My Year Without Alcohol

Back in January, I joined the sober curious movement as I gave up alcohol for the year as a New Year's Resolution. It was an amazing year and I learned so much about myself. Today I'm sharing my month-by-month experience and Brooke Conley joins me for moral support.

Show Notes/Links:

Full Episode Transcript

Denaye:
Hi, and welcome to episode 184. As some of you know, I gave up alcohol for my New Year's resolution way back in January, and today I'm sharing a little bit about my year without alcohol.

I hope you all are having a simple holiday season so far. I've had a few questions over the course of the year about how my year without alcohol is going and I've been pretty quiet on it. I felt like I wanted to let the year ride out and then give you a full recap, so this is it. Now, if you're new to this story, you can rewind. We started talking about this in episode 128, simplefamilies.com/episode128 and in that episode, Living Coffee 'til Cocktails, I talked with Brooke Conley.

Brooke is a member of the sober curious movement, and she's a mom and she shared with me more about what her journey without alcohol has looked like. If you're new to the sober curious movement, it's basically a group of individuals who are choosing not to drink, not because of alcoholism, just because they have decided that alcohol doesn't serve them well and doesn't play a place in their life anymore. In episode 128, I talked with Brooke about how I was thinking about giving up alcohol, and I was in fact curious about what it was like, and then in episode 141, that's simplefamilies.com/episode141, I talked more about my decision to give it up completely for the year 2019.

It's been an incredible year and I have learned so much about myself and I've invited Brooke back today. I'm going to share month by month what this journey looked like.

I'd suggest going back and listening to episodes 128 and 141 if you do want to get this full story, but here's the quick and dirty. I decided that I wanted to give up alcohol because I was drinking less and less, really about 2 to 3 drinks a week last year around the holidays, and I still felt like it was too much. I felt like I wanted less. I didn't really feel like it was taking a physical toll on my body, but it was really weighing on me mentally.

Ultimately, I figured out that alcohol had become a part of my mental load. When it came to the evenings and the weekends, I was thinking about it. I was weighing, "Should I have a drink? Should I not have a drink? Should I have one drink? Should I have two drinks? Are other people drinking?" There was a lot of mental clutter in my brain around alcohol, and frankly, I was just over dealing with that mental clutter, and I wanted it to go away. I didn't want to want it anymore, and I love this quote that Brooke shares with us today. She says, "I didn't want that glass of wine at the end of the day to be what I looked forward to the most."

I certainly don't have a problem with people drinking, and I drank for a very long time and pretty much everyone I know still drinks, so keep in mind that this is not a conversation about alcoholism or recovery, and I don't mean to undermine or underestimate that journey at all. This is just my story of what this year has looked like for me, and I have invited Brooke to give some moral support and to share a little bit more about her experience and how it relates, so thanks for tuning in and I hope you enjoy this episode.

Here's my chat with Brooke.

Denaye:

Hi, Brooke. Thanks for joining me again.

Brooke:
Hey, Denaye. Thanks for having me.

Denaye:
It's been, I think exactly a year since we talked. It was like mid-December when we had this conversation last year.

Brooke:
Yes.

Denaye:
Right, so the last time we talked, I was contemplating giving up alcohol and I wasn't sure what that was going to look like or I wasn't even really committed to doing it. I wanted to hear from you because I had heard you talking about your experience giving up alcohol. For anyone that had missed that episode, episode 128, you can go to simplefamilies.com/episode128, and that's where Brooke shares her whole story. Brooke, can you give us just a little recap of what your relationship looked like with alcohol and what led you to give it up?

Brooke:
Yeah, absolutely, and I definitely recommend going back to listen just to give the full story, but also because it's important that people know that the story is always changing. You're always kind of re-examining and looking back to where you were from where you are now, and so where I am now is about three and a half years I believe, with no alcohol. I use the word sober, and that throws people off. I get a lot of questions about that. A lot of people think I'm in recovery. I am not. I have history of alcoholism in my family. I know a lot of people in recovery and I'm very careful not to speak to that because it's not my experience.

However, my experience is that I just found myself drinking a lot. I say this often that I was drinking like everyone else. Now I'm a little bit more hesitant to say that because I don't know what everybody else's perspective is. I don't know how everyone else drinks but even with that hesitancy, I think it's accurate. I see a lot of social drinking, especially among women and certainly in the circle where I was running. Drinking was the center of everything. It was the epicenter of every single thing I did and so when I was drinking I really enjoyed it. I really liked to romanticize it. It kind of was where I started all of my "fun."

I liked it to indulge and have a good time, that's kind of how I am, but it just felt like something in my life was missing. I describe it as having a fog and I felt like I wanted to do so much more. I didn't want that glass of wine at the end of the day to be what I was looking forward to the most. So I started to really examine why I was drinking, what I was doing. It took me a good five years to actually quit and it was a lot of thinking about moderation. It was a lot of trying to do it different ways and ultimately I just had to give it up and my experience has been that that's been the best decision of my life. I've never looked back. I don't miss it too much. We'll kind of get into that, I think today as we talk, but it just opened the doors for me to live a fuller life, to do the things that I really wanted to do and to have experiences that weren't coded in booze essentially.

