The penultimate day until the anniversary of stopping drinking

I made the decision back at the end of March 2016, that my regular annual month off the booze was going to take a more serious direction. I actually stopped drinking on the 28th Feb 2016. Those who know me well, will know that each year I have a couple of months 'off' but for some reason I felt the need to do something more. I decided to stop drinking permanently. Well the 1st year is coming to a close... on reflecting back what has it been like... a year without alcohol? What have I learnt?

Most of the people in my life enjoy drinking socially. So when I shared my decision I received a whole bunch of different reactions. Let me first start by saying that this decision was taking by me and for me... not to stimulate a response from others. There was no other motive except I decided to stop drinking.

Some people took my decision to stop drinking personally. As if it were a judgement or slight on them. But I have made it clear throughout that this was not a statement on drinking, just what I wanted to do for me. When you build up relationships with people where alcohol plays a part in the interaction then this is a significant change. Drinking when others are not is absolutely not the same. I do understand that, but the learning for all of us is that we don't have control over other people only ourselves, and that no matter how much we want something different each individual has to find their own path... what works for them.

Has it been easy?

The actual process of not drinking from a physical perspective has been very easy. There was no dependency on my part with alcohol. I actually enjoy the taste of Beer, Wine, and indeed other drinks too... the unfortunate side effect is gradual incapacitation. I do now have a comprehensive awareness of the non-alcoholic beer marketplace. Some are surprisingly good and in Hungary a much wider choice, maybe something to do with zero tolerance with respect to driving.

For those who are aware of the human thinking type 'Black and White' where the behavioural type is often manifested in sentences such as 'I'm an all or nothing type person'. I think that I have some significant tendencies towards this. Giving up drinking is an 'all or nothing' action if you think about it.

During the year what I have witnessed is that some (not all by any means) have put me in the 'Not drinking, therefore no fun' bucket. Itself a black and white thinking type... categorising with such clarity. Also not true, well I don't think it is. However sometimes this has not been a helpful outcome. I could cite more examples where others' reaction to our behaviour often doesn't enable us to cultivate relationships as easily. I am sure that Vegans and Vegetarians have walked this path for many a year.

For me though this decision was a choice. Not one foisted on me through illness or other more principle based reasons. I was not an excessive drinker either, it wasn't getting in the way of my life, I just decided to stop.

Where do I go from here?

So what now? ... I believe things happen for a reason. There is little doubt in my mind that the internal work that I have done in the past year would not have been possible had I continued to drink. So much has happened in this past year... so many realisations, so much deep work on myself I have spent hours thinking and feeling. Some of this has been incredibly difficult. Emotions are like that. Some take you up... some take you down... but that is about being alive. Masking these feelings or minimising them with drugs, alcohol or any stimulant that softens the feelings just increases our apathy... it makes it palatable to continue with things that don't work for us... put up with the crap... accept that this is the way it is... this is my life... I'm just going to carry on... This is the choice many make... but not me.

During the year though I have also worked on my black and white thinking. Do you know what? ... Dogma is also a disease... to stick to things when adjustment might work better just because you said it, so you will carry on no matter what... is that pride? ... is that Ego? ... Wow... did I have a year with these two... Pride and Ego...

Some of my reflections of the past year have been so powerful and I am incredibly grateful to myself for having the courage to take a year out and do the learning. But to continue with a total ban on alcohol would now to me feel 'dogmatic'. I understand my relationship with alcohol much better, its role in community, relationships, and indeed how people respond. My decisions are those I take full responsibility for, alcohol isn't a ruler of my life, however I enjoy it... and there is a place for it.

One of my ventures in 2017 will be to introduce an evening of sensory enlightenment bringing together lots of things that add colour to my life... great ingredients, cooking, food, fabulous wines, conversation, community, tastes, using our senses of hearing, sight, smell, taste, touch, and emotions too... I have studied wine and food for eons... they go together and sharing this information along with discussing nutrition is something I would love to do... I didn't learn all about food, nutrition, wine, beer, whiskey and now ... something else... to file it all away in a drawer and never use it again!

So final thoughts...

Another year of personal development and growth through a decision taken on the spur of the moment. Did I know how challenging the year would be? ... No... did I embark on the journey with the specific intent to learn lessons? ... No... but you know what... if you don't change something... nothing changes. If you don't give yourself time to reflect... you will not give yourself time to learn the lessons that are always there...

I will not continue to abstain from alcohol after the 28th February... I will not fall victim to my own Dogma, I will change and create more interesting things in my life as a result... one of the great challenges we all have is to make decisions, learn lessons and have the courage and ability to change through intelligent reflection.

In 2017 I will be spending time doing what I love... and helping those I engage with to 'find their own way'. There is no right path... only your path... and no one can create that path except you... find what works for you and have the courage to follow it...

If you need support and encouragement... look me up!


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