Have you heard phrases like “sober curious” or “gray area drinking”? Or maybe you’ve heard of or even participated in something like “Dry January” or “Sober September”? According to Forbes, demand for alcohol free beverage options is projected to increase by 31% by 2024. This comes after we saw an increase in alcohol consumption in 2020 related to the pandemic and lockdowns. Many people found themselves using alcohol as a coping mechanism. When life and routines started to look more normal, a lot of those people took a closer look at their relationship with alcohol. Some defined it as “gray area drinking” – it wasn’t healthy, but it also wasn’t alcoholism.
I would define myself as one of those “gray area drinkers”. If you ask any of my friends, they’d tell you that I had a healthy relationship with alcohol. I didn’t drink often, and I didn’t always get drunk. Not all of my friends knew that I sometimes used alcohol as a coping mechanism. Not all of my friends saw me get drunk. My friends that saw “Drunk Megan” thought I was funny and friendly. I saw myself as loud and obnoxious. I made decisions that I would not make if I hadn’t been drinking.
In January 2020, I tried the Dry January challenge with some of my friends. I even extended my alcohol free month into several months, and didn’t have alcohol again until May 2020. I did take a step back and look at my relationship with alcohol, but I didn’t find enough reason to completely quit drinking. I had decided that I was okay with the moderation I was using and that it wasn’t really a problem.
That summer and fall I faced a lot of personal challenges. My husband and my dad both spent time hospitalized, and they both ended up needing surgery at the end of 2020. My mental health was in dire need of extra help, but I didn’t really figure that out completely until February of 2021. In October of 2020, my childhood friend’s husband and daughter were killed by a drunk driver. This hit me harder than I expected it to. I made the decision to quit drinking, for good, and I threw away all of the alcohol in my house.
At some point I talked to my mom about all of this. My mom celebrated 23 years of sobriety in February 2021, around the time that I hit my breaking point and finally sought out medication to treat my depression. She admitted to me that when my friend’s husband and daughter were killed that she had wanted to drink. I found it so interesting how it impacted us so differently.
On April 9th, 2021, I went out to a local bar/restaurant with my coworkers to celebrate one of them retiring. I had picked up my coworker and drove her since I wouldn’t be drinking and would in fact be celebrating 6 months alcohol free the next day. During the party, I got a call from my dad. I didn’t pick up the first time, figuring if it was something important he would text me or leave a message. He called again and I knew something was wrong, but I didn’t expect to hear what he was about to say: “Your mom died.”
The death of my mother has certainly impacted my desire to stay alcohol free. Now I have even more reason, to honor her memory, on top of all of the other reasons why I feel so much better without alcohol in my life. I have recently experimented with making fun alcohol free cocktails, including a holiday virgin Sangria that was a big hit with my family on Thanksgiving, and a beautiful No Tequila Sunrise that was Instagram photo worthy. There really is not much I miss about drinking – I do miss some of the fun drinks and flavors of alcoholic beverages, but fortunately there are a lot of other people out there like me and there are more and more recipes and options to make fun alcohol free beverages.
I am proud to say that today I am 416 days alcohol free, and I hope to keep this “dry spell” going.