I Miss It (a.k.a. Four Months Without Wine)

Posted On: 05.16.12

So. Today it has been four months. Four months without my (beloved) wine or any booze for that matter.

Argh. Okay, I wish I could tell you that things are peachy keen and I adore this experiment of mine and am thrilled with my decision to do it and do it in such an wildly public fashion. I wish I could tell you that I never think about pouring a glass of wine, that life is just infinite bliss without it.

I can’t tell you these things because, well, they aren’t true. And if this year is about one thing, friends, it is about truth. Honesty. Being real.

So. Let’s do it. Let’s be real. You see the above picture?I took it on Sunday. Mother’s Day. I do this sometimes. I reach up, angle my phone down, and make some iteration of the pensive Aidan face. Voila.

Here’s the thing. Sunday was a really good day. It was. It was a day full of family, and life, and love. We spent most of the day outside in our garden, relaxing, eating, chasing, salving a surplus of skinned knees. We went through a lot of Band-Aids this weekend.

If I am honest though, it wasn’t an easy day. The kids were all over the place physically and emotionally. Little Girl was extra-clingy and wouldn’t eat much for some reason. At one point, Husband looked at me and asked: Are you okay? And I said to him, tears rising up, and said, Yes, it’s just that I feel pressure today. To be something that I’m not.

It’s weird because I’m not even sure what I meant by that statement. I think I probably meant that I felt (and feel) pressure to be that easy-breezy, super-smiley, gratitude goddess of a mother, and particularly on the Day of Mothers. But the reality is that I am not that mother, or that person. On any day. And I am certainly not that mother, or that person, on days when I feel I am supposed to be that mother, that person. I think I said what I said because I felt extra-compelled to be present there in that garden amid the sweet Sunday swirl of little girls I adore, and the fact that I didn’t feel that way, not entirely, made me feel bits of anxiety, and guilt.

And when I felt this, these things I sometimes feel, I wanted it. Wine.

In the past, Mother’s Day would have included wine, or probably some Mimosas (which I like to call Momosas on this special occasion). In the past, I would have sipped and smiled and maybe not have had these tricky thoughts, these thoughts made of pressure, of expectation, of unease. In the past, things might have been more sunny. Or they might have just seemed that way. Because, I am realizing something, something important, four months into this experiment of mine: Wine was for me (and I suspect for many of us) nothing but a Band-Aid. It worked well in the moment, to cover up the scratch or the bruise, but it did nothing to address the source, the deeper wound.

As I said, Sunday shaped up to be a gorgeously good day. Despite moments of anxiety. I would venture to say it was even more gorgeous, the colors more vibrant, because of those scattered bits of gray. It’s hard to articulate, but I guess that the day was so great because it was so real, because I felt it, and fully, because I didn’t escape it when it became, in moments, too much. I am proud of myself for sinking into the day, for allowing myself skinned knees along with my many smiles.

But there is another takeaway: I wanted wine on that day. And there have been more occasions recently when I’ve wanted it. I’m not sure why this is. I think maybe it’s that I have truly proven to myself that I do not need wine, that I am completely okay without it, so now I think I am beginning to resent myself for this whole experiment. I think I am beginning to feel the cascade of Whys. Why am I doing this to begin with? Why a whole year? Why did I decide to do this, this no-drinking-thing, in such an exotically public fashion?

You know something? There are times when I wonder whether I am, on some level, exploiting myself, and my life. Whether I come up with ideas and embrace them because I know they will make for a good “story,” and will garner an “audience”? Am I doing this wine free year for me, or somehow for my “career”? These are questions I ask myself, and often, to keep myself honest.

But the truth is I know. At the end of the day, I know I am doing this for me, for my health, for my family. I wouldn’t go to this trouble unless I felt like it were very much worth it, unless I felt like I had something profound, many profound somethings, to learn. And I do.

I guess all of this is to say that none of this is easy. I miss my wine. I miss the faint fuzzy feeling it gives me when I drink it down. I miss the power it has, albeit temporary, to keep emotion and anxiety at bay. I miss the gentle fizz of my Momosa.

I think I knew this would be hard. And now I am feeling confirmation of that. Most days I feel wonderful about all of this, and I don’t even think about it, the fact that I am abstaining from something. But some days – and Sunday turned out to be one of them – are a bit tricky. I guess that’s okay, right? And I guess it’s good that I am able to come here and check in and be real about it all?

I think so.

I know so.


New Here? For background on my Year Without Wine, check out the following links:

I Sit Here Shaking. And Smiling.

Can I Hold Your Hand?

