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.