I’ve always loved weddings – these wonderful occasions that only happen ever so often feel rare and special to me. And I’m lucky enough to have a huge group of friends from University, which, now we’re in the wedding season of our lives, means that these are the times we all come together to celebrate and catch up. The problem? When we do get together, especially let loose and celebrating, we can often revert back to our University days and imagine we can still drink like we did then, which is, to put it bluntly, to excess.
Aged 31 and I’m all grown up now and I never drink at home, I might have a glass at dinner with friends, a few gin and tonics on a night out, but weddings? I honestly don’t even know how much I’d drink at a typical wedding. Let’s see…two or three glasses of prosecco after the ceremony, two glasses of wine over the wedding breakfast, a glass of champagne with the speeches and before we’ve even hit the dance floor, apparently, that’s 10.6 units of the advised weekly 14 already.
Add to that another glass of wine after dinner and at least 3 gin and tonics on the dancefloor, and I’ve reached 16 units – the equivalent to 1016 calories, or eating 3.4 burgers – which would take me 102 mins worth of running to burn off as www.drinkaware.co.uk helpfully tells me, along with the fact that it’s very, very bad to save up all your units and use them in one go.
And up until last weekend, I was guilty as charged for this. I try to live a healthy lifestyle – organic vegetables, tick. Gym every morning, tick. Meditate, practice yoga, tick. And although my general consumption of alcohol was low, I couldn’t help but feel that this penchant I had for getting royally smashed with my friends at weddings was not quite in line with all the other ways I live my life.
Team this with the recent blog post I wrote, A life less ordinary: How saying no to alcohol helped me find try success, about my concerns that I use alcohol to boost my confidence around big groups, and I realised it was time to see what life was like without the buzz of booze. So, naturally, the time would come, where I had to face my first ‘big fat sober wedding’.
Prior to the big day, I worried I wouldn’t have as much fun; that without alcohol, I would be boring, quiet and left out of the festivities. I worried what people would say – Peer pressure: Why do we get the urge to drink when we’re with our friends? by Daisy Steel – I worried I’d want to slope off to bed rather than stay up and party. But, after studying to be a mindfulness teacher, I realised my worries were simply my fears catastrophizing, and tried to remember that I had a choice about how I approached this. If I went into the day feeling this way, I wouldn’t allow myself a fair chance at an authentic experience. I decided to go into it with an open mind, practice mindfulness – Mindfulness for an Alcohol-Free Summer Series: Practice 1 – Noticing Your Thoughts by Ali Roff – and remind myself why I was doing this.
Which is what you might be asking now, why do it? What’s so bad about a few drinks? And let me tell you, I found myself constantly asking this question throughout the day. At one point I looked at a friend over the wedding breakfast and saw her carefree laughter and all the fun being had. I had a moment then, asking myself while I was still young-ish and child-free, why shouldn’t I indulge in this raucousness? I had years to be boring, right?
But small yet compelling thoughts stayed with me. The lack of hangover tomorrow – a day of my life wasted feeling ill, tired, sorry for myself, lazy, emotional. Not only that but a day of my life where I could feel great – experience life as it should be, to its fullest – wasted feeling rough. And then there is my health, my values, my commitment to myself to live a life less ordinary, and my work towards making my goals come true. And finally, that challenge to myself to prove that I didn’t need alcohol to have fun, or to be fun, or interesting or confident.
I was determined to experience the day, knowing that there was more to this than missing out on a drunken laughter fit or two. And I’m so glad I did. Because while I may have missed out on a few glasses of bubbles, I feel like I got so much more in return, I remember every part of the magical day. I took in every moment of my friend’s hilarious dance moves. I danced the night away and had lovely chats with so many friends (which weren’t after shadowed the next morning with ‘beer-fear’). I noticed when a friend was upset (a recent family loss) or hurt (a stiletto heel on a toe). I found I was more thoughtful, took in every small detail of this beautifully planned wedding, spoke to more people. Surprisingly, no one even noticed I wasn’t drinking. I enjoyed all of the next day – I woke up feeling fresh, awake, healthy. And best of all? I was me. Confident, happy, fun, me.
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