NA beer and internalizing being a non-drinker takes time

After my whiny whiny post on Jan 1, it got me wondering why I was having so much a sense of loss of fun. Pleasure. I really didn’t think I was feeling deprived — I mean, I’ve intellectualized the fact that it’s “poison,” all the harm it has caused in my life, and all I’m not getting done because I spent the bulk of every day when I wasn’t at work, drinking.

Maybe this was a normal part of the evolution? Maybe I just needed an attitude adjustment? Take a look around and be grateful for all the amazing things in my life? Maybe.

But I’ve really been starting to wonder if the AF beer I’ve been drinking from time-to-time has been causing this nagging flatness, or at least making it worse than it might have been. That maybe, the AF beer has been a low-grade trigger I didn’t realize.

I’m sure there are lots of articles on this — to drink AF drinks or not to drink them — and I hear that AA is so against AF beer that it considers drinking it a lapse. (If that’s true, another strike against me attending AA… Because, c’mon…) But this article was interesting about a test on rats that showed that even the smell of alcohol was a trigger for them. I wasn’t much of a beer drinker before, but I can understand it intuitively. It really does smell and taste like beer. You just don’t git no buzz on.

But better than that one, this article really articulates how I feel about not drinking now, and how the “slips” over the last several months since I really (seriously) started quitting back in August, have contributed to killing what she calls the “scratchy curiosity” of whether or not I can or want to drink ever again. (Yes! THAT I relate to!) She accidentally drank an AF beer that had .5% alcohol, and she says she felt a bit drunk from it. But instead of experiencing a pleasing euphoria, she felt an unpleasant “mechanical and empty” buzz, which she couldn’t wait to wear off. That was my experience exactly, not with the AF beer (mine is 0.0% alcohol), but with the wine in the last few months. And for me, not only was there no euphoria, but it didn’t even taste good anymore.

“After my Schneider Weisse experience, I was completely surprised by my reaction, or lack thereof. Maybe it was a lucky break; maybe I’ve simply lost the ability to get buzzed off alcohol. In any case, this experience added more to my toolset than probably anything thus far. My two slips (once at two months, another at six months) helped me to fully commit to abstinence, for instance, while this near-beer episode gave me an incentive to drink that goes beyond craving, triggers, and self-talk/Higher Power: I don’t drink because it doesn’t make me feel good. I can’t drink, not because I’m afraid of losing control, but because it doesn’t work. I choose to not drink because I know I don’t want to,instead of, I can’t drink even though I want to.

I am not saying that experimenting is safe, or advisable. Know thyself. Be mindful. Many drunks—myself included—find that abstinence is the only way to heal. I drank that small beer feeling strong and happy in my skin. Every time I drank in the past five years, however, I drank when I was feeling down; I drank to numb, to mask depression and anxiety. Now that I know it doesn’t work—when I’m feeling up, at least—I’m more firmly committed to finding another way to deal.

I am also not saying I’d go out and try this again. I know all too well the thoughts that lead to the “fuck it” mentality—the rationalizations that go from one-sip-here to two-bottles-a-night-there. It’s a slippery slope.

What I am saying is that I appreciate having taken a calculated risk—even if it was accidental. I appreciate knowing more about how my mind is working these days in response to alcohol. I appreciate not having to live within this scratchy curiosity. In fact, I appreciate not having to live in fear.

I used to think the whole point of getting sober was to be able to drink “normally” again. These days, I’ve come to believe the point of getting sober is to not want to drink—in essence, to thrive without alcohol, and not just find workarounds. For me, this is what sober living is about, and I think my near-beer accident might have been the best “mistake” I ever made.”

— Jenny Oliver

My “slips” in the last several months have been completely necessary for the larger question and answer for me, which is being sober on purpose, as a choice, and alternative to feeling shitty. And as an alternative to not reaching my full potential in so so many ways.

And I know for a fact that alcohol was keeping me down. Still, killing that “scratchy curiosity” of whether I could still get a euphoric pleasure from wine was a critical step in the process.

I’ll probably still feel a bit awkward for a while on dates, or with friends when they are all drinking. (I was recently on a date and told him I was doing a “100-day challenge” and it started to get awkward before I managed to change the subject. I’m going to try a different tack next time, saying it impacts my sleep and makes me feel lousy. ‘Maybe I’m just getting old,’ yuck yuck… and see if that works better. I suspect it will.)

And there may be rough patches in the future when I lose the plot again and wonder why I’m not drinking like everyone else. The wine goblin (addiction) is insidious, and I understand he’ll never ever be completely gone. That’s when I’ll really need to lean more on my tools and supports, my community, and remember why I chose to drop alcohol from my life.

But it’s already getting better. Getting easier dealing in those situations. I really do feel like I’ve turned a corner, and just like I don’t eat meat and a date eating meat isn’t going to make me suddenly cave to eating a big steak, the same will go for alcohol. If my friends or my date don’t like the fact that I basically have an allergic reaction to alcohol so I avoid it (“it makes me feel bad, messes with my sleep” etc.), then that’s on them, not me.

And all the free time I have to read books and walk in the sun with Bub is so amazing. Why would I regret that? Certainly it’s worth figuring out what to do with my hands at an occasional dinner.

I’m starting Brene Brown’s Courage Works semester tomorrow. It’s all part of the journey I’m on to be the best me I can be. I’m excited to start.

Day 42  – technically, but I really started not drinking for bigger and bigger gaps of time sometime in August. I’d like credit for those too, thank you. 🙂 All a necessary part of getting me to this place.

Happy sober Sunday, everyone!

xo Rachel.

 

10 thoughts on “NA beer and internalizing being a non-drinker takes time

  1. I’m sorry but “Cue know-it-all!”: AF or NA beer by law (in most countries) is .05% alcohol by volume (like your O’Doul’s, etc). Anything over may be considered “low-alcohol” which is not the same. The author says AF beer is considered to be any content between 0.0- 4% and that is not accurate. Thank you. 🙂

    Now then, if the NA bevs trigger you, do not drink them. And as for what to tell your dates, I think “I don’t drink.” will suffice. Don’t you? I mean, do you really owe them an in-depth explanation? I don’t drink. If that’s a problem for your date then the red flags are a-flying and easily identifiable, which is good. Because if you are going to be meeting people you may be spending time with or be in a relationship with, do you want to pick someone who’s not completely comfortable with your sobriety?

    Like you say, you’re not going to eat meat just because someone else likes it. Make sobriety your deal breaker- ex: I don’t like licorice, I don’t like the smell of patchouli and I don’t drink. Done deal!
    Hope this isn’t too rant-y:) I think you’re doing great!

    Liked by 2 people

  2. I’ve never heard anything one way or the other about af beer at AA, but , like everything there you only take what applies, and leave the rest.

    I love being clear headed and sober. As a yoga practitioner I would choose to live alcohol free anyway. It just supports my desire for living life as fully as possible.

    I definitely don’t feel deprive!

    Liked by 2 people

  3. I can totally relate to this agonizing issue. We seem to feel so outcast-ed as soon as we say “I don’t drink.” But what I have found over time, has been that I was the only one who agonized over this. Most people didn’t care why at all. Also when people ask me if I want a drink, I now say “Yes, please, can I have a diet coke.” that way I don’t have to say that I don’t drink. And if someone has a problem with you not drinking on a date, that most likely means that they have a problem also, because people that don’t have a problem with alcohol don’t care – they can take it or leave it.

    Congrats on 42 days and some!

    Liked by 2 people

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