So when I went to dinner and couldn’t order wine I was aware of how that made me feel. When I went to the bar and got hit on by drunk strangers, asking me if they could buy me a drink, I paid attention to their reaction when I said “no, I’m not drinking”. When I didn’t drink Friday night at one of the biggest parties of the year, I took note of how people treated me.
It was an interesting little experiment and it started off with genuine curiosity. I was interested in asking why: why people enjoy drinking, why people feel more comfortable with a drink in their hand, why people abuse alcohol and why the drinking culture is the way it is. But somewhere in the middle of the week I crossed a very thin line and I found myself judging other people, which was the opposite of what I wanted to accomplish this week.
It’s much easier to evaluate others than to take the time to evaluate yourself. It’s almost like a defense mechanism: to deflect the attention away from you and your own actions and put that attention on someone else. It’s also a low level to stoop to in order to make you feel better. I could have wasted a whole week analyzing the actions and behaviors of others when the more constructive thing to do would be to analyze my own actions and behaviors.
Which reminded me of this friend I have, she is often the life of the party. She is loud and cute and fun and she can out-drink most of her guy friends. In the past few years that I’ve known her, I’ve noticed every once in a while she’ll go a few weeks without drinking at parties and I never got around to asking her why. When we were talking about my challenge this week she mentioned her occasional patterns of sobriety. She said that when things start to get out of control, she’ll take a break from drinking for awhile to prove to herself that she can do it, to prove to herself that she doesn’t need to drink to have fun.
I admire my friend because she’s intentional about keeping herself in check. This week was about being intentional about asking the tough questions and evaluating my own actions.
So here’s what I learned: I learned that I can close a party down without drinking. I learned that I assume the worst will occur when I go into a situation I’m uncomfortable with and I also learned that it’s never as bad as I image it will be. I learned that it is, in fact, possible to have a great conversation at the bar as well as have a great time on the dance floor sober. I learned that my expectations determine my attitude and behaviors more than anything else. I learned that people, specifically the people at the Halloween party Friday night, are better people than I gave them credit for, not once did I feel pressure from others to drink (so thank you). But most importantly, I learned that while it’s important to be aware, it’s so much more important to be self-aware.
I encourage you to ask the hard questions, to evaluate your behaviors and to be intentional about reflecting on your own actions.