Nine Months Without Wine

Posted On: 10.16.12

After the Kindergarten pumpkin picking trip, we gather outside school and wait for dismissal. It has been a muddy and wonderful Friday and, side-by-side, we parents sink silently into the exhaustion that shrouds us all, ready to scoop up our tiny creatures and head home. I talk with two moms in Big Girl’s class. I joke about how I am considering darting around the corner for my tenth coffee of the day.

One mom smiles. She has been reading my blog, says she enjoys it. “After your year without wine, do you think you would do a year without coffee?”

“Now that would be a struggle for me,” I say. And it would be. But I also know now that I could do it. If I wanted to.

“How long has it been?” this mom asks, about my alcohol-free experiment.

“Almost nine months,” I say. Almost nine months.

The other mom chimes in. “Clearly you have done nine months without alcohol before?”

Indeed. I have three kids. I have done this before.

“Yes,” I say. “But this is different.”

And it is.


When I was pregnant, I took care of myself. I avoided copious amounts of caffeine, abstained from alcohol, avoided tuna and other mercury-laden fish, drank plenty of water, got plenty of sleep. I even took naps sometimes.

I took care of myself because that meant taking care of her, the little creature in my belly. I took care of myself because I wanted her to be healthy and strong. To be honest, I also took care of myself because I was scared. Scared that if I screwed up, something would go wrong.

During my pregnancies, I took care of myself and I felt really good. Yes, I felt sick for the first three months, but then the first trimester would end and I would return to myself, an even better version of myself. I really felt this way at times; that Pregnant Aidan was one of the better iterations of Aidan and now I am realizing why. In retrospect, yes, but realization is always gold, isn’t it? I felt so good because I was treating myself well, taking care of myself. Ironically, as I was gaining those pounds, I felt lighter than ever, happy.

And then. Then the time would come for my girl to arrive and arrive she would. And it would be a blessed and happy occasion and there would be a tiny pink thing wrapped like a burrito in my arms squinting up at me, at the new world. And she would be out, and I would go back.

To the wine.

To a different version of me.


On the night before we left the hospital with Little Girl, Husband ran home to say hi to the big girls, to help put them to bed, to pick up a few things. He grabbed a few things from home I forgot. Anything else? he asked. And I think I probably requested something sweet like candy, but I can’t remember. What I do remember is requesting wine.

Pinot Grigio, I said.

And he brought me some. And I drank it. A couple of glasses, I think. I remember asking Husband to cork the rest and slip it into the miniature fridge in the corner of the hospital room. And he did. And as he did, as he put it away, I remember wanting more. More wine. Because on that evening, the evening of my baby’s first day, the wine had the effect it always had; I felt softer, calmer, and that little hospital room suddenly struck me as exquisite in an existential sense, symbolic surrounding scenery.

I look back at all of this and feel shame and judgment and guilt. I was not drunk. I waited hours to nurse my babe and my milk wasn’t even yet in, but still. I was there, so soon after welcoming life, in a hospital bed (from which I wrote probably my favorite post), drinking wine. And, yes, there was a celebratory aspect to this. Husband had a drink too and we did toast the arrival of our sweet baby girl, our final child. But there was more going on than celebration.

There was anxiety. There was overwhelm. There was escape.


So. Another nine months.

This fourth time is different. Worlds different. This time is about me. About being honest and clear and kind to myself. This is about realizing that it is not just about our children and their health and happiness and growth, but about ours too.

And so, yes, if we stretch the symbolism a bit, this has been, in an odd way, almost like another pregnancy. But a different kind of pregnancy, a glowing, gritty time during which I’ve grown in, not out, where I’ve felt intermittently queasy and confused and blissful, nurturing a new life, a new me.

Nine months without wine. Another nine months. But today, I am not welcoming a new Rowley girl.

Or wait. Maybe that’s exactly what I am doing?


Today I am linking up with several wonderful writers over at Yeah Write. If you are looking to find a great blogging community, I suggest you check it out!

Do you take good care of yourself? Did you at any point take better care of yourself? Not sure why (maybe because we’ve just started at a new school?) but I am feeling more and more self-conscious about living this no wine experiment so publicly, but I continue to believe, more deeply than ever in fact, that we should share our stories, even, particularly, the ones of struggle and shame, because these are the things that make us interesting and human and real and these are the things that will unite us (if we are brave enough to let them). Do you agree? Today is a vulnerable one so please leave a comment even if it’s a shortie πŸ™‚

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Oh, and...

I would like to write more about what I have learned this year. I would write more posts about my Year Without Wine but I have been hesitant to do so. I do not want this blog to become all about alcohol, or life without it. I do not want to put people off by seeming preachy about this new, if temporary, lifestyle choice of mine. I also do not want to expose myself to unnecessary judgment or criticism. That said, I would love to know what you all think about this. Whether there are aspects of this experiment you'd like to see me explore, whether there are questions you have that I might answer in post-form. It is odd and interesting to simultaneously live an experiment and write about it and I am still - yes, nine months in - trying to figure out the best way to do this. Any thoughts would be very much appreciated.



88 Comments for: "Nine Months Without Wine"
  1. Yes. Welcoming a new Rowley girl. Exactly. I love reading about what you’re learning. xox

    • Aidan Donnelley Rowley

      Thanks, Lindsey. You have been such a wonderful support during this eye-opening months. Can’t wait to see you in a couple of weeks! xox

  2. JHL

    Yes. It is so important to share these stories. Your vulnerable pieces are also your best. This is honest and real and resonates very much with me. Thank you. 9 months!

