This time last year I was in the desert, taking awesome hikes while my friends rode around on their bikes. We rented a condo, cooked and had a merry time. One of my friends works for a wine distributor, so needless to say we drank some amazing wine.
After I got home from that trip, I couldn’t seem to shake my vacation blues. It traveled on through November when I found out my grandmother was dying.
Grief dug its claws into me in December when her funeral was held and didn’t let go through the next few months. My grief/depression lingered into March, a month that could never make up its mind, until my counselor suggested I try out some pharmaceuticals.
And out of my mouth, without asking my permission, came these words, as if they’d been waiting there patiently for the right moment: “I’d rather quit drinking.”
But at 200 days it starts to feel less like a novelty and more like, well, life. And life has its ups and downs — strikes and gutters if you will. And so it is with abstaining, with recovery, with sobriety … whatever you want to call it.
- I’m calm. I no longer swing from anxious to depressed to “eff it all.” I’m pretty even-keel, which for me, is an impressive feat. I’ve long been dramatic and my changing state was part of my personality. I’m still me, just new and improved. Rebecca! Now with less drama!
- I take fewer pills. I’ve weaned off the extra dose of St. Johns Wort I started taking during the first few months of quitting drinking. I often forget to take it all together. And that doesn’t seem to be a problem. I also rarely use pain meds because I never have a hangover. *Awesome!*
- Mornings rule. Sante and I are waking up earlier these days. I have more time for journaling, iRest and baking. And I’m just gonna say it again … it’s easier because I don’t have a hangover!
- I’m saving money. I have a little app that tells me I would’ve spent $602 in wine for myself over these last 200 days. It isn’t the astonishing sum I’ve saved from quitting smoking ($2702), but I’ve also been smoke-free much longer.
- I’m hella healthy. I’ve never been in better shape. Not even when I was an athlete (read: diver) in junior high. I’m running a 10k this weekend. I eat fresh fruits and veggies every day. But it’s not only my body, it’s my mind. I feel centered. Less reactionary. More honest. And my spiritual connections have intensified as well. So, yeah, there’s that.
- I feel like an outcast. Not because anyone I spend time with alienates or really even comments on my not drinking, but because I am not “a part of.” When we’re out at the biergarten, my apfelshorle looks like a beer and I feel like one of the gang until they all start getting tipsy and giggly. Then I feel like I’m Alice on the other side of the looking glass.
- I’m misunderstood. Our neighbors invited us down to theirs to try a local wine that’s popular this time of year. When I said Sante would be all about it and I’d just stick with tea or perhaps my new favorite drink, Bionade, my neighbor replied that the wine was very low in alcohol and couldn’t I just have a bit?
I think the reason that that and other comments like that make me feel misunderstood is because I’m not willing to open up enough to people about what alcohol really does to me. And so I give you …
Although for the past several years, I’ve kept a reign on my drinking, if I’m really being honest, I’d tell you every time I drink I want to get drunk. Like finish-the-bottle, let’s-tie-one-on, party-like-there’s-no-tomorrow, another-round-of-shots drunk.
And while this was fine when I was in my early 20s working at a brewery, I learned it doesn’t go over too well when you have to get up at a reasonable hour and form coherent thoughts. Thus began my attempt to drink in moderation.
Moderation was its own form of hell because I felt like I was denying myself at every turn. And also because I was telling myself that part of me was wrong, or bad, because I wanted to drink like Slash with his whiskey during the ’80s. I wrestled with that decadent, vice-loving part of me every time I drank.
Whether it was a glass of wine at dinner or an afternoon beer on a hot day. It didn’t matter. It was party time in part of my world.
It’s been 200 days. Now what? Am I going to start drinking again? After reading my truth above, do you really think the answer is yes? Well, in a way, maybe.
I’m a firm believer that we can change anything about ourselves. Hell, last week I wrote about altering our DNA. Anything is possible. I do not subscribe to labels, and I certainly don’t believe “once an alcoholic, always an alcoholic.”
That being said, I do think that changing this part of me will take a lot of work and a significant amount of energy. Right now, I’m really more interested in spending my energy on other things, like updating my blog design (it’s coming!), learning German and writing an e-book. Just to name a few.
I also don’t want to have an “Oh, eff it! I just wanna drink” moment, in which I decide that a glass of wine would be nice and hell, I guess I’m ready to do the work and spend the energy on this project!
So I’ve decided since I’m not ready to give it the energy it needs this year, that I am going to revisit it next year. In fact, I’ll revisit it every year, on or around March 24, which is the first day I started living without alcohol.
Since life is constantly surprising me (which is awesome), I have no idea if I’ll ever get around to this project. Who knows, maybe in retirement? Or perhaps a few years from now I’ll have dealt with all the other emotional and mental health issues I have and feel like I’m ready for a new challenge.
Regardless, I’ve figured out how to thrive without alcohol and for now, that’s just fine. Even when my friends who love good wine visit. Because for as much as they love wine, they love me more and don’t care whether I’m drinking or not.They just want me to be happy.
And I just want them to be stoked on life, which is why I don’t begrudge them their vino. After all, when you live in German wine country, right next door to French wine country, who would, really?