Complicated (a.k.a. Three Months Without Wine)

The Day I Changed

Drinking Words


Please take a moment and remind me just why I am doing this, this oft-cruel experiment in change. Are there moments when you feel pressure to be something that you are not? When are you most inclined to reach for that glass of wine (or that piece of cake, or that whatever of whatever)?

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32 Comments for: "I Miss It (a.k.a. Four Months Without Wine)"
  1. Cecily

    None of us are that mother. I wish so many of us would stop pretending. YOu are doing this great thing because of so many good reasons, ones you are still learning, right? And of course you want that glass from time to time. This parenting small children thing? It’s not a walk in the park 🙂

    • Aidan Donnelley Rowley

      I do wonder why so many of us feel this pressure, this pressure to be this breed of mom? Does it come from society, from each other, from within? I don’t pretend to know. What’s interesting to me is that the minute I started talking about this pressure (with Husband on Sunday, with all of you here) I feel it lifting. Intellectually, I know that we are not expected to be all smiles all the time, that it is neither possible or desirable to be cartoon moms, but I wonder why in these moments we feel it, and strongly. And pretending? It is exhausting, isn’t it? The more I think about it, the more I realize that this blog is about a refusal to pretend. A previous version of Aidan would have pretended through a number of things – the loss of Dad, my miscarriage, my bout with anxiety after the birth of Little, but I am beginning to realize – and revere – how important it is to face things. And that in facing things, we are really learning who we are and what we are made of.

      And, yes, I am still stumbling upon reasons for this odd thing I am doing. And that is good, very good. 🙂

  2. BL

    The question about self-exploitation is so interesting and I think about this sometimes when I am looking at Facebook. I wonder why people are sharing so much of themselves, whether they are “using” themselves and their families somehow. I think the fact that you raised this question, and that you are following through with this experiment so strictly and thoughtfully, is evidence that you aren’t exploiting anyone. And you are reaching people. Remember that part.

    • Aidan Donnelley Rowley

      BL – Yes. The Facebook thing is fascinating to me, and I am deeply complicit in all of it. I love Facebook. I love the idea of glimpsing people’s lives, their goofy baby pictures, their gorgeous vacation shots. But then. Sometimes, I sit back and think about it and ask why. Why are all of these people (including me) doing this? Why are we opening the windows of our worlds to so many people? Is it out of some need to be seen, or affirmed? Are we on some level, as you say, using our lives and our families as “material” in some sense to garner a particular breed of affection and attention? I don’t know. But these things are worth thinking about and are also finding their way as themes in my new novel 🙂

      Thank you for your words. I do know deep down that I would never do this, this vulnerable thing, if not for deeply compelling reasons. And thanks for this comment; this reminder that I am indeed reaching people.

  3. Liz

    Yesterday was quite possibly one of my worst days at work ever, and I came home miserable, with a corneal cut to top things off, and bought myself a bottle of white. I had two glasses while the kids played, while I bathed them, while we played “Bingo.” And, you know what? I thought of you.
    I don’t know how you do it. I’m in awe.
    I know I couldn’t.

    I don’t drink everyday; maybe 2 or three times a week, max, but I couldn’t give up those times.

    I am even more impressed, though, that you are so honest…that you even speculate to your audience (!) that you wonder if that is why you do it…

    But as you say, you wouldn’t be putting yourself through this for so long if it weren’t this important.
    I am sure this year will be completely and profoundly life changing.

    • Aidan Donnelley Rowley

      Thank you, Liz. It’s interesting because people have been asking me if I miss it and when I miss it most. And it really isn’t the predictable times – when at a party, or at a festive dinner. It is in those moments that are gray in hue when I am coming down from a complicated or overwhelming or even really wonderful and full day, and I just need to release. It is in those moments when my head is all over the place, tangled with the theoretical and the practical, swirling with ideas and realities. It is in these moments when I want it.

      Getting through these moments without the wine has taught me a great deal. It has taught me that I am strong, and resilient, and okay. It has taught me that these moments are the fare of life, that they will come and go, and that it is important to learn how to deal with them, and ride them out.

      No matter what my relationship with wine looks like a year from now, I hope I do not turn to wine in these moments. I hope I muddle through, and meet awareness on the other side. For me, I am realizing this might be the best way to go. Even if it’s not easy.

      Hope to day is an infinitely better day for you 🙂

  4. I’m not that mother either. Not ever. And I feel guilt and anxiety about it as well. Thank you for being honest about that push-pull so many of us feel. xox

    • Aidan Donnelley Rowley

      I wonder if any of us is this mother? Really and truly? I am beginning to think no. I have met some moms who have seemed so perky and perfect and on top of it all – and happy, really happy – but then when I looked a little harder, or asked a few questions, I began to confirm my suspicions: that appearances can be very deceiving. I think, I know, that we all struggle with these things; the tug between who we are existentially, as people, as parents, and who we would like to be in an ideal scenario.

