I Sit Here Shaking. And Smiling.

Posted On: 03.16.12

Okay. Deep breaths. This is hands down the scariest post I’ve ever written and published here at ILI.

(How’s that for a hook?)

I sit here. At Starbucks. At my little table in the back. I am plugged in. Looking out. At a soggy city day. Looking in. At my soul, my struggles, my self. My self. That thing that so often gets lost in the shuffle I’ve been lucky enough to live. That thing that so often slips between the cracks of a busy day and a busy life.

(My self.)

I sit here. Shaking. Shaking from fear, wild and robust fear that ripples through me. Shaking from clarity, brilliant and bursting clarity that grips me. Shaking from insecurity, deep and profound insecurity that knocks me around and makes me who I am.

(Who am I?)

I sit here. Smiling. Smiling from realization, exquisite and enigmatic realization that I have a different kind of story to speak, to write, to live. Smiling from love, vast and vastly intricate love for creatures, for words, for place, for me. Smiling from change, slow and steady and petrifying change, but change that is real and important and theirs, ours, mine.

Enough. Enough obscurity. Enough hiding. Enough dramatic hinting. Here’s what’s going on:

I have decided to give up alcohol for an entire year.

The reasons for this are many. They are little and big, simple and complicated, more superficial and more sinister. What matters is that these reasons are real and they are mine. This experiment in change is ultimately about two things: Health and happiness in my personal and professional life.

It has been two months today. Yes, that’s right. I haven’t had a sip of wine or any booze since January 15. And there is so much to tell you about these two months because honestly I have learned more – and more about myself – in the past two months than I have maybe in the last twenty years. I waited two months to talk about this here because I wasn’t sure I would, or could follow through. I waited because I worried about what others might think or conclude about my doing this. I have told family and a few friends about this little plan of mine and the response has been extraordinarily positive and incredibly interesting, too.

I have been writing a ton in the past two months. About my days, the wonderful ones and the hard ones. I’ve been keeping these words in a safe place, tucked away, on a private blog. And I want very much to share them with you even though they are very raw and very real. But this today is my first step.

I want to leave you with the first thing I wrote after I decided to do this. There is nothing revolutionary about this bit of writing, but I love it and have returned to it again and again in the past two months to remind myself just why I am doing this.

Wine Is My Weakness

{written on January 9, 2012}

Wine is my weakness. White wine. Pinot Grigio given the choice, but I will guzzle Chardonnay in a pinch. Even Sauvignon Blanc though I really dislike the taste.

Wine is my weakness. This has been the case for a long time. Too long. Like many of you I suppose, I had my first drink in high school. I was a sophomore. It was soccer season and homecoming and Iíd scored the winning goal. I went to a party that night at my friendís house. Her parents werenít home and we helped ourselves to their vodka. (We replaced the imbibed Absolut with water, water that of course froze. This detail makes me smile to this day.) We drank it from fancy shot glasses, I think. I remember licking salt and biting into a lemon and laughing deeply.

If memory serves me, it was a fun and happy night. It was my first buzz and I rode the rebellion well. I donít think I was even hungover the next morning.

I continued to drink a bit in high school, but not much and not too often. I do remember being drunk, really drunk, on a few occasions. I remember people puking on living room carpets. I remember one night senior year after getting accepted early to college when we went out to an underground club and the drinks were flowing and my friend and I ended up kissing the very same boy. I thought it was hilarious. Honestly? I felt like I was living.

College, of course, was soaked with booze and I welcomed this. I worked hard and played hard, graduated Magna Cum Laude and then went on my merry way to law school where I continued to study and sip, to mix achievement with escape.

But here I am. Thirty-three years old. A wife and mother of three. A writer. A thinker. Suddenly, alcohol doesnít seem quite as happy, or hilarious. Suddenly, I am curious and concerned about things, big things. Things that never before kept me up at night: Health, Happiness, Legacy, Presence.

I want to be healthy for my children. And for me.

I want to find happiness whatever it is, whatever that means. I want to teach my kids how to find it.

I want to write books. Books that people read, and remember.

I want to be here. Awake and aware. For my family and for myself.

Hereís the thing. And maybe you will read my words and my stories and disagree, maybe I will read my words and my stories and disagree, but I donít think I have a Problem. Not yet, at least. But I do think I have a problem. I think many of us, maybe all of us, do. I think adult life is hard and complicated any way we slice it. I think our days are riddled with existential and emotional cracks and complexities. I think we are constantly struggling and juggling and I think each of us copes with these struggles and juggles in different ways.

My way has been wine.

And so. At the age of thirty-three, I am taking a step back, trying something new. Itís an experiment and, for me, a profoundly scary one. I am not sure what life looks like, or feels like, without a periodic primer of Pinot.

Honestly? I am not sure who I am without wine.

But Iím going to find out. And so are you.

I have let a few people read this. And everyone, every one of them, has said some variation of the same thing. That they get it, that they relate to it, that they live it. That they pour a glass of wine (or smoke a cigarette, or eat a bag of chips, or shop online, or run a bazillion miles…) when they are stressed, when it gets to be too much. That they do this to escape a bit, to numb a bit, to unwind a bit. They also said that these ways of dealing have become habits, things they just do, but things that sometimes make them feel shame. Yes.

And so. It was not just the conviction I felt then and feel now about how important it is for me to talk about this, to tell this story, but it was, and is, the fact that this story is truly universal that confirmed for me that I really had no choice but to let you guys in.

But still. I sit here shaking. I do. Because I’m human and I feel fear. I fear that certain people in my life will not approve of this kind of experiment, this kind of exposure. I fear that my honesty will bring judgment. I fear a lot of things. But you know what? I am thirty-three and this is my life and I must do what I want to do, what I need to do, what is best for my family. And this? This is what that is. And you know what else? I was afraid when I started this little project. I was afraid I couldn’t really do it, that I would fail, and fast, that I would swiftly lose track of my reasons. I was afraid and I did it anyway. I did it and I’m doing it and it is hard, yes, but I haven’t felt this good – physically, emotionally, existentially – in a long long time.

And so. I sit here shaking. Clutching my coffee, my worst and most delicious vice for now. And so I sip it, slowly, proudly. It’s bitter and black, oh so hot. I sip it here, at my little table, in my little life, so alone, so surrounded, so awake, keen to the sunshine that lingers behind the fat gray clouds on this wet and wonderful almost-Spring day.

I sip it and smile.

A real smile.

And before I hit publish, I ask myself one more time: Why? And though there are so many reasons and so many compelling ones, one reason stands out from the rest. It’s three reasons, actually. And those three reasons of mine? They are pictured above playing in an empty bathtub.

At the end of the day, I’m doing this, and writing this, for them.

Any thoughts or questions about my Year Without Wine or my dry two months? Feel free to just say something tiny and supportive. (Did I mention I’m feeling a wee bit shaky about all this?) Thank you for reading my words everyday, but especially today.

Share.

Comments


117 Comments for: "I Sit Here Shaking. And Smiling."
  1. Meg

    Good for you, Aidan — you’re awesome, and I know you can do it!

