Sobriety has been all over my newsfeed lately. It’s gotten so trendy Instagram is filled with #sobriety hashtags, and even, “sobriety influencers.”
I’m conflicted about all of this because while I can vouch for feeling much better when I don’t drink, I find dinner with friends, without wine, less joyful! Which is why, I guess, I’ve joined the mindful-drinking movement.
I dipped my toes into the world of sobriety about seven years ago when I decided to stop drinking at my annual Christmas bash where wine flowed (too) freely, and I invariably spent the next day nursing a massive hangover.
I liked how that conscious decision not to drink on specific occasions worked. I adopted the same plan for all other big parties, as well as for New Year’s Eve (I refuse to start a New Year feeling crappy). I even extended it to my birthday celebrations. Every occasion, I didn’t want to ruin by being hungover the next day got the complete sobriety treatment. Later, I added dinner parties since I seem to have no control over how much wine gets poured there either.
In other words, I have gradually eased into a more sober lifestyle by making all my biggest, most festive events alcohol-free (for me, not for other guests).
Things took a more serious turn about five years ago when I was diagnosed with osteoarthritis of the hip. I did all kinds of research on causes and ways to minimize the symptoms. It always came down to two things: lose weight and cut back on alcohol, which is called a trigger food because it causes the inflammation that makes symptoms of arthritis worse.
As time went by, I also began to realize how much I hated waking up in the morning feeling crappy after a great night out with friends. I knew I had to do something – great nights could not automatically turn into shitty mornings. And it was evident that when I didn’t drink or when I at least restricted myself to two glasses of wine, I slept better and always woke up bright-eyed and bushy-tailed.
Late last year, I decided life was too short to wake up so many mornings feeling under the weather.
I committed to doing Dry January, and although there were a few times during the month when I wished I was joining in on a great bottle of wine, I stuck with the program, and it was awesome.
Not only did I feel more clear-headed, but after just one week of zero drinking, my arthritis symptoms were significantly reduced. That nagging pain in my hip almost disappeared, and I was more limber. All my stretching exercises were more comfortable to do — a dramatic improvement in every way.
I extended Dry January into February before finally succumbing to a beautiful Barolo wine over dinner with one of my besties – who also happens to be a great wine aficionado.
Dry January was a game-changer for me. Since then, I’ve started drinking more mindfully, i.e., I’ll imbibe when out socially, but I don’t drink at all at home. When out to dinner, I have been relatively good at sticking with my two glasses of wine (ok, sometimes three!).
At the gym, on the morning that I am writing this, I realized I had not had any alcohol for five days and how much better my hip felt. There is one particular exercise that I am only able to do when I have no alcohol inflammation raging in my hip – this morning, it was a breeze!.
Over the last six months, I’ve seen how alcohol affects my arthritis, and it’s unbelievable to me that knowing how much better I feel when not drinking, I still order wine. But I love socializing, and a cocktail or glass of wine enhances that experience. And I pay the price every single time. But my drinking has been vastly reduced since Dry January.
Because I am out and about so often, I’ve been looking for evidence of the sobriety trend in action to determine how real it is.
Sober-curious makes for great headlines and book sales, but what’s really going on? I live on Manhattan’s Lower East Side near an area called “Hell Square” because of all the bars. I have not seen any of them going out of business or even being less busy. If anything, more bars have opened.
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