    • Aidan Donnelley Rowley

      Vulnerability is tough, but also amazing. It is the vulnerable words that bring me the most satisfaction and inspiration – my vulnerable words and the vulnerable words of others. I am realizing that I really am drawn to people and moms and writers who are willing to embrace their vulnerability, and to explore it. Thanks for your kind words, JHL!

  3. Marisa

    You are so right – I took such good care of myself when pregnant but then I went back to not sleeping and not eating well and just not being great to myself and it’s just not good. Our health and happiness are important, too. Thanks for reminding me of this. And this experiment is really inspiring to me. Going to share this with some of my friends who are moms. Congrats on getting this far into your year πŸ™‚

    • Aidan Donnelley Rowley

      I think how we treat ourselves while pregnant is very symbolic of what’s to come. How many of us really do put our kids first – their happiness, their health, their sense of joy? I just had this great conversation with Husband last night about how we are really pretty strict with our kids about sleep; how we ensure that they get a certain number of hours of rest per night but I do not have the same approach with myself. I stay up late too often and get too few hours and drag the next day and feel sluggish… If only we treated ourselves with the same care and thoughtfulness we show our wee ones. Thanks for your words, Marisa! They mean a lot.

  4. Amy

    Congratulations! Please write more. I love hearing about hour experience.

    • Aidan Donnelley Rowley

      Thank you, Amy. I plan to write more. To do so, I will have to overcome a pile of insecurities and concerns, but I think it’s really worth it. I am having thoughts far more than once a month and I believe that should be reflected here…

  5. Amy

    *your experience

    • Aidan Donnelley Rowley

      Random, but I have become a fan of the sporadic typo. I think typos remind people that we are human. And I dig timely reminders of our shared hummanity πŸ™‚

  6. AGB

    I love the “new Rowley girl” part.

    I remember talking to you about this before you decided to go public with your year without wine. I compared it to running a marathon – you needed to know there were 26 miles ahead, but you had to be proud of yourself as you passed each mile marker, too. I think the monthly posts are just that – you are taking the time to remind yourself and the rest of the ILI public that you’ve reached another mile. I think you write enough about the “other” stuff that your readers dont see your blog as being all about alcohol. And it’s fascinating to see where you are with this every month!


    • Aidan Donnelley Rowley

      Yes! I totally remember that conversation about honoring the markers, about taking this step by step. I think this is a lesson we should apply to life and not just marathons and existential experiments πŸ™‚ Your support and friendship during this year and all the others (it’s been so long since we met at CLS) means the world. Psyched for our upcoming date with the girls. xox

  7. Love this. LOVE IT. It is exactly what you are doing — growing a new Rowley girl, indeed. And just like those other little girls you gave birth to are complex and vulnerable and amazing, so is this one. Again, you are growing her/you this year. And the kicker is, even after this year without wine, you will continue to grow and evolve and explore — just like the three others in that house of yours.

    I think it is vital to share our stories, the vulnerable ones, the hard ones, the “not safe” ones. You and I have shared quite a few of those — and you know I’m a firm believer of being true to the struggles of life, of not sugar-coating it, of learning from those by bouncing them off friends and seeing where they take us in terms of understanding our walk through Life…and that is what your readers want. Yeah, can it be scary? Sure. But so much of what is important in life is at one time both scary and amazing, anxiety-provoking yet joyous.
    Keep ’em coming, A. And congrats on Month #9. xo

    • Aidan Donnelley Rowley

      Oh, how I love this. Complex and vulnerable and amazing… yes. Isn’t this what we should aim for and embrace – the complexity, the vulnerability, the amazement? It is there, always there, if we are willing to look and sift through the soil of our days. I am in deep agreement that it is the “not safe” stories that perhaps unite us the most. So many of us walk around the world pretending we have it altogether, that life is peachy and perfect, but wouldn’t it be so much more interesting and satisfying to be real, to be raw, to say what we are thinking so much of the time?

      Thanks, as ever, for your friendship and camaraderie. Very very weird and cool that I am writing this as you type away at the next cave table πŸ™‚


  8. Stacy

    Being pregnant was a breakthrough for me for many reasons, not the least of which was realizing that I was willing to care for my two babes in a way that I wasn’t, or hadn’t, been willing to care for myself. How sad. After they were born, I had a new found respect and appreciation for my body and for my own well-being. The further I get from that time (almost four years now), the more difficult I can find it to remember to be kind to be be gentle.

    A wise friend once shared with me that being healthy (both emotional and physical) is a process, and not a perfect one. Your “process” this year has been interesting and inspiring (and brave!) in so many ways. I think you are affecting change in the lives of your readers in ways you can’t possibly know. I, for one, hope you keep it up.

    • Aidan Donnelley Rowley

      So so happy to see you here, Stacy. Isn’t it amazing how quickly we forget how good, and alive, and healthy we felt when we were pregnant? I have always told people how much I loved being pregnant and I really did. I loved looking down and seeing a big old belly (I carried really high and my belly was super-round. I loved getting ultrasounds. I loved dreaming up baby names. I loved feeling those punches and kicks. But I think so much of what I loved was how good I felt – existentially and physically. And I think this year has made me realize that we do not have to be carrying life to treat ourselves and our bodies with respect and kindness.

      And, yes, this is indeed a process. And one that won’t be over in three months either.