    Though I can really and truly count the number of drinks I’ve ever had on my fingers and toes, I can absolutely relate to “numbing out” with things like online shopping, dessert consumption, etc. After a long day, I really and truly rush home and think, “I’ll feel better after a piece of pie.” Baking is my weakness, and I spend elaborate amounts of time creating things… and then eating them.

    We all have our coping mechanisms for when life gets tough, and we all battle these anxieties in different ways. You’re a brave, courageous and awesome person, and I know your dry time will be hard but wonderful, too.

    xo

    • Aidan Donnelley Rowley

      Thank you, Meg. Thank you for your words this morning, for being the first of so many people to come right out and say it, that you relate in some way, that these struggles, these stories, are at bottom exceedingly human. It is evening now and the girls are tucked in and I am about to sit down to dinner with Husband and slip into a low key sweatpants/TV night in and I can’t even fathom why I was so scared this morning to publish this post, but I was. I was scared because honesty is hard and not incredibly common in this modern world. We are all taught to smile, to grin and bear it, to polish the facade, but the reality is that we all cope and stumble in our own ways. And really this is not about wine or pies or reality television. This is about identity, and change, and conversation, and willingness to be fallible.

      Again: thank you :)

  2. Bravo. Bravo!! Sending you love on this road. I can’t wait to hear what you learn about the world, yourself, this life. I relate to very much of this. xoxo

    • Aidan Donnelley Rowley

      Thank you, Lindsey. As I said, I have learned so much already (about myself, my life, this world, non-alcoholic beer!) and can’t wait to see what other lessons are in store. At bottom, I think this year will offer a unique lens on things. I feel optimistic and inspired. And after 10 months? We shall see. I imagine I will return to wine, but that my relationship to it will be transformed and profoundly. Who knows. Thank you, as always, for your friendship and support. xox

  3. Brava! You are brave indeed. (And is it merely a coincidence that the words “bravo” and “brave” are so similar?) This is a wonderful thing you are doing, and not just because life sans alcohol is in some way superior to life with it.

    It’s wonderful because you are facing and conquering a challenge. You touched on something really important in your post, namely that we all have coping mechanisms. And there’s nothing wrong with a coping mechanism on its face; they help us get through all sorts of trials. But when the coping mechanism becomes not just the answer to a problem but a problem itself then we have to turn the tables a bit.

    I suspect that this year will be infinitely revealing to you – about what makes you tick, how you deal with stress, what your triggers are, and how the people around you relate to you. I hope and believe that your year-long project will be a great success and I wish you the best with it.

    Congrats on the past two months. And please keep us posted!

    • Aidan Donnelley Rowley

      Challenge, yes. I’ve always liked a challenge. As I’ve talked about before here, I was a big athlete growing up and a pretty competitive person athletically and academically and I think there is a part of me that is inspired and intrigued by the very idea of challenge, and change. I like having a goal and working toward it. And, let’s be honest, I like to succeed. I think this is part of the reason I decided to write about this publicly; that this will increase the chances that I follow through and do this for an entire year as planned. Now that I know people are reading, and listening, and relating, I will feel even more compelled to do this. The fact that I am willing to put myself out there, out here, in this conspicuously vulnerable way actually confirms for me that this is really important for me to do. It’s important for reasons I can articulate and those I cannot. I think I really want to believe that we can change, that we can look at ourselves and tweak who it is we’ve become, that we can play an active role in our evolution.

      Anyway, thank you. For your unwavering thoughtfulness and friendship. Hi to your boys :) xox

  4. Whitney

    I think it’s great what you’re doing. I agree that a mode of “escape” is a universal thing…we all have one, for better or worse, and I think it’s an interesting idea to give yours up for a while and see who you are or who you can be without it.

    On a slightly different note, I knew a guy who alternated years drinking and not drinking. He was quite faithful to it, and it kept him from falling into any particular habits one way or the other. I always thought it was funny that he did that, but I DID get it and admired him for the discipline.

    • Aidan Donnelley Rowley

      I do think we all use different things to escape and I do not necessarily think this is a bad thing. Many of us, for instance, escape by reading a wonderful novel and immersing ourselves in a world very different from our own. This strikes me as a healthy and happy mode of escape. That said, if we were reading forty novels a week and never showering or leaving our house, that would be a different story. One of my biggest curiosities about this year is seeing what other means of escape I might find, or whether I will go without escape altogether. I’m not sure the latter is even a possibility?

      So interesting about that guys you know who alternates. On some level, that makes a lot of sense to me. Thank you for chiming in here, Whitney!

  5. Heather

    Aidan….dang, you are brave, my friend. You have done the one thing that is so hard for so many of us — you have decided to change. To embrace something new, to purposely choose to change, to alter your normal. And then think about it and write about it? Dude, this is big and important.

    I could sit here and throw a gazillion quotes at you (many that I found on Pinterest, of course) about change and living your life and all of that, but you know this truth already. You know that this is just the beginning. This year without wine will be hard and NOT because you are giving up wine, but because you are changing and challenging yourself. Which is ALWAYS hard and weird…and illuminating and amazing and, I keep coming back to this word: brave.

    I, too, love the vino. And have often thought about it, why I drink, when I do and when I don’t, how I feel, how it is a crutch at times, and other times not. As you said, it is more a habit than a Problem. And I, too, wonder what I need to explore about this.

    You are right — it is universal. The habit could be wine or smoking or shopping or reality TV. But when you stop this habit or cut down on it or what have you, when you decide to shake it up and see what you are without this — THAT is what is so interesting. What you will discover this year about yourself, friends, mothering, writing, life — holy moley! It will be fascinating.

    I’m excited. I cannot wait to see how these next 10 months go. I’m thrilled to go on this ride with you. Please don’t be scared, though I get why you are. But remember what that article said about joy, true joy? It’s opposite is fear. So through this fear, you are finding your true joy. For them, for husband, for your girls.

    For you. xoxo

    • Aidan Donnelley Rowley

      It is all about deciding, isn’t it? Deciding to change, deciding to open our eyes, deciding to ask certain questions which are not easy. I must say something: It is much easier to be brave (and I am really not sure that is the right word here) when we are surrounded by amazing and thoughtful people. I think you know that you have been that for me, and the fact that you have been here brainstorming this project before and now during, has meant a tremendous amount.

      Something else you and I have chatted about which is SO important to mention here (and again and again) is that this is really about ME. This is about seeking a change in my own life. This experiment is not in any way meant to be prescriptive in nature; there is no SHOULD here. I do hope that people read my writing about this, but it would upset me to think that it was interpreted as a thinly-veiled attempt to get others to follow suit. Although so many of us are dealing with our own stuff, this is really one story about one person trying to tackle her stuff in her own way, you know? I know that people will read into everything what they want and I am okay with that, I have to be, but this is really not about other people, what they should do, or shouldn’t do, but about my own decision to try to alter my own behavior.

