In September, I grabbed dinner and drinks with a former boss (and mentor) to celebrate my recent promotion and career transition. At around 8:30PM, he checked his watch, finished his drink (we had a couple each), and called the waitress for the check.
The night was ending earlier than I expected, so I asked him to drop me off at a neighborhood bar that was walking distance from my sister’s apartment. She wasn’t home from work yet, so I planned to wait for her there.
An hour passed by and I somehow drank two more (unnecessary) drinks. At some point I understood that “drinking until my sister came home” would have me sufficiently inebriated, so I closed my tab and walked back to her apartment. In the morning, I paid for it with a hangover that tethered me to the living room couch until mid-afternoon.
Why was this subconscious voice telling me that my night could not end at 8:30PM? Why did I feel that I had to order an alcoholic beverage at the restaurant at all?
It got me thinking of our heavily booze-oriented culture: brunch, tailgating, “pre-gaming” the simplest event, and even “needing” a glass of wine after work or racing to our nearby happy hour multiple times a week. This kind of culture can make you feel guilty - or at least odd - for not drinking, as if we are less fun without a couple of drinks in us.
The consequences of this social drinking lead to a difficult line to balance. It’s a balance that can make you fun and attractive, but also quickly embarrassing and gluttonous. Who remembers the friend that never even made it to the event because they were drunk at the pre-game? Alternatively, who remembers the uncomfortable side eyes when someone said, “I don’t want to drink right now”?
What was my attraction to this level of social drinking? Is the level of our social drinking normal?
I’m not the only one feeling the pressure and discomfort of a social scene orbiting around alcohol. Chrissy Teigen spoke about her newfound sobriety in late August, “after growing tired of feeling unwell and embarrassed after drinking.”
Chrissy found it best to call it quits with alcohol after the traumatic death of her son Jack and, at the time of this writing, even amidst the pain of loss she celebrates nearly 9 months of sobriety: “I don’t really feel like I fully processed jack and now that I don’t have the alcohol to numb it away, things are just…there, waiting to be acknowledged.”
Collectively as a culture, as the current pulls us toward bottomless mimosas and Two-for-One Tuesdays, are we possibly numbing ourselves to our own “things” to be acknowledged?
I wasn’t raised with a specific faith background or religion. When I converted to Catholicism, one of the first habits I knew would need to change was my relationship with alcohol. As much as I loved late, alcohol-induced nights on the weekend, I valued my prayer life and next-day energy more.
Even before that September dinner, I had incorporated the coined term “sober curious” in my daily prayer lately. How much was too much? What was the balance between enjoying a drink and using alcohol to self-soothe? It’s a balance that requires reflection and discernment. Prayerfully, I’m not in a place where I need to cut out alcohol entirely.
However, I am now looking more closely at my hideaways in neighborhood bars, or reading my latest book while holding my whiskey on ice. What am I hiding from? Where could my time be better spent?
What is our culture hiding from? What are we seeking to find? And will we find it at the end of our bottle?