      Hope you guys are good. Miss you! xox

  9. Sam

    When I got married two years ago, I felt a strange sense of responsibility drift down onto me. All of a sudden, I was living not just for myself, but for someone else. And we knew that we wanted a family, so I knew that at some point in the hopefully not so distant future, I would be living for our little ones as well. And I felt both a responsibility and a desire to be healthy, to live healthfully, for him and for them. To be a good example, and to set the tone for our family. Sometimes it is a daunting task, and reading about your experiment without wine, and your monthly thoughts has helped me crystallize my own thoughts on healthful and mindful living. It is a comfort to know that there is someone else out there, struggling through these things, and I love to read about what you are learning, and how you are growing.

    • Aidan Donnelley Rowley

      Yes! We grow up and we marry and we have kids (or many of us do) and we realize something incredible and unsettling: We are not just in it for ourselves. We want to flourish and thrive and stick around for the people who love us and need us. It is sometimes a daunting task as you say, but I also, in an odd sense, I think it’s a privilege too; to be linked so profoundly to people that they are almost an extension of us. And here’s the deal: I am believing more and more that ALL of us struggle with these things. I think our struggles are different in texture and hue, but they are there. And why not honor them, and explore them, by talking about them a bit more. Honestly, when someone has the poise and self-awareness to examine her struggle in a more public sense, I find myself intrigued and endeared. I do hope that is how people feel about my experiment. This is not, ultimately, a confession of weakness, but perhaps a more unconventional celebration of a certain kind of strength? Hope so at least πŸ™‚

      Thanks, Sam!

  10. Meg

    You’re absolutely right (as always!), Aidan: we should share our stories. Even the difficult ones. Even the ones that don’t paint us in the most flattering of lights. I wrote a post yesterday on the meaning of the words “I’m happy for you”… my existential attempt to actually mean them. To feel happiness when others feel happiness. To not feeling jealous when I learn of a friend’s engagement ring, new baby, job promotion. I don’t like that ugly part of myself: this part that feels envious rather than glad. It makes me feel shallow and small… but it is there.

    I wrote the entire post. I shared just what I shared above… just in more painful detail. I was just getting ready to schedule it when my fingers started trembling. Despite writing both a personal column and blog, some things feel too personal. What if I offended someone? What if I regretted ever sharing such an unflattering piece of myself? Once it’s out there, I can’t take it back. That’s already proven true.

    I saved the post. But I didn’t schedule it. I was — and am — too scared.

    But you make me feel braver, Aidan… living your life openly, honestly. Your willingness to share your words with us. Deeply personal things… but things with which we all relate. You’re awesome and inspiring! And maybe that jealousy post will go up after all.

    • Aidan Donnelley Rowley

      Oh how I would love to read your post, Meg. And I know that I am not the only one who would be interested in seeing you explore this topic that affects all of us. I think about this often; how to genuinely feel happiness and excitement for others. I will confess that I am not a stranger to envy and I don’t always love this about myself. But I think that envy is another one of those things that is human; that we all feel it at times and we must fashion ways to control it and not let it dominate who we are and how we feel.

      As for being brave, I don’t know. I think this is just about being strong enough to tell our stories, knowing that the very humanity at the core of these tales will resonate and deeply, and trusting that people will actually relate to our imperfections. Because not one of us here is perfect, right?

      So so appreciate this comment, Meg! And please do publish that post, okay?


  11. Allison Tate

    I love your experiment and I think you are right — you’ll never be the same again, wine or no. Good for you for challenging yourself! And I agree — you could do a year without coffee. You can do anything!

    • Aidan Donnelley Rowley

      Thanks, you. Isn’t it so cool to think about – that we do these things, and have these experiences, and that they changeus? I am sure you are thinking about that these days, how one thing can inform who it is we become, and how we see the world? I find all of it to be amazing and I know I have told you like a zillion times over the last week, but you have really inspired me to think about how powerful our voices and words can be. It is wildly empowering to think that we can write our stories and that they can resonate and reach people and truly affect them. Btw, I got word from a HuffPost editor that the post I emailed you about is being featured πŸ™‚ Not sure when it is going to run, but I am pumped beyond belief. I will be sure to let you and all of you guys reading know when that happens.

      Hope life is good chez Tate.

      And, yes, we can do anything, right?


  12. K

    Allowing yourself to be vulnerable is extremely hard. For me, one of the hardest things in life. I am not good at it, so good for you. Letting someone know your struggles, your issues, your weaknesses goes against my nature — but luckily I have the greatest guy who I can feel comfortable enough to do that with, so at least I have ONE — you opened up to many and publicly. I love wine, I love the taste, the feeling, the happiness and laughs when shared with friends and loved ones. But I also love to be really productive at work, run 5 miles a day, be a great mom to two funny & amazing kids, keep my house clean and homey, have energy and look 10 years younger than my 43 years (or so I’ve been told)… the list goes on. I am definitely better at all these things WITHOUT wine. So my question to myself is why do I drink it (not every day, but yes — its part of my life and I like it)? Maybe you’ve inspired me to do a year without wine. Well, at least a month πŸ˜‰ Congrats on your success and thanks for sharing with us.

    • Aidan Donnelley Rowley

      It is so hard to allow ourselves to be vulnerable, but it is so rewarding somehow. I’m not sure why exactly, but I think it has to do with the cathartic aspect of just laying it all out there and also with the response we get from others when we just tell the truth that we are struggling. Even though I have learned this lesson again and again on this blog – that it pays to be open and honest – I still struggle with it. I think this is because we are trained to hold it altogether out in the world, to smile a pretty “all is good” smile, to power on. And I am all for this some of the time; the world would not function if we all spewed vulnerable truths all the time. But how truly wonderful to have a cozy corner to come and to breathe and speak freely once in a while. Today is one of those days that I am SO thankful for this blog, and for all of you guys reading.

