The memory of my dinner companion’s response to my admission that I had stopped drinking is still etched in my mind. This whole “not drinking thing” was still pretty new for me, and I always felt exposed when telling people. Like I was pulling back the curtain and revealing some personal flaw.
Now I can look back and laugh at the feeling of needing to “confess.” Today, telling people that I don’t drink is like telling people that I don’t speak Japanese. It just is. But back then, discussing my decision didn’t feel like a laughing matter. It felt serious.
For weeks, I had danced around the topic with him, hoping he might not notice. Finally, I decided I had to get it over with.
I took a deep breath and launched into my story. I told him that I had stopped because I felt like I needed alcohol as a crutch. That I was sick of dealing with the repercussions. I told him that I had no idea how long this would last, but for now I was taking a break.
Without missing a beat, he declared that he thought my decision was awesome. Awesome? I would have rolled my eyes and thought, “Yeah, right,” but his response was so genuine it stopped me in my tracks.
I thought my decision to take a break from drinking was many things—overdue, necessary, difficult, hard-fought, complex, embarrassing—but I had never ever considered that it might be something great.
Maybe he was right? Maybe it was awesome.
I was so stuck in my story that not drinking meant something was wrong with me, that I never consider that trying to change something in my life that wasn’t working was a decision I could not only be proud of, but also see as a sign of something extraordinary about me.
How you feel about your decision to take a break from drinking will ultimately rest on what you think it means about you. But sometimes, seeing your decision through someone else's eyes can make all the difference.