      Another thing I think and know? That guilt and anxiety are part and parcel of parenting? I think anyone who is honest about it (and some aren’t) will admit that each day contains pockets of worry and what-if. I think this is just part of the game and we are somehow better off for acknowledging, and working with, that fact.

      Thank you, as always, for your words and friendship, Lindsey. xox

  5. tara

    you’re sobriety, even if its temporary, seems to taking you to very deep places. sometimes deep = dark, but so often, it = light. if having deep, meaningful experiences provides you with writing material, then we’re all benefiting from it! i imagine i can tell when a writer is speaking from experience or from what they think an experience would be like. they can both done well, but i just feel it more when i think it came from a real place in time or was twisted from a personal experience. as a sahm, the biggest pressure i feel is to have more desire for social interaction. i really enjoy the 2hrs/day i get to myself, but w/4 kids, 2hrs doesn’t feel like a lot of time to get things accomplished and be social. on one hand, i feel selfish for not making the most of my time everyday. then i turn that table around real quick and mentally defend my personal need/desire for soltitude. i struggle with finding a guilt-free, minimal-compromise, balance. 😉 by writing the last sentence, i just, in this moment, realized how strongly i don’t want to compromise on this!

    • Aidan Donnelley Rowley

      Tara – You say something so important here, something I hadn’t quite thought of, namely that going deep can mean passing through dark but ending up in light. Does that make any sense? I think so… I think that in acknowledging our struggles, our confusions, our uncertainties, we are necessarily flailing around in darker waters (waters which are themselves beautiful) but then we are suddenly onshore and it is light and downright exquisite. Okay, I am mixing metaphors here but there is a point. It is that maybe happiness (whatever that is) and joy (I feel it often but would never hazard a definition) are only fully realized or felt when we allow ourselves to explore the other stuff, the yuckier and very real stuff?

      I do feel lighter without wine. Physically. Existentially. Emotionally. This is worth thinking about more…

      And that “guilt-free, minimal-compromise, balance”? Yes, please. I’ll have one of those, too 🙂

  6. Jan

    You are doing this for You, and only you-at lease that is how I read what you are writing. So few mothers take a chance, a challange, on themselves and you are doing just that. Yes it benefits everyone but no one more then you. You are a special person and writer and that no one can take away. You inspire everyday, and I cannot thank you enough for that. You are a wonderful mother, never doubt that, NEVER. We are all who we are -the best we can be. I will enjoy reading the rest of your journey.

    • Aidan Donnelley Rowley

      Jan – thank you. Really. I know that I am doing this for me. I think I am searching for reasons now for why this was all a silly idea because there is a small, but important part of me that wants to bail on all of this. But as I write these words right now, I know I will continue. I know that I am doing something meaningful for me as a person and as a parent and that others are getting something, however elusive, from this is indeed motivation to continue.

      You know something? As insecure as I am at times, I don’t really doubt that I am a good mom. Maybe this sounds strange because I know how oddly en vogue it is to bash ourselves as mothers, to be clever and witty in our self-deprecation, but it’s more that there are times I feel an odd surge of pressure to be a different species of mother even though, intellectually speaking, I don’t really want to be that mother (nor do I think she really exists.)

      Not sure any of this makes any sense, but oh well 🙂

      Thank you for reading my words, and writing your own.

  7. Meg

    When you brought up the question of whether you’re doing this to “exploit” your life (eek, that word is scary, isn’t it?), something clicked in my brain: I’ve asked myself that, too. Whether I do things for the “story.” Whether I take advantage of needing “something to write about” to do tricky or out-of-character things.

    But here’s the flip side of that: being writers, our cravings for “good stories” encourage us to do more. To try harder. To look — or create — the good story. Though I know you are doing this for you, the unintended byproduct — an inspiring story to share with others, a real-life struggle with which most of us will empathize — is not a bad thing.

    I guess what I mean is, being trained in stories, we might push ourselves in different ways to have more to share. But the result of that — a deeper understanding of self; inspiration for others — is well worth it. If that makes sense?

    • Aidan Donnelley Rowley

      Wow. Thanks for this, Meg. It is good to know that I’m not the only one who thinks about these things. In some sense, I think it is vital that we ask ourselves these questions, that we keep ourselves and our story-telling selves in check. And I think you are right about something. I think that, as writers, we come at the world through a different lens. It is not a better or worse lens, just different.

