I've made myself a promise. Once a month, I will sit down and write about drinking. Why? Because it's something I once struggled with. Not in an overly dramatic sense, but in a quieter, probably more universal sense. I'd fallen into bad patterns. I was turning to wine to smooth edges, to quell anxiety, to escape. I was alternating between drinking a normal amount and too much and I didn't like the effects it was having on my life. I had a hunch that rethinking my drinking was a means to dramatically improve the quality of my life.
I was 100% right.
I gave it up. For an entire calendar year. I wrote about my months without wine (see month-by-month posts on sidebar), about the terribly eye-opening process, about how life looked and felt without a primer of pinot. I surprised myself. Because it wasn't very hard at all to abstain. Because the fun was not drained from existence. To the contrary, my world grew clearer and more joyful. I became a better mom and wife and friend. I began waking up early to write and doing this allowed me to finish my second novel which I recently sold.
Since my dry year, I've gone in and out of drinking a bit. I've gone for long stretches without it - most recently 7+ months - and they've been good stretches. No, wonderful. And yet. I've chosen to dabble. To see. To experiment. Over the last couple of months, I've had some drinks here and there. After getting my book deal. On Christmas. On New Year's Eve and Day. On a few random occasions when I felt like it. It's all been very measured and moderate, surprisingly so. When I've had something to drink, I haven't wanted more than a drink or two. Okay, on Christmas I had a bit more, but hey, it was festive and fine.
I don't know what to say other than that I'm still figuring this out. The conundrum for me is that I know I prefer not drinking, that my life and sense of self are better without it and yet for some reason I want and choose to reserve the right to drink here and there. I'm not sure why. Maybe because I don't like the idea of never. Maybe because I feel like I have worked so incredibly hard to think about all of this and I know myself and what's okay and what's not. I imagine that going forward, I will alternate spans of sobriety and stretches of thoughtful sipping.
What I can say without reservation is that my drinking, what very little there is of it these days, is incredibly mindful. I will not put a glass of wine to my lips without considering why. Why am I drinking? To celebrate? To cope? To numb? To complement a delicious meal? For better or worse, I've lost the ability to imbibe without thinking of reasons and consequences. How will I feel if I drink? How will I sleep? How will my writing be the next day, my mothering, my wifing? I've gotten to the point where a whole lot of calculus comes into play and on the one hand, this is kind of a bummer, but on the other hand, it keeps me in line. Boringly in line, but I like that now.
I get emails these days from people who are wrestling with the alcohol thing - because it's a pretty widespread struggle and a lot of my articles show up in Google search. People want advice on stopping and starting and it all makes me feel kind of uncomfortable because I'm really not expert. I'm just a person who wants a good life and has taken measures to make sure that I'm maximizing the chances of that.
The only advice I will impart: If you are worried about your drinking, you probably have reason to be so it's good that you are worrying. Turn that worry into something good and productive. Don't beat yourself up. Look at what you're doing and why. Take a proverbial step back. Take a night or a week or month or year - or lifetime - off. See what life looks like and feels like without it (and your it might not be booze). Decide for yourself whether drinking is something you really want to be doing at all, whether moderation is truly possible (or interesting) to you. All of this is so incredibly personal and you are the only one who knows what's right. Allow figuring this stuff out to be a process. It has been for me.
It's worth noting that this post is not about alcoholism or addiction. I don't pretend to know much about these things although I've worried about them in the past. I mean, what happens if we don't stop and take stock and think seriously and make sure we are okay, that we really do have control? That's when it gets kind of scary, right?
I've said it before and this is all a bit broken-record-ish, but I'm ambivalent about continuing to write about this topic. Alcohol has come to play a very small, innocuous role in my life and I don't think about it all that much. (This honestly feels like a real accomplishment and is the true prize of all of this effort.) And yet, for now, I will keep writing about it - once a month - because I know that these words will find their way to someone who needs them. They always do.
Before I slip off to savor this good Wednesday: Open your eyes. Be honest. Do you like how you're drinking, how it's making you feel and act? Is it getting in the way at all? Is it taking you away from the life you truly want to have? Would you like to change your patterns? Then try to. Experiment. Dabble in sobriety. If you find that you can't control yourself with alcohol (or something else), please take steps to get help. You owe it to yourself and the people you love, right?
I think so.
I know so.
Thoughts? Reactions? Confessions? Stories? Hope so! :) Should I stop writing about this topic??