Eleven Secrets @ Eleven Months

Posted On: 12.17.12

I don’t really want to be writing this post. I’m kind of sick of talking about my drinking, or my not drinking rather. Moreover, I’m feeling burnt out, distracted, sad about what’s transpired in the world. But. But I set out on this Year Without Wine last January and I vowed to myself that I wouldn’t just do it, but write about it, that I wouldn’t just let the months tick by, but process that ticking by. So. Here I am.

Yesterday marked eleven months. And, at this point, the abstaining from alcohol is easy for me, but what hasn’t been easy for me is the decision whether I will go back to my beloved pinot grigio or not in the new year. I wrote all about that dilemma last week, but today I am making a random and rushed list of eleven truths I have learned since last January 16. Many of them, you will note, have to do with other people’s reactions to my decision to dry out for a year. This continues to be the most fascinating part of my experiment, namely how people have responded to my desire, and commitment, to change. Anyway, can’t promise these eleven things (they aren’t exactly secrets, but I thought that made for a more grabbing title!) will be earth-shattering, but my hope is that something in here makes you (and) me think.

Eleven Things I’ve Learned in the Past Eleven Months:

1. Not everyone wants me to get my act together. I saw it when I first announced this existential experiment and I am seeing it again now that my year is almost up. The it? That some people in my life would prefer me not being so dogmatic in my desire to change. It is more comfortable, less threatening, for some if I stay the same old Aidan, the Aidan who swilled and struggled.

2. Some people have projected their own stuff on me. The reality is that people have issues of their own and histories of their own. It’s been interesting to see how alcoholics or people with alcoholics in their families have made efforts to claim me as one of their own. And I appreciate the concern and the thoughtfulness, but if this year has proven anything to me, it is that this is an issue that is very much within my control. I feel very lucky to be able to say that.

3. Even people who do not understand the change I am making have felt that change. My girls do not know that Mommy has given up alcohol for a year and they don’t need to know. Even so, it has been a wonderful year, a year of increased joy and presence, and I can see a difference in them even though they are young. Kids pick up on everything and I know that they have felt the change I am making – which is good because at the end of the day, I’m doing this for them, for all of us.

4. Alcohol can be quite the confidence killer. I think that before I embarked upon this year, I was worried that without alcohol, I would feel more nervous and quiet in social situations, that my confidence would somehow fade. To the contrary, I’ve felt more confident – in my mothering, my wifing, my friending, my writing – in the past eleven months than ever before.

5. These issues and questions affect all of us. In the past eleven months, I have received so many comments and emails and notes from so many of you. It turns out that many of us, maybe even all of us, struggle with this very issue or another one like it. I think life is tricky and we are all doing the best we can and turning to things to cope. Ultimately, I think we all have “issues” in adulthood and the big question is whether we want to own those issues and figure out how to address them.

6. Life without booze can be extra sexy. Okay, I’m blushing but there is an area of my life that has been wildly enhanced by the giving up of the drinky-drink.

7. I wish I could go back to college. I look back at my college years and these were wonderful years, but I wish I didn’t drink my way through them. I know that drinking in college is very much par for the course in this nation, but a good part of me wishes that it wasn’t such a social constant, that I allowed myself the clarity I feel now. I know that I would have made deeper friendships and learned more about myself if I had been more judicious with drinking. I can only imagine many of us feel this way?

8. Some relationships will be helped and some will be hindered. An interesting realization this year: Some relationships will be improved when we take steps to change ourselves and some will be strained. This is life. One cool thing I mentioned to Husband at dinner the other night? The relationships I’ve formed since giving up wine became strong, and substantial, very fast. There is indeed a lesson here.

9. Alcohol is everywhere. Staying away from alcohol this year has made me acutely aware of its ubiquity. More often than not, there are opportunities to drink at every event I attend. Even play dates. Even kids’ birthday parties. Truth be told, I don’t mind this. I don’t feel tempted by booze just because it’s around. But it’s something I’ve noticed.

10. There are things about me that I realize have nothing to do with alcohol. There are aspects of me – for instance, my deliquency when it comes to details, writing thank you notes, responding to emails, remembering appointments, etc – that I once blamed on the fact that I was drinking. Husband and I joke that these things are part of ADR essence and have nothing at all to do with wine. Alas.

11. It is harder, but also better, to process tragedy without escaping. What happened in Connecticut last Friday shook me, and continues to shake me. When I think about those kids and those families and that school, I feel my throat swell and the tears come. Taking my sweet girls to school this morning was hard. I didn’t want to say goodbye to them. One thing I know? If I were still drinking, I would have gotten hammered on Friday night. I would have escaped. And I didn’t. And I am thankful for the fact that I didn’t, that I am actually feeling all that I am feeling. Even though it is icky.

