• Betty Ann McPherson

Would you like a glass of .....

I have been working with a number of clients, as of late, contemplating giving up the habit of drinking alcohol. They may not consider themselves as an “alcoholic” per se, but they realize that drinking alcohol has led to some bad decisions, shameful moments, and embarrassing occasions. In a society that condones the use of alcohol, and in fact encourages the use of alcohol, giving it up can be a daunting task to say the least. Here in the “near” north of Ontario, drinking alcohol is a social norm and in some cases a right of passage. Sitting by the lake, spending time at the cottage/camp, enjoying a campfire, usually involves the use of alcohol and often the use of alcohol to excess. There is an abundance of bravado touted in story-telling the day-after an alcohol-fueled summer evening.

So as a person considering suspending or ending their relationship with alcohol, one can feel like an outsider. In social situations “not drinking seems somewhat suspect; abstaining is often interpreted as a tacit indication that you struggle with alcoholism, itself historically stigmatized and kept private, or that you’re just a virtue-signalling teetotaler who doesn’t know how to have fun.” (The Guardian, July 1, 2019)

There have been a number of books written about the use of alcohol – and the complicated relationship that people have with alcohol. And interestingly women have been at the forefront of writing and publishing many of these recent books. It seems that women, through empowering themselves, are breaking from the chains of the “practice” of alcohol, which may lead to alcohol dependency and addiction. Some ground breaking books include: Quit Like a Woman: The Radical Choice to Not Drink in a Culture Obsessed with Alcohol By Holly Whitaker (2019), The Sober Diaries by Claire Pooley 2019, The Unexpected Joy of Being Sober by Catherine Gray (2018), and This Naked Mind: Control Alcohol, Find Freedom, Discover Happiness & Change Your Life by Annie Grace (2018). While each of these books affords the reader a differing view of alcohol consumption, it does point out that drinking alcohol for many is a choice, and one does not need to be an alcoholic to consider abandoning alcohol altogether.

Ruby Warrington in her well received 2018 book Sober Curious: The Blissful Sleep, Greater Focus, Limitless Presence, and Deep Connection Awaiting Us All On the Other Side of Alcohol challenges others to take a break from alcohol in order to embrace the benefits of leading a sober life. Ruby focuses more on the casual drinker and challenges them to think critically about their drinking habits. The best way to do this is by choosing to take a conscious hiatus from alcohol and experiencing the world through a distinct set of sober glasses.

There is a new group of influencers out there who are promoting a sober lifestyle. (Not unlike others who advocate eating a vegan diet, drinking enough water, eating less sugar, and/or consuming a paleo diet). Perhaps the cool/alternative peeps of the future will be those who willingly embrace the sober lifestyle - highlighting their business lunches with Pellegrino and Shirley Temples (mmmm). So whether you want to be mindfully sober for a week, a month, six months, a year, or a lifetime, I challenge those of you who are having a somewhat problematic relationship with alcohol to take a walk on the sober curious side. It might be an interesting experiment towards a healthier you.

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