If I’m Grieving, Can I Still Drink?

When I first lost my mom, I didn’t know if I was allowed to go out.

It just seemed kind of wrong. New Years Eve arrived ten days after my mom had died, and only two days after her funeral. A bunch of my  friends were heading downtown to celebrate, and they convinced me to join them. I stood against the wall at midnight, watching everyone cheer each other with their solo cups of champagne. One of my buddies looked me in the eyes, a little unfocused, and told me he was really proud of me for being out that night- that I was really strong- and then he tried to kiss me. I leaned wayyyy back and just tried my best not to impulsively punch him.

I told myself I was never going to go out again.

Okay, so maybe that was too soon, no? But, eventually, I realized that if I refused to be social I was gonna miss out on a a lot of the amazing parts of being a young adult. I came around to the idea, and let me tell you, it’s been one heck of a ride. Heck? Hell? Am I allowed to swear on here?

Ah, grief and alcohol. What a pair. Because that’s what happens in movies, right? Someone loses a loved one, hits the bottle, and it becomes a full-blown addiction. But does that have to be our reality? What if we’re young and want to let loose a little? Or a lot? I’ll be honest. The balance between fun and healthy can be really hard to figure out when you’re grieving. And I still don’t think I always get it right. The bottom line is that we just have to be a little more careful to take care of our hearts and minds, and self-care doesn’t exactly involve binge drinking. So what happens when we go a little overboard? Well, I’ve got you covered with my Two Step Plan.

Do you ever have such a rough weekend that you try and start your week- but feel like you’ve already fallen off the wagon by Monday afternoon? Maybe you had a little too much fun on Saturday and had to waste all of your precious Sunday recovering. Maybe your Sunday Funday got way too  “fun”, if that’s what we call having to uber to your car Monday morning before work. We hate to admit that we’ve been there- but I promise you, I am right there with you. Literally. Like that whole Monday morning uber trip is my favorite anecdote from this week.

This VAT of Mimosa was the cause of my whole Monday-Morning-Uber-Sitch

Note: Partying is fun. I also think partying is hella important at our age. We are in the thick of forming our social skills, learning to connect with other people, meeting new friends and creating a community for ourselves. There are plenty of other ways to meet people and connect, I get that, but this is certainly one way. And in a town like Nashville, this is how I’ve gotten close to a lot of my friends. When you gather with other people to have a grand ol’ time together you also get to shake off the worries and baggage- even if just for now. But partying also has consequences, too. Alcohol wreaks havoc on your body. Alcohol is a depressant. If you’re grieving, adding a depressant on top of that can be simply brutal. Like literally, it’s a biological issue. You already have these depression chemicals filling up your brain from your grief. And then you add more depressant chemicals on top of that by drinking alcohol. Let’s not even get into what happens if your grief has given you some self-destructive tendencies, and then you get drunk. Holla.

But once the damage is done, you can’t go back in time and make healthier choices. Let’s unpack how to deal with the aftermath, shall we?

Post poor decision making, it’s hard to know how to make amends with your body and mind. It’s hard to know how much to chastise yourself, and how much to forgive yourself for being human. A really young human, at that. In my own experience, it’s even harder, after working through those feelings, to know how to get the reset you need so that the entirety of the week doesn’t become a waste.

STEP 1: Get your mind right.

I find that every time I let things get out of hand, I instantly start to berate myself. “How could you be so reckless, so irresponsible, so naive” runs like a news ticker at the bottom of my whole thought process! Does anyone else have such serious party guilt? Sometimes I feel like when I talk about it to friends… no one else does. We comically balk at how much we were capable of drinking, bemoan the stupid shit we did, in public no less. It’s easier and cooler to act blasé about it with your friends and turn it into a joke. But I’m willing to bet we’re all inwardly disappointed in ourselves, at least a bit, for crossing a line that caused self-sabotage and regret.

But maybe this is something that’s more unique to the experience of a Grieving 20 Something, like me. Maybe I know that I have more of a responsibility than my piers to take care of my little convalescent mind and body. So when I know I haven’t done what I should to keep myself healthy… I feel like shit about myself. I know I created more problems for myself than I already had. I know I let myself down.

The only way to ward off the guilt and shame that rear their ugly heads at this pivotal moment is by working really hard to accept and forgive- as soon as possible.

I’m just going to caution you (and my Sunday Funday/Hungover Monday self) that if you’re grieving, if your self care is vitally important on a daily basis, you’ve got to be so cautious of the dialogue both inside your head and with others. Most importantly, be as transparently honest with yourself as you can be. I know it can be hard to sort through what you’re thinking and feeling. But recognizing the duality of “wow, I’m super mad at myself” and “wow, that was fun” is SO POWERFUL. By acknowledging both sides as valid and true to your experience, you alleviate the tension that these two really contradictory ideas were creating inside of your head. You’ve looked both of these feelings in the eye and said “hey, don’t get riled up, there’s plenty of space for both of you.”

Remember how I wrote that post about learning how you process your feelings best? If not, here’s a link! If so, go grab your journal, or a friend, or noise cancelling headphones, or your sketchbook, or your record player- whatever you have figured out works for you– and get all that mental anguish worked out.

STEP 2: Reset your body.

Congrats, you already did the super hard part! Working through your feelings on it is the worst of this process. Now?

Move on. Frankly, you have a lot of work to do to get a complete factory reset on your body going. Grab the biggest water bottle you have and go to town. Find a way to sweat out some of the toxins, too. It doesn’t have to be a punishingly painful run or strenuous workout, but you absolutely have to move. Don’t let yourself be stationary all day.

Now, make yourself a really easy, healthy, comforting meal. Like the easiest thing you can cook. That you actually enjoy eating. That involves vegetables or fruits. I usually go for a  cheesy, broccoli-filled quinoa concoction: all the satisfaction of Mac and cheese, but not the guilt of knowing my mom would have disapproved! (Seriously, sometimes when I’m eating junk I am extremely aware of how mad she would be…) Or perhaps have a little fun and make yourself an açaí smoothie bowl like this cute thing!

IMG_9646
When your food looks this fancy, you gotta photograph it… right?

After you’ve gotten some proper nourishment into your body, get in bed as soon as possible. I’m willing to bet you didn’t get enough sleep after all your wilding. And even if you did, that sleep was probably crap because substances mess with your sleep cycles. Give your body the rest it desperately needs.

But first, one last thing before you get to call it a day; go over what you want to accomplish tomorrow. Set at least one achievable, significant task for the next day so that all this resetting you just did can be worth something tomorrow.

Alright, and now I’m gonna say goodnight, kittens. Good job loving on yourself- no matter how embarrassing your dance moves were up on that table. 😉

So what are your thoughts? Do you get party guilt too, or are my perfectionist tendencies just getting the best of me? Do you try to take back control after a night out, or do you embrace hangover food and Netflix binges? Do you have any personal tricks for getting rebalanced? Let me know!

 

 

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