Specializing in mindfulness, I tend to get clients who don’t want to be abstinent from alcohol. In most part, because mindfulness teaches people to become more aware, and in that awareness, better choices are made regarding the use of alcohol in one’s life.
Mindfulness is not pro or against alcohol. Mindfulness is about helping people reduce suffering, and if a client can continue to drink alcohol and can reduce suffering, that becomes the work, the progress, and the practice.
There’s great value in the 12 Steps; however, many people “over-use” alcohol, suffer negative consequences, want help, and don’t want to abstain.
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Living in a college town, female students will quickly make their way to my office as opposed to an AA meeting; simply because abstinence is not what they want.
Many college students want to drink. My female clients want to drink: but they don’t want to be “that girl.” My role is to help them learn to be the girl (young woman) they want to be.
In my direct, personal experience, I’ve been seeking beauty for as long as I can remember. An innate curiosity of what beauty is and what it isn’t – with my teenage years and early twenties, haphazardly trying to figure it out.
I used to think alcohol made me more of who I was – more open, more social, more fun…more whatever. I say whatever because, in my early twenties, I had no idea who I was so that anything could come out of my beingness. And yes, most of what came out was utterly embarrassing, but I was too drunk to notice. I was insecure, and it came out as rude, obnoxious, and other forms of “less than smart.” I was “that girl,” and I didn’t even know it.
One night (at around 22-years-old), while drinking in a local bar at Florida State University, I saw the most beautiful girl walk in. She was tall, blond, and wore an amazing outfit. The outfit was so classy. I remember thinking, “If only I could be that beautiful. If only I could be that girl.”
A few hours later, I would see that same beautiful girl being carried out of the bar by her friends. She was what we used to call “sloppy” drunk. She was incoherent and slurring her words as she demanded to stay and drink some more. It took me a moment to understand that what I once thought was so beautiful turned ugly.
It took me a moment to see clearly what the mirror of life was showing me.
I will never forget that moment. The moment I heard a voice inside me say, “Don’t be that girl.”
I took a hard look at the times I had been her. Times I had been my ugly, drunken, obnoxious self. That moment led me to question who I really was without using alcohol to mask my insecurities.
Was I genuinely nice? Was I genuinely fun and social? And was I really that insecure? The answer was yes to all of them. I never gave up alcohol. I just started becoming the woman I wanted to be.
I’ve had young girls (and women) tear up and cry in my office when I ask them, “What kind of woman do you want to be?”
It’s a powerful question because, as women, our beauty matters. It’s a question that has the potential to lead my clients exactly where they want to go.
I was never asked such a question growing up, nor were most of my female clients, and many of us have had to figure it out, haphazardly, along the way.
I work with female clients on looking at the reasons they might be overconsuming alcohol, and here are some tips I offer as a general approach and practice for moderate drinking.
Five Mindfulness Tips for Moderate Drinking
The Objective: Slow Down
A key aspect of mindfulness is to slow down so we can increase awareness.
- Don’t drink beer out of a bottle. Ask for a glass. The process of asking for a glass (and maybe having to pour it yourself) will help you slow down. Drinking from a glass also lets you see how much beer you have left, as opposed to a dark bottle or can. The glass increases your awareness and helps you consume slower.
- Try drinking better beer, and pay attention to the alcohol content. Don’t be afraid to ask for the alcohol content. I once ordered a beer, only later to find out it was 10 percent alcohol. Take the time to slow down, breathe, ask. Also, cheap beer can taste like water, making it easy to drink like water. Better quality beer can help you slow the drinking process down, and you won’t want to drink good beer like water. Savor. This is true for wine as well.
- Taste what you are drinking. Slow down that first sip and actually taste what you are drinking. Take a sip, let the liquid linger in your mouth for a few seconds before you swallow. Notice the texture, temperature, and flavor. Is it sweet? Bitter? Do you even like how it tastes?
- Don’t use a straw for mixed drinks. Straws can make a cocktail disappear quickly. Slow down by simply drinking from the glass. Letting go of the lipstick is a better tradeoff than “being that girl”.
- Appreciate what you are drinking. I happen to live near wineries and breweries, and I recommend my clients take a visit to increase their awareness of the art of wine and beer. Take time to research what you like to drink. Learn to appreciate the people, nature, craft, and all that is involved for you to enjoy it.
Additional Mindfulness Tips
Increase awareness. It’s not that you have to give up drinking, but it’s important to know why you do what you do, and is there a way to do it more skillfully?
Being beautiful is a responsibility. Being healthy is a responsibility. And we can learn to be more responsible in our drinking.
Being beautiful as a woman (who chooses to drink) means we learn to take care of ourselves. This means making sure we eat enough food before we drink. It means ensuring we have safe transportation from one place to the next. And at times, it means being responsible for someone else who has been less than responsible for themselves.
get curious about what’s underneath drinking for you – what’s it about? What might you be projecting onto the alcohol? Need to be social, relaxed, to be liked? It may be time to learn to get these needs met in a “real” way (without alcohol).
Try challenging yourself not to drink for the first 15-30 minutes to experience social environments without alcohol. This can be easily done by saying, “I don’t know what I want to drink yet.”
I know you don’t want to be that girl. None of us do. So the question to ask yourself is; what kind of girl do you want to be?
Learn to self-inquire. And when you inquire, if you realize you are that girl, it’s okay, it’s actually great, because like myself, realizing I was that girl, and realizing I wanted to change – was a moment that changed my life. Awareness is a gift of grace that we get to course-correct.
Alcohol is not inherently bad or harmful and can be appreciated for the art and beauty of its craft. What makes alcohol a problem is what we do with it, how we use it, and how we present ourselves under its influence. A mindfulness approach can help us increase awareness of all these factors.