      Fear. Joy. Immense, fertile topics that will pop up throughout the year I trust. And you are right; this is for my girls but in other words, this is for me. How amazing is it that what is best for them can align so squarely with what is best for me? Thanks, as always, for being along for the ride. xox

  6. AGB

    This is amazing, Aidan! I am so proud of you for doing this (and writing so publicly about it!).

    Everyone wants to be a better person, but very few people actually experiment with change to see what would work. This is incredible.

    • Aidan Donnelley Rowley

      Thanks, you. Isn’t that what life is? The consistent, evolving desire to be a better person? Isn’t happiness itself tied up in the belief that we are progressing, changing, evolving?

      (Have fun on your international adventure! I am so envious and impressed! xox)

  7. C

    You know I have been a big-time supporter of this adventure from the get-go, despite the fact that it coincided with my re-entry into the world of wine! I am and have been so proud of you for confronting something like this so squarely and honestly – even though you really don’t need to in the way that many do. Interestingly, as I have reacquainted myself with pinot in my now 12 post-pregnancy days, I’ve realized that I didn’t really miss it that much – and that it’s not always the best thing for me, especially when sleep-deprived.

    I for one have enjoyed spending time with you in your months of sobriety, and I will enjoy sharing a celebratory glass with you 10 months from now, if that’s what you choose! Love you love you love you x 11 :)

    • Aidan Donnelley Rowley

      C – (for those of you who didn’t put it together, this is Sister C who had her beautiful baby girl a mere two weeks ago and is here, on my blog, leaving her words) You and I have a history of long, deep, real talks about life and so many things and I remember the day I told you about this experiment and you were cheerful and intrigued in your response and it felt really great in that moment to be supported because you know me. You know about my perfectionist tendencies, my constant quest for control, my tendency to overthink. You know that this year will be good for me even though it really isn’t necessary; you know that this is a positive thing, an experiment in empowerment, in switching things up.

      I just want you to know something and this has little to do with my year without wine… No matter where we are existentially or geographically, you will always be my sounding board for the little and the big. You will always be one of the very few people with whom I am most real and raw. You will always be the one I go to for advice even though you are my little sister. We talked yesterday about how we were both very different once upon a time, before “life events” and I think this is so very true, but I am glad we are who we are today, that we have been roughed up a bit by life and love, and all that has happened good and bad and in-between. This adulthood thing is tricky terrain but I am happy to be navigating it with you.

      Next year at this time, we will sip a good glass of pinot in the garden while our little ones play. I see it now. And we will talk about how we were different even a year ago, when your baby girl arrived, when I was embarking on an experimental course. I hazard to guess this will be a wonderful constant in conversations to come; how time travels, how we change.

      love you love you love you X 11 :)

  8. Little Fire / Big Heart…I’m at your feet waiting to hear what you’re learning. Courage has the best pay off ever. (would it be in bad taste if I said, “Cheers, you can do it!” Probably.) Mostly because you are already doing it — living awake. xoxoxo

    • Aidan Donnelley Rowley

      Danielle, thank you. Thank you for putting yourself out there, out here, in this odd and wonderful world, in setting a unique and passionate example for the rest of us. When I thought about doing this, really doing this, and also talking about it, being open about it, I felt fearful but I also thought of you, of all of the sage things you’ve said about courage, about bravery, about vulnerability. There is a boldness within me that I have become pretty good at ignoring. There are things I believe and want to say and I think for so long I have been obsessed with appearances and with perfection and caution so I have not said these things. Because it is always safer to stay quiet, to smile, to pretend even. I cannot promise to be a totally open book, but I can vow to be more open, more awake, in my life, and here. And that’s really what this is about. Waking up to my life, to my love, to all of the stories I have within and without to tell.

      It is not at all in bad taste to say cheers. I hope to say that very word to you in person this month here in the big city when we gather to celebrate your new and amazing book. xox

  9. Wow. I don’t really comment, but I am amazed at your courage and your commitment. I, too, find my own relationship with wine to be bordering on problematic. I like how you evoked a larger sense of a Problem as being different. How introspective, wise and responsible to issue this self-moratorium so you can reassess and give space for something else to grow.
    This post made you so much more relatable and for that I am grateful. I share in an often shameful surplus of insecurity and know the myriad ways in which we try to soothe that part of us Ė many of us in socially acceptable ways that are undetectable to the naked eye.
    Thank you for being brave.

    • Aidan Donnelley Rowley

      Heather – Thank you for commenting, particularly because this is not something you normally do. So many people tell me that they read my words and want to say something but can’t bring themselves to type out those things, so this means a lot… From what I gather from talking to friends and acquaintances, many many many of us have a complicated relationship with alcohol (or something). What is interesting to me is that there are many people who don’t really think about this, or worry about it. As long as they are functional in their lives, getting their stuff done, etc they don’t really feel the need to scrutinize their own ways. In many ways, I wish I could be like this because the reality is that I am that functional, very functional, person. I am on my game, etc but I also think a lot about things, about my choices, about consequences of my choices, etc…

      I am glad that this post allowed you and others to relate to me more. I am. I think the internet is really tricky place when it comes to this because we all have the power to over-edit our own stories to make them seem more perfect than they actually are. I had this really eye-opening lunch with Mom once where she basically told me that I only hint at struggles but then tie my posts up with a happy ending. I felt defensive when she said this, but she was, and is, 100% right. I think I have felt compelled (not sure why) to paint a really pretty picture here of my life because I do have a really wonderful life that I love and am immensely thankful for, but I think we can overdo it in the pretty painting… How to be real and relatable without revealing too much?

      I will quit rambling, but you touched on something else that’s really interesting – detectability. So much of what we do to cope with life, with confusion, is really not visible to others. In many ways, this is a good thing, that we can do what we do in our own private ways. But when does this become hiding? From ourselves? From others?

      Thank you. Again.

  10. I wrote an entry about a similar decision I made over a year and a half ago, and I remember the shaking: http://www.schmutzie.com/weblog/2010/8/30/drunkenness-is-temporary-suicide.html

    You probably already know this, but you’re not alone, and, even though we’ve only just met, I have a measure of pride in your decision. My first year sober had its highs and lows, but by and large it was really an extended lightbulb moment.

    In short: go you!

    • Aidan Donnelley Rowley

      Your post is raw and beautiful and breathtaking and thank you for sharing it. What’s interesting to me is that I was shaking about the prospect of sharing this, but not about the prospect of doing it. I feel like this is a choice, a choice to step back, to tidy my mind and habits and life, to figure out what life is and feels like without wine. But there is an immense fear within me about admitting to doing this because I have always been keen on appearing perfect even though I find perfection utterly boring. Go figure. I thank you for your reminder that no matter my aim here, no matter what it is I am trying to do and learn, I am far from alone. I look forward to the extended lightbulb moment that is the next 10 months.

      Thank you.

  11. I’m glad I saw the link Danielle LaPorte left at Facebook and clicked over to read your post. I lend my support to the brave thing you’re doing … giving up the wine AND writing about the process with authenticity. In my mind I see myself writing a similar post about giving up SILENCE to share my truth … and wonder when or whether I’ll be as brave as you.
    Hugs and blessings,

    • Aidan Donnelley Rowley

      So grateful to Danielle for supporting me in this and for linking this way. She is a wonderful, and wise, woman I feel lucky to know. I love the idea of you giving up silence and hope very much I have the chance to read whatever it is you write. Thank you, Virginia.

