…continued from How to Drink Mindfully in the New Normal, Part 1
Check Your Behavior
Even if you think you’re protected by an inflated tolerance, you might actually be imposing on others without realizing it. The way the alcohol we’re consuming manifests itself outwardly is known as behavioral cues. There are four of them: lowered inhibitions, impaired judgment, slowed reactions, and loss of coordination.
These are the visible signs that indicate a person is becoming intoxicated. In most cases, we display them in progression of the order they’re listed here. Often, others may realize we’re getting drunk before we do, which can create tension for everyone in the room—especially when talking about the first two.
For the most part harmless, mindful drinkers are aware that even in moderation one or two drinks might result in them becoming relaxed and a little more talkative than when sober. To be fair, this is probably the sweet spot for where better drinkers aim to be when consuming.
What’s particularly important here to realize—and, it’s subtle—is that lowered inhibitions in of themselves are unnatural changes in our behavior. Plain and simple. While conversations may become more vibrant and enthusiastic or personal and intimate, we have to be certain that our company is comfortable with where our behavior is or headed. Better yet—let's not get to the point where anyone, ourselves included, need to question that behavior.
If we let our guard down, things can go off-script quickly. A clear indication of impaired judgment is inappropriate behavior. The catch is that your definition of “inappropriate” is irrelevant. What matters is what those around you think. If what you’re doing bothers or offends in any way, it’s inappropriate.
Before you get to the point where a stranger side-eyes you or your friends have to tell you to, “Chill,” you should slow your rate of consumption. What follows are slowed reactions and a loss of coordination that really start to make our choices look dangerously objectionable. If you continue drinking still, you’re literally stumbling headfirst into a situation that you might not walk away from.
Audit Your Circle
Keep good company who’s good for you. Some of your drinking buddies from the “before times” may not be the best people for you in the “new normal.” And, vice versa. And, that’s okay.
You deserve to be surrounded by those who lift you up, respect your healthy choices, and support you through it. If you know that your drinking team is chompin’ at the bit to “make up for lost time” as soon as they can hit the party scene again, maybe you should become a free agent.
Consider what triggers your excessive habits. Is it certain people, places, or occasions? You’re fully within your right to opt out of any of them or adjust your level of engagement accordingly. And, you should feel empowered and confident enough to communicate your reasons why—without also feeling backed into a corner to defend yourself. Still, perhaps you sharing your rationale—that you desire a healthier relationship with alcohol, that you’re working on you, etc.—will inspire others to follow suit. Often, people need a boost and can benefit from having someone they trust lead the way.
As with any major life transition, reflecting on your journey is the only way to recognize where it’s taking you. Every path will not be without its hurdles, but you must remain clear-headed and focused enough to know the difference between an obstacle and a dead end.
Depending on whether you’re a glass half-full or half-empty type of person, make sure you analyze fairly both the benefits and risks you may experience. Then, calibrate as necessary to do you the best way you can.
Reflect on each new drinking experience. How did you feel anticipating it, during it, and afterwards? Did you wake up with that old, familiar friend, the hangover? How much money did last night set you back? Be brutally honest in evaluating whether you truly enjoyed yourself and the company you kept. If you didn’t, think about why not, but don’t carry any associated shame. Then, brush off the dust and hone your energy toward tomorrow. If you did, good on you. Tomorrow is also a renewed opportunity to continue curating new, better days.
The world’s a different place now, at least for the foreseeable future. As you’re feeling it out, it’s important to give yourself some grace. And, while you’re at it, be a good human and extend it to others, too.