Eight Things @ Eight Months

Posted On: 09.18.12

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?

Oh, and...

  • Boozy Books. While unplugged, I read and very much enjoyed the following books on drinking: Dry: A Memoir by Augusten Burroughs, Drinking: A Love Story by Caroline Knapp, and Unwasted: My Lush Sobriety by Sacha Z. Scoblic. If you are curious about this topic, check them out!
  • Happy wedding anniversary to Sister N & Bro-in-Law J! 8 years, baby! That will be us in December; hard to believe!

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19 Comments for: "Eight Things @ Eight Months"
  1. Aidan Donnelley Rowley

    A couple of things. First, as we were getting ready for bed, I told Husband about my eight things. He asked if it was a coincidence that I have come to eight conclusions in eight months. This made me smile. I have, of course, come to more than eight conclusions but I enumerated eight here to be cute and clever :) Also, I know how it might seem odd to rattle off seven amazing things I have realized while abstaining and then, bam, announce that I plan to drink again… I think the point here is that I have learned so much about how good life can be and feel without wine, so when I return to it (in a very moderated way), I honestly don’t think I will be tempted to drink all the time knowing what I know, namely that dry days have their own incomparable sparkle and sweetness. Does this make sense? Hope so!

  2. I love this. And that sparkle, that crackle of clarity that reality sometimes gives you? I know it well. And for me at least one of its edges is sharp, and reminds me of all that is gone and lost. I think many of my behaviors (not necessarily drinking in my case but other avoidance behaviors) have been to make sure I don’t feel the sting of that edge. But in doing so, I am also blinded by the brightness. It’s a choice I’d make every time now, and one I do.

    • Aidan Donnelley Rowley

      I’m so glad you wrote this because I literally remember thinking “I just need a drink to take the edge off”… I think this is why so many of us drink or do other things, namely to smooth the oft-rough edges of existence. But, yes, this year so far has taught me that it is often the rougher edges that make life beautiful and deep and that it can feel amazing to see these edges, to feel them, to choose clarity over that willed obscurity of escape. And, yes, it is a choice. Every time. A choice I don’t have to make these days (because I made it back on Jan 16), but one I will have to make again and again. I trust that I will continue to choose clarity much of the time even though it is often “easier” to just pour that glass. xox

      PS – Congrats on 6 years of blogging! So major.

  3. Congratulations on 8 months alcohol free! It takes a lot of self control to make a big change like that. You’re very inspiring.

    • Aidan Donnelley Rowley

      Thank you, Liana! It really adds tremendously to this experiment of mine to be able to write about it here, and share what I have learned.

  4. B

    I’d be interested to hear how not drinking has affected your eating habits. I notice that I end up eating more if I have even one glass of wine. And then the next morning I ‘need’ coffee and certain foods more. I’ve try to not have alcohol, caffine,or sugar in the weeks before I travel for work bc work travel stressed me out ever since having kids. I’ve been shocked at how much easier it is to eat well, and then just over all feel better when I don’t have any wine. But I’ve never done this experiment for more than a couple of weeks so I would be interested in hearing your thoughts.

    • Aidan Donnelley Rowley

      Such a good question and something I’ve thought a lot about in the last 8 months. In the beginning, I think I actually ate more because I was inadvertently replacing the wine with edible treats. I’ve never been a big dessert person, but without the wine, I found myself reaching for after-dinner goodies more and more. These days though, because I am feeling really good, I feel like I am making better choices nutrition-wise. It certainly helps not being hungover :) An interesting thought though: I think that I have an easier time controlling my diet when I AM drinking, but very minimally, ie on those nights when I have a single glass of wine I probably consume fewest calories because it feels like a treat and I don’t get that hankering for extra food or dessert. But when that one glass turns into three or five, the calorie thing is obviously shot. All of this is really interesting (for me) to think about, so thanks for asking, B!!

  5. I especially like and relate to #4 & #5. Congratulation on achieving such clarity! I’m curious about #8 and how it’ll play out for you. If moderation works for you, then you will have found a way to harmonize the things you love. If it doesn’t, you know you have the strength to stop again.

    • Aidan Donnelley Rowley

      To be frank, I am curious about #8 too. I know I am capable of moderation, but we will have to see how it plays out, how I feel once I start sipping once more. I am totally open to the reality that I might go back to it and really not like it and prefer a life without it. We will have to see. And, yes, this year will have been so critical because it proves to me that I can stop, and that I don’t need alcohol in my life. A really important thing to learn.

      I popped over to your site today and just wanted to say I love it. I read your most recent piece on drinking and it was really powerful. Love that we are blogging side-by-side about a similar thing. Congrats on 13.5 months! That’s huge.

      • Thank you! It is huge for me. I thought about you all day yesterday and I realized how much I don’t want you to join the “club”. I want you to be able to have a glass of wine when you feel like it without it turning your thoughts dark and dreary. I don’t want you to be like me. Knowing that you don’t need alcohol in your life if a big thing. I’m rooting for you!