      I was on the subway this morning with my big girls and they were looking out the window at the blur of blackness and jabbering on and I whipped out my phone and I did a little video interview with them. I did this because it was a moment I wanted to savor, and remember, but also because I felt instinctively that it was a part of a story – their story, our story, my story – and I wanted to capture it. Someone who was not a writer probably wouldn’t have done this, but that’s okay.

      As for this experiment, I am doing it because I think it’s important and interesting. I am writing about it because I am a writer. Ah, the question of what motivates all that we do… endless food for thought, no?

      Again, thank you for this, Meg. So much.

  8. I don’t think anyone is that mother. That mother only exists in our thoughts, in the picture in our minds of what we “should” do as a mom. She isn’t real, She isn’t the truth.

    As you have said before here, this experiment has illuminated so much about yourself, life and your journey to forget the “shoulds” and those images and find that truth. And, dang, it is hard. Sometimes, if not much of the time. These months and this experiment will be hard, easy, kind of okay, kind of sucky.

    But that is it, isn’t it? That can also describe life. And your life, as you write about it, confess that it is hard, share it, own it, all of it, admit the good and the bad, it is real to us and yourself…and it is then you then know why you are doing it. You are doing it for them, for yourself, to find this truth, what it is all about.

    And that is only a good thing. Though it may not feel like it and those thoughts and feelings you had on Sunday (and other days) may swirl around and dance up a storm to the music that anxiety is playing. But, remember, you are changing that tune every day, Aidan. You know now how to take different steps and, dare I say it, make it a dance party.

    I see you. We see you. We hear you. And we are all better for it. I am infinitely better for it. I hope you know that.

    • Aidan Donnelley Rowley

      Heather. Thanks, friend. For writing this. For in many ways, complicated ways, living this along with me. All of this strikes me deeply, and makes me nod, but I am extra compelled by the theme of music that snakes through your thoughtful comment.

      I have never cherished music as much, or danced as much, as I have in the last four months. This can’t be a coincidence. It is as if the music – the lyrics, the stories, the thrum of the beat – is taking me out of myself in the best way possible.

      And every night, when I would have maybe poured that glass, the girls and I gather for a dance party. Each girl has her own signature set of moves, and I have mine.

      Ultimately, isn’t that what this experiment is about? Finding a new soundtrack for my life, a new way to groove through my days, a new way to hear the world and process it.

      Thank you 🙂

  9. I don’t think you’re being exploitative. I think you’re doing a good thing for yourself and your family and in the process, helping a lot of people reflect on their default ways of dealing with anxietyalcohol or otherwise.

    Regardless, thanks for another great post; cheering you on, Aidan.

    • Aidan Donnelley Rowley

      Thank you, Camille. Yes, I am doing this for me, and for my family (which is me, in some way, right?) and I am being open about it because this is what I do, I write, but also because I have a deep and abiding hunch that this story is not just mine, but in some way, many of ours (all of ours?). And you are right. So much of this is about reflection, about actually stopping to think, and feel, and wonder. Modern life leaves little room for reflection and I guess I am trying to make room for it. For me. For all of us.

      Thanks for your good wishes.

  10. anonymous

    Im so happy for you and (and proud) that youre being honest with yourself (and all of us) about how youre actually feeling about parenting. Its so hard. Of course its also amazing and rewarding and wonderful. But not all the time. And its not realistic to feel like its amazing and rewarding and wonderful all the time or to portray to others that its that way. I think its great that youre getting to feel how youre actually feeling because youre not drinkingeven though Im sure youd rather feel the buzz from the winewho wouldnt? I rarely drink and Im anxious all the time. I actually want to drink moreisnt that ironicbut I always feel sick the next day so I dont drink much.

    As for why youre exposing your storymaybe its partially for accountability? So that you have to stick with it?

    • Aidan Donnelley Rowley

      Thank you so much. It feels good to be honest about this although it is also hard to be so publicly vulnerable at times. I guess I am over people pretending that parenthood is this cutesy rainbow experience when the truth is that it is so immensely complicated at times. It is absolutely incredible too – and by far the most important thing I have done, and am doing – but it is endlessly tricky. Particularly when we want to continue to protect our identity as individuals. I see many contemporaries losing their “selves”in motherhood and I just refuse to let that happen (although maybe it’s not up to me?) Does that make sense?

      I really think there is a profound connection between anxiety and thoughtfulness. I think it is those of us who think, and deeply, overly perhaps, that feel the brunt of the anxiety. Add parenthood and the rest of life stuff to general thoughtfulness that and it’s often too much 🙂

      And accountability? Yes indeed. Don’t think I explicitly thought about this when deciding to do this year – or maybe I did – but I think I will actually do this year and stick to my guns because I have all of you guys to hold me accountable. And that is a good thing, right?

