I woke up in a mild panic last Saturday morning. I had a long day of social events ahead of me and seemingly endless work to do on Sunday.
The problem: How could I party all day and not wake up with a horrible hangover?
Possible solutions: I could "coat my stomach" with milk before my first drink (fyi, that theory is total bullshit). For every cocktail I enjoyed, I could wash it down with a glass of water. I could inhale a few jumbo slices between each event to soak up the alcohol (also false). Maybe I could chug a gallon of Pedialyte first thing in the morning.
Each potential solution seemed like fighting fire with fire. I remained convinced that no amount of Pedialyte or pizza could prevent me from spending most of Sunday in a regretful haze.
And then it hit me: Maybe, just maybe, I could not drink. At all.
Simple YET brilliant. Crazy enough that it just might work (and okay, yeah, pretty obvious, too). I wish I could pretend that this idea didn't feel like the revelation of a lifetime, but sadly it did. I was super impressed with myself, and not entirely confident I could follow through.
When I proudly pitched my ~revolutionary~ idea to my boyfriend, he seemed less than enthused.
"Kids go to birthday parties sober all the time, and they fucking love it," he remarked.
True, but they're also playing laser tag or mini-golf or bouncing around in a giant inflatable house, so how could they not have the time of their lives? I, on the other hand, was going to endure 12 hours of non-stop social interaction without any fun distractions or liquid courage coursing through my veins. Help.
Could I do it? A former co-worker's admission that she didn't drink at all was once anxiety-inducing for me. Imagining this woman, albeit uncommonly outgoing in her liquor-less state, navigating a party with a solo cup filled only with ginger ale was an entirely admirable yet highly foreign concept to me.
“When did I convince myself that social occasions had to go hand-in-hand with drinking?”
But when did I convince myself that social occasions had to go hand-in-hand with drinking? I'd somehow conditioned myself to associate friendship and fun with at least some volume of booze. In reality, I'd spent the majority of my life navigating these types of situations sans alcohol, so couldn't I go just one day of parties without?
I knew I could make it through the day without totally letting myself go, because I'm proud to say those occasions are few and far between since college. The real challenge would be refraining from having a single drink. Well, I made no promises, but I decided to at least try.
Event 1: Pre-game, as the kids say.
While my friend sipped on a vodka cranberry, I distracted myself with Teen Mom reruns and Chipotle. Hey, I knew it was going to be a difficult task, so I called in the big guns.
Event 2: Beer garden
This was the first real test of my ability to resist temptation. I ordered the non-alcoholic half of a Moscow Mule (ginger beer) before joining the party. When people asked what I was drinking, I hesitantly told them. After I explained why, the usual response was some form of, "Oh, cool. Good for you."
Two ginger beers, one O'Douls and a few hours later, I had successfully enjoyed my first party without the assistance of alcohol.
Event 3: Dinner and a movie
Okay, not drinking during a movie is admittedly routine. But passing up a glass of wine at dinner? Borderline blasphemy. I stuck with water, not missing wine at all while I spent the entire meal chatting with my friend about how corrupt Wall Street is and feelin' the Bern (thanks to The Big Short).
Event 4: House party
By this time, I was a pro. I didn't even feel the need to carry around a cup or can to mask my sobriety. I mingled with fellow partygoers and dominated (overstatement) the dance floor. The desire to grab a beer crept in from time to time when there was a lull in the conversation, but I had made it this far. After a couple hours, I wrapped up my night feeling pretty good and very not drunk.
So what did I learn from partying without alcohol?
I had more meaningful conversations with my friends.
As I laid in bed thinking about my day (which I guess is what happens when you go out and don't immediately pass out when you get home), I thought about a line from one of our site's most shared blog posts of all time: "The opposite of addiction is not sobriety. It is human connection."
Do I consider myself an alcoholic? Not even close. But cutting off alcohol allowed me to have a more present connection with the people around me. I was able to really focus more on what my friends were saying without the distraction of re-filling my drink or worrying about getting too sloppy.
I actually had more confidence.
I realized how much I had been using alcohol as a social crutch. Every time I felt uncomfortable, my initial instinct would be to order a drink. This time, I didn't have that option. I remembered I could meet new people, catch up with friends, and dance (not well) without a single drink.
Plus, I avoided that horrible drunk fuzzy face. You know the one, when you're looking in the mirror at a bar all flushed and fuzzy and thinking to yourself, Hey, I look like a goddess. And then you see pictures the next day and you're suddenly like, Who invited that mess? Oh god, that's me.
I spent way less money.
I'm that girl at the bar who wants to buy everyone shots after she's had a few drinks. Seems like a great idea at the time. Everyone's thrilled. And then your debit card gets declined in your most desperate hour (buying a bagel the next morning). It happens to the best (see: least responsible) of us.
Without the foggy brain that comes with excessive drinking, I was conscious of every single decision I made. After a few hours at the beer garden, I had only spent $14. Sure, I'm probably their least favorite customer now, but I didn't have the constant guilt of spending too much money following me around all night.
I was able to stay out longer.
This weekend has been the exact same for the past few years: The same friend has a birthday party at a beer garden during the day and my other friend has a house party for her birthday at night. Since I was first introduced to it in college, day drinking has never been my forte. So I've always struggled with successfully making it through both of these parties.
Half way through the first party, I'm usually too buzzed to make a strong appearance at the next party, or I'm just too tired to even show up to it. But without the drowsy effects of alcohol calling me back to bed, I was able to stay out for a solid 12 hours.
And dear readers, the next morning...
I woke up REGRET-FREE.
After being out all day, I felt like I should regret something. But alas, no upset stomach. No headache. No depression. No metaphorical punch in the gut as I reviewed transactions from the previous day.
Even though Beliebers everywhere know to "never say never," I enjoyed this experiment so much I hope to never go back to the reliance I once placed on booze at parties. Moderation is key, and though I don't realistically see myself totally skipping it, this little trial definitely changed the way I view my relationship with alcohol.