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The Things I Learned Being Sober

Progress, Not Perfection

By Yasmine Dalloul


"I’m either doing everything or nothing at all.” “I’m either all in or all out.” “I can’t have just one drink. I’ll have to have the whole bottle.” These are words that I found many people on sober journeys have in common, despite the details that may differ in our individual stories. We tend to find commonality in feeling as though we’ve lost control and are just trying to win it back. Or maybe, something that I personally relate to, we want to find a middle ground, but don’t know how to get there.


Deciding to do a Dry January was my way of trying to get there. If you know my story, you know that I’m very much a social drinker and always have been. But, as parties began to increase due to people living life “normally” again, and also as socializing became more abundant in the summer, fall and holiday months, it became difficult for me to “stop the party” and I would end up drinking a little more than I wanted to. Not as much in larger situations where I didn’t know many people, and the vibe was off. In those situations, I’m happy to cut myself off, and not partake in any of the extracurricular activities such as after-hours, after-parties, and any other after-excursions that might take place. But when I’m with people I genuinely love, one bottle of wine can turn into two or three, and 9pm can turn into 6am without abandon. Dry January was able to give me my time back, and turned me into a voyeur in substance-laced hangouts rather than a participant. I could still laugh and enjoy myself with my friends, but I knew when to stop the party and put my body first - because I was already putting myself first anyway by not drinking. So, I would thank everyone for the laughs and leave at 11pm to get to bed by midnight and wake up hangover-free the next morning.


But as I approach my final days of Dry January, I’m learning that the social experiment ends there. There are deep truths one can learn about themselves while experimenting with sobriety, and while I have found many truths that have helped me in many ways, I’m also learning some things about myself that might not be super helpful in the long run. Being a part of the 30 day Sober Girls Yoga challenge might be what brought this on.


A helpful truth is that not drinking this month has cleared up a lot of my brain fog. I never thought that drinking was much of an issue in terms of my brain’s functionality (and honestly, my recent weight gain) since I’m only a social drinker, but I can confirm that it has been since my train of thought, energy, and focus have been way better throughout my Dry January detox. I have also lost some weight as a result, due to better sleep, more energy and frequent walks around the city I live in. Also, as someone who loves to analyze the everyday situations and thoughts of my own being as well as those of the people around me, I’ve also been able to adopt more of a mindfulness to my daily routine, understanding myself, my triggers and my habits a little more. This extends past drinking to other areas I have issues with - eating bread, obsessing over love and my future to be exact.


But something that I should apply more mindfulness to and try to ditch is this gem that I learned about myself during my month of sobriety: being an avoidant person. I think this really came up for me in the way that I almost refused to do yoga the entire month throughout my Sober Girls Yoga challenge. I did the sober part well, but I had to push myself to attend most of the sharing circles and partake in some Yin and Restorative classes that were on offer at the MLPC. Spoiler alert: these were never a waste of time and I always felt 100% better after attending and participating, as promised. But, I couldn’t bring myself to do those daily Yoga practices Alex had readily available for us in our private portals. I could barely even bring myself to commit to a journaling practice. Alex did tell me that everyone’s journey was different and that there wasn’t a “one size fits all” approach to doing this, but for some reason, writing about myself and quieting my thoughts were two things that I rejected more than anything.


But being and reflecting, through thoughts and speech? That was the way I handled it.


It’s important to note that depression, be it seasonal or circumstantial played a huge part in this. I came into the 30 Day Challenge a sad flower that wanted to find some clarity. I was battling post-holiday blues, a bout of ennui and a feeling of being stuck in a life that hasn’t really changed over the years, causing me to increasingly doubt my life’s path. I came into this month making promises to myself and others that I didn’t know I could keep. I promised myself I would be attentive, that I would go about this challenge with perfection as the goal. I would do the yoga, do the work and crush all the goals in the meantime. I’d finish editing my novel, I’d be happy and my life would be so much better. That was the rumour, after all: that quitting drinking makes your life so much better. Does this type of thinking ring a bell to anybody? “I’m either doing everything, or nothing at all.”


But instead of doing the work, I stayed sober and picked up cigarettes again. I broke promises and neglected some commitments. I would show up to sharing circles and cry amidst everyone’s happy news. I wasn’t necessarily not okay, but I also wasn’t great. Perhaps it was pressure that was making me avoidant. Perhaps this was the answer to the rubik’s cube that was my brain. Maybe if I can let go of expectation, the expectation to achieve perfection and be happy with progress, my Dry January experience could’ve been a little less guilt-ridden. Guilt holds us back, right? It keeps us from doing the things that are good for us because we act out in rebellion as a result. Whether that be picking up a drink or ditching yoga, not editing the chapters of your novel that you’ve been working on for two years and have gotten two grants for or not journaling because you want to rebel against the truth. If I were to do anything differently, if I were to embark on another sober month, I could say that I would take the yoga and journaling parts of my journey a little more seriously. That I wouldn’t only talk about my feelings but meditate on them as well and write about them a little more. I could pass that judgment onto myself, and try to reach a level of perfection, but I think the ultimate lesson I can take away from this whole experience is that there is no such thing as perfection and that both sobriety and life look different on everybody. Everyone’s journey is different, and if yours (or in this case, mine) doesn’t include yoga and meditation, or journaling, it’s ok. But, having the tools available and being open to learning about them does help. And maybe if we stop trying to force this idea that by changing ourselves we can get better, by being dogmatic we can heal ourselves fully and become these people who we want to be, then we can grow into the people we’re supposed to be instead.


Just remember: yoga really is always a good idea. And as someone who’s been avoiding her mat for most of the month, I can say with confidence that those of us who avoid it really do need it. But no shame here - we can always savasana. Some of us, myself for one, are sleepier than others. Happy journey if you’re newly embarking. It’s one that you will surely not regret.

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