  12. Brettne Bloom

    So proud of you for sharing this, Aidan. Gorgeous post, very brave and inspiring and thought-provoking.

  13. Aidan, this is so beautifully honest, heartfelt, powerful and authentic. I recognize the shaking on a deeply personal level- I wrote about it here.

    Just know that you are doing a GOOD thing, something for you and for your goals and dreams and future. Being awake, aware and in the moment is worth it. Truly.

    • Aidan Donnelley Rowley

      Thank you, Titanium. I read your piece on your blog and it is so sparse and beautiful and telling and I really encourage everyone to click over. I know that this is good. It feels good. It feels right. But it also feels tricky and complicated and oddly self-indulgent. That might sound odd. Part of me, a tiny part, wonders why I am doing this, and focusing on this, if it is not truly necessary, you know? Deep down, I know though that this is a really wonderful thing for me to do, for myself and my creatures and the arc of my life. And so I am doing it. And I am thankful that I am worlds from alone in doing it, living it, and telling it.

  14. What a courageous move, both in giving up wine and in writing so honestly about it. I salute you from the trenches, darlin’… I’m doing the same thing, but instead of wine, I’ve given up my former career.

    There is so much to be gained in sacrifice, because it burns up what is truly inessential and unneeded, even if we’ve come to depend on it. I know you have the strength and courage to do this, even if you slip once or twice. Slipping doesn’t negate intent. Remember that. Focus on your intent.

    Cheers, my dear. Great work. I’ll be following.

    • Aidan Donnelley Rowley

      Thank you, Sue. I am not sure how long you have been reading here, but once upon a time, I was a practicing attorney at a big Manhattan firm and after a pretty short amount of time, I walked away. I gave it up; the prestige, the high-wattage track and possibilities, that world. I gave it up to write which I knew – only subconsciously then – that I had to do. What I really did was trade in the known (money, power, respect) for the unknown. And it felt scary but it felt oh so right and I just did it even though I didn’t know what the future would look like, or feel like. I also did it because I could (financially, etc). This is really not all that different now that I come to think about it. I am giving up something that I once relied upon on some level for the relative unknown. The past two months have been full of novelty and realization and learning and I am still figuring it all out, but things are very good.

      Thank you for reading and following. It means a great deal.

  15. I honor your courage and bravery. Honesty is scary and sometimes painful, but your soul will soar. You have my support, and I will follow you and learn……

    • Aidan Donnelley Rowley

      Thank you, Katie. I know it is a little thing, but I love the world “soar.” It is a good word and maybe just the right one in this instance. I hope so. Thank you for reading, for chiming in here, for confirming that this is a story worth telling.

  16. Paige

    I always read but never comment, once maybe! But good for you!!! I look forward to reading all your funny and serious prose on your endeavor!

    • Aidan Donnelley Rowley

      Thank you, Paige. Funny and serious indeed! I already have a bunch of funny stories tucked away to tell about the past couple of months. And it is important to emphasize that this is not a somber, super serious endeavor, but in many ways a happy stab at change. Who will I be at the end of these 12 months? Will I be thinner, smarter, sillier? Will I be a better wife, a better mom, a better daughter, a better friend? Will I have written more, and written differently? Will I be a true coffee (and candy!) connoisseur? These are fun and interesting questions for me to ask right now.

  17. Just have to say bravo. I honor your vulnerability and your sincerity. Both struck a deep cord with me. Thank you for letting us into a deeper part of you.

    • Aidan Donnelley Rowley

      Thank you. We all have so many levels, don’t we? And we let most people just see the upper most layers of who we are… This makes sense on a practical level, but how wonderful to be able to carefully expose deeper levels of who it is we are, of who it is we hope to be? Vulnerability is hard, and hard for me, but there is unique power and possibility there, I think.

  18. Ana

    Echoing all the above, very brave of you—the realizing, the doing, and the writing about. I think so so many of us can relate…it’s all a very slippery slope from fun…to habit…to problem…to PROBLEM. And coming to terms with where you are on that slope (no matter what your particular weakness may be—wine is mine, too), and working to push yourself BACK up the hill…its commendable, really. While I have no immediate plans to completely abstain from alcohol, I have also been on a journey this year to get out of the habit of wine=relax. Its harder than I thought. So thank you for sharing this.

    • Aidan Donnelley Rowley

      Slippery slope indeed. How to keep ourselves from slipping too far while allowing ourselves to slip within limits? Because life without any slipping is really no fun, is it? Someone who I really admire and respect said that life is most enjoyable when we retain a certain amount of control but not total control – like skiing. When going down the mountain, the best skier finds that precarious balance between letting go and holding on. But, again, the balance is precarious.

      So good to hear that you can relate. I am realizing more and more that so many people see themselves in all of this, that there is something undeniably human about what I am doing and feeling.

  19. Brave, brave girl. Brave post. Good on you, Aidan.

  20. Megan @ MN Meditations

    What a brave and lovely example you are setting for your daughters. Though young, they watch your every move. With alcohol on the rise with kids, even as young as third grade, I always applaud parents who realize that their actions directly influence the future actions of their kids.

    Good luck, Aidan!

    • Aidan Donnelley Rowley

      Thanks, Megan. I think part of my motivation to do this now is that my girls are quite young still and are not “watching” me/us like they might be down the line. Ultimately, I do not expect to be a perfect role model for them; this would be absolutely impossible and also not good. I think I want to do some work to figure out how to be a better version of myself personally and professionally so that I can be a happy and thoughtful mother to them. They have, and will again, see me drink. I am fine with that. I think wine can be a wonderful and celebratory thing and I do not have plans to abolish it from my life or our home. I guess I am just interested in a bit of a reboot or reset on my relationship with it. I believe that stepping back and thinking and writing about this will be helpful in doing just that.

  21. Kristen

    You are amazing – rockstar status (er, um, but without the alcohol)! You should truly be proud of yourself. I love your experiment and I’m looking forward to reading how you feel four months and ten months from now. Does your body feel differently already? I’ve gone a few weeks without alcohol, but never two whole months!

    What an inspiration!

    • Aidan Donnelley Rowley

      My body does feel different already. A lot different. I have had more energy, have been working out a ton (maybe too much – I could very well be replacing the booze with exercise which is not necessarily super healthy), and sleeping far better. My moods are also much more stable; I just feel better. And it sounds silly but I am proud of myself. To be frank, I wasn’t sure that this is something I would really do. I am the master of making grand plans and not following through and I think I believed that this was just another idea that I would abandon. Truth be told, I am only 2 months in, but I have no plans to bail on this now!