      Would be so curious to know if you actually do a month or a year without wine. The thing is that only you know if this is something you need to do or want to do, but I am living proof that it can be a really eye-opening and brilliant thing to take a step back and hit that big old reset button on a habit.

      Thanks so much for these words, K. They mean more than you know.

  13. I am not a big drinker and outside of college, never have been. So, while I can’t personally relate to your journey, I give you so much credit for making the decisions you’ve made. For allowing yourself to wonder when drinking wine becomes too much. For pondering whether you might be better, certainly different without the wine. For being YOU throughout this whole exposed, raw process. I think it’s really, really cool.

    I have always taken moderately to very good care of myself. My struggle has been in the past two years since I gave birth. The baby weight didn’t just disappear like it did for so many of my friends. Putting in some effort in terms of nutrition and exercise hasn’t budged the scale. And I’m not willing to give up any part of my already limited family life (thanks to a full time job) in order to get in the kind of exercise it would take to shed the pounds. I definitely struggle with the new me and constantly wonder whether I’ll ever see a glimmer of the old me, the one I miss dearly.

    • Aidan Donnelley Rowley

      Thank you, Nilsa. The further I get into this year of mine, the more I realize this is not really about alcohol at all, but about putting ourselves first and allowing ourselves to change. Too many of us grow up and start to neglect ourselves in certain ways. Whether it is a demanding career or family life or a bit of an existential crisis, I think so many of us throw up our hands and conclude that this is just the way life is and the way we are and that change is not possible. I don’t believe this. I think we can own our lives and our selves and tinker with our approach to existence. I think it is wonderful that you are so honest with us – and yourself – about missing the “old you”. I think many of us feel this way. Clearly, we mean different things by “the old me” but there is a universal longing, I think, for who we once were before life grew more tangled (often with very wonderful things).

      So so appreciate your words today. Thank you.

  14. Aidan, I completely understand that you wouldn’t want your whole blog to be about alcohol, but these are some of your very best posts. Maybe because they are, deep down, less about wine and more about finding yourself? Regardless, you’re brave to put this out into a public space, but I’m so glad that you do.

    • Aidan Donnelley Rowley

      Thank you, Camille. Yes, this is about searching and stumbling much more than it is about drinking and not drinking. This is about life and identity and trying to honor our evolving selves in a world so dominated by “other.” This is also about words, isn’t it? About writing our stories and in so doing, revering them. This is about embracing imperfection while striving for improvement. Anyway, whatever this isor becomes, it feels good and right and it is a privilege to be able to share it with you, and all of you. xo

  15. Leslie

    Aidan, this is one of your best posts, in my opinion. It’s so hard to be vulnerable, and you put yourself out there so beautifully. I am approaching 2 years of sobriety now, so of course I take special interest in your alcohol posts, but I read your words faithfully every morning.

    I love your ending, about the new Rowley girl…I have a little different take. Maybe you’re uncovering the Rowley girl you truly are. πŸ™‚

    • Aidan Donnelley Rowley

      Oh I love this. This idea that all of this – these words, these questions, this experiment – is an effort to uncover who I really am. This makes a lot of sense to me; I think there were times when I was using wine to run away from myself and the world, to blur the lines of my horizon, to obscure life and self. And removing it from the equation has brought a tremendous sense of clarity and self-knowledge. All so interesting to think about. Do you feel like you learned who you were/are when you stopped drinking? Actually, I would love to learn some of the most major takeaways your 2 years have given you. I am sure we’d all love to hear more – if you are willing to share.

      Thank you so much, Leslie.

  16. Like many others here, I too think that your comment on welcoming a new Rowley girl is spot on.

    Your commentary about taking care of ourselves during pregnancy is much needed in our culture of frazzled mothering. Whether it comes from too many kid activities, too little sleep, too much wine, or not enough free time for ourselves, our culture seems to have come to the conclusion that our mothering is not sufficient unless it leaves us fully unraveled. I’m currently reading Madeline Levine’s new book, “Teach Your Children Well,” and she writes convincingly of the need for mothers to schedule “play time” for themselves. It might take the form of flipping through a catalog, reading a good (or bad!) book, watching a favorite show, or talking on the phone with a friend. But it is important that our children’s schedules leave us time for ourselves, otherwise everyone suffers.

    During pregnancy we grant ourselves a pass on the “frazzled mom” tally because our reduced pace is for the benefit of the baby. But as you aptly point out, many of us are the best versions of ourselves when we care for ourselves as we ought to do all of the time.

    Not to get all Oprah on you, but I love what you’re doing to become your best Aidan. I think it’s great for you and your family, and I think it’s a great example for many others.

    • Aidan Donnelley Rowley

      “Our culture of frazzled mothering…” Wow. There is so much to unpack here. You are right; There seems to be a message that if we are not running ourselves ragged, we are being lazy or doing something wrong. Where did this ethos come from? I’m not sure. I have Levine’s book on my nightstand and cannot wait to read it. I have a hunch that it will be full of interesting ideas and blog topics. And I love the Oprah bit. I love Oprah. And, yes, I think much of this is about becoming the best version of ourselves. Shouldn’t we all be aiming to improve, to enhance our own sense of well-being? Isn’t it sad to think there might come a day where we don’t try to tweak who it is we are and aim for positive change?

      I said it on FB, but it was so so cool to see you last weekend. A wonderful reminder of the very real connections that can be forged in this ether.


