Before I share what I want to share here, let me say: I am not responsible for your actions, interpretations, decisions, or really your life. I'm just sharing my experience.
I stopped drinking (again). FWIW, I treat habits a bit like meditation - you can come back as many times as you need to.
Like any good podcast groupie, I decided to drop drinking after listening to the Huberman Lab Podcast episode about alcohol and health.
I think we all know alcohol is 'bad' for us, the same way we know sugar can be 'bad' and smoking is 'bad' and sometimes these things are choices we know we don't really want to make, but we make them anyway - whether it's because of social conditioning, addiction, legitimate enjoyment, or otheriwse.
Let me first say: I don't think these things are "BAD" -- I think actions can be harmful, but I don't ascribe moral value to them. Like, alcohol is a straight up poison. But it doesn't mean you're a bad person if you consume it. It's just not the healthiest choice.
So anyway, I listened to this podcast and I learned two things specifically that I didn't really consider before:
Alcohol disrupts the microbiome
Alcohol influences anxiety
These are two subjects that are impactful to me. Alcohol does a lot of things in addition to giving you a ~buzz~ - like greatly increasing risk of breast cancer, can harming pretty much every organ in your body, and significantly weaking your immune system. But these two things spoke to me enough to make me want to put the drink down.
There's this whole thing called the gut-liver-brain axis:
Maybe you know this already, but the gut has as big role to play in the nervous system - for example, ~90% of our serotonin is produced in the gut. Alcohol, can kill gut bacteria irrespective of whether it's helpful or harmful bacteria; it can cause inflammation in the liver and brain, and overall impact the quality of our mental and physical health.
For someone with a history of sketchy gut issues and mild anxiety, it's worth the experiment for me to see if dropping alcohol helps heal my ~issues~. I'm approaching this the same way I would approach anything else - elimination diets, new workout regimes, conversational interventions.... with curiosity and a willingness to learn.
And so far, the results (for ME) are making it a worthwhile commitment. But I say this with the luxury of never really craving alcohol, without having the illness of addiction, and being in overall good mental health. For me, the majority of the time, sobriety works.
I also know that there might be occassions where it doesn't. If you give me a flute of champagne to celebration, there's a real small chance I'm saying "no". Again, I say that with the privilege of good health.
I like being sober-ish. I like texting my other sober and sober-ish friends to find out what restaurants and bars have great mocktails. I like the challenge of choosing water with dinner out - and I like my bank statement better, too. I'm not saying it's right or wrong, I'm just saying, it's working for me.
Which brings me to a possibly annoying offering for a way to flip the script when you're challenged by choice.
(Roll your eyes at the cliche-ness of it all, it's okay)
But really, this is what works for me. Let me show you....
Imagine this incredibly common and possibly familiar scene: Woman sits at bar waiting for her friend to show up.
Bartender: "Can I get you anything?" Woman (to herself): This guy is gonna be pissed if I don't order something. And it's Friday, and it's been such a long week, and I deserve it. Woman to Bartender: "Gin & tonic, please." Bartender: "Great, that will be $15 and probably a hangover tomorrow."
Bartender: "Can I get you anything?" Woman (to herself): I've had a pretty hard day, and I know if I have a drink, it'll turn into a second drink, which is going to mean my sleep is going to suck and I'll wake up with dry mouth and a headache. I really want to enjoy my weekend, not spend it recovering, because I deserve the rest. Woman to Bartender: "Water, please." Bartender: "No problem, you hydrated goddess."
A bit dramatic, but when I started framing my mindset around what I know to be true about me, it made me feel much more confident about asking for what I need. This also applies to other things - like choosing to travel solo instead of carpooling becasue you like the solitude, or asking to walk instead of drive because it makes you feel good.
Hope this helps!