  22. Ah, Aidan. Once again something meaty and real and challenging and hard. The question you ask, really, is what is a life well lived? A life actually lived, and not just passed through. You desire to do this has many layers, I know, but at the deepest level I sense that you quite simply want to LIVE your life. An abundant and full life, a challenging and complicated life, a messy and sparkly life. A life I feel blessed to bear witness to. xoxo

    • Aidan Donnelley Rowley

      Not just passed through… exactly, Lauren. One of the most amazing things about the last two months has been the uniting and crisp clarity of everything. Colors and sounds and thoughts and memories have been more vibrant and alive because I have not blurred their edges with anything. This is really about life, about living, about living well and openly and honestly. Not living perfectly, but living well. And this also has so much to do with embracing the cracks and complications, the things that have understandably and historically stressed me out. I want to know what these things are, what they really look like and feel like. Messy and sparkly all the way. All the way. You get this, really get it :)

  23. AG

    I think it’s brave what you are doing but even braver that you are sharing it here with all of us. Your blogging honesty is inspiring. You don’t know this but through the honesty you have always conveyed on this blog you inspired me to start my own blog about my journey with my mom’s MS… (www.msrecess.com) and remembering posts like this gives me the push to keep going in the honesy I am sharing with others on there. It’s pretty beginner compared to yours but I also know you have to start somewhere.

    Go Aidan!

    • Aidan Donnelley Rowley

      Deciding to do this year without wine wasn’t nearly as hard as deciding to share it here. I know that this is a good and interesting thing for me to do, something that will benefit me in known and unknown ways, but the opening up about all of this is a very different thing. One person played a huge role in getting me to tell this story and I will talk about her and our conversation at some point when I am ready, but the gist was that she made me realized how incredibly useful my story might be to so many people, people who are not at rock bottom or weathering dramatic problems, but people who are leading good and functional and happy lives even, but who are struggling with things, things they would like very much to change.

      I am so excited and honored to hear that I played any part in your starting a blog about your mother’s MS. That is really really wonderful and I look forward to checking out your site. Don’t be apologetic that you are just starting out; there is something so magical about being at the beginning of this, and of any worthwhile thing.

  24. Tom

    I stopped drinking alcohol (and other drugs) nearly 36 years ago. You have amazing times ahead of you if you pursue this path. I would suggest you check out 12 step groups.

    • Aidan Donnelley Rowley

      Tom – 36 years is really impressive. So wonderful. This project is about the next year and at that point, I will decide what I want to do. What I do know already is that I will approach alcohol differently, and more thoughtfully, because I have already learned so much. I have a handful of friends who are in 12-step programs and I look forward to chatting with them about their experiences in those programs. One of my hesitations about telling this story has been communicating the distinction in my mind between problem/Problem. I am not someone who needs alcohol. I went through 3 pregnancies without drinking and I stopped two months ago without any issues. I feel very fortunate about this. I am still very interested – intellectually and personally – about the role of alcohol in modern life, and about the connection between motherhood/parenthood and alcohol in particular. I am hoping that many people will be willing to share their thoughts and stories with me about these things because I am only one person. Thank you for chiming in here, and again, 36 years is really something.

  25. You should be proud of yourself and you deserve praise for taking the step. Keep going.

    • Aidan Donnelley Rowley

      Thank you, Jack. “Keep going.” That’s exactly what I plan to do and honestly this is more exciting and interesting now that I have let all of you in. I look forward to sharing what I am learning along the way.

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  27. I am inspired by this, both as a writer and as a woman working on my own ‘stuff’… I happen to be rereading ‘The Secret Garden’ by Frances Hodgson Burnett for the first time since my childhood, and am reminded of the wisest adult in the story– a mother who loves her children and is able to extend that love out to the forlorn little protagonist. Her love sharpens her intuition and makes her wise. Love of children is nothing less than revolutionary in this world… Thank you for this writing! And congratulations!

    • Aidan Donnelley Rowley

      Kate – We all have “stuff.” I think that is the perfect word. And I am taken by the idea that love, and love of children in particular, can indeed make us wiser and more intuitive about ourselves, and the world. I think, I know, this is true.

  28. Jess

    Good for you. I am impressed that you are able to stick to your guns, it would be hard for me! But more than that I am inspired that you are sharing your journey here. I know you can do it and look forward to hearing all about what you learn along the way. xoxoxoxoxo

    • Aidan Donnelley Rowley

      Thanks, Jess. You are someone who knows just how much I like my Pinot Grigio and that this is a real challenge I am embarking upon. But it will be interesting and I look forward to keeping you posted on all that happens, and occurs to me. Hello to those precious babes :)

  29. I was directed here from Kristina’s Ten Minute Missive blog. I love your brave, honest post – thank you for sharing your story. Now I’m off to read more of you!

    • Aidan Donnelley Rowley

      I am so happy, and thankful, that Kristina pointed the way here. Being this honest and this vulnerable is not easy for me, but it feels good and it feels right and it is clear that I am not at all the only one who asks these questions. There is an immense satisfaction in knowing that we are all much more alike than we are different. Thanks for this comment and for poking around my other stuff!

  30. Sending you much love and hugs… you’re incredible. Really :) xoxo

    • Aidan Donnelley Rowley

      Thank you, Corinne. I remember reading your first post about giving up alcohol two years ago and I remember how moved and inspired and amazed I felt reading your words. I look forward to catching up with you and seeing what you have learned. xo

  31. Husband

    I’m glad to see all the support from your readers. I know this was a hard decision but it’s one that I’m proud of you for making. The better we know ourselves the better influences we can be on those three little ones in the tub.

    • Aidan Donnelley Rowley

      Babe – {for those of you who do not get it, this is Husband – and this is his very first blog comment here} Thank you for your ear, your love, your support, for everything. You and I have had so many conversations about life, about these little girls of ours, of who we want to be alone and together, for ourselves, for them. You have tolerated my endless overthinking of myself and the world. I know that you believe this is a good and positive thing for me, for us, for the girls. I also know that you believe that the very concept of change is interesting and worth exploring. Thank you for holding my hand over the last two months and the last ten years. I love you more than you know. Or maybe you do have a hunch? Cheers, my man. To the next ten months. To the rest of our good, complicated life together.

  32. Lindsey Elinor

    Wow Aidan! How courageous you are to try something new and write about it and share it with the world. I commend you on a vision of health and happiness. Life without alcohol is tricky and sometimes even isolating but it allows for a clarity of mind and a world where we are stuck with our feelings – good, bad or other. I think you will find the longer you go the less you will miss it. It just leaves the daily consciousness. Not that you won’t miss it or remember it fondly but it will not be something that comes to mind first. Good for you for giving it a go and I hope it brings you the H&H you are hoping it will. And good for you for setting an example. Much love and respect. xo

    • Aidan Donnelley Rowley

      Lindsey – For many reasons, these words mean a ton to me. You have been a steady source of thoughtfulness and wisdom on this topic. You are right; I don’t even think about having a drink these days. I do think about the fact that I am not drinking and about how this is, or isn’t, affecting my life. I think about this because I am an observer, a thinker, a writer and I don’t want to miss any of this, you know? Fun to be working with you these days :)

  33. Wishing you luck and strength on this bold step, Aidan. Two months is laudable. Be proud.

  34. Nice. Very, very nice. Lucky kids. :)

  35. There’s so much wisdom and bravery here. And you’re right, of course: we all have our coping mechanisms. The trick then is to stop and see if they’re harmless, harmful, or somewhere in between. Thank you for the invitation to join your on this journey and the inspiration to take a look at my own habits.