  17. Tessa S.

    I like what Gale said about the “culture of frazzled mothering” – ‘frazzled’ – what an excellent word. I think we could take this one step further. Are we not, now, becoming a culture in which being frazzled on more levels than the next person is totally required? Don’t we all try to do too much as mothers, friends, wives, sisters, workers, daughters, women…? Perhaps it’s time to stop and ask “Is this all necessary?” or, rather, “What is totally necessary in my life?” (and I’ll add “if I didn’t really care so much what people think about me or/and if I didn’t need so badly to belong or be accepted/acceptable?”) Our behavior has such a deeply rooted psychological side to it and this is really what needs close examination – which leads to vulnerability – and feelings of discomfort and distress – and often we chose to just escape from all of this and it’s easier to keep the ‘toxins’ in our lives.

    Aidan, I think you are wonderful having come this far down the no-alcohol road – and I’ve been cheering for you all the way and hoping, hoping, hoping that you won’t quit. So I’ll say it again : You go, girl ! You are doing an absolutely fine job so stick with it.

    Perhaps something to ponder is why you don’t take care of your body after your babies were born. Surely it is just as important, right now, and into the future, that you are strong and healthy for as long as possible in your children’s lives?

    So much to think about, so much to deeply examine. The road is long and winding and should be walked with small, small steps.

    • Aidan Donnelley Rowley

      As always, such a thoughtful comment. Thank you, Tessa. And, yes, I think there is so much to examine about this world in which it is expected that we are juggling infinite balls, and making ourselves crazy with business. I am so glad you asked the question about why I don’t care myself post-pregnancy the way I do during pregnancy and the truth is that I do. I exercise and watch what I eat and try to sleep, but I do let these things slide from time to time, perhaps too often. This self-care seems to get lost in the shuffle of a good and busy life. It’s not so much a philosophical choice to neglect body and mind, but sometimes it just happens as I focus so intently, so frenetically, on the many things in my life.

      Thank you so so much for your support and thoughts. They mean a great deal, particularly today.

  18. I so get this. All I can say is a hearty ME TOO. xoxo

  19. Your story didn’t go where I thought it would, but that’s what makes it so great. I admire your honesty in sharing the story of drinking pinot grigio at the hospital.

  20. Karin

    I so relate to having taking such good care of myself when pregnant (twice) and have commented since, “If only I could do it just for me!”

    Finally, 21 years later I have learned to take better care of myself for me and it feels great. Always room for improvement but happy to contentedly have the big brush strokes down. Going back to your perfection comment the other day – I no longer expect perfection but I do expect good direction.

    • Aidan Donnelley Rowley

      Yes, there will always be room for improvement. This is reality and I also think this is good. Isn’t there something positive about the fact that we can always work on ourselves, and better ourselves? There is definitely a theme here though; Why is it that we women take such exquisite care of ourselves when carrying life and then let our standards of care slip once the baby comes? Is this a practical thing – we are stretched physically and emotionally caring for a new being, or is this a real choice, a real neglect, representative of the value we place on our own health and happiness. All worth thinking about.

      Oh, and I am trying to get to the point where I do not expect perfection. Easier said than done, right?

  21. K

    All these posts are really making me think. I think many women (myself included) just don’t love ourselves as much as we love those we take care of, especially our kids. If only we could love ourselves as much, forgive ourselves like we forgive others, and see the good in ourselves like we see in others. I will make sure my kids have a balanced diet, get enough sleep and then for myself go through a day on nothing but a bagel, diet coke and coffee and get 6 hours sleep. I suppose a therapist would have a field day with this. Just wish I (and the women around me) could learn to be better about this.

    • Aidan Donnelley Rowley

      Yes, I think so much of this is about self-love and the lack of it. And, yes, a therapist would have a field day with so many of us. There are some real universals here, aren’t there? Pretty amazing and somewhat unsettling to see. What would it look like for us to love ourselves the way we love our children? Would it be possible to love ourselves as much as the other people and things in our lives? Call me optimistic, but I think so. Now how to get there, right? Thank you, K.

  22. Aidan, I admit I don’t always read your posts. I dip in and out. But today I was drawn to open the e-mail despite not having a lot of free inspiration time. And no wonder, it’s a fabulous doozy of a piece, thank you!

    I loved that you straight up asked for comments because this post makes you feel vulnerable. This is also profound self-care-taking and very inspiring.

    Then I got over here to leave a little note (as requested, ha!) and was moved by all the gorgeous responses. Everyone rocks!

    From a Buddhist perspective, each moment is a little death, and also a little birth. We give birth to ourselves every second of our existence. And we let our old self go, too. Lots of metaphorical pregnancies, lots of labors, lots of births.

    Thank you for your willingness to share honestly, all of you. It’s so healing for everyone, myself included. Every real story you share gives each of us permission to do the same. Next thing you know, there will be a fantastic truth-telling revolution of self- and mutual-acceptance. Amen to that, sister! Viva la revolucion!

    Self care is the only real way to care for anyone else anyway. Funny that. So enjoy your inner seeking and wellness journey. Everyone in your life will be so blessed by it.

