I Might Not Go Back to Drinking

Posted On: 12.10.12

People are getting curious. Curious about whether I will reunite with wine in a little over a month’s time. And this has made for some really interesting, memorable, and hard conversations. At my holiday party, as I clutched my cup of Coke Zero, a couple friends of mine asked casually what I will do when my Year Without Wine is finished in January and I said I wasn’t totally sure, but that I planned to go back to drinking in a more thoughtful, measured, and minimalist way. I explained that I hadn’t quite figured out a plan per se.

Why? Why would you go back to something that caused you problems when you’ve had such a good year, when you look and feel fantastic and you are enjoying increased productivity and happiness in all areas of your life?

These were, are, good questions. I had just explained to these very friends that I felt better than ever, that I’d literally seen every aspect of my life (think: marriage, motherhood, personal and professional relationships, writing, etc.) improve since taking a break from alcohol. After hearing this from me, I think it made sense that they would challenge me on my loosey-goosey declaration that I would go back to sipping.

The slight problem is that the aforementioned questions happened to be asked in an accusatory, borderline-belligerent way. You see, my friend was drinking, and he was heated. He was heated because he cared. A lot. He explained something I knew: this wasn’t just about me, and my project, but about him and his family and so many of us.

You are breaking away from something we all struggle with and you are doing it successfully. You are the marathon runner we aspire to be and we just want you to keep running.

No pressure, huh? I told him that this was my project and my decision to make and that I would make it thoughtfully. And I will. I told him that I believe that I have learned a lot about myself over the last year and that I am confident that I can return to drinking in a much healthier way.

But the truth is that I could not stop thinking about our conversation for the rest of the night. The odd thing was that our exchange didn’t upset me, but intrigued me. Suddenly, a questioned bobbed in my head, a question I had not theretofore genuinely considered:

What if I don’t go back to drinking?

At the end of the night, my friend apologized. He pulled me aside and said it was not his place to get so involved in my personal thing. But I told him it was okay. Because it was. I told him that I wasn’t offended because it was true.

Before going to sleep on Saturday night, I asked my man: What would you think if I never go back? And, after the festivities and some intense mopping of our beleaguered white floors, he was tired, we both