    Sending love to you! xo

    • Aidan Donnelley Rowley

      Thank you, Kristen. Yes, in many ways, this is really about coping mechanisms, which we all have. What makes one mechanism healthy and harmless and another harmful? I don’t know but it’s worth thinking about. I think a large part is how we feel about the mechanisms we use. I know some people who have a glass or two if wine at night to demarcate day and night and unwind and do not worry about it all and I do not think this is a bad thing. I think maybe it becomes unhealthy, or particularly unhealthy, when we begin to grow concerned about our own ways, when we begin to spend precious time feeling shameful or regretful about our own ways of dealing.

  36. Hi Aidan, Sending good cheer and warmest wishes.

    Spirits run deep in my own family history, from when my grandfather’s liquor store was firebombed by Al Capone in post-prohibition Chicago, helping him see the light in coming to terms with Jake “Greasy Thumbs” Guzik, Capone’s right-hand man, in the lobby of the Drake Hotel. Still, he ended up losing his chain of liquor stores and all his money.

    Perhaps we’re all searching for true spirit each in our own way, and all in our collective way, and sometimes Dionysus leads to ecstasy and sometimes to real trouble.

    Here’s to wishing you soul wrought from your loving, living and writing at the edge of the wine dark sea.

    XO

    • Aidan Donnelley Rowley

      Thank you, Bruce. So wise and thoughtful, as always. Isn’t it incredible and amazing and alarming how ecstasy and trouble can be woven together so compellingly? Isn’t it encouraging and unnerving to know that we are all searching for something, something within ourselves, or out in the world? Isn’t it fascinating to know that we all have histories, those we know and those we don’t, and that these histories affect us in ways we are able to glean, and in ways we will never glimpse?

  37. Raw. Honest. And I commend you for having the bravery to share. xoxo

  38. I love how Schmutzie said that her first year was one long light bulb moment. It’s amazing how, even if you’re not a Problem drinker, you can avoid both bad and good things with alcohol. So many of us do/did. So so so many. And that you are doing this for you and for them, even though it’s not a Problem…or like me, a PROBLEM :), is so so so good.

    Much peace and love to you, Aidan.

    • Aidan Donnelley Rowley

      Heather – Thank you. I know that you have much wisdom on this topic and it means a great deal that you are here leaving your words. You are right. Even those of us who are not Problem drinkers, can and do use alcohol to avoid good things, bad things, things that make us feel. Again, I have been AMAZED by the number of people who have confessed to me that they have, and do, use alcohol for this and so many other reasons. Cheers to light bulbs, little and big :)

  39. The year before my ex left, I didn’t drink a drop of alcohol. I did it to support him. I went to his meetings and sat quietly and supportively. I thought it might be hard for me, but it was easy. He left, anyway, and I began drinking again. (Wine is also my favorite drug of choice.) I often consider the possibility of not drinking – this time, for me. I don’t have a problem (I’ve seen close up what that looks like), but I know it doesn’t serve me and who I want to be in this world. Thanks, Aidan, for your honesty. We really are all in this together. xoxo

    • Aidan Donnelley Rowley

      Your comment reminds me of something interesting, and important. As you know, I have three little girls and during all three pregnancies, I did not drink. This was not hard at all. I did this because it was the right, and healthy, thing to do. I did this because I was carrying a life. I did this for them. So they would be healthy. But now. I have no baby growing within me and I find that I am doing this for me, and for them, because that is the same thing. There is something really wonderful about doing something for ourselves, about putting ourselves first in this world that has so much emphasis on other. I think it is really wonderful, and commendable, that you gave up alcohol to support your ex; a testimony to who you are as a person, in my estimation. Thank you for your kind and thoughtful words, Debra.

  40. Aine

    Hey I just came across your website for the first time, and yes I’ve just went off alcohol for a year too! Since Janurary. I think I will be off it for life, but I’m doing a year to start with. I’ve already spent years cutting back and abstaining for months at a time.. you will love being off it! Your self-confidence I’m sure is already soaring. Once you’ve made the decision it’s not so hard as long as you realise your’re free and not in any way deprived. Red wine remained my weakness, long after my taste for beer and whiskey diminished. I’m glad I’m off it! You go girl ;-)P.s. my advice is to go out as much as you would have done and make sure you do things sober like dance and so on.. you’ll realise you don’t need it at all

    • Aidan Donnelley Rowley

      Welcome, Aine! So interesting that you stopped drinking in January for a year too! I do feel good and have been going out a lot and having just as much fun as I’ve always had. I’m not much of a dancer, so haven’t experimented with that!

      Thanks for coming by. Hope you take a minute to look around. Good luck with your year!

  41. It’s scary to commit to a whole year of being a somewhat different person (well, same person with different habits). I do applaud you for your efforts and look forward to hearing your progress on this journey. It’s funny because I recently gave up coffee. I didn’t give myself a time frame, but it’s been 2 weeks and I’m still going strong. Eventually, I want to get to the point where I can drink coffee 1-2 times per week and subsist on green tea the rest. But I’m afraid that if I “break the seal” so to speak, I will end up drinking it every day. A year is a long time, but we’ve done almost that long when pregnant, right?

    • Aidan Donnelley Rowley

      Good luck on your coffee avoidance efforts. I went two-plus weeks recently without caffeine and it was really hard at first, but I got used to it. Amazing how adaptable we are when we choose to be. A year is a long time and I know this but I also think it is a good chunk of time in which to truly glimpse what life is without this escape. Husband made the interesting point that I will experience each of the seasons from this vantage point which I think is really cool to think about… And, yes, if we can avoid these things when pregnant for the sake of our unborn babes, why can’t we avoid them when not pregnant for ourselves?

  42. Katherine

    Aidan,

    I always love reading your blog — the light stuff and the heavy stuff. But today’s was exceptional. I related to it because its written so very well. So thank you for deploying your talents in a way that has helped me today. I’ve been needing to relate to someone on this topic and for someone to give some words to my own murky feelings on alcohol.

    Thank you!

    • Aidan Donnelley Rowley

      Murky is a great word. So much of life is murky and I think we are all wired on some level to avoid the murk in favor of clearer waters, but I think there is something interesting and instructive about the murkiness. Thank you, Katherine.

  43. Aiden, thank you for writing this. I am a twelve-stepper for my weight so I can ceetainly relate to a lot of this, although I’ve been in program and abstinent for nearly 12 years. The only way that I’m sorry about you doing it alone and having a problem instead of a Problem is that you’re missing out on fellowship – listening to other peoples’ somewhat similar stories – and, worse, you’re missing out on the 12 steps, a true miracle.

    However, to use a comparison from my area of experience, there are plenty of people out there who may eat too much but who may still be able to diet, so to speak. If this is you and you’re not having fantasies about what you’re missing or planning an all day party for next January :), then it sounds like you’re doing the right thing. Happy to be in contact again!

