I am now eight months into my Year Without Wine and in honor of reaching this milestone, I will share eight things I have learned, or concluded. Here they are:
1. I am a better version of myself without booze.
How have I changed since January 16? Not much. I am still a mom. I am still a writer. I still swing between wild self-confidence and crippling insecurity. I still celebrate chaos while hankering for control. Despite drying up, I am still a Double D (Detail Delinquent) and afflicted with Pathetiquette. What I will say though is that without the wine (or more precisely without the episodes of overdrinking and the wretched hangovers and shame spirals they tend to cause), I am a better version of myself. I know that sounds trite, but ’tis true. Without the sauce, I am a better mom, a better writer, a better ADR.
2. My marriage is better without booze.
Recently, at a Preschool cocktail outing, I found myself explaining to some new mom friends that I am eight months into a year without booze. One friend asked, So how is your marriage? And I smiled at her directness, and answered: It is better. I guess this isn’t shocking, right? Isn’t any relationship improved when one party gives up a vice, a vice about which he/she was exceedingly contemplative and critical? Husband and I have had a lot of fun in the past eight months; our connection has interestingly felt lighter, and deeper, since January.
3. Bedtime is a smoother, and sweeter, without booze.
Once upon a time, bedtime was a stressful ordeal. Even when the girls were good and quick to brush their teeth and settle into their beds, I found myself racing through the rituals to get back to my night, and my glass of wine. These days, bedtime is a longer and sweeter affair. The girls have been having prolonged sister baths in our tub replete with laughter and splashing and incomparable games of peek-a-boo. We’ve spent more time reading books and singing songs. These days, I look forward to this time.
4. Giving up alcohol means giving up the highest of highs – and the lowest of lows.
I’m not going to lie; there are things that I miss about drinking and the euphoria of a good buzz is one of them. I remember many silly wine-soaked times in my past with true fondness and I am not sure these particular highs can be duplicated without drinking. That said, the cool thing is that giving up drinking has (for me) meant eliminating not just the lowest of lows, but almost all lows. Sure, I feel down or off at times, but usually when I am exhausted and stressed about the juggle. And these down moments are fleeting, often cured by caffeine and cuddles. It has taken me some time to realize this, but I am happy to forgo the goofy high-highs to enjoy this overall more happy, and shockingly zen existence.
5. Clarity can be its own drug.
The one thing not drinking has given me over and over is clarity. More literal clarity in my days – walking around the streets of New York City and actually seeing more of my surroundings – the people, the cars, the buildings, the colors, the stories, the details. But also a more metaphorical/existential clarity. Even in moments of confusion, I can glimpse the bigger picture, what matters to me, what I want in a more ultimate sense. This is huge. There have been moments with Husband or the girls recently when everything was so crisp that I almost felt a buzz, a high. On some level, I think clarity can be like a glass of wine, better than a glass of wine.
6. Giving up something makes you think about it much more sometimes, and never sometimes.
When I first gave up alcohol, I thought about it all the time. I worried about situations that might be uncomfortable or awkward for me. I ran through conversations I might have with people about my decision. I jotted notes about all the things that I was feeling, and learning. But now? I go days without thinking about the fact that I have given up drinking. It is not something that occurs to me every evening. I do not miss it when I am out with friends even when they are sipping. This is immensely encouraging; honestly, I never imagined that I would get to the point where it wasn’t a big deal to abstain.
7. Committing to a personal change can be extremely empowering.
Every now and then, I pause and say to myself: Aidan, you haven’t had a sip of alcohol in months, and this makes me very proud. That I set a goal – a big one for me – and I am sticking to it is very empowering. It is also really cool to actually live change. If you asked me a year ago whether I would be able to change this aspect of myself and my life, I would have said probably not. Here I am proving something to myself; Change is not only possible, but it is incredibly satisfying and affirming, too.
8. I will drink again.
More recently, people have been asking me whether I will go back to my wine and heretofore I have hesitated in answering this question, insisting that I have time to decide, to feel this out. And I still have four months to ponder it all, but my overwhelming instinct is that, yes, I will drink again. I will sip my beloved Pinot Grigio after the new year. BUT. I will drink differently. I know myself and as boring and annoying as it is to admit this, I will have to be careful about not slipping into my old patterns. I will likely set rules for myself about quantity and frequency. I will be more thoughtful about my relationship with alcohol once I return to it. All of this said, I am excited for four months from now. Yes, to sip my wine once more, but mostly because it will mean reaching the end of a road, a good road, an important road, that I have paved for myself.
Any thoughts or questions about my eight things or my Year Without Wine? I am realizing that one of the best ways of processing this time is answering questions and curiosities about my project, so please please fire away! Have you ever given up anything in your life? Did you find this empowering? What makes you a better version of yourself? Do you believe in change?