TO DRINK OR NOT TO DRINK…
That is the question.
Or is it?
Here we are nearly 5 months into my alcohol-free journey, smack dab in the middle of the holiday season. I figured it’d be a good time to update you, my friends, and those of you curious on my ‘status.’
So let me fill you in.
These last 6+ months have been full of self-inquiry and transformation. Obvs.
If you’ve been following along you know I made the decision to step away from alcohol last summer for the multitude of reasons listed in my first post about it.
IF & WHEN
I always told myself if and when I decided to have a drink it would be a well thought out decision, not one made in haste, on the fly, or in an emotional state.
In the space I’ve taken I’ve been able to see that my relationship with alcohol had 2 very distinct realms:
- The emotional, almost reactive, “my kids are driving me crazy” or “I’ve had the worst day” impetice to pour that 4:59pm I-deserve-this glass of wine. Or, bee-lining it to the bar at social events because I felt “uncomfortable,” returning to that bar x times too many because I still felt uncomfortable, (but was more often that not, bored or craving more meaningful interactions/experiences) In all of these instances I was quite literally numbing that discomfort/pain/stress, or executing a false escape.
- The mindful, fully-present experience of enjoying a glass of wine with my husband or cocktail with another couple or friend as part of an experience; a nice dinner, a special occasion or celebration, etc. In this case, for me, this approach is literally 180 degrees different than that from #1. In these situations the drink is approached mindfully, it’s enjoyed, savored, and it adds to the overall experience.
Quick aside before I get pummeled here: As a reminder, this is my experience. I’m not suggesting, relating or assuming that any of what I’ve discovered about myself can be applied to anyone else’s relationship or experiences with alcohol, good, bad or otherwise. I don’t expect nor am I asking you to “get it,” to agree, disagree, approve or disapprove. I’m sharing this because I’ve shared so much of this journey already. I want you to know where I’m at and what I’ve learned about myself and my relationship with alcohol. My hope is that I can continue to get you curious about your own life choices, behaviors and experiences, alcohol related or not.
So back to the above, do you see the difference? It’s become crystal clear to me that these are 2 very different approaches, and if I want to have a healthy relationship with alcohol, the latter is the one I would strive for.
Here are a couple instances I experienced that exemplify the differences.
We were in Vail a couple months ago over fall break sitting down to a lovely steak dinner at a nice restaurant. It was wintery outside, warm and cozy inside and the ambience and experience screamed for a glass of wine. I even told my husband, wow, for the first time in months I actually want a nice glass of wine.
I did not have a glass of wine that evening.
In that case I didn’t because it was the first time I’d even had an inkling for a glass, I wasn’t going to make a decision like that “in the moment,” but that would be an occasion moving forward, that felt right.
I recently had a particularly bad day.
I was feeling lonely, a little left-out, frustrated with my kids, work, my messy kitchen, the fact that I’d forgotten to thaw the meat for dinner, you know, how a million little things can add up to the world in some moments?
I wanted a glass of wine, and I wanted it bad. Just to take the edge off, relax, and to be perfectly honest, to escape and feel less lonely. Because wine did that for me.
I did not have a glass of wine that evening.
Once again I sat with it. I stayed in “it,” even though there was absolutely nothing pleasant about it. I was tearful with my husband, short with my kids, and banged around the kitchen. But I stayed in it, whereas in the past, an evening like that would have me pouring that vino like it was a lifeline. (and it often felt like it was.)
The space I’ve taken away from alcohol has allowed me to see the massive difference in these 2 situations. Prior to this time those situations were blurred, I couldn’t have told you if I was having a drink because the situation was lovely, calm and a nice glass of wine was just one small piece of many details making up a beautiful evening or that I just needed an escape.
In the past, anytime that wine was being poured, I would say yes. Whether I really wanted it or not! It was a reflex, a habit, it didn’t get another thought. And for me, this was problematic. I’d lost the ability to discern the difference so I knew I just needed to cut it out altogether.
Our family took a big trip to Europe over Thanksgiving, a trip that had been planned far before I stopped drinking. I had decided several weeks prior to our trip that if I wanted to have wine in Paris, I would. And if I didn’t, I simply wouldn’t. If I felt the experience, ambiance and circumstances felt “right,” then I would.
And so, I did. A few times.
