Ok, so I’m sitting in front of my computer right now in huge sweatpants and have only brushed my teeth and poured my coffee (and of course had my lemon water), but if you know me at all, you know that I have a major morning routine and I don’t just get up and get to work. I like to journal, stretch, foam roll, make my teas, do yoga, go for a walk, make the bed…you get the gist. However, I felt compelled to sit and write this. I was making notes for a Clubhouse room I decided to host and it became pages and pages that deserved a full post. The more I toy around with this in my mind, the less scary it seems to put it out there and the more it seems to relate to so many of you, and I’m hoping to make it less taboo to discuss so that you can begin to take another look at something that may not be serving you well and how to shift to a more beneficial lifestyle that actually goes against social norms (which in itself is a whole other topic – check out Holly Whitaker’s book “Quit Like a Woman”!). Wow, that was a long run-on sentence, but I’m excited about this!
Have you noticed that drinking has become a part of almost every activity, seemingly? Boozy brunch is basically the only thing many of us look forward to all week, dinners out with friends start with drinks, airports and travel, work (I worked for British companies and talk about normalizing drinking omg), baby showers, bridal showers, bachelorette parties, birthday celebrations, engagement parties, gender reveal parties – all basically require that you supply your guests with alcohol and you’re damn right we guests expect it. Could you imagine if we didn’t and the shock on our guests’ faces? Isn’t that the only reason they came?! Even kids’ birthday parties require alcohol for the parents (maybe not the best idea?). There’s now wine yoga, “healthy” cocktails after spin class, “mommy juice” cups for wine during the day, Happy Hour, virtual Happy Hour, dating (online or in person – gotta quell the nerves that are totally natural, right?), lunch on a Saturday at a brewery, “wine o’clock”, “it’s 5 o’clock somewhere”, vacations make it acceptable to have your first drink at 11am on the beach, while making dinner, at 4pm during the pandemic, and the list goes on and on. It’s basically unavoidable and we’ve come to accept that as normal. BUT, what I’ve come to recognize is that this isn’t normal for our bodies or our brains. It is “normal” in the sense that it has become the norm, but it isn’t meant to be normal in our bodies.
Alcohol is actually poisonous to us humans and the effects we feel during and after are undeniable proof of that fact. Alcohol is made from ethanol, which is also used for rocket fuel. And we drink this. For fun. Then get through life while it takes 3 – 4 days for our bodies to completely rid us of the alcohol, if we haven’t had anymore since. Before I get into the impact drinking even 1 – 2 glasses has on our health, especially for women, I want to tell you why it matters to ME. How I ended up sitting here, now with my chlorophyll water, writing this to you. I’m hoping it resonates with you and you give yourself the permission to reflect on this in your own life. I love to drink. I always have. I love how I feel after 1 – 2 glasses and I keep going because I finally feel freedom and the ability to release control (which is a thing I’m working on in other ways now). Control for me comes from a scarcity mindset, which is also evident in my bingeing of everything. Alcohol, shopping, food, a new idea. I was never good at moderation. My parents used to tell me not to chug my apple juice when I was little. It’s just how I roll. If something is good, I better get more and all of it. I also liked to pride myself on working really hard during the week, eating better and going to the gym, so that I had “earned” my weekends of debauchery and hangover eating. I even stayed in on Friday nights! Saturday would be a day of productivity, cleaning, gym, errand, washing and straightening my hair, and THEN, my God was I ready for a well-deserved drink! Next thing you know, it’s Sunday night and I hate my life and have succumbed to the “Sunday Scaries”. I also hated my job and the city I was living in at the time (sorry Philly), so I was able to mentally check out on weekends, but it made things so much worse on Mondays, and also allowed me to avoid addressing the issues and make some changes with work/life/people. When I say “check-out”, I really mean that too, because I drink until I don’t remember. I should also mention that I found it enjoyable to mix my prescribed klonopin or xanax with my drinks (little did I realize that so much of my anxiety was caused by alcohol). Waking up Sunday morning with a hangover was easily cured by the all-too-common Sunday brunch! Mimosas with no OJ, anyone?! Monday would be my “recovery day” where I wouldn’t plan to go to the gym, or do anything but get through the work day, really, Tuesday might be the “getting back on track” day, Wednesday I would be feeling good and almost always turn down Happy Hour invitations, Thursday and Friday were the better days because my body started functioning normally again and I had Saturday and Sunday to look forward to! I look back and see so much wasted time. So much “getting through the day” instead of THRIVING and making the most of the precious time here. I also wracked up a major Barney’s and Sak’s bill because if I had Celine and Chanel bags, and Isabelle Marant clothes and shoes, I was clearly SUCCEEDING at life. I loved that dopamine hit I’d get when I would go in a store and finalize that sale, bag in hand, knowing it was a terrible decision and putting me more in debt, but omg was it beautiful and going to make me look so good. Speaking of binging and regret, I was a pro at hangover eating. I didn’t eat while I drank because saving calories and not ruining my buzz, right? The next day, I ate everything and anything I wanted. Whole pizzas, nachos and cheese, breakfast sandwiches, entire boxes of Triscuits with a block of cheese while the Velveeta mac was cooking and I’d eat that too. I was convinced that green juices and quinoa during the week surely balanced it all out. It could not be more evident to me now that I was “filling my plate” with all the things that gave me the feelings I wasn’t getting in life, but I didn’t see it then because this is what everyone did (or so I thought). Turns out I was also just really good at surrounding myself with people who found this acceptable and often encouraged it to support their own needs and habits.
