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Habits + Labels

If you’d have told me and my best friend 5 years ago we would be dancing in volcanic fields at a silent disco stone cold sober we would have definitely not believed you. The rules were as follows – no shoes, no drugs, no alcohol, no selfies and no judging. It was the selfie ban that posed the biggest struggle. The event took place in Mala, when my friend read the Spanish poster she mistranslated the rule of ‘no zapatos’ and thought it meant no clothes, I could appreciate how this had mangled in her mind as the town is just next to the nudist village Charco de Palo. Who knows, in another five years we may have shed more layers still, and indeed no longer require to hide behind clothes in the same way that we no longer feel we need to filter ourselves and the world by booze, but for now we are quite alright keeping our pants on.

On January the something’th of 2021 I woke up one morning and felt an unignorable cosmic urge to dismantle the honorary habit of my life. Every morning I would get up and for my run, and most days as I ran, running through my head was “ I won't drink wine tonight I won't drink wine tonight” but sure enough as the evening rolled in, the red wine suited the mood and so it went. In today’s standards where drinking is romanticised, glorified and encouraged it can be a lonely and confusing process to question your relationship with alcohol, often feeling like you are gaslighting yourself, flitting between berating and doubting. Either way it was weighing heavy and taking up too much head space and I couldn’t imagine myself without it, it was part of my identity, as someone who actively reminds people to stop looking outside of themselves for fulfilment, I needed to make a change.

One thing made this quest much more sustainable and I want to call it out in the spirit of transparency, my twin sister, my go to drinking partner, fell pregnant with my niece that month, meaning I had the closest person to me, going along for the ride, or better said, getting off the ride with me. Albeit for different reasons but it definitely contributed to me sticking to my pledge.

In those first months it was a pledge, a commitment I honoured daily, my life became an experiment, my relationship with myself strengthened and my work flourished. Fast forward to June and my mum fell ill to put it lightly, and was airlifted to another island for emergency spine surgery.

It was the scariest and most heart wrenching time of our lives as a family, we were catapulted into a new reality where priorities and perceptions of life as we knew it shifted suddenly and drastically. I realised weeks later, amidst the thick of it all, that it had been divine timing that I had my revelation to cut ties with my alcohol attachment when I did. There is no way on God’s good earth I could have handled all that unfolded or have been able to step up to my duty as a daughter and sister had I been still stuck in the hazy cycle of alcohol dependency. Hard times in hindsight are sacred.

As I write this, I can no longer proudly (or smugly) display the title of teetotal, a few nights in October the time felt right for a tipple or two. Over the course of the year I came to notice that I had heavily attached to the label ‘sober’ and was still allowing thinking about drinking to live rent free in my head, obsessing over if I drank, what would follow.. so I drank, and nothing happened, and that’s when I really set myself free. The habit has been successfully broken, I now feel completely in charge, and honestly 9 times out of 10 when offered a drink, I don’t fancy it.

I’ve been studying the sutras of Patanjali which have and continue to serve as a guide to life and reference on the model of our human minds and how they tend to fluctuate. A key part of a dedicated Abhyasa (practice) is the process of getting ahead of the ‘chitta vritti’ – the mind chatter. Through exploring and reframing my habits and behaviour through the lense of the Sutras I have come to understand the teachings on a new level. Another applicable element is that of Vairyaga (non attachment) – why did it matter if I could say or write that I was sober, why did I long to be labelled this, that or the other? It’s an interesting process to list the labels we assign ourselves and contemplate their validity and nature. Often they are ego food or walls to hide behind. Often we waste far too much energy trying to squeeze ourselves into boxes and fit certain moulds, but for bloody what, Instagram?

What works for me is mine and we are all on different paths but I just felt I wanted to update on where I’m at within this journey, sans labels, sans limits, sans fucks. That’s not true I give so many fucks, thanks for reading if you made it to the end. Feel free to reach out and open up a conversation on these topics or to sign up for the next silent disco!

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