These weren’t rash, emotionally-charged or guilt-ridden glasses of wine. In fact the first one was a delicious, succulent, slow glass shared over a homemade Italian dinner in the home of our friends in Brussels. Another was at our almost 3 hour “Thanksgiving dinner” (which was anything but, French all the way!)
Each of these felt like small but enjoyable details amongst hundreds of other small but enjoyable details that made up my beautiful experiences abroad, with my family, among friends and with delectable food. And these experiences were lovely. Not only lovely but super enlightening for me for all the aforementioned reasons.
WILL SHE OR WON’T SHE?
So what now? I broke my “streak,” what’s next?
If you recall, one the top reasons I stepped away completely at the time was to quiet and calm the excessive mental energy that I was expending on a daily basis: “Should I or shouldn’t I?” “I’ll limit myself to 2,” or “I’m not drinking this week.” Blah, blah, blah. Bargains and agreements that were frequently broken, only to feel guilty and fuel the fire for more.
Allowing myself space from that was pure FREEDOM, which was what I was desperately seeking.
I have zero desire to ever be in a place like that again. I have more than enough mental chatter to battle as it is! I don’t have time or space for that too! 😉
And in instances when/if the decision to imbibe does start to feel like a metal wrestling match, well, there’s my answer. A no-brainer ‘no.’
All of this said, as I find myself smack in the midst of a month of festivities I am taking it, as I always have, one day at a time.
KNOW WHAT YOU CAN’T F*CK WITH
As Holly Whitaker of Hip Sobriety, now The Temper, always says, know what you can’t f*ck with.
The people, situations, foods, whatever, that you can’t f*ck with because they trigger you, or will easily send you down that well-worn, all too familiar path. That path you really don’t want to go down again.
The space that I’ve taken has given me massive clarity on what I can and can’t f*ck with. People, situations, circumstances, etc., where drinking would likely not be the best decision, setting me up for what I don’t want again.
I’m not saying this will always be clear and easy. I’m sure I have a lot left to discover on this journey, but this is my biggest takeaway for now.
I still have my freedom, my hard-earned freedom. I am continuing my soul-searching like a mofo and am thankful for the space and mental clarity that the last 5 months have both painstakingly and joyfully brought me.
LIFE ASSIGNMENT: MODERATION?
I’m beginning to sense a theme here.
I feel like for years I struggled with the diet/food thing, struggling to find moderation and a sense of peace with my relationship with food. I’m so thankful that I’ve found success (moderation, peace) here via Intuitive Eating.
This past year it seems I was challenged to examine my relationship with alcohol. Seeking, and so far finding, moderation there as well. It’s definitely ongoing but the clarity is there for the first time in my life so I know I’m on the right track.
And looking forward, I am definitely being called to find some moderation, and peace, with my work. Work-balance, the type of work I’m being called to do, redefining “success,” etc. That whole “it works till it doesn’t” thing seems to apply to me in many areas of my life!
I know this is my next mountain, and I’ve already started the climb.
So ‘moderation’ it seems, may just be my biggest challenge as well as my biggest teacher. Why it all seemed to come to a head once I hit 40 (mid-life breakthrough?) is beyond me. Either way, I’m so glad I’ve been awake enough to see it, pay attention to it, and do something about it. I hope you’re paying attention too!😉
So I’ll continue on this path and see what unfolds for me next.
Thank you for sharing your experience. I’m currently going through an internal struggle when it comes to alcohol. I found reading about your experience very helpful. ❤️
You’re welcome. Feel free to contact me if you’d like some support on your journey. I found It helps quite a bit I have someone to talk to. xo
Thanks for sharing your experiences. I decided to stop last February to be supportive of a family member who also ceased consumption. It is striking to me how many ‘occasions’ include alcohol as a given. We love to go out to nice dinners and previously have enjoyed special visiting chef’s dinners with a prix fixe menu but now I realize how many of those include alcohol with no option to opt out. Also food festivals set prices include ‘2 drinks’ or are coupled as a ‘bacon and beer’ festival, again with no option to exclude the alcohol. I have read quite a few articles this year from chefs who have ceased consumption and have even formed foundations to support other chefs with their journeys but it doesn’t seem like restaurants are fully embracing that. Sure I can order a special cocktail without the alcohol but I think it is time for bars to recognize not all of us imbibe but we still want to be included in the festive, full restaurant experience some other way. Would welcome a festive non-alcoholic drink menu – there are so many creative options – not afraid to pay for something special, I just don’t want to be an afterthought.
Thank you for continuing to share your journey with us Katie!