I have nothing against mood-altering substances. In fact, I think most people would be lying to themselves if they said they didn't use something- whether it's booze, food, shopping, or even exercise as a way to escape. Some people even get high off their own stress and anxiety- in a broad sense, mood-altering can include the use of anything that takes you away from yourself. I don't think it's entirely unhealthy. The question is, are your vices still bringing you pleasure? Is that pleasure at a reasonable cost you are willing to pay?
When I moved to Oregon in 2007, I fell in love with IPAS. Particularly small-batch, frothy, unfiltered beer with hops that grab the back of your tongue, and have a sweet bitterness, cold and satisfying. When I moved to Portland I worked at a brew-pub, serving up that fresh, unfiltered IPA that I love so well. The thing is, my body didn't love beer. In fact, my body didn't really love alcohol, at all, anymore. It inflamed my face and my digestive system, and disturbed my sleep and my peace of mind.
I started noticing how many people, me included, were willing to do cleanses, detox programs, workout challenges, and make all kinds of other sacrifices, while not even considering giving up their nightly glasse(s) of wine before bed, or their weekend over-indulgences with friends at the bar. There was a lot of reasons, for me personally, to examine my use of alcohol.
So I gave up alchohol in June of 2016. At first my goal was the abstain for 100 days. Now, almost 2 years later, I have no intention of bringing beer back into my life. Alcoholism runs in my family, as does mental illness. It's safer, and ultimately easier, for me to abstain. Again, this is just for me, personally.
How do I relax now that I don't sip beers on a patio? I bake more, read more, and get up earlier on the weekends to enjoy farmers markets or hikes. I spend more time walking the dogs. I take baths. I watch bad T.V. and sometimes great movies on Netflix. I write letters to friends and family. Can you do all of these things while consuming alcohol? Definitely! But for me, alcohol consumption changed the tone and course of my day in a way that I didn't like anymore. Any occasionally, it caused problems, mostly with my own mental health. I have a history of PTSD, that I've learned to manage through a lot of therapy and also a ton of spiritual work- meditation, drum-making, healing work, and more. I was willing to do all of that, but I hadn't been willing to look at what I could remove from my life. I was willing to take action, but purposeful inaction was elusive and hard for me to grasp.
Maybe there is something for you too, that you just know isn't doing you any good, but you're hanging on to it anyway. It has become a vice, and not a pleasurable one, but a painful grip that makes you feel stuck, physically or mentally. I had a friend once who resolved to be a bit more messy, so that she wasn't fixating as much on her house being perfectly clean, which made her occasionally bitter towards her house-mates and visitors. She eventually even found some pleasure in leaving small messes, little acts of rebellion like a single spoon in the sink overnight.
What adds unnecessary bitterness to your life that you could let go of? Simply not-doing, rather than doing, can be more difficult than we realize- what can you not-do? How can you settle into inaction? Comment below- yes, I finally turned the comments on. Can't wait to hear your thoughts.