Brooke:
That's kind of what drove me and I have found that the actual act of giving up alcohol has proven that a fuller life is on the other side of it.

Denaye:
Yeah and your story resonated so much with me because I was definitely not a heavy drinker last December when I decided to give up alcohol. I was probably having maybe two or three drinks a week and it didn't sit well with me. Like from a physical standpoint, I think the one thing that I did learn throughout this experience of giving up alcohol for a year was that I don't think it was really taking quite a physical toll on me because I thought for sure I'm going to give up alcohol, I'm going to have all this energy and I'm going to wake up feeling great every morning and that was not the case. I really wasn't drinking that much. I was only having like a drink or two at a time and I'd wake up, I still wake up in the morning feeling tired. I mean it's just a matter of like getting older and having young kids and reality.

That was one realization that I don't think that it was really taking a physical toll on me, but I couldn't quite put my finger on what the problem was and I'm like, so if I'm not drinking that much and it doesn't really have this huge physical impact on me, why is it that I can't stop thinking about wanting to quit and give it up all together? Why was this even on my radar? And after a lot of self-reflection, I realized that it wasn't the physical impact, but it was the mental impact that was weighing me down. It was really becoming this ongoing piece of my mental load. Like Friday night came and I was like, "Oh, I'm not going to drink tonight." And then like, "Oh, maybe I'll have one drink, maybe I'll have two drinks." And the constant thinking about it and weighing if I should do it or if I shouldn't do it or other people doing it, comparing and it just... it felt exhausting. The mental piece rather than the physical piece for me.

Brooke:
That's exactly how I felt about it. It felt like it was taking up too much of my brain space, and I think it's important that you bring that up because whether you're drinking three drinks a week or whether you're drinking six drinks in a sitting (and some of us I think having a different physical capacity than others). It's the brain fade and when I get contacted by people who want to quit or want to give it up, that is always really where the focal point is. This takes up a lot of my thought process. How much I'm drinking, when I'm going to drink, if I'm going to drink? And so to relieve that is really a breath of fresh air. Just to get it out of your head.

Denaye:
It has been, I have to say. I've listened to a lot of discussion and podcasts with people in the sober curious movement, which I feel like is a name for going sober or giving up alcohol when you're not quite an alcoholic and that's really become more popular and I've seen a lot more about it in the past year. I've listened to a lot of this discussion in the sober curious movement about the topic and a lot of it resonated with me and I kept thinking to myself that maybe I would in fact be better off. But one thing that never sat well with me when I was listening to these conversations was that people who had gone sober without being alcoholics often said that they loved not drinking, and that they were so happy not drinking and I was like, I just don't know that I'm ever going to feel like that. But I do! It's the weirdest thing. Like Friday night comes and I will literally in my brain be thinking, "Oh my gosh, I'm so glad that I don't drink anymore."

Brooke:
Yes.

Denaye:
Do you get that? It's bizarre but it happened.

Brooke:
It does and I don't think that way anymore now, but after three and a half years, it's just a non-issue. I don't think about drinking really at all unless I'm reflecting bigger. For example, just going through tough things sometimes I'll look back and say, "Holy moly, I would've really drank through that before." Now it's not on my radar much at all, but the first year was where I was really recognizing exactly what you were talking about. That it feels so good to have a different choice whether you're an alcoholic or not. I think people who are sober curious might even have an easier time of it.

If you're addicted to something you're looking at a battle to try to shake something that's a personal journey. However, those of us who give it up without being addicted are looking at a battle in the social world because it is all consuming and all prevalent. It's everywhere, so you do have to consider the choices that you're making and how it's going to affect your day to day.

Denaye:
Yeah and I think about how new year's Eve last year was the last time that I like really drank. We had friends visiting and we did karaoke and had several drinks and had an amazing fun time, like the best time! Going out with that experience made me reflect. Like, am I still going to be able to have this much fun with my friends without alcohol? That's something that I still... I feel like, fun looks a little bit different now, but I want to go through a month by month what my year looked like and hear if any of this resonates with you and your thoughts on this. What I've done, I've given up alcohol for a month before. I've done the whole 30, I've done dry January. That sort of thing has always been easy for me.

I've always very much looked forward to the end of the month so I could have a glass of wine, but a month never really was a big deal. January kind of came and went and being that it was after the holidays and I had had quite a bit of drinks over the holidays and that kind of thing, I was glad to give it up. January I feel like was like nothing. February came and we traveled and visited friends and went out to dinner with some of our good friends for the first time. That was my first sort of social event not drinking and I was the only one not drinking and I have to say that I felt a little bit left out and slightly uncomfortable. It wasn't that bad, but I did feel slightly uncomfortable.

Brooke:
Yes, so I experienced that probably for a good year. A good year and a half. I actually... a little bit different than you, I went into it having quit. I was not going to drink again and so I had to really weigh how I was going to experience that, what I was going to do and how I was going to tell people. I stayed home quite a lot and there were moments of bitterness where I was like, well, why can't I do this? This is a stupid thing that I've created. Why can't I do this? I am consistently and still the only person in my social circles that doesn't drink.

