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drinking problem

Wellness. That's the topic I'm exploring this month for my HERE Year. I ditched the Halloween candy and began eating well on the first of the month and have been sending my food diaries each night to my talented and thoughtful Foodtraining friend Lauren Slayton. The bottom line: I'm feeling good and sharp. It's amazing how clearing the junk from our diets can clear the junk from our minds. My efforts to exercise and meditate everyday have been less successful and my littlest has been sporting a nasty cold and getting us up at night, so my sleep mandate has been compromised, but alas. I'm genuinely trying with all of these things and that alone feels pretty incredible.

I would be utterly remiss to go this month without talking about drinking though. More specifically, not drinking. Giving up alcohol has been by far the biggest and best thing I've done in the past several years to take care of myself. If you know me and this blog, you know that I did a A Year Without Wine and then went back to it on and off before giving it up again seven months ago. Today, November 7th, it has been another seven months and here's the thing: I rarely think about alcohol these days, guys. It's just not part of my life. People drink around me and I notice or I don't, but it's all kind of irrelevant. Sure, there are moments when I'm feeling a bit on edge or when I'd love to sip a glass of champagne to celebrate, but these moments are few and far between and I'm thankful for that because my goodness it's taken a lot of thought and discipline to get here.

And here I am. In a period of my life where I feel drinking doesn't fit. I'm not willing to say I will never drink again, but for now, this is not only a good choice, but an exquisite one. Without drinking and the mild to major stresses it sometimes brought me, my life is full and clear and I am leagues more present as a mother, a writer, a friend... the list goes on. But today really isn't about me. I'm sick of talking about myself and this decision because that's really all it was, and continues to be: a decision. A decision to be honest with myself, to take care of myself, to maximize the chances of having the life I want.

But here's what's interesting: Every time I think this is a topic I'd like to stop writing about, I hear from people about drinking problems. Real living and breathing people who are ensconced in tricky, modern lives who are curious and struggling. People who wish to change their own relationship with alcohol and also people who are concerned about loved ones who have unhealthy drinking habits. And these notes I get slice me, they wake me up again to the reality that SO many of us are quietly dealing with this. We live in a society where we are expected to drink and to handle our drink, where it is sometimes seen as strange NOT to drink and so there is far too little conversation about all of this. And so. When I get these notes, I feel compelled to share them (with permission of course), to shine light on them, to remind all of you (and myself) that this is something we all must keep talking about and thinking about.

Anyway, I could go on and on and fear I already have, but I will leave you with two emails. The first I received yesterday and the second popped into my Inbox a week or two ago. I look forward to your responses.

This is sort of strange writing you directly but I am doing so to keep me honest.

I started reading your blog about a month ago in my own search for clarity an happiness. I had just turned 40 in September and that alone was a little bit of a wake up call.  Anyway, I stumbled upon your Year without Wine series as I was searching for my own answers.  I failed to take action since then out of fear.  What would people think? Can I really do this? How will I handle parties or girls night? I work full time and my job also involves social time entertaining clients or work events that always involve alcohol - my immediate family is also very social and gatherings Always include a lot of wine consumption.

Finally today, I am admitting to a total stranger that I use wine (mostly) too much as a crutch to deal with the stresses of daily life - work, kids, family.   In reality, it just make me more stressed and more anxious. I almost always feel horrible the day after and consume too much.

So here I am writing you mostly to say thank you for inspiring me & to also keep me honest. I choose this path to become a better version of myself and to always be present for my husband and family.  Here is to my personal journey of A Year without Wine. No better day to start than today.

If you have any words of wisdom, please feel free to pass them along.

Do I have any words of wisdom? I'm not sure I do. What I will say is that this you are smart and brave and you have so much to look forward to. Stripping away something (this could be anything) that holds you back can feel difficult at first. There might be days or weeks of feeling unsettled, shaky, but it's just a matter of time before you will feel a profound calmness. You will sleep better and laugh more. You will see the world and its colors more clearly. You will miss fewer moments with your children, with yourself. The heaviness you know and the heaviness you didn't even know was there will lift. There will still be hilarious stresses, frenzies, frustrations, epic disappointments, but these things will weigh on you less. You will be more awake and resilient, poised to handle what life throws at you.