    • Aidan Donnelley Rowley

      Thank you, Linda. For your words, for sharing a bit of your own story, for reminding me of something important, and worth mentioning: I do not feel like I am doing this alone. At all. For the past two months, I have told a handful of people about this and now all of you guys know about this, and so many can relate to it, and this makes me feel wildly and wonderfully surrounded and supported. ALSO – and this is very important to mention: I feel strongly about writing about my particular situation and story because of its relative subtlety. I am not an alcoholic. I am not checking myself into rehab. I am not dependent on a substance that is ruining my life, and relationships. I am thankful, and deeply, for all of this. That said, I struggle with things, smaller things, but things that are real and feel real and feel hard sometimes. I think a lot of people out there are struggling in these much more subtle ways, ways that don’t require intervention or change either. But I think these people – and many appear to be reading – will be encouraged to know that they are far from alone in their admittedly non-extreme fallibility, and maybe interested in reading, and talking, about the less dramatic, but still very real, problems we all deal with. Does that make sense? I am not sure it does, but alas.

      As for next January… Will their be a big blowout party? Maybe so :)

  44. Liz

    I definitely salute you, not just for doing this, but for writing about it and putting it out there. Accoutability is a big thing. And judgment? Always a little scary, even when we say we don’t care. I totally get it. I catch myself, every once in a while, thinking “Oh, this moment would be so much better if I could only have a glass of wine…” and then, that is when (almost always) I don’t, because I could defintely see myself getting into a pattern. I am super aware of it. But, admittedly, wine, too is my weakness. Keep us posted.

    • Aidan Donnelley Rowley

      Liz – Thanks for this. Judgment is real and it is scary and we can say that we do not care what others think, but we will all always care about what other people think. I just spent the morning writing about this decision, this decision to be truthful about this little experiment of mine, and I really have no regrets. Sure, it would be far easier to make changes in my life and not blab about them. Of course. But this writing, this artful blabbing I hope, is important to me, and for me. I think I will learn far more by doing this here, with people watching and wondering and participating, than I would if I did it in the confines of my own private life. This decision, to talk and live this publicly is very personal and I know that many others would never make this choice. I think that next year at this time, I will be a different person in certain ways. I imagine that I will be drinking wine again, but differently, more thoughtfully. Awareness is paramount. I will indeed keep you, and everyone here, posted. Thanks again. Hope you are well! :)

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  46. San

    At first, when I read your post, I was like “so what, she’s giving up alcohol”? I didn’t see what the big deal was since I didn’t drink in highschool or college (I just didn’t like the taste of alcohol), but of course, it’s not about alcohol per se, but the crutch it can be for people.
    I applaud you for the courage to try this experiment. I mean, what’s there to lose?

    • Aidan Donnelley Rowley

      Yes! That is indeed the point. This is really not about alcohol, or any one thing, but about change. We all live our lives differently, cope differently, choose differently. And, I imagine, I hope, we all have things about ourselves that we would like to change. To me, there is nothing sadder than a person who has no interest at all in self-betterment.

      The unfortunate, and also interesting, thing is that talking about alcohol has always been something of a taboo. What I ask is that anyone who reads this, and follows this, substitute “thing” for alcohol. Thing can be pastries, or marathons, or trashy television, or sex even. The point is, the simple point is, that I am giving up one “thing” for one year and want to see what that’s like.

      Thank you for your words, San. I see it how you see it; there’s not much to lose, but a great deal to gain.

  47. Wow, do you think people can relate? Based upon comments alone they do, of course they do. We all have a crutch and if it isn’t a “thing” maybe it’s anger or humor but it’s something. I’m excited for your year and as my friend Jen Goodman Linn said “amazing things can happen when you remove fear from the equation.” I wish you many amazing “things”.

    • Aidan Donnelley Rowley

      Removal of fear. Yes. This is so much about fear, isn’t it? Who are we without the things we have come to depend upon? Who are we without our habits? When we strip ourselves of things we don’t really need, what then? I know that I will never be able to eliminate fear from my life and from my work, but I think that limiting its hold is so important for all of us. I see so many people paralyzed by fear who stand still because they are simply afraid of moving. I understand, I do, but it makes me sad.

      It means a great deal to have your support, Lauren, particularly because I know you know so much about human dependence on things, edible and other, through the important work that you do. Thanks!!

  48. I love Lauren’s quote above: “Amazing things can happen when you remove fear from the equation.” Because, like your mom said, this isn’t about alcohol — so I wonder if it’s about fear? It is for me. I relate to so much of this, and suspect that we all do. It’s the fear part, and as you point out we may all have our other ways of masking who we are: wine, exercise, chocolate, shopping, whatever. Wine is indeed my crutch — but it is more than that. Like you, I hope I can be emphatic without being defensive that I don’t think I have a capital “P” Problem. I could stop drinking if I wanted, sure, but do I HAVE to do prove I don’t have a problem? And does saying that in and of itself sound defensive? Anyway, I don’t want to complicate what is a very easy issue for me: wine is a part of my personality. My grandfather was “knighted” in France for his wine-tasting skills. I was half-way through sommelier school in California and I worked at a wine shop. And let’s be clear we are talking about wine here: I have not drunk hard alcohol in years. I drink beer only on a sunny Sunday afternoon in the summer. But I love wine. L.O.V.E. I am a hostess who loves to pair the right wine with her food, who opens too many bottles at a dinner party. As much as I do think wine can be a crutch for me — and a crutch that leaves me waking up feeling sluggish sometimes, or mad at myself for wasting away the previous evening on the couch in front of the TV clutching a glass or two of Rioja — who would I be without wine? That is my BIG FEAR. Will going out to dinner even be fun? Will it be worth it? Will a Saturday evening home with my husband be fun and cozy?
    Thank you thank you for writing about this. I’ve done a lot of thinking since I’ve read this. I’ve drawn no conclusions, but I know that wasn’t your intent — it’s the thinking part that was.
    xo

    • Aidan Donnelley Rowley

      Yes, I am realizing that much of this, so much of this, is about fear. Is giving up alcohol in itself a huge thing? Not really. But it is when it is so ingrained in one’s personal history, in one’s way of living, of socializing, etc. I grew up in Manhattan, a world where everyone drinks, I went to college and law school where everyone seemed to drink, I worked at a law firm where everyone drank and drank A LOT, and now I am a mother and am realizing that so many mothers drink, not necessarily problematically, but consistently, because life is stuffed with new breeds of responsibility, and anxiety, and fear, and love. What is it to live life without a thing that has become so woven into the fabric of that life? From what I can tell from two months, it is to feel good, and be awake, and be stuffed to the gills with questions and realizations.

      Yes, this is about thinking. Thinking in new ways, bigger ways. I do not expect or want anyone to read this and feel like they must change, but I do want people to think. Thinking is good, vital, something that too often gets shoved aside as we plow forward in our practical lives.

      Thank you for being another voice in this important, and interesting, conversation.

      xo

      • Aidan, Kathryn loved reading what you wrote. Kathryn I think at times the “what ifs” or “how will this work” are more scary than the reality. I only know food but with food there is feel to go without sugar (at times) or eating after dinner or even binging. The worry about what things will look like without sometimes trumps the actual terrible-ness of the change. Sometimes a way to face fear is to describe to yourself the worst case scenario and work through that. I also thing whether with wine or exercise or spending many people fall somewhere between a Problem (with a capital P) and a non issue, it’s in that other space we all live and justify and sort out.
        On another note “husband”, “C” it’s like a family reunion or support group. Love it. Em me to set a date and to tell me about C.

        • Aidan Donnelley Rowley

          Lauren – I really love the Worst Case Scenario approach. When I was debating whether to go public with this wine-free year thing, I did this. I said: Okay, what is the worst thing that will happen if people know that I am trying to alter my drinking habits? And then I imagined the worst things that could happen (Confusion, Judgment, Scorn) and it really didn’t seem that terrible. And now. Here I am. Up at 10:50pm responding to blog comments because I am SO excited about this, and eager to interact with all of you about it. This is really amazing.

          And, yes, it is a family/friend party here and I love that. To have the support of people in my inner circle and people in my physical life and people in my blog life, people I know well and people I barely know – all of it means so much.

          Will email to make our long overdue catchup date! xox

  49. Honest and brave, good for you. You have a lot of support and love from your readers and most important from the one you love.

    • Aidan Donnelley Rowley

      Yes, support. Loads of it. Feels incredible and affirms that I am doing something important and interesting. Thanks, you.

  50. Dia

    I’ve been meaning to write since reading this! I LOVE IT! I’ve had similar struggles/nonstruggles with drinking, so I thought I’d share. I’ve never done a full year off, but drinking was something I noticed about being a lawyer– I drank too much. I drank to unwind as very fast as I could– to shed off the day– almost as a habit. Whether I got home at 6pm or 10pm, it seemed critical that I switch gears as fast as I could. Like you, I never considered it a Problem, but it was certainly a problem. What helped me see it was that I was also coming out of my depression at the time, and found it did not support my intention of getting through that because it numbed what was there, it slowed my work. Once I became aware of what drinking was doing to me (and once I realized that running a marathon was going to be subtly rough if I kept it up), I became very conscious about when I drank. And since then that consciousness has created less and less choosing to drink. Even as a lawyer in Denver, I decided I’d take care of myself in other ways. Ultimately I think my ability to care for myself in real ways contributed to getting fired (a huge blessing since I was going to quit a month later- A blessing when I keep the ego is out of it, which is actually most of the time!) But I just feel better about making it a conscious choice, and not a default or a need to unwind on the quick, or a quick cave in a social setting. And there was something about being willing to take the time to take care of myself in healthy and productive ways. Even recently, I’ve started a yoga teacher training program and find myself drinking less and less yet again. I just had a little too much to drink last Friday night and was like, okay, not my thing anymore. It blurs my experiences, and I am loving life so much that I don’t want that blurring. It was right after that night that I read your post and was inspired again. I already don’t drink at home anymore except for very very occassionally, and sometimes I don’t drink when out with friends (even on dates– which is it’s own type of experiment!) , but I can see myself swaying towards the alert and alive and aware… more and more. And I love it! I really hope that your learning around this is deep and lasting and sharp. Whether the year turns into 2, or whether the year just creates awareness and choice I think it is a beautiful and brave venture, and I’m excited for you!

    So, I guess I just wanted to say BRAVO! And that I’m with you.

    • Aidan Donnelley Rowley

      Dia! It is so so great to see your words here and to read your story. I think an entire book could be written on alcohol in the legal world. (Oh wait. I wrote that book!) No, really, there is so much that you say here that is right on and fascinating and real. It is really incredible and eye-opening to know that there are so many others who are taking time to ponder change, to look at themselves and their habits and their dreams and their desires… the list goes on. I do not pretend to know exactly what this year will bring, but I do know that I will learn much. About myself. About my life. About so many other people who really have the same overarching wish: to live a good, and full, life.

      I very much hope you continue to add your voice to the mix. We must get coffee one of these days if you are ever in town. xxo

  51. I get it. And I wish you luck.

    Thanks for sharing your journey.

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  53. Kate Hopper

    Wonderful, brave post! You have inspired me–and all of us, I think–to take a closer look at alcohol in our lives. Thank you!

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  58. I am here and excited to be reading. Friends in sobriety!

  59. Relate? mmm. yes. I just spent a good portion of the afternoon reading through all these posts and comments related to this drinking experiment and the whys of it. I was glued. I threw my first punch at the daily glass of wine or two (or three sometimes) last year, but she continues to slip back in through the sliding door of my anxieties more regularly than I’m happy about. I understand your fear, your hesitation, and I’m here in the bleachers rooting for you, awed, nervous. “Wow she is really doing this…jumping from that height without the emergency kit?”

    • Aidan Donnelley Rowley

      Kathryn – So pleased to see these words and to know that you can relate to all of this. What I am learning is that SO many people can relate to all of this. It is not always about alcohol – though it very often is – but I think we all turn to things to numb, to block, to escape, to unwind. And sometimes these patterns can become too much, and unhealthy. Saturday was the five month mark for me. Five months without a sip of booze. And that’s honestly a really big deal for me. But it’s also a wonderful deal. Here I am on Father’s Day – a day that would have been really hard (and wine-soaked) for me historically, but it was such a real and gorgeous day with my husband and girls and I really felt like I felt the day instead of ran from it. I whipped up a post about it tomorrow, so I do hope you come back.

      All of this is scary and new, but it continues to be amazing as well. So happy you are here reading. xox

  60. Wow… I admire an am inspired by your honesty. Thank you for sharing your journey. How brave you are!

    • Aidan Donnelley Rowley

      Thank you, Erin. I was so so scared (and excited) the day I wrote that post but I am so happy I did. My life has improved immensely since not only giving up my wine, but since talking about it. I think there is something universal about these stories and something important about sharing them.

  61. I’ve known you were on this journey…from afar. December was a tough month for me. I’m beyond grateful for the choices you’ve made. I need to wipe away a few tears (joy for you and sadness of my own) before I read more posts.

    I’m so glad for your babes that you’ve woken up. Sometimes the choices we so “freely” make at one time in our life, begin to own us down the line.

    This was a crossroads that you will look at and know you took the less traveled road. How much happier your family will be years from now. Kudos.

  62. Aidan – Just read your post over on HuffPo. It was beautiful. I remembered telling someone my “baby” is four since her birthday is next week. She corrected me. She’s three. Thanks to you and my babe for the reminder! But why this comment here?!? I’m on day 20 from my early New Year’s resolution to stay away from alcohol for a year. You summed up so many of my reasons to resolve. Thank you! Can’t wait to read more from you.

    • Aidan Donnelley Rowley

      Hi!! I am so excited for you and your year. It has been one of the best of my life, so full, so clear. Feel free to email me with any questions/observations!! xox

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