party friends know that I was putting my energy elsewhere: my business and myself. You can be transparent and let them know you are trying not to drink as much anymore. It has nothing to do with them and you can absolutely engage in other non-drinking activities with them if you or they are still interested. If you are trying to break the party/drinking cycle and all the people you hang out with have no desire to escape it, it’s gonna be hard for you to make any progress. Be easy on yourself, and get honest. If you know you are about to enter a possibly toxic/triggering situation, just know that!
A few notes on alcohol and dating…
Whether you are sober, just not a drinker, It can be be hard to communicate this to a new partner. I know for me, when I was going on dates and still struggling with my confidence and ownership over not being a big drinker, it would be a huge source of anxiety. Not anymore! Below are some tips I used for learning how to step into my choices, and my power.
OWN IT You know yourself the best. Nobody else can make your decisions or life choices for you. If you know you don’t enjoy alcohol, simply own it. Why wouldn't you? Don’t apologize, make excuses, or try to explain yourself (that is of course you are engaged in a safe consensual discussion about it). The “pressures” we feel from peers are reflections of other people and have nothing to do with you.
MAKE IT LIGHT-HEARTED Shed some laughter and playfulness onto the situation. It doesn’t have to be so serious all the time. The energy you create around something is the weight it will carry. Crack a joke, make fun of yourself. “I’m a grandma, I don’t drink and I go to bed at 9pm. Love me or leave me”.
IN REALITY IT’S REALLY NOT THAT BIG A DEAL. Of course, if you struggled with alcoholism and that is a huge part of your life, it may be a big deal that you don't drink and you should state so. However, if you’re trying to cut down or just aren’t a big drinker, oftentimes we make a bigger deal out if it than it actually is. It goes the same for when we feel so self conscious about our looks, when in reality nobody really cares because everyone is concerned with their own looks. All of our problems are magnified for us because we’re the main star in our own movies. Once I understood that
so where do i stand with booze now?
As I put that old Lee to sleep, I'd be lying if I said I wasn't a bit ashamed of my dark past. As I got more into the world world I started holding onto these beliefs that any darkness, even a dark past of drinking, meant that I was not truly healthy or "pure" or whatever. Now, I see it's all part of the journey, its all part of my story, and I have no regrets.
Will I ever drink again? I consider myself "sober curious". The last time I had a drink was January 4, 2018. Up until now, I drank on very few occasions. Maybe one day I'll call myself truly sober. I may want a glass of champagne on my wedding day, but I'm not betting on it, and below are the reasons why.
Hangovers= cloudy mind Ever had a hangover? Then you know what it feels like to wake up feeling like you got hit by a truck. Sure, a fun night out with friends is great, but is it really worth it when the entire following day is wasted? When I was struggling with partying, my hangovers rendered me pretty much useless in bed watching Netflix all day, dreaming about my aspirations but certainly not doing anything about them.
I don’t need booze to feel loosened up, I want to be myself. There was a point in my life when I turned to booze to feel loose, funny, confident, and sexy. But as I abstained from drinking, I started going on a “inner-journey” as one might call it. I was no longer abusing alcohol or drugs to feel good, instead I was feeling good just by being….well, me! This gave me the confidence to really show myself and know that I didnt need a drink in me to approach someone or feel relaxed. I have my own toolbox kit that I practice and none of them require a shot of tequila.
Health: It’s no surprise that booze is a toxin. Alcohol severely dehydrates your body. It can cause inflammation and over stress your liver. It can affect blood sugar levels by effecting the functioning of your pancreas. It also effects your central nervous system, immune system, digestive system and your mood.
Addictive tendencies: By this point, I know myself pretty well, and I know I have an addictive personality. There are many different "theories" of addictive people, and though I'm not an expert, I know I'm an addictive person. Addiction runs in my family, and many believe "addictive personalities" are highly genetic, either by nature or nurture. At first it was an eating disorder, followed by toxic relationships, cigarettes, partying, then exercise. That's right, you can even get addicted to health and wellness and obsess over it (it's called orthorexia!). At this point, I am well aware of my behavior and that has been key for me to not take things...ANY things, out of hand. Just knowing I have the tendency has been life-changing for me in staying SUPER honest with myself.
I've been in and out of therapy for 10 years and love it so much. A trained professional is ideal for helping one recognize and change a destructive behavior. A support system is also vital. We can't do this all alone! Though in my story I never went through a 12-step program or in patient center for alcoholism, doesn't mean you should not. I was lucky to be able to pull myself out of it, but there is not shame in asking for help.
Do you drink? Have you been able to break the cycle from booze and partying to a healthier lifestyle? I'd love to hear from you in the comments section.