What Alcohol-Free April Taught Me About the Privilege of Choice
I have never been a big consumer of alcohol. In fact, for most of my adult life, alcohol consumption has been more about education and less about pleasure or socializing. I love going to breweries or wineries and doing a tasting to learn about the nuances of different spirits. That said, I will drink just to drink, but usually, it is a simple choice for me.
More recently, I began to realize that my Friday night glass of wine was taking on a different meaning. It wasn’t just about trying something new or to complement a meal. I began to look forward to that glass of wine to help me unwind and quiet my mind. In addition, “Wine Down Wednesdays” and “Burgers and Brew Thursdays” with friends had become commonplace.
So, when our prevention partners at Building a Positive Community (BAPC) in Brattleboro invited people to join them for a fun supported Alcohol-Free April, I decided it would be a good opportunity to take a break and to reassess my relationship with alcohol.
That first Friday without a glass of wine, was tough. I missed that ritual, the help relaxing and the ability to choose to drink or not. I got through that first weekend and the rest of the month thanks to encouragement from BAPC, creating new rituals (Friday night Cribbage anyone?) and trying new strategies to help me relax. I also knew that May 1st, I could choose to drink again.
Alcohol-Free April helped me to understand the privilege of choice. The cravings and longing I felt during the month surprised me. That choice to not drink, had become harder. It made me realize the importance of staying in control of that choice. People with a substance use disorder, whether alcohol or other substance, lose that privilege of choice. In fact, their bodies become so dependent that, without medical intervention, they can die if they forgo use. Even in recovery, choosing not to drink can be a daily struggle.
As prevention specialists, our job is to educate young people (and adults) about the potential dangers of substance use by minors. We also make choosing not to use easier by helping young people strengthen refusal skills, working with adults to reduce risk factors like ease of access (learn more here) and drawing attention to targeted advertising with activities such as our youth-led Mixed Messages campaign. By investing in our youth and our communities through prevention, we are building defenses against substance use disorders.
Since my experience with Alcohol-Free April, I have resumed drinking alcohol, but with more attention and intention. I have also committed to being more proactive in support of friends and family who might be in recovery by hosting some alcohol-free gatherings and making sure that we always have fun non-alcoholic beverage alternatives when serving alcohol – because choice is a privilege we all deserve.
Director, West River Valley Thrives
Meg Gonzalez the director of West River Valley Thrives, a community organization established to support and promote healthy lifestyle choices with an emphasis on the prevention of alcohol, tobacco and other drug use by young people.