Actually I'll amend that. I was for a long time, the only person in my social circles that doesn't drink and now have found that I've created space for a whole lot of people to come into my life who have far bigger interests than alcohol. I go out with friends all the time who are non-drinkers. I shouldn't say that, that aren't non-drinkers but drink, but they don't drink when they're with me. It went from meeting in social circles that first year where everybody was drinking to now I'm regularly with friends and they don't order a glass of wine at all, but I do remember those early days where it was just me and you feel like you're the elephant in the room, and we'll get in later, I think about how people perceive your drinking versus how you perceive your drinking.

It's something you definitely have to examine. It's a whole different situation around the dinner table when you decide to quit.

Denaye:
Yeah and I didn't want other people to feel judged. Like I didn't want to be on this pedestal. I didn't want to be preachy and that was something that I felt like I really needed to kind of like just sit back and not even really tell my story. I just kind of wanted to pretend that nobody noticed that I wasn't drinking, which I'm sure they did.

Brooke:
Yeah. Well, most people will. I mean, most people that's the first thing they'll notice and especially as women, they'll assume, "Oh, are you pregnant or what is it?" Why, there has to be a reason that you're not drinking. When I had quit drinking for three months and we had moved to a new town and I was invited to a dinner out and it was probably 30 people and everyone was mingling before and a woman looked across the room at me and said, "Why aren't you drinking?"


I did not know her very well, but she asked me very loudly and everybody just stopped and looked at me like, "Oh yeah, why aren't you." And I was put on the spot and I kind of fumbled because I didn't want to tell my story. I didn't owe anybody anything and I didn't want to draw attention to myself and it wasn't about them. I didn't care if they were drinking and I kind of found myself fumbling and saying things just kind of drawing out making this long story. I vowed to myself, I'm not ever going to do that again.

I am never going to explain this to people again unless they're people that care and I also said I'm never going to put myself in this position again where I'm with a bunch of people that I don't know and they care about my drinking enough that they're going to ask me in front of everybody why I dare not have a drink. That was probably the only bad experience I ever had and then I kind of set myself up not to ever have one of those again and I think I would handle it differently now.

Denaye:
And that makes a lot of sense. I didn't have any experiences with anyone saying anything negative much. I mean, I'll get into that when we get closer to September, but, okay. March I went on vacation. My family and I met another family in Florida for a week and the other family is some good friends of ours and their kids. The wife who is my friend barely drinks. Like barely drinks at all. That was a little bit easier because I felt like our husbands are having a few beers together and we weren't drinking, but it was not such a thing. The one thing that surprised me was that we were in Florida and we had come from New York where it was cold to Florida where it was warm and we were walking around in the heat and we were walking through, I don't know what the... like the Downtown Disney areas outside Disney World. It's like a waterfront area, I can't remember what it's called.

We were walking through there and there were signs for Frose and it was like an 85 degree day and I'm like, I want a drink. That was this very distinct first time that I was like, wow, like the weather, the warm weather triggers me to want to sit down and have like a cold drink and relax in that way and I had never associated that before that I had this strong association with the weather change and being outside and drinking alcohol.

Brooke:
Yes and did you notice that that continued to happen throughout the year or was it just for that particular trip?

Denaye:
I think I noticed it most profoundly at that trip because I had come from somewhere cold to somewhere warm for the first time and I was just... I think that was my first really marked experience where I said that this is bigger than just a month. Like if you give up drinking for a month, you really haven't had a full experience to know what life is like without alcohol like this and that's when I really invested. I was like, I need to stay in this for longer to see what my real deeper associations are because I had no idea that I was going to feel triggered by the warm weather.

Brooke:
Yeah, and so that's absolutely my experience as well. Feeling those triggers of environment. It could be weather, it could be where you are. That's what I call romanticizing alcohol. That was my favorite thing to do. The weather would do that to me but also, if I was on a boat, I'd want a beer. If I was with friends, I'd want champagne. I started really examining what it was that I wanted and I noticed it was environmental. It's those habitual thought patterns and you're on vacation too, so you had a double whammy because vacations are highly associated with alcohol and letting loose, right?

Denaye:
Yeah.

Brooke:
You're in the warm weather, you're on a vacation, you're in Florida and that absolutely will trigger and the smart thing to say, hold on here, let me examine this a little bit more because what we usually do when we're triggered is go right into those habitual patterns. Well, it won't hurt. Let me just go ahead and do this because that's what I've always done in the past and I started noticing a lot of my drinking was like that. It was just so programmed. I was doing it because I had done it that way before because that's what I drank in the warm weather before. I don't know if you recognize that that kind of is how it might have worked for you.

Denaye:
Yeah, I definitely think that there were patterns that I had no idea about and if I had not promised to give up alcohol for a year, then I definitely would have had a drink sitting outside there. I would've had a Frose for sure, because that sounded good and why wouldn't I do something that sounds good and I'm on vacation and got no reason to say no, right?

Brooke:
That's right and that's where all of that mental chatter comes up. Well, why not? Why can't I have a drink right now? I'm on the beach. The kids are safe, everybody's safe. This is exactly where people should have a drink and I ended up even... in the three and a half years that I've quit, my vacations have changed. I'm going to Mexico the day after Christmas with my husband and that is our first beach vacation. Like not first beach vacation, but our first where we will just go and chill without the kids. We've started taking more adventurous vacations, hiking vacations, going to the mountains, going rafting because for so long our vacations were let's just go sit here and drink and then I-

Denaye:
Yeah, wine tasting.