  6. AG

    Just wanted to say so proud to get to follow your journey throughout this past year from your 1st post to now this one! Really incredible and also I find it refreshing that you do admit you will go back to drinking your beloved Pinot Grigio too…I don’t know why, maybe the act that you successfully gave something up for a year, noted the changes and are going to apply those lives by incorporating it back in the future. It can apply to a lot of things in our lives.

    Also Happy Anniversary to your sister and brother in law! Does this mean your family was planning two weddings at the same time? It is also my anniversary too…just 2 years but it feels like quite an accomplishment too!

    • Aidan Donnelley Rowley

      Thanks, AG. Your words really mean a lot. I think it is really hard for a lot of people to understand why I would go back to something that was causing me problems in the past and I guess I just believe that we can hit the re-set button in life, stop doing things, re-think those things, and then embrace them in a new, and evolved, way. Maybe I am kidding myself, but I don’t think so. I guess time will tell. And, yes, this is really about much more than alcohol – it is about identity and change.

      Happy anniversary! Two years is big! Hope you have a wonderful night celebrating :)

  7. Monica

    I am a cradle Catholic and I have given up texting and facebook during the Lenten season. It was nice to not worry about when will I be receiving the next text. I am a person who desires change, right now I am at a moment in my life where I am craving change, something new and out of the ordinary. It is so very important to embrace and welcome change into our lives because without it we’ll live very bland lives and nothing will ever happen. Congrats on 8 months of zero alcohol, keep up the good work Aidan! We’re all so proud of you. :-)

  8. This has been my favorite of your monthly updates, and I’ve loved following your journey. My question: since you’ve been pregnant three times (and assuming you didn’t drink or rarely drank during your pregnancies), how has this abstinence felt different than being sober-while-pregnant? I would guess that this has been very different than pregnancy abstinence for you, but I’d love to hear how. Did you have any of the same clarity or awareness about alcohol when you were pregnant? I will be resuming my relationship with wine at the same time you will – I’m due with #3 in January and I’d love to hear how these 8 months have been different or similar than the other times you’ve given up alcohol…

    Thanks for your words, as always. :)

  9. Karin

    Ah the goofy high-highs in #4. You have me pondering what makes those moments so sweet and how they lure us to stay on the alcohol train. I don’t even get the offsetting lows (at least I don’t think so). What I have often wondered is why I can’t reach that same euphoria without alcohol. Just a glass away, it takes compelling reasons to walk away from that option.

    Congratulations on sticking with this 8 months. Oh how interesting it will be reading your posts in the new year and how in moderation feels in comparison to this year.

  10. Quite enlightening. I find it very admirable that you took an addiction (not a harrowing one, but an addiction nonetheless) and showed it (and yourself) who is really in charge. I learned recently that guilt and shame are two of the lowest vibrations you can bring into your body, and it sounds like drinking alcohol brought you guilt. So I’m not surprised to hear your life seems smoother without this so-called crutch.

  11. I agree with you Aidan, personal change can be empowering. I don’t drink, but most of my friends do. I’ve noticed that I don’t suffer the mood swings that slow down many of my female friends. I think that I’m more productive on my weekends and days off because I don’t have to deal with morning after dehydration if I stay out stay out all night.

    It will be interesting to see if you will enjoy a fine vintage more after taking the year off.

  12. Just came over here on Sarah Powers’ recommendation – love that you are doing this. I too sometimes wonder about my relationship with wine, which is further complicated because I’m the daughter of an alcoholic and am always questioning whether I really know what “normal” looks like.

    Lately I’ve been considering not having wine in my house, just because it’s so much easier to mindlessly sip when you’re sitting in front of the TV after a stressful day than it is to mindlessly sip when you’re out to dinner paying $15 a glass. :)

    For me wine has often been a way to make the evening “more fun” (I’ve never been one to drink to dull the edges, but more to ramp up for a party) and if I can replace that activity with something else equally engaging, like reading a great book, I’ll forget all about the wine. It’s just that middle ground, the 30 minutes between the time the kids get in bed and the time I get in bed myself, that can turn into a danger zone. So I’ve been trying to go to brush my teeth and put my retainers in *before* the kids go to bed. It’s amazing how easy it can be to trick myself, sometimes…but only when I’m in the mood to be tricked.

  13. Jo

    I found this really interesting. I’m just staring my own journey into cutting down or abstaining from alcohol but I terrifies me. You talk with such calmness and clarity about your journey. Thanks I think I will read back. I hopped over from the drinking diaries, so nice to read a frank open account of your 8 months. Nice to hear you’re close to your husband too. I wonder with my partner realises how much I hide/miss by drinking so much and so regularly.

    Interesting, thank you.

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