a peek inside the fishbowl

01 Feb, 2019

Drinking and not drinking

Posted by andrea tomkins in: Misc. life

Of all my school years, from kindergarten to my last year of university, grades seven and eight were the worst. After sixth grade I left my neighbourhood school to enroll in a French immersion program in a middle school located in a completely different part of town. It meant taking the school bus for the first time and inserting myself into an established population of seventh graders who’d all known each other since they first started school. I knew exactly one person at that new school, my best friend Kristina B., who came along with me. We dropped ourselves into this whole new world together.

I remember a few things about those years, not all of them are bad of course, but it was an awkward time for me to say the least. That was the year that one of my classmates proclaimed that I was a stuck up snob. I pretended that I didn’t hear her and that I wasn’t totally shattered. I think it was the first time that I realized that other people NOTICED what I said and did, and had opinions about it.

What that person didn’t understand was that I was terminally shy. I really didn’t like putting myself out there. I just couldn’t.

That same year I had a teacher tell me I should smile more.

The girl I was in seventh grade is still part of me, although I work hard at tamping her down and pretending to be more outgoing than I really am. It’s exhausting to put yourself out there, try to smile more, to fake it ’til you make it.

I have to admit that I wasn’t really thinking about my seventh-grade self when I RSVPd to a special launch party for the Embassy Hotel and Suites here in Ottawa last weekend. Part of me was dreading it, although maybe DREADING is a strong word. I was worried about what I was going to order, seeing as I was in the middle of a Dry January (in other words, not drinking any alcohol for the entire month).

I approached the bar and asked the bartenders about a mocktail, which resulted in a hurried consultation before one of them poured me a glass full of juice (orange and pineapple) with a bit of soda for fizz.

Drink up

Until that night, my Dry January had been pretty much smooth sailing. No booze at home means I couldn’t imbibe. No biggie. And at no point did I really feel like I *needed* anything, so I guess that’s good. I know one glass of wine or beer every day isn’t bad for you, I’m glad that alcohol isn’t a crutch for me.

As I sipped my tall glass of iced juice I wondered how hard this night was going to be for me. Alcohol, as we all know, is a social lubricant. I have always thought I was chattier, funnier, and more confident if I had a glass of wine or two in me. But I made an interesting discovery about myself that night. I don’t need alcohol to be a good conversationalist or to have a good time. In fact, I had a perfectly good time without it. I realized that all I really needed was a glass in my hand, and it didn’t matter what was inside it.

I still have some thinking to do about all of this but what I do know is that I feel pretty good right now. I feel strong, but then again, while I’ve been doing this Dry January I’ve also been eating better, cutting way down on caffeine and sugar, and trying to get more sleep and exercise.

Now that Dry January is over I’m not sure what the next few weeks and months are going to look like in terms of drinking. What I do know is that I’ve certainly become more mindful. I’ve thought a lot about why I drink and when. Why do we celebrate with alcohol? Why do we reach for it when we feel happy or sad or stressed? What can we replace it with? It’s something worth thinking about, for sure.

Maybe it’s because it’s been on my mind, but I’m seeing more alcohol-related marketing and products everywhere. I’ve written about it before. There are fundraisers that focus on wine, social events that revolve around drinking, etc etc. It’s everywhere. Alcohol is legal. And socially acceptable. But should we really be encouraging it in this way?

I also think that restaurants, pubs, and bars are missing the boat by not providing their patrons with non-alcoholic options beyond juice and pop. Even the LCBO, whose goal it is to sell as much liquor, beer, and wine as possible has a surprisingly long list of mocktail recipes on their website. And why is it that if you’re at a bar or a party and you don’t grab a beer or wine that people look at you strangely? (“No. I’m not pregnant thankyouverymuch.”) As I said, I still have a lot to process but it has changed me a bit.


4 Responses to "Drinking and not drinking"

1 | Claudette

February 2nd, 2019 at 7:36 am

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This was a lovely, introspective post. ;)
Also perhaps I should look into mocktails…?

2 | andrea tomkins

February 2nd, 2019 at 10:01 am

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Thank you! I really recommend “going dry” for a stretch. I did it as a bit of a reset but it was actually very enlightening!

3 | Tudor Robins

February 2nd, 2019 at 10:46 am

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I stopped drinking when I was pregnant with my first son. He’ll be 17 in the spring. I really wish I could go back and do university with no drinking. I absolutely believe I would have had 10 per cent higher grades and 50 per cent less drama in my life.

4 | Tamar

February 4th, 2019 at 10:12 am

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Seedlip makes great spirit replacement with herbal/fruit distillations. they taste great! and go really well with tonic/soda water. https://seedlipdrinks.com/

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My name is Andrea and I live in the Westboro area of Ottawa with my husband Mark. We have two daughters: Emma (19) and Sarah (17). I am the managing editor of our community newspaper, the Kitchissippi Times. I am a longtime Ottawa blogger and I've occupied this little corner of the WWW since 1999. The Fishbowl is my whiteboard, water cooler, and journal, all rolled into one. I'm passionate about healthy living, arts and culture, family travel, great gear, good food, and sharing the best of Ottawa for families. I also love vegetables, photography, gadgets, and great design.

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