    Ps. What is shockingly “not perfect” to you, what makes you feel so afraid to share, is much easier for the rest of us to accept. So you might as well share it anyway. (And go ahead and substitute every “you” with “me” there, since I need to hear that, as well. πŸ™‚

    • Aidan Donnelley Rowley

      Alice – This comment is just wonderful and I sit here with the debate blaring in the background, smiling. Smiling because you are saying things that resonate and reminding me that it is really important to tell these stories and that it is the stories of struggle and imperfection that people need to hear. I just wrote my post for tomorrow and it is about truth. Not truth in the vast Platonic sense of the word, but little truths. The little truths, the smaller stories, that make us who we are. I think that too many of us do not, or do not have opportunity, to tell our truths. And I think this is sad. I think there is so incredibly much to be gained by just going for it, by being vulnerable, by asking people to care. Because, yes, that’s what I did here by requesting comments. I knew that today would be a tricky one and I asked people to come here and tell me it will be okay, and they did, and it will. Amazing that it can be that simple.

      A revolution? Wouldn’t that be so so cool. If people just started talking a little bit more, sharing those stories that have been tucked away out of fear or embarrassment or whatever else. Want to help me start said revolution? Anyone else on board? πŸ™‚

      Anyway, I ramble. But thank you. So so much.

  23. Congratulations Aidan! I love the fact that you are courageous in telling this story because so much of it relates to an external and internal transformation.

    I’ve never been much of a drinker, but lately I find myself in social situations where if I am not drinking or taking shots, I sense a disconnect with people. I envision a cloud of questions going up outside of other’s people space wondering, “Why isn’t she drinking? What is wrong with her?” A few times I’ve nursed a “drink” so people wouldn’t wonder why I wasn’t drinking. Sorry about the rambling, but have you felt as if there is a disconnect between you and certain friends b/c of this experiment? And what ways have you handled it?

    Thanks for offering your vulnerability to us.

    • Aidan Donnelley Rowley

      I am so glad you asked me this because the simple answer is yes. There are certain people in my life who have pulled away from me a bit over the last nine months. There are distances I notice. There is that disconnect you so aptly describe. But I am oddly Zen about all of this. I think I feel so good about what I am doing (and not doing) that I come at all of this with a sense of ease. I don’t honestly think that people are pulling away or judging, but rather that there just isn’t that buddy-buddy glass-clinking closeness that there once was. But the cool thing is that I have felt new connections form. There are people whom I’ve grown much closer to this year maybe because I am not drinking. I don’t really know. What I do know is that I am doing something that is right for me, I am figuring out a way to feel good in this life, and this is what matters. Thanks so much, Rudri. For your words. For making me think.

  24. I am always interested in a transformation story as I feel very much that I am not yet the person I am supposed to become. That’s how I would view your continued posts on this topic — not as an alcohol v. non-alcohol post.

    The first thing I asked for after my second child was born was sushi πŸ™‚

    • Aidan Donnelley Rowley

      You are totally right; this is not about alcohol, but about change. This is about pressing pause on the machine of life, of thinking and tinkering. This is about making the effort, and taking the time, to transform myself a little. Honestly, I think we all deserve such self-reflection and self-reevaluation. All of this is work, but it is so rewarding. Yum re: sushi. One of my faves πŸ™‚

  25. I love this post, Aidan, and while I can’t relate to the wine issue exactly, I deeply resonate to what you say about being willing to take care of yourself when you’re pregnant, but forgetting the importance of nurturing yourself when you’re not.

    There’s so much to unpack there, I think. I wonder if perhaps we women see pregnancy as a type of achievement and therefore feel safe from judgment if we choose to take care of ourselves vis a vis taking care of the baby during it. And then maybe we feel like we lose the right to nurture ourselves once our kids are actually born? (Or at least we lose the justification that we feel we need for outside observers?)

    Random rambling, I’m afraid, but you really made me think today with your beautiful words, your new Rowley girl, you. xo

    • Aidan Donnelley Rowley

      Thanks, you. So interesting, and troubling, to think that we might believe that we lose the right to take care of ourselves once our kids are here. I hope I am not being naive to think that it is possible for us to take care of both our kids and our partners and ourselves. Something just occurred to me. I think this blog, for me, (and maybe your blog for you?) is a type of self-care. Isn’t it actually good for our minds and even bodies to have a place to go to say things, and free things, and ask questions about who we are and might like to be? I think so. I do.

      I hope you are well! xox

  26. Anonymous

    Thank you for today’s incredibly honest post. There are so many similarities with your relationship with alcohol and my own. I have been meaning to write a long note to you to let you know how much introspection these posts have given me on my own habits. I think there are so many moms out there that self medicate with Pinot or Chardonnay. There is something totally acceptable about saying I need a glass of wine, but I need a drink sounds like a problem. Anyway, I am still in the midst of my struggle. Does it interfere with work – no, family – not sure, do people think I have a problem – no. But, there are many dinner hours where that glass or 2 or 3 of wine makes the 20 month screaming sound cute and the four year old whining more tolerable. More to come, but THANKS. I too have been at my best while pregnant. Have been trying to take better care of myself. We will see…

    • Aidan Donnelley Rowley

      Yes, I think many moms self-medicate because we are stressed and we care so deeply about these little creatures who need so much of us and our time. I think we sip wine or do other things to cope with the anxieties, to escape the rainbow chaos, to have a bit of fun. I think there are so many reasons we moms, and parents, drink and turn to other behaviors. I think you have inspired me to write a post about why people drink. How cool and eye-opening would it be to see a ton of answers to this question. I imagine some themes would emerge.

      Means a great deal that my words, and struggles, hit home with you. Really, I think ALL of us have our things, our hard things.

  27. This is so poignant and honest and wonderfully written. Thank you for sharing your journey, for letting us in. I feel as though I’m getting a glimpse of ‘wholeness’ here and your path to it.
    I’m so glad to be here.

    • Aidan Donnelley Rowley

      Wow. Thank you, Heidi. I am intrigued by the concept of ‘wholeness.’ Whatever it is, it sounds like a very good thing. Your words mean a great deal.

  28. As someone who loves wine in maybe an unhealthy way, wow. Nine months is a long freaking time. Good for you.

    • Aidan Donnelley Rowley

      It is long, right? πŸ™‚ Part of me can’t believe I haven’t had a sip of booze in 9 months. And I think many of us – manyof us love wine (and many other things) in less than healthy ways.

      Thank you!

  29. I love this idea of a new birth for you. Sometimes we begin to define ourselves through our actions, separating those two is an important process in self-discovery.

    As for pregnancy, I do know what you mean about taking care of yourself and feeling great. One of the difficulties our culture faces is when we greet the new baby, the woman is once again forgotten and we are left to forge the path of new motherhood (regardless of whether its baby number 1, 2, or 3+) alone. Perhaps that’s why alcohol becomes a new friend for so many moms.

    (As a random aside, I like how La Leche League approaches alcohol use for moms who are breastfeeding: “Prohibiting alcohol is another way we make life unnecessarily restrictive for nursing mothers.” See:

    • Jacqueline

      What an incredible, honest post about such a defining phase of life. Thank you, thank you for sharing all that you do!

      • Aidan Donnelley Rowley

        Thank you, Jacqueline. It is a privilege to share my stories here and particularly rewarding when I receive lovely comments like this one and the others I have received today.

    • Aidan Donnelley Rowley

      Oh I am so so happy you posted that link, Amber. My doctors have always said that it is ok to drink moderately while nursing but I know this can be a really charged topic. I think my guilt about drinking wine in the hospital ultimately had less to do with a concern that what I did was somehow wrong or harmful, and more to do with me not fully embracing the reality of a new baby. I look back and think – why? – why did I need those drinks then? And I fully realize that I am hard on myself that in many ways it really wasn’t a big deal, but what matters I think is that I look back on this story and feel what I feel.

      And, yes, we are so often left to forge the rocky path of new motherhood alone. And it is amazing but hard and stressful and, at least initially, wine helps blur the edges and make the struggle seem more scenic.

      Thanks, Amber!

  30. TWC

    Just look at all of this support you have here. What a huge accomplishment, Aidan. 9 months!

    • Aidan Donnelley Rowley

      Yes, so much support. And it’s incredible. Thanks, you! (And thanks for coming here today and leaving words per my request!)

  31. Wow, good for you! I love wine. Currently, I’m not having any M-Th but I love to enjoy great wine. I wouldn’t want to give it up always (even though I did when I was pregnant too).

    • Aidan Donnelley Rowley

      And I don’t want to give it up always either. The plan is to return to drinking in a new and evolved way. I have three months to figure out what that will look like. But for now, these dry days feel good and right and are incredibly eye-opening. Thanks for your words, Stacie!

  32. Aidan, this is such a beautiful post. Showing people our tender insides is so frightening, isn’t it? I felt that way when I decided to be honest about the fact that my novel, BEST KEPT SECRET is based on my emotional experiences as an alcoholic and mother. But the response I’ve received because of that honesty has been astounding. So many women struggle with this issue – not all are alcoholics, but under the pressure to do it all, be it all, have it all, we look for ways to numb out. And sometimes a line gets crossed, and because there is still such a stigma attached to alcoholism, especially for women and mothers, it can be a long, hard battle for some of us to find our way back.

    I’m coming up on seven years of sobriety in November, and while most people will read that and think about the fact that I have been physically sober that long, what amazes me every day, what I celebrate and am grateful for – what my children are grateful for – is the emotional sobriety I have now. The clarity, the recognition of who I truly am as a woman, a mother, a friend, lover, writer. The freedom to forgive myself for not being perfect at any of those things.

    Your experiment is such a brave act. Your willingness to share about how it has affected you is gorgeous. Thank you.

    • Aidan Donnelley Rowley

      Wow. Thank you, Amy. Yes, it is very frightening to expose ourselves, to show our very real and very flawed parts, but it is also really cool and rewarding, right? Yes, so many of us struggle with alcohol and other things and it is not about black and white, alcoholic or no, but often about the grays the middle of the continuum that is much harder to understand. There are so many pressures – those placed on us by society, those we place on ourselves and sometimes, too often, it gets to be too much and we look for ways to escape – just a little, and just for a bit. And, yes, there are lines and if we are not careful, they are crossed. I know now that I didn’t cross that line, but I think in the back of my mind I glimpsed one and it scared me some.

      Seven years is really incredible. The clarity you write about is something I can relate to so much now. If I could pick one word to describe this year, it is “clear.” Perhaps if I ever do write a book about this experiment, it should be called THE CLEAR YEAR? Not bad, eh? And what you say about freedom and forgiveness in all our many roles… yes.

      Thank you so much for coming here, and writing what you wrote. It means a ton. And I can’t wait to read your book(s)!!

  33. Gloria Riviera

    Hi Aidan, I just want to say thank you for being brave enough to ‘go there’ for me…for all of us. I can’t tell you how often I read your words on this topic here in Beijing and I feel so…supported, so encouraged, so un-alone…as I embark on my own assessment of my relationshp with alcohol. It’s scary, challenging, tear-inducing for me. And your words make it infinitely less so. Thank you.

    • Aidan Donnelley Rowley

      Thanks so much, Gloria. To be honest, it took a while for me to “go there” as you so aptly put it. I have long wondered about my relationship with alcohol and finally the wondering got to be too much and too consuming. And here I am. The really cool thing is that I have learned through these months that my patterns, while certainly very unhealthy at times, were really just that: patterns. And we can change our patterns if we want to. It can be hard work, but I believe we can do it. That said, no one is perfect and we really shouldn’t strive to be. I think what we can do though is examine and assess and think and ask. I think this is what life is all about. Or should be. It’s kind of interesting but I had no reservations about doing this year but I did have qualms about being open about it and writing about it. I am so thankful I went for it because these comments and stories are so incredible and affirming. Hope all is well in Beijing! As someone who is very much anchored to home, I have a tad of envy that you are there. Grass is always greener, huh?

  34. I haven’t been following your journey, but I would say that since you have done this for yourself I can’t really see where others could judge you (beyond reasons of dealing with their own concerns). If you are happy with what you’re doing–and even if you’re not–it sounds like a great experiment!

  35. Good for you! Life is all about growth and change and sounds like you really did grow into a new person. Wishing you much success!

  36. Congratulations on 9 months! I love the image of you growing in instead of out as you experience life in a new way. Great post.

  37. Amy

    I didn’t have a chance to read this yesterday, but today…oh wow! Exquisite words! And, as always, your post seems to be reflective of my life, my struggle to take care of myself. As mothers, we tend to be very good at taking care of our children, but not so good at taking care of ourselves, not the way we used to anyway…I smear lotion all over my almost 3-year-old every night in an effort to battle his dry skin, and my own? Well, I ignore it. It’s those little things and those big things. You’re doing a big thing, and in doing a big thing and sharing it with us, you’re making yourself real and vulnerable and courageous. I admire you.

    • Aidan Donnelley Rowley

      Thank you so much, Amy. The lotion example is perfect. It’s not so much as we make a principled decision to take care of our kids instead of ourselves, but sometimes, I think that’s just what happens. Your words here mean a great deal.

  38. Oh I love this post. It’s one of my favorites. I can really relate to the wine thing and I have to set such clear boundaries around it. You inspired me to give up wine and while I didn’t do it for a year, my sober time made me see that I do so much better without it. Now I only have a glass if I go out to eat or on special occasions and I feel much better about myself. We moms put so much pressure on ourselves and lately I have been going to bed earlier after I realized that my wine craving was really a call to relax.

    Yes, I took great care of myself when I was pregnant:) I wish I had some more of that right now.

    • Aidan Donnelley Rowley

      Pamela – This makes me so happy to hear that something I wrote inspired you to make a positive change in your life. Because, really, this is not about wine at all, but about change. And you are right; so much of this stems from the undue pressure we place on ourselves and people and parents. We all need to find a way to relax – absolutely. An earlier bedtime would be a fabulous way to start. xo

  39. What a powerful, poignant post, one that resonates with me in many ways. I’m inspired by your willingness to examine your relationship with alcohol and determine what exactly you are escaping from – not a task for the faint-hearted! Congratulations on your willingness to rediscover/rebirth yourself and your courage to be seen. God speed!

  40. I found myself wondering while I read this if I could (and maybe should) give up ice cream for 9 months. I’m not joking at all. It sounds disrespectful to equate a challenge with alcohol to one with ice cream, but the underlying issue of self-medication is the same. As someone who really isn’t cut out to be a SAHM, I’m finding my second maternity leave incredibly difficult. And by incredibly difficult, I mean going through an entire 2 litre carton of ice cream every 1-2 DAYS, not weeks. Usually crying as I eat. Like so many people said earlier, I would never let my 2 year old eat like this. Why am I accepting it for myself?

    I was really struck by this comment of yours: “Something just occurred to me. I think this blog, for me, (and maybe your blog for you?) is a type of self-care. Isn’t it actually good for our minds and even bodies to have a place to go to say things, and free things, and ask questions about who we are and might like to be? I think so. I do.”

    This is the reason I moved my blog last month to be completely anonymous, even though it meant I had to rebuild my readership from scratch. I wanted to be able to speak honestly about any topic I wanted, without feeling restrained by the impact on my “real life” relationships or violating someone else’s privacy. What you’re doing is so brave and so necessary. I wish I had been able to be that vulnerable, but instead I stopped posting at all.

    Wow, I’m writing a novel here. Your post and the great discussion in the comments gave me a lot to think about!

  41. Pingback: Truth | SoMi Speaks

  42. Janet

    Beautifully written and what I love so much about your writing is how honest you are – the truth is so clear in your words. Congratulations on 9 months!!

  43. AWESOME AWESOME AWESOME. go you! keep going YOU. wine-free YOU!

  44. I have often wondered why we, as women, are more than willing to maintain “toxin-free” bodies during our pregnancies but don’t give ourselves the same care after the baby is born.

    As someone who loves wine — AND beer! — I applaud you for taking some time to get to know yourself on an alcohol-free level. It doesn’t mean you will necessarily never drink again, or that you shouldn’t or that anyone else shouldn’t. It’s something you are doing for you, and I think it’s wonderful.

    P.S. It’s my first time on your blog (I found you on the Yeah Write grid), and I love your writing. I’ll be back. πŸ™‚

  45. This is an amazing and inspiring accomplishment. I get the idea of how it is more significant if it is for yourself. You should be proud!

  46. I think that’s exactly what you are doing. and good for you.

  47. dark spot

    Your style is unique in comparison to other folks I have read stuff from.
    Many thanks for posting when you have the opportunity, Guess I will just bookmark this page.

  48. So glad I found your blog through instagram yesterday. One by one, your story is my story.

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