Are you back on the wagon? my friend asked Saturday night, pointing to my Diet Coke. We were out for dinner with our husbands. My friend was obviously referring to my Year Without Wine which I completed this past January.
Maybe so, I said.
Remind me why you did your year, she said, apologizing that she hadn't read all of my blog posts on my decision to forgo alcohol for a calendar year. I found myself thankful for this opportunity to revisit my reasons.
I have always been a good girl. I have never gone near drugs, but I've always loved wine. At times, too much. After my third girl was born, I felt extra-anxious and I was self-medicating with wine and then I would feel like crap the next day and feel more anxious. It was a bad cycle I wanted to end. I am super Type-A and have a hard time turning myself off and relaxing and wine always worked wonders. I was curious to see what life would be like and look like and feel like without the gloss of booze.
She listened to me, to my reasons. And then I told her that I had gone back to wine since my year was up, that I have been more careful, that I have had moments of overdoing it, but for the most part I have maintained what I feel is an okay pattern. But then I told her that I have been considering eliminating alcohol from my days. Because I am. I told her that this time my reasons are very different. And they are.
I mentioned this in my four year post last week, but I woke up last Wednesday feeling wistful for my year without wine. I found myself remembering how good and clear I felt day after day. I remember how soundly I slept, how present I felt with my girls, how upbeat I felt about life and love and all else. What if I chose that? Not because I had to or because I believed there was a problem, but because I wanted to feel that way?
In the kitchen that morning, I told Husband about these thoughts of mine. About how I kind of missed my months without wine. I told him I was considering going that route again. He smiled. Go for it, he said casually. And this made me happy. I asked him if I am a more fun wife when I have a glass of wine with him. He said no. Good, I thought. That's all I needed to hear.
I didn't drink that night. And I haven't since. I feel good.
Last Thursday night, I hosted a Happier Hour with the wonderful editors of Drinking Diaries which is a great anthology of essays about drinking. The night was wonderful and interesting and inspiring. The discussion was rich and open and honest. We gathered in my yellow living room and talked about drinking. The best part of the evening is that there really seemed to be no judgment. This was, and is, important to me because I think it is so critical that all of us keep an open mind about this tricky topic, and so many others.
Something I said on Thursday night, and something I believe, is that when it comes to drinking, most of us probably fall in a vast, gray area. I do not buy that this is a black and white issue; that we are either 100% healthy drinkers or alcoholics. Rather, I think most of us dance somewhere in the middle, struggling more or less with our patterns and habits (drinking and otherwise). I know I do. One of my guests asked why I went back to drinking if my year away from it was so positive. What a timely question. I said that this is a question I continue to ask. And I do. These words are part of my asking.
Saturday night, I said something to my friend. I said, This is a 'for now' kind of thing. I'm not making any definitive plan. I don't think it needs to be about contracts or years. I am just choosing to feel good. She nodded. And we ate our yummy food and traded stories about how we met our husbands. We told them that we met at Prohibition, a bar just blocks from where we were eating. My friend's husband decided that would be our next stop.
And it was. We arrived at the dark bar where we met 11+ years ago. We've been back, but not for many years. It was crowded and lively and we talked more while waiting for the live music to begin. I drank a sparkling water. And soon, it was time for our friends to head home to relieve their sitter. We lingered a bit longer to meet up with my little sister and her boyfriend. We caught a few songs from the cover band. They were really good.
And I smiled and I shimmied. There was a girl in front of me. She was absolutely hammered. She held a full glass of beer in her left hand and kept tossing it over her head, spilling it everywhere. She kept bumping into me. Ever the gentleman, Husband stepped between us, so she'd bump him and not me. It wasn't a big deal; we were in a bar and it was a Saturday night and the place was swimming in booze, but it made me sad for some reason. I never did that, right? I said. Husband smiled. Well, you're not really a dancer.
We walked home. The air was crisp, the streets alive with people and stories. At home, I snagged a few jelly beans from the girls' leftover Easter loot. I went to bed. Slept well. Woke up feeling good. Finagled a workout. In the afternoon, we drove to New Jersey to visit friends. In the evening, we went to Mom's for dinner. And then it was a smidge of silly TV (Rachel Zoe is my current love) and then another night of solid, restful sleep.
And today. It will be another good day. A day of wrangling little girls and wrestling with words. Another intense workout. And I sit here at my kitchen island, typing these words, feeling strong and in control and good. I imagine a life of feeling this way, of feeling healthy and happy and not slowed down by wine or other things, and it is pretty motivating. But then the Realist in me revs up and I know it's never this simple. There will be wine in my future. There will be questions and regrets and what-ifs. There will be thinking and re-thinking, doubting, dwelling. This is the stuff of real life. And I know that as well as anyone else.
But for now. For now, I feel good and in it and inspired to keep this up, whatever it is. I am smitten with the idea of choosing to feel good and wondering why I haven't thought of things this way in the past and hoping I continue to think of things this way. If anything, I wanted to come here and write these words so that I can come back and read them when I'm feeling less strong, less sure.
That's reason enough, right?
Do you drink too much? In the past, this question would have made me uncomfortable. I guess, on some level, it still does. But now I see this question differently. For most of us, those who do not fit squarely in the realm of black and white, this question does not have an objective answer. Only we can know if we are drinking too much, if drinking - in moderation or in excess - makes us feel sluggish or shameful or sad. Only we can know if drinking is simply a happy, celebratory, fun thing for us or if it is a bit more loaded, more fraught.
Oh, and the picture above. I took it Sunday night on our walk home from Mom's. The girls and Husband were literally hopping for some reason. And I hung back, as I so often have the privilege of doing, and did my best to capture it - the life, the love, the hair-swinging of this moment in time. And it is a perfect picture for this less-than-perfect post because all of this - all of these questions, all of these half-answers and answers-for-now - is for them. For me, yes, but for them.
Anyway, here I am. On this April morning. It is a good one. And writing these words has made it even better.
FYI - I wrote this post on Monday prior to learning about Boston which explains why there is no mention of the tragedy. Worth mentioning that it's been challenging to make it through the last few days without a single glass of vino.
I would so love to hear from some of you on this topic. Do you think that most of us fall into some middle territory when it comes to drinking? Has drinking touched your own life or the lives of those with whom you are close? Have you ever made decisions in your life for the truly positive reason that you would simply like to feel good and strong and happy?