  11. Lisa

    Do you know how many of us can relate to this? Keep writing.

  12. KJR

    Accountability is so important. I think more of us should set goals for ourselves and then say them out loud bc only then are we held accountable for these things that are meaningful to us. This is about progress, about becoming better versions of ourselves. Thank you for setting an example for us, and for your kids.

  13. Kristen

    You’re doing this because you felt there was a need: a need to be healthier, a need to be clearer, a need to feel more.

    I was inspired by you and so I decided to give the no alcohol thing a try. I’m sad to admit – I failed. I’m in the midst of studying for a major exam (the last in a series of three) and I thought it would be good for me to go sans alcohol during the remainder of my studies. On Monday I had a breakdown. A practice test slammed my confidence into a million pieces. I cried. I cried over the result of my practice test, about the time I’d spend studying – missing out on time with my husband, family and friends, and about my fear of failure. Although I had promised myself no wine – I gave in. I needed to relax. I wish I had your strength to continue without. I admire you. Maybe I’ll try again when my test is done.

  14. PortlandMomma

    Aidan, you’re awesome 🙂 Everyone struggles and suffers but very few can express themselves with such honesty. Your truthfulness is so helpful to so many (me included!). I totally get what you were going through on Mother’s Day. It’s complicated and I would’ve been dying for a “Momosa” too 🙂 You’re one tough lady! Thank you for your words. XO

  15. Ana

    I’ve been following your journey and wondering if/when you were missing the wine (because I know I would be!) so thanks for sharing this. I think the fact that it is sometimes hard means it is something worth doing for you…that by giving into the hard moments you will find your true strength and confirm for yourself (because it is obvious to me reading) that it doesn’t come in a bottle. I think what you uncovered here is so so true–the wider the space between who we are and who we think we should be—the more discomfort & anxiety & need for a little something to take the edge off. Maybe if we changed our expectations (not lowered, but changed) and acknowledged that who we are right now is EXACTLY who we want to be…we could feel some relief.

  16. Your post made me want to drink! I’m only partially joking. I think it’s normal and tempting to romanticize a glass of wine and how it would feel to drink it. I think if you question at all why you drink then this is good experiment. Whatever happens at the end of the year, you’ll be better for having given your mind room to contemplate without numbing. You’re a fabulous writer and I really enjoy your blog!

  17. Jill

    “Those tricky thoughts…” Yes. Staving off the unease, expectation, pressure. how very amazing that you are figuring out the trigger for your urge to sip. And how helpful to read about it. Thank you for boldly sharing your challenge and insight. Wine may not be my go-to, but a folding up into myself, a sometimes caustic impatience with my loved ones– these are the places I can go when things as they are are too far from where I think they should be. Your connecting the dots in your story is helping me think more clearly about my own. Why do we mamas hold ourselves to such high standards?? And how can we learn to open our arms and lay it all down? Your story is a start for me. Keep telling it, please.

  18. Had my first sober mother’s day, and it is definitely different. There are so many expectations on the day. Everything is supposed to be perfect, even us, which of course is nuts, but there it is. I just found your blog and find the idea of what you’re doing very interesting. Best of luck to you.

  19. I’m only on day three and can’t imagine how hard this is going to be. I commend you.

  20. Sue

    I love how much you are sharing. And I can so relate. I moved across the country last year and the stress of it had me drinking nightly which concerned me. I have always loved my wine, just not so ardently.
    The silver linining was that although I was mainly solo parenting a son with diabetes for the first nine months as hubby was on assignment, it meant I could not have any more than two glasses. I gave it up for lent but did not make the full 40 days- so now I too find myself spending a lot of time thinking about my drinking and my numbing.

    • Aidan Donnelley Rowley

      Thank you, Sue. This has been a really interesting and eye-opening thing for me to do and it’s been more fascinating to include others on my journey. By the way, I hate the word “journey” but cannot think of a better one at the moment! I do think we go in and out of phases of unhealthy habits and that’s part of what it is to be human, but I think we all know deep down when enough is enough. Thank you for your words.

  21. Meredith

    You are amazing! You had the ability to say what I never could about how I feel about my wine. 4 months, 3 weeks & 4 days I have gone alcohol free. I CAN do this, but I hate it. I feel like I’m my Mom world, I gave up the last damn thing that was MINE! The last thing that made me happy and quite frankly chilled me the heck out at times. But here I and I made a lifetime decision. So stupid. Don’t make lifetime decisions in 1 day. Anyways, thank you for your honesty. Thank you for the perspective, and thank you for the courage to share it. Good luck!

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