Hi, Aidan,

I’ve been a reader and IG follower for a while now, and I actually can’t believe this is the first time I’ve reached out to you. I’m going to ask you a pretty personal question, and I totally understand if you don’t want to answer, but when I think about who I can and want to talk to about this, you’re the person who pops into my head.

When you write about your relationship with alcohol I gasp at the similarities between my husband and you. Let’s just say, without knowing anymore than what you've chosen to share publicly, I think his relationship with alcohol mirrors yours almost exactly. I don’t think he needs to drink -- I know he doesn't need to -- but when he does he almost always goes too far. He becomes quiet, withdrawn, sleepy. He just isn’t present. He isn’t him. Our oldest is seven, and as you know from your own seven year old, they’re getting to be whip smart people. It’s tough to get much past them, and I’m worried that one of these nights she’s going to pick up on his vice. Not to mention, it’s incredibly frustrating as a spouse.

I think you’ve mentioned that the decision to quit drinking was completely yours, but I’m wondering what role your husband has played. I’m wondering if he waited for you to make that decision on your own, if he ever suggested it to you, and what he’s done to support you. My husband and I have had a few conversations about his drinking, but I’m always the one to bring it up. I admit that I resent him a little and feel that I’m owed an apology, or at the very least some recognition -- a “Hey, I screwed up last night and I’m really sorry for that.” If I bring it up, he’s apologetic, agreeable, and a bit sheepish, and he always promises that he can do better. And he does. For weeks, sometimes months, but sooner or later he starts falling back into old habits. Funny, I always thought alcoholism and addiction were black and white -- either you’re addicted or you aren’t. I realize now how vast and murky this grey area is.

Again, I completely understand if you’d rather not talk about your relationship with your husband. I'm usually reserved when it comes to sharing anything about my marriage -- I'm actually still deciding if I want to send this. Anyway, thanks for listening.

I've said it before, but I gave up drinking when I was ready to give up drinking. It was a decision I came to in a pretty non-linear and gradual way, but I got there. And by my side the entire time, bursting with patience and support, was my husband. It's true that I don't write about him much here and this has been a purposeful choice. His life is his life. He didn't opt to have a semi-confessionalist author for his wife. But what I will tell you and tell you proudly is that he gave me the space and time I needed to arrive at my decision on my own. I'm pretty confident that pressure and criticism wouldn't have worked for me. I would have felt judged and resentful and defensive. All of that said, I was always my biggest critic. I was always the one picking apart my own behaviors and engaging in the self-lacerating morning-after monologues perhaps some of you are familiar with. He didn't need to wag a finger because I was wagging mine. Bottom line: I was, and am, endlessly lucky to have a partner who is thoughtful and patient who has always believed in me. I know how fortunate I am and I know that this is not the case for all of us.

What do we do when our loved one is sinking more and more into the bottle? What do we do when we feel angry or disappointed or sad or helpless when we see someone retreating into a very unhealthy pattern? I don't have any true expertise on this, but I'm hoping that (if you've read this far!), some of you might have some thoughts?

Okay, wow. Long post. But a good and important one, I think. I hope these words find their way to those who most need or want to read them. As always, my alcohol posts are truly meant for those of us who desire better lives, who want to make changes, but who don't necessarily need to. There are endless articles about addiction and recovery that can be found elsewhere, but this post and my others are about life, love, choice and, yes, wellness. You will notice that {Drinking} is bracketed off in the title... This is because I'm not just talking about drinking. I'm talking about any habit or thing that drags us down.

Cutting myself off now to get more coffee and kick off this day, but if you've read this far and find yourself wondering if you have a drinking problem, click here. Holly Whitaker wrote a great post recently that might be good to read. Also, check out the work of Gabrielle Glaser on this topic. Her book Her Best Kept Secret is high up on my to-read list.

Thoughts on my epically long, rambling post?

Words of wisdom for my reader who gave up drinking yesterday?

Ideas on how to help someone you care about who might be engaged in an unfortunate habit, drinking or other?

Do you have a "drinking problem," i.e. struggle in your life that you'd like to mention? Leave a comment or email me at aidandonnelleyrowley (at) gmail (dot) com.

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