I was recently at a dinner party to which I brought some alcohol-free beer and a bottle of red wine (not alcohol-free) for the hosts. The hosts graciously accepted the wine and were curious about the alcohol-free beer. In fact, if I remember correctly, one of them said, “Interesting, but I’m not sure what the point is.” I smiled and said, “How so?” The host replied, “Well, it’s a bit like decaffeinated coffee. What’s the point in having coffee without caffeine, and what’s the point in having a beer that doesn’t have alcohol? Might as well just have water.” “Hmm,” I replied, smiled, and asked for a glass to pour my cold, crisp, delicious, alcohol-free beer into. I then went about saying hello to other guests and had a truly lovely evening. Why do I tell you this story? Well, I probably would not have handled this situation so well when I started my sober-curious journey close to three years ago. I might not have brought anything alcohol-free and instead told myself that one night during a planned break from alcohol (be it a Sober October or Dry January or whatever the case may be) didn’t mean anything, even though I made a promise to myself to stick with it. Back then, it was more comfortable for me not to have to manage comments like the one presented above. Now, I am able to reflect on comments like those with curiosity and interest. When people make comments like this, I think it’s ironic that they could be implying that drinking beer without alcohol is a pretty desperate thing to do (i.e., it must be rough to have alcohol-free beer because you don’t want/can’t have regular beer), when in reality their own statement could be interpreted that they drink the beer for the alcohol alone or drink the coffee for the caffeine alone. Of course, there could be other interpretations; however, sometimes the truth is found in the simplest form of what people say.
As I continue along my journey of sober curiosity, I reflect on statements about alcohol-free beverages or choices not to drink on special occasions (“Come on – it’s Thanksgiving, for goodness sake! Have a drink!”) from the lens of attachment. When I hear these things, I think about how the speaker has attached alcohol to the joy associated with certain activities, and I do not judge them because I was just as attached. I was not paying attention, and frankly, I was not willing to pay attention to what that attachment meant because isn’t raising a glass of wine/champagne/beer (pick your poison) what we do when we’re with friends/special occasions/holidays (pick your occasion)? Why question it? What’s the point?
There it is again, that: “What’s the point?” For me, as I continue along this journey, the point is that I am now paying attention. In the last three years, I have had two friends pass away from alcohol-use disorder that resulted in liver failure (both female, one in her early 40s and one in her early 50s). That got my attention. I am paying attention to research on alcohol and its effects on aging – body, brain, and soul.
As I continue on this journey, I am so very grateful for the Put it Down community. I wish I had known about it when my friends struggled silently. I wish I had been paying more attention. I wish I could have told them that losing your way doesn’t mean you’re lost. I wish a lot of things. I wish for us all to have fun, community, and connection without the thought that we need alcohol to accomplish this. Without the attachment.
If you are curious in any way about what being free from alcohol might look like or might feel like, I encourage you to give “The 25 Days” a try. Anything is possible, and you never know where it may lead. I believe there’s a lot of point in that. Hope to see you soon!