Be Present For The Ones You Love
Written by: JoAnne Pearce
This is a big, complicated one. Alcohol has the potential to damage relationships in some very serious ways, including financial strain, addiction issues and abuse. The gravity of these topics feels beyond the scope of my own experience and expertise, so I will leave those to the professionals. What I can offer, though, are four more subtle ways that your relationships may improve during a sober month.
1. You Will Be More Present
If you’ve ever been the sober person in a conversation with somebody who is drinking at a steady clip, you’ll probably notice that their listening skills diminish noticeably with every drink. Drunk people are GREAT at talking. There’s a reason that alcohol is called a social lubricant. Drunk people are less good at reading the social cues that tell them they might be talking too much. Their self-awareness gets fuzzier as they get buzzier.
Alcohol can affect a person’s ability to be present in other ways, too. Ask any parent about how hangovers affect their ability deal with their kids the next day, and they will tell you that parenting hungover is about as fun as having a root canal performed by a tax auditor. Similarly, being hungover at work usually means that you're not going to be putting your best foot forward. It’s unlikely that your colleagues are getting optimal support out of someone who was trying to teach the staff at Denny’s how to do ‘the worm’ at 3am.
Being able to show up for conversations with a clear mind and intact sense of self-awareness will make it easier for you to be an active listener. Starting your day feeling emotionally and physically unscathed by the night before will also make you feel more prepared, present and level-headed when challenging situations arise.
2) You Will Bail Less Often
There is tremendous social and professional value in being somebody who shows up when they say that they are going to. Starting your morning in a quagmire of thick and sticky regrets, however, can make this a difficult thing to achieve.
Of course, there is something to be said for JOMO (the Joy Of Missing Out) and taking time for self-care when you need it. Sometimes you just don’t have it in you to go out, and that’s ok. Sometimes you just need to cancel everything and hide under the duvet until the world stops making so much noise. I get it.
Cutting out drinking, however, cuts down your chances of bailing because you are hungover by 100%. This allows more space to cancel for other reasons, like illness or burnout or needing to be there for friends and family.
3) You Will Make It Easier For Others To Be There For You
As a dear sober friend put it, you can always tell when somebody is drinking too much, because they don’t have new problems. They tend to complain about the same job, or the same relationship, or the same general lack of fulfillment. This can put a strain on the folks that they go to for comfort, because there's only so much advice that can be given on a single subject.
Being stuck in a cycle of drinking over your problems can also make it very difficult to proactively solve them. When you stop numbing out to your situation, however, it starts to become intolerable to the point where you are driven to action, thereby creating new problems (you hate your job, so now you have to find a new one). This is maybe an unpleasant process, but it’s what drives forward motion. Eventually, even your problems will start to start to improve (you applied for two jobs and got them both, which one do you choose?).
It will be much easier for your friends and family to actively listen to and support you if they also see you being accountable for your own happiness.
4) You Will Get Better At Owning Your Feelings
When you stop drinking, get ready for the feels. Oh boy, will there be feels. Big ones, little ones, subtle ones, weirdly combined ones… it’s all coming out. Despite this being a wildly uncomfortable ride at times, it is also an invitation to learn how to identify your feelings as they happen, which is the first step in taking responsibility for them.
When someone did or said something that upset me when I was drinking, I would immediately interpret my negative reaction as an issue with the other person, and then stew about it without ever communicating why. Now, though, I am able to pinpoint the feeling with accuracy and acknowledge that how I’m feeling might actually have a lot more to do with my own baggage than it does the other person. I’m also able to explain the feeling better, so the person knows how their behaviour affects me. Getting better at having uncomfortable feelings automatically means that you’re going to get better at having uncomfortable conversations.
Through being a more present, fulfilled and emotionally aware person, you will enjoy relationships that are based on creativity and mutual support, while very rarely having to deal with drama.
Other people are hard, so anything we can do to make our core relationships healthier is a win. Going dry for a month may make it easier for you to slow down and be aware of your own needs, as well as those of others. Learning how to be social again might take a moment, but your closest people will appreciate having access to the most present version of you.
Image credits: Toa Heftiba Sinca, Mart Production, Mikotoraw Photographer, Joshua Albanese, Vladimir Gladkov, Andrew Paul