Brooke:
Go to the wine testing, go do all of these things and when I took that off the table I was like, "Oh, there's all these different ways to vacation."

Denaye:
Right.

Brooke:
It's fascinating, because I was vacationing with alcohol every single time, every time.

Denaye:
And that absolutely resonates with me. We did a bike trip once and it was amazing. We spent five days biking and we were in France, so there was some wine but very, very little. Like we were still biking like 50 or so miles a day but that was our only active vacation that we'd ever really done and it's something I absolutely want to pursue too because I think that you kind of need an activity in many ways on a vacation and drinking can be an activity, sitting around and drinking.

Brooke:
It's often the activity and so... because I look forward to this trip to Mexico, I don't think I'm going to want to drink. That doesn't come up, but what I think is, "Oh, I might be bored." Because we're just going to sit around a pool and look at the beach all day long and that used to be my favorite thing and now I know that without the drink's being brought to me, that can be a long week. Like I want to go do something. That's what makes me so happy about not drinking is I wanted more, I wanted more and I always knew it was out there. I just didn't know how to access it and you start to discover those things, but first you have to recognize them.

First you have to go to Disney World and want that Frose, and think about why you want it and then you start to explore from there. At least that was experience.

Denaye:
Because sitting in the chair by the beach thinking about how you want to do something, that's an amazing thing. Thinking I want to get up out of this chair, not just like fill my body with booze. Like, I want to get up out of this chair and go on a hike or go scuba diving or do something. That's life, that's living and that's what I want to.

Brooke:
And that's what I found that alcohol does, is it really can get in the way of living a full life. It just can, and we're marketed that way. That's a whole different conversation but this is a billion dollar industry and we are taught that we need to relax. "Oh, you deserve it." And I've talked to this before, I think even on the last podcast. Like I deserve to go to the beach and sit there and drink and I had to really start questioning that. Is that what I deserve or do I deserve to go scuba diving and hike and have a really good night's sleep and feel fulfilled and refreshed after a vacation rather than like, I need another one.

Denaye:
Right. Yeah, so vacation... yeah, we took a vacation in September as well, and I had a slightly different experience. Again, I'll get to that. I feel like I'm like jumping all over. Even, I'm like, we're going to go through January through December but I feel like this is not a linear adventure in many ways, right.

Brooke:
There's nothing linear about it. It does jump around and so that's... sometimes that's how it's best explained for sure.

Denaye:
April was kind of a non-event. We came back early April from Florida. In May I got pregnant, so May and June and the beginning of July were sort of non events, because alcohol is just not a thing when you're pregnant and then in July I went to the doctor and there was no baby so that was my first experience with a big life event, like a big disappointment. What did I do? I was like, you know what? I quit, I'm having a drink and I did. I had a drink. That was July and... sorry, I haven't talked about this before, so probably shouldn't have done it for the first time on the podcast, right.

Brooke:
That's okay, so many people will relate to this.

Denaye:
Right. I was like I quit, that was exactly my thoughts but not the abbreviated version and I did. I had a drink and interestingly I didn't want another one and I was like, wow, like I didn't even like that. Maybe I can be one of those people who just like have one drink like once a month or twice a year and just like be a moderator. Maybe I don't even need alcohol anymore. I had one drink, didn't care for it and didn't want another one and I was like, okay, maybe that's what my life is going to look like and at that point I started to look to the next stage. Now we had been halfway through the year, right? I was six months in and I had started thinking like, well, what is the next step? Like what about after December, in January, am I going to drink again? Am I not going to drink again? And that's when sort of the mental chatter came back when I started thinking about the next step.

At this point in July, I'm thinking I had a drink I didn't want anymore. Maybe I'm going to be a moderator. Like I'm the person who just has one drink a couple times a year. September came and I had a friend with good intentions plant the seed that said, "Well, you've made it nine months, don't you feel like you've accomplished what you set out to do?" Like it's almost a year. It's nine months, right, and of course this was in a social setting where everybody else was drinking, but I wasn't. That left me wondering, what is my next step and the mental chatter came back hardcore at that point. Did you feel like you had friends that planted seeds like that kind of doubting you or making you doubt the relevancy of this?

Brooke:
No, I did not have that experience other than the one that I just mentioned with an acquaintance. I did not know that person and she didn't know that I didn't drink, the one that asked me kind of across the room. When I told all of my friends, it was kind of a finality. I never said I was moderating. That's where our story differs, where I was just done. However, I have found, and I think we talked about this, the last time on the last podcast. The thing with people asking about drinking is very interesting.

I have had a lot of people inquire. I've also had a lot of people, what I've noticed is I don't hang out with certain people and I can look back now three years in and be like, "Oh, they stopped calling me." Like, "Oh, that's what happened." I don't get invited anymore. Maybe they didn't overtly say something to me, but my overall experience with my friends is the people that were asking, the people that wanted to know the details, now maybe they weren't saying, are you going to drink again? But what they would say is, "Well, I don't drink that much." They would start to tell me about their drinking and what I realized to be true, and I had studied this a lot. It's like I had listened to podcasts, I'd followed a lot of women in the space who had said, people that care whether or not you drink care about their drinking and most people can care less if you drink or not.