What changed for me was when I dated a guy in AA. He turned out very quickly to be a shitty person, but what I learned in that short time has essentially changed my life, by showing me that I can do things and enjoy myself without alcohol. I could even eat what I wanted and still lost weight during that time because alcohol wasn’t messing with my digestion and adding extra calories/sleep deprivation/stress to my life. We hiked, went to museums, took road trips, went camping, went to the movies, went sailing. We never once went to a bar, which made up like 95% of my social life previously. All things I had never done without including drinks either before, during or after the activity. It was ENLIGHTENING.
I’ve also spent years reading about health and wellness. I tried juice cleanses, raw food diets, vegan diets, meal deliveries, joined gyms, ran daily and even completed a 10k and the Broad Street Run. I used expensive skincare products and got regular blowouts. I thought I was taking care of myself better than most. I didn’t drink soda, eat meat, eat chips or fast food. Yet for years, I just took 5 steps up the hill and rolled back down. I started over almost weekly for maybe 15 years or so. One day, it just clicked for me when I went through a weekend and then the following work week without having any drinks, and I finally felt like I’d climbed through something and gotten farther. Of course, I then felt great and probably met my friend at the Polo Lounge in Beverly Hills for some “classy” drinks because I was looking and feeling good! And back down the hill I went. However, seeing and feeling the difference stuck with me. Gradually, I wanted that feeling more than the buzzed feeling and I started seeking out other activities and people and reading a lot more about true health and wellness. I also attended the Institute for Integrative Nutrition and heard from so many incredible speakers and began to admire and respect sober, successful people, like Gabby Bernstein. I also met my now husband, who is a musician and toured with bands for years, and didn’t care much to drink. Wait, what?! But I thought it was all rock and roll and Sunset Strip vibes? You can be cool and not drink…? Huh, interesting. FYI, I subconsciously manifested him by putting a line in my Tinder bio that said “let’s do fun things that don’t involve sitting in a bar”.
So what does alcohol really do to our bodies and brains and what was I beginning to recognize? Prepare to pick your jaw up off the floor…
- Alcohol is made from ethanol, which is poison. All of your bodily functions go to removing this from your body, so don’t expect it to be taking care of other things too.
- Disrupts sleep. REM sleep is imperative to restoration mentally and physically, and we typically go through 7 REM cycles. When you have a drink or more, you likely get through 2 REM cycles, which disrupts your hormones and blood sugar/insulin (bagels or french fries, anyone?). You also get that “tired and wired” feeling.
- Fuels anxiety because it’s a depressant. Your body releases extra cortisol and adrenaline to bring you back up, which makes you feel super anxious.
- Your liver is not detoxifying like it should be so all other toxins entering your system from the environment or other things you’re putting in it, are stored as fat and potentially weight gain (or inability to lose). It’s also an appetite stimulant, which explains a lot of my Sunday delivery orders in all of my 20’s…
- It totally messes with your brain function, hormone function, microbiome and gut health, and severely weakens your immune system. It’s also carcinogenic and increases the production of estrogen, which has been linked to 7 cancers, particularly in women.
Is it worth it? This isn’t your stereotypical “town drunk” either. This is what happens every.single.time.we.drink. These facts are in stark contradiction to the way I live my life otherwise. It made no sense to focus on the importance of sleep quality, hydration, organic foods, lymphatic drainage, sugar reduction and all the other healthy things I did, when I was ingesting poison (and caring about an non-organic strawberry?!) while smoking an American Spirit (because they’re natural?!). I can’t even believe this when I hear myself thinking it sometimes. I consider myself fairly smart and this is just so illogical. Good marketing and skewed priorities along with some life issues definitely don’t help, but wow. I will say that I am incredibly thankful for all the shit I just wrote because it gave me a clarity that I wouldn’t have otherwise. I AM every girl who loves a boozy brunch, nurses a hangover with a mimosa and drinks green juice and loves yoga. I am also someone who has recognized the elevation that comes from not going backwards over and over and over. I’m moving forward and if any of this helps you to do so too, that makes me so incredibly happy. In another life, we’d get way too into detail and personal and profess our love for each other over chilled Prosecco and avocado toast. But we deserve better, real relationships, wholesome meals centered around the company of others and the quality of good food and authentic conversations.
Don’t get me wrong, I’ve had some of the most fun times and great experiences involving some drinks, but I love a lot of things that aren’t good for me, and I don’t do them (anymore). It became clear to me that the scale had tipped over farther to the “detrimental” side that it just didn’t make sense anymore to rationalize the good (like antioxidants in red wine?). I’m also not sure that I’ll NEVER drink again (I really don’t like when those kinds of rules are placed upon me…I still have a rebellious inclination!), I just know that it’s not a part of my life right now.
I’d love to know if any of this resonates with you and hear your feedback so we can keep the conversation going! You can also follow along with my sober curious musings on Instagram (@breakingupwithboozybrunch).