NoAlcoholLast year I culminated the celebration of my birthday in Jamaica. It was one of the very first girlfriend trips I’d taken in a long time and I had a blast. Like many other all-inclusive vacations, we were lavished with beautiful – and tasty 🙂 – cocktails and I enjoyed my share of them. While I indulged in island adult beverages leisurely during my time away, I also did so responsibly and for many reasons, including my still very new commitment (at the time) to my weight loss journey. For me, cocktails translated to unnecessary sugar which translated to increased belly flab. Therefore while I enjoyed I did so in moderation.

After I returned from vacation, I knew I wanted to continue my weight loss journey and found that abstaining from alcohol was an easy way to cut back on unnecessary calories. Done. A few months later I decided to stand in solidarity with a very close friend of mine. By doing so, I extended my abstention through the end of the year. By the beginning of this year, I decided to keep going – why not???

This month marks a full year since I have had an alcoholic beverage and while I still don’t have the six pack I knew my abstention would surely bring J, I am 40 lbs. lighter (of course, not exclusively due to leaving the cocktails alone) and have learned a great deal along the way. During this year of turning down drinks, taking glasses that were given without me asking and watching the plethora of responses people give when I decline a drink I have learned:

– While some celebrations can be made a little more enjoyable with a few adult beverages, I have taken issue with an inability to have an enjoyable time without alcohol. I cannot count the number of occasions when I was asked why I was not having a drink and looked upon with pity when I replied that I’d chosen not to. Or how many times someone has said our time together just won’t be enjoyable without drinking. Or even worse, the moments when I was looked at with disdain and my abstinence used as a topic of ridicule and jest.

– It is no secret that there are those moments when foolish things happen as (or after) the beverages are flowing too freely and our inhibitions are a little too low. More times than not these moments are innocent and make for a good laugh later on, but sometimes there are not …

– While I have had some wonderful times partying with friends, having a few beers, wine or some other mixed cocktail, I am much more interested in sharing moments over a grand cup of coffee or tea, engaging conversation and a few ideas to ponder and take away. I have grown to sincerely enjoy my friends and loved ones who find joy in simple pleasures without all the “fixings.”

– And I cannot underestimate or devalue the amount of clarity and focus this time has brought. This is not always the most pleasant place to be when you’re one of few in the room residing there, but it has some value. During times when alcohol was heavily involved, I was able to see parties from a different perspective, public actions with another lens and even how we interact with one another during these times in a new light. All very interesting and almost novel to me.

I am not sure how long this will last, but as I approach another birthday I have committed to continuing my alcohol abstinence journey. Let’s see what the next few months bring. Could you give up a month, a season, a year of something that has become such a norm for many circles?