The people that don't have an issue with drinking will never ever, ever ask you if you have an issue with drinking or about your drinking unless it's just out of support and I have found that to be absolutely true. I hesitate to bring that up because we all have friends that want us to be their drinking buddy. I had to really think about that too because I think I would have been that friend. I would have been the one saying, "How long are you going to not drink for?" And I would have done that because I wanted a drinking buddy. I like drinking. I wanted somebody to drink with me.

Denaye:
I would have totally been that friend too. Totally. Yeah.

Brooke:
And it would have made me feel self-conscious to have someone had made that big of a commitment and feeling like I wasn't able to do that and if there wasn't something in me that wanted to quit or worried about my drinking, I would have not cared at all if somebody else was drinking enough, and I think that's really what's going on usually with other people. It just depends on how they approach you but anybody that kind of is like, when is this going to be done? I don't feel like they are really concerned or interested at all in your path, your journey. They're kind of just ready to get you back and like be done with this phase so that you can go to the bar again or whatever you do. Does that make sense?

Denaye:
Yeah, and I think one of the things that you talked about when we chatted last year that really stuck with me was that alcohol had been a part of your celebrations and all the happiest times in your life. Like your college graduation, maybe your high school graduation, your wedding, champagne toast, like all the good times usually involved alcohol and that was very much the case for me and in June when my book came out, like that would have been the time when I would have earned my glass of champagne but I actually, I didn't even want it at that point but I had an interesting experience. I had a book launch party and had a lot of friends who came and I bought a whole case of wine and a good amount of beer thinking that it was a party and people wanted to celebrate, and I also bought two giant kombucha was mostly for me but nobody drank.

Like literally there was one bottle of wine that was like half consumed, maybe like three beers but nobody drank and I was like, well what the heck? Like I just bought all this beer and wine and nobody's drinking and my husband was like, well, it's because you weren't drinking and I'm like, really? Like is that... and I was a little bit surprised by that, but did you have that experience that if you were hosting people that they didn't feel comfortable drinking around you?

Brooke:
Well, I wouldn't say comfortable. I think I would urge you to look at it from a different perspective. This is kind of what I've seen. I will also host and have alcohol. I like my friends to have a good time. I could care less if my friends drink. Now, someone being drunk and obnoxious is something different but what I've found through all of this is the people I want to be around, I want to be around and if they're having drinks that doesn't bother me. It also separated and made me realize there were a lot of people that I only really liked when I was drinking with them, so they kind of naturally faded away, if that makes sense.

The people that I love and adore, I don't even notice if they're drinking or not. For my most recent birthday party, I wanted to go out and dance, and so we had a big group of people. All my friends took me out and I kind of was encouraging them like, don't you all drink? Like have a good time and I can now three and a half years, then go drink stone cold... I mean, go dance stone cold sober, right, so I didn't mind, they took shots. It didn't bother me.

That was kind of an exception though, because what I have noticed is that when I'm with my friends, the ones that I really care about, the ones that love me, they just drink less and it's not because they don't feel comfortable, it's because I'm giving them that space. That's not what... we're doing something else now and so I wouldn't look at it as your friends were there to support you. They weren't there to drink. They were there because they love and adore you and that's what I recognize. I recognize myself in that so much too. Like, I might've been the person at your book party the only one drinking and so to see in my personal experience, my friends say, "No, I don't need that right now. I just want to hang out with you." That's been the biggest gift.

I don't know if I would have given that gift to someone else, because I did always kind of center in on the alcohol and to see people wanting to come and hang out and alcohol not be the forefront. That's what life is supposed to be. That's when you're doing something right. That's when the real connections are happening. It takes a while to realize that because sometimes it's our discomfort, not theirs. You say they were uncomfortable but you might have been the one that was uncomfortable because you didn't want them to do anything differently, but really what they were doing was just coming to spend time with you and celebrate you with or without alcohol.

Denaye:
Yeah and I think that's a really good point. I think that it may have been more me being uncomfortable than them.

Brooke:
Yeah, because you want people to be happy. You want people to enjoy and you don't want people to say, "Oh, this is my thing." And then they're not drinking and then they're not having fun and they're going to say this is so boring and dah, dah, dah, dah but they aren't looking at it that way. The people that love you do not look at it that way. They just don't and the people that do look at it that way, well one, you might not ever know and two, they won't come maybe to your next book support and you're better for it. You're going to be so much better for it. Giving up alcohol really, really draw the line with who is there for you no matter what and who just wanted to hang out and have a good time with you.

Denaye:
Yeah, and I think that's all becoming more clear the further that I go into this and it really is a journey. Like it's definitely... it's not even a one year. I think that this is just like you said, ongoing over the course of multiple years learning more and more about yourself and how you react and what your underlying beliefs are and I think that I do still have this strong underlying belief that you have to have alcohol to have fun.

Brooke:
Yeah and so it is a journey. You have to sort through all of that. A lot of what I'm saying is hindsight and it's hard for me to talk about my first year experience because it's been rewritten because it's changed so much. I have to really tap back into that and say, yeah, there were moments like that. Yeah, it was uncomfortable. Yeah, that was awkward, but my perspective on it all, it's become so natural now that I have to really go back and find that. If that makes sense, and I did associate alcohol with fun for so long. There were so many times where I thought I will never have fun again.

I will never have... and then I would alter that and say, "Well, okay, maybe I'll have fun again, but I won't ever have as much fun as I did when I was drinking." And it takes a long time to realize that not only will you, but you'll have more fun, but it's an ongoing process. It's totally natural to think that way, that fun and alcohol are related. You have to have the experience. You've lived most of your life having the experience of fun and alcohol together so you have to have more than a year to realize that you can have fun without it too.

Denaye:
Yeah.

Brooke:
Kind of rewrite that story.

Denaye:
Right.

Brooke:
And that's all experiential and you have to have the experience of that.

Denaye:
Absolutely and that's been I think the blessing, the fact that I did commit to a full year and not just two months or that sort of thing, even though as my story will read, like I didn't actually not drink for the whole year because I had a drink in July. Decided that maybe I could be a moderator, had a drink in August. Also, interestingly, the drink, I had an August was at home and my husband was drinking some wine and I was like, "Oh, pour me a glass." And he was like, "Are you sure you want to do this?" I was like, "Yeah, just pour me a glass. Like, well I just want to see how I feel about it."

Denaye:
I had like two sips and then I walked out of the room and I forgot about it and I woke up the next day and I found it and I'm like, wow, like old me never put her drink down. Like old me never forgot about a drink. Like that actually showed huge growth in the sense that I like had a couple sips and walked right in and it wasn't even on my mind.

Brooke:
And I think in that case I never picked up a drink again but for you having one or two drinks over the course of the year, that's not a bad thing because you gain perspective from it. You were able to say, "Oh wow, look how different this was than it would have been in the past. I didn't even remember that I had it." That's super cool. That's growth and that to me says that it's not forefront on your mind anymore and so it's okay that you poured yourself a glass of wine. You learn something from it. Even had you drank the whole thing and then poured another, you would have learned something from it.

I think we make all of these rules about what we have to do and what we can't do and maybe I never drink alcohol again, but I've done all sorts of other things. That's what we do as humans and so the most important thing we can do throughout any type of journeys, throughout any major life decision is have grace for ourselves. Have grace, have grace, have grace, have grace. You pour a glass of wine and you see what happens, and then you can always begin again if you want to begin again in whichever direction you want to go.

Denaye:
Yeah. I went into September thinking maybe I'll be a moderator, maybe that's what 2020 is going to look like for me. I'm going to be a light drinker, moderator. It's not going to be a thing in my mind anymore. End of September, beginning of October we went to Europe and I was like, you know what? I'm going to have a couple glasses of wine. I'm going to Europe. Like, that's pretty much what you have to do in Europe. For some reason, I've got that association. Like that's what you do, right? Not only are you on vacation, but you're somewhere in a wine growing region.

I'm like, yeah, I'm going to have a couple of classes. I had probably a glass of wine each day with lunch for 10 days and then the last two days I had a couple of glasses of wine, and the very last day of vacation I felt exactly like I felt last December and I was like right back at square one and I was like, I hate this, I don't want to do this anymore and I was like, that was the point where I was like, I am done, done. Like that's what 2020 looks like. I'm not doing this anymore.

After that vacation, which was the first week of October, I got back and I have literally not had a single desire for a drink since then and I also don't feel sad about it. Like I don't feel like I'm missing it. I feel like my experience has kind of come full circle even though I didn't go a full year without alcohol technically, I'm really at peace with where I'm at with it right now.

Brooke:
That's wonderful and I think you happen to have set this goal. I'm going to go one year without alcohol but a lot of what you're describing is stuff that I did before I decided to quit.

Denaye:
Because you-

Brooke:
I did-

Denaye:
...tried to moderate for a long time, right?

Brooke:
Yeah. I tried to moderate, I'd say, "Oh well, I'm not going to drink for the next few months or whatever." And then I would go on a vacation or I would do... have a couple of offers here and there and I would go right back to square one and be like, I hate this. I'd say, well maybe I can be a moderator. Oh yeah, this feels fun. This is great and then eventually I hate this. That went on and on for me for five years. I totally resonate with that and that's what led me to me saying no more at all, and so that's usually the path that you have to take.

It's not like you just all of a sudden wake up one day and you never drink again. You have to experiment with this stuff and most people want to experiment with moderation. They do and they will and then you see how that works. I actually know a few people who are moderate drinkers. They are beautiful at it. They're moderate at everything. I'm not a moderate at anything. I'm kind of a go big or go home. For me, that's what ultimately led to my decision of quitting completely, but everybody's experience is going to be different.

Denaye:
Right, and I don't think that anyone should feel judged or shamed by having glass of wine at night after listening-

Brooke:
Never.

Denaye:
...to this episode.

Brooke:
Never.

Denaye:
I don't in any way shape or form want anyone to feel like that, but I do want people to think about, if you don't feel good about the relationship that you have with alcohol, if for some reason it's just not sitting well with you, like you... I mean, you can explore other options. Drinking is not the only option, right?

Brooke:
And I think that's the people that are going to really listen to this and want to hear this stuff. The people who moderate and who have no issues and don't have it in their thoughts, they're not going to really have a lot of interest in this conversation. It's a non-issue but the people listening and wanting to hear what this is like probably are curious and they probably have that voice going in their head, and so these are the questions they're going to want to know, so yeah, it's not about judgment.

Everybody's different, but so many people reach out to me and they have these questions. What was it like? What will it be like? Will I want to drink on vacation? Will my relationship with my husband change? It's scary to make a big shift like this and the only reason it's scary is if you're not comfortable with it. If you are comfortable with it and your drinking is moderate and fine and no big deal, you're not going to have this question and again, it's not about quantity. It's not about how much you drink. I want to reiterate that it's about what your relationship is with alcohol and that can be one drink a week or it can be binge drinking.

Denaye:
Right. Absolutely and I have to ask, because there was no way last December that I was going into this as I'm quitting forever. Like I just... that felt way too big of a commitment for me. Now I feel comfortable saying that I don't even like to use the word forever because I don't know where I'm going to be at in my life 20, 30 years from now but for the foreseeable I'm not ever doing it again. I'm not going back to moderation even and for you, how did that feel just saying, I'm done forever. Like did it feel like you were worried you weren't going to be able to uphold it or how did it feel?

Brooke:
No, I mean, again, a lot of this is personal. A lot of it was just within myself. It wasn't like I made some grand announcement. I ended up posting about it on my two year anniversary and so people that knew me well were even like, what? Really, that's awesome. I have a belief that if we're going to make commitments that are really longterm you have to get right with those yourself first, right? I'm all about sharing my journey as it happens on all sorts of things but this was kind of a biggie. It was a real biggie and so I knew that if I let outside opinion in then maybe I wouldn't follow my heart so I can kind of just kept that close to the vest. Unless it was people that were actually sitting around having dinner with me that it would be a topic of conversation, and so it was wobbly. It was testing the waters.

I believed that I would quit forever, but who knew and what if I didn't and then what if I had told a whole bunch of people and so that was part of the experience for me too, is just saying I'm going to do the next best thing and I'm going to do what's best for me and I'm just going to give myself grace and I think by the time I'd gotten to the point where I decided to quit, I was so done. I was so done. You kind of just mentioned that like right now I can tell that I'm not going to drink for the foreseeable future. You kind of know that about yourself when you're done with something and I didn't know how it would turn out and I'm lucky that it became a non-issue for me.

I don't think that that's everybody's experience but the first year was a grind. It was a real grind and I have to remember that when I look back, it's easy for me to forget that.

Denaye:
It's interesting that you said that. You kind of kept quiet about it in the first year because I felt like that too. I did a podcast episode at the beginning of January last year, just saying this is my new year's resolution and why, and then I just dropped it the whole year and I had a couple people randomly message me being like, oh, hey, are you still doing that not drinking thing, but I didn't talk about it on the podcast or on Instagram or anything anywhere really and indeed it felt very personal.

It felt like I need to work through this and see what this is like and what this means to me before I can really start talking about this and I'm glad that I did because this was definitely a roller coaster journey for me and now I just... it feels so good and it's funny, I just listened to a podcast episode like two weeks ago with two women who are in the sober curious movement which is not something I listen to regularly. It's something I happened upon and they were like raving with one another about how great it is not to drink and I was like, I get it. Like I totally get it now and I just have to... like I never imagined that I would feel like this. I never imagined that I would be happy not to drink.

Brooke:
I would have not been raving about it my first year and now that's what I'm saying right now on a podcast. It's like the best thing in the whole world, but I had to find that out for myself and you don't know that it's going to be the best thing in the world until you go for it and even then you've got to trek up a mountain to get the view. You really do.

Denaye:
I've heard of this idea of a runners high where like if you run enough and fast enough, like you'll get this high and really enjoy it and I have run before, I'm a terrible runner, but I have run before. I did a half marathon. I never experienced the runner's high and like the enjoyment and the endorphins that come from running a lot and like making it part of your lifestyle so I never got the runner's high and I kind of imagined the appreciation for not drinking to be kind of like that, like this like oh, I've heard it exists, but I don't really think like it's definitely never happening for me but yeah. It felt kind of out of reach for me but I have to say that it's a real thing.

Brooke:
That's so cool. I love it that you've had this experience and that you can reflect and find yourself where you are now. I think it's a little bit... there are highs and lows. I've never gotten, even with the lows of me thinking, oh, I want to drink right now. What I have thought is, oh, I would have drank right now. What I have thought is I wish I can kind of numb this out. I've had a lot of hard experiences about alcohol and there is something to be said for drowning your sorrows a little bit or just checking out of life. That's probably been the hardest part for me. It has come with a high and I can wake up on Saturday mornings and say, yes, this is amazing, but there are times where I'm like, you know what? I'd really like to check out right now.

I would really like to feel like it felt when I had a glass or two of wine and that might always be the case. I don't know but it never leads me to actually want to drink and that's what life is. Life is a ton of highs and lows. It's a ton of highs and lows, that's all there is to it and I wanted to experience all of it, every bit of it and that in and of itself is exhilarating to be able to do that without a filter.

Denaye:
Yeah. This is kind of like making me think of all different things, but for some reason this reminds me of natural childbirth. Like I really wanted to experience it. Like I felt like as a woman I wanted to actually feel it. I didn't want drugs. I wanted that physical experience and I'm so glad that I did because for me that was like a huge life experience but it's not something that everybody wants, right.

Brooke:
Right. Well, look. It's a billion dollar industry for a reason. People don't want to feel a lot of the stuff and even the highs, we just talked about that. We associate it with fun, we associate it with a party, we associate it with celebration but we're really numbing that out too. That's what alcohol will do even though it's a depressant. It can make you feel like you're having more fun than you are and so I had to see was I really having fun, you know? And if I was, maybe I would have just had fun anyway, but there were so many times where it would have been something that I would never do now. Never, and I thought it was an awesome night because of the drinks I had. It was fake.

It was fake and so to have the experience, that's what I want. What's real and what's not. What's really high, what's really low but you're right. Most people will say, give me the drugs, give me the epidural. I don't want to find out what it's like and I don't... if this isn't fun, then I don't want to find out and certainly don't take away my ability to check out if I need it.

Denaye:
What do you do now when you feel like you want to check out?

Brooke:
It depends. I can absolutely get in the space of wanting to crawl out of my own skin. I am trained and experienced in meditation and yoga. That's what I do for a living. I teach meditation. I teach yoga. I'm a Reiki. I give Reiki, I do a lot of energy work, a lot of the calming practices. That's what I make my living off of but that is not how I am as a person. My personality is really fast. I love adrenaline. I can get in a place where I go so much that I don't want to stop because if I stop then what am I really feeling and so I found the slower practices to get better in touch with myself and while I love them, while they've changed my life, while I believe in them more than anything, they can still be uncomfortable for me, and so I will get into weird habits.

I'll go drive, like we live in Dallas and I'll just drive around the highway and my husband's like, "Can't you do something safer?" Drive, and I'm like, I just got to get... I've got to get the hell out of here. I can still see where I'm running from myself, but I can see it now. I can see it now. A lot of my practices, a lot of what I use is healthier but we can also bypass with the spiritual stuff, with the healthy stuff, with the meditation, with the yoga.

It doesn't really matter what I use, whether it's jumping out of an airplane or a meditation, I have to be incredibly cognizant about what I'm doing and why and I'm able to do that without drinking and that's all I can do is just... if I feel like jumping out of my skin, if I feel like I want to numb out sometimes some things work. I can go to yoga, I can go for a run or whatever, but sometimes nothing does and I have to be okay with that too.

Denaye:
And that's where that fog... that fog that's lifted, right, because if you are drinking and numbing out that way, like you think you're dealing with it, but you're not, you're just like…

Brooke:
You're not.

Denaye:
And if you don't have the fog, then you really have to look at it and you have to deal with it and whether or not it's a healthy way or not that you're dealing with it, at least you can see it and you can learn from it.

Brooke:
That's the whole thing. Being able to see it and then making decisions. What will I tolerate? What won't I tolerate? Where can I do better? Where can I forgive myself? Where can I forget the others? It's tough. It has been tough to look at all of my stuff and to not be able to numb it out but it's been the greatest blessing in the world. It's a truer life. It's a much truer life but it can get icky and I will never lie about that. I will never lie about that.

Denaye:
Well, thank you so much, Brooke. This has been amazing and I'm going to put the links in my show notes to find you on Instagram and your website and anyone that wants to reach out and get more information from you because I think you're such a great resource. Thank you and I appreciate you for your inspiration and just sticking with me in this journey.

Brooke:
Yes. I'm so... I don't want to say proud because again we don't have to think about alcohol if we don't want to, but I am proud of anyone who explores themselves and so I am proud of you and not because you gave up alcohol, but because you wanted to do something and you did it and that's the beautiful thing about this journey, is staying true to yourself and constantly reflecting and looking and that's what you've been doing and it's a beautiful thing and so I'm really happy for you and I support you in every single bit of it.

Denaye:
Oh, thank you so much.

Brooke:
You're welcome. Thanks for having me. I always love talking to you.

Denaye:
Oh, thanks for coming on the show again.

Brooke:
Okay, we'll talk soon.

Denaye:
Thanks for tuning in today and listening to my story. If you want to get in touch with Brooke or I, feel free to reach out to us on Instagram. I put the links to get in touch with Brooke in the show notes. You can scroll up to the top of the page to see them. I also put a link for a book that I recommend to get started as well. I'll be out next week for a Christmas break, but I do want to wish you a happy holiday season. If you love Simple Families and you've enjoyed the content this year, I would love a simple little gift of leaving a rating or review in iTunes that helps the show to reach more people. I appreciate your support and I look forward to chatting with you in the new year.

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Denaye Barahona

Dr. Denaye Barahona is a loving wife and mama of two. She partners with families to tackle the challenges of raising children. Denaye is a minimalist who claims to be a decluttering expert (don't let her near your closet). She loves to travel, talk health-and-wellness, and give unsolicited advice. She has been featured on the likes of The Today Show, The Wall Street Journal, The Huffington Post, The Minimalists, Motherly, Becoming Minimalist, and numerous other media outlets. Denaye holds a Ph.D. in Child Development and is a Clinical Social Worker with a specialty in child and family practice.