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14 Comments for: "Eleven Secrets @ Eleven Months"
  1. There are certain choices we make in our lives that directly impact our relationships with others. Alcohol is definitely one of them. So are neighborhoods where we choose to live, schools we choose to send our children, political affiliations, collegiate affiliations and so on. Adjust any one of these choices and we will distinctly notice that some friendships grow strained, others grow closer and yet others are completely unaffected. Because, isn’t that what our relationships are all about – the common and not-so-common ground that we share, appreciate or aspire to gain in our own lives? So, of course your changed relationship with alcohol (which was a big part of your life and is often a huge part of many people’s lives) is going to have direct consequences on the relationships in your life. Naturally.

  2. Emily

    #6? Made me smile. #11? I am right there with you. I wanted wine Friday – and a lot of it. Instead I made myself some hot chocolate, put on some sad music and processed. I sent my mom a text message this morning, telling her that this year, this 2013, when I feel that way I am going to go for a run, a walk, anything that’s not going to increase my anxiety. I think your experiment and your experiences have influenced that. Thank you!

  3. I think the least surprising of your revelations, for me, is that some people don’t want you to change. If you change, then they might have to take a hard look at themselves, and that’s just not pleasant. It’s evident so often in so many changes we make in our lives, as Nilsa says.

    Good for you, Aidan. Clearly, this has been a great experience for you, and well worth it. I haven’t a doubt in the world that you’ll continue to do whatever works best for you, bearing always in mind #6 and that it makes you blush.

  4. Amy

    Another great post. So much I want to say, but don’t know if I have the words for it because I’m feeling like you are today – “burnt out, distracted, sad about what’s transpired in the world,” “icky.” I, too, had a hard time dropping my 3-year-old son off at school this morning. I think that you’re right – we all have issues that we are struggling with and we are all trying to do the best we can, sometimes slowly, taking small, minute-by-minute steps. There are so many truths in what you write here today, and your truths apply equally to so many different kinds of struggles. Thank you, again, Aidan, for reminding me and your readers that we’re not alone.

  5. Thank you, as always, for sharing and bearing your heart!

  6. congratulations to you!
    your discovery of the benefits of being fully present make me smile – in joy or pain, life cannot be fully experienced any other way… people escape in so many ways, it’s natural i think, but to stand firm and feel takes courage… wishing you all the best –

  7. These are fascinating revelations! I have learned so
    Much through you!!

  8. Dara

    I wouldn’t say I got hammered Friday and Saturday evening, but I did drink. Saturday was particularly hard. I went to a screening of Tarantino’s Django Unchained. And as one might expect, it was rife with gun violence. I hadn’t anticipated going in how much that would affect me. I got in the car with my husband afterwards and sobbed. Our next stop was an Ugly Sweater Christmas party. I couldn’t get my hands on the wine fast enough.

    I think it wasn’t just the guns that did me in. It was being part of Hollywood and part of the culture of violence that potentially contributes to behavior like we saw on Friday. It was all just too much.

  9. Meg

    So many powerful thoughts — and I can particularly relate to “Some relationships will be helped and some will be hindered.” I feel that way about many aspects of life — and can definitely appreciate how others will project their stuff on you. Sometimes my not drinking — because I don’t always like it; because it’s not a big thing for me; because I would rather have a Diet Coke, thanks — seems to turn everyone else on the defensive. Why am I not drinking? Should they be drinking? Am I making a statement? Am I judging them for drinking? It’s such… a thing. I wish it wasn’t, but it is.

  10. Bob

    Hi, thank you for taking the time to write this. I also drink wine every night, I want to stop and this blog has made me see I can do it. As of today 03/01/13 I no longer drink wine.

    • Anna

      Thank you for great blog! I have loved wine 20 years and it has became too good a friend for me even though I have been able to live normal life, being a mom, working, looking good etc. I have been wondering to have a alcohol-free year for years and couple of months ago I decided I will stay 2013 without a drop of any alcohol. Making a serious decision was rather difficult but I told about it to everyone so that I have to keep it. Somehow that deciding leaded to reduced consumption of wine during last months of 2012 and I felt extremely good and proud when beginning this new year. Thank you for your inspiring writings. They make me more certain that I am doing a right thing. It is nice to see that others like Bob have made the same promise for this year. We can do it!

  11. Paula

    I gave up my love affair with red wine on Dec 29/2012. I would drink wine every night and it just became a bad bad habit. I came across your blog last night and enjoyed reading your journey without wine. I know I can do it too!

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  13. Annette Hannan

    I use to drink a lot when i was younger but now I drink a glass red wine most nights. Sometimes chardonnay. I put the wine over ice and dilute it with some water. If I go out for dinner I may have two glasses over ice with some water. If I go to a dinner party at someone’s home I may have 3-4 glasses diluted the same way but most of the time I only drink one or two. I would like to quit but I enjoy wine I’m Italian and when I was old enough I had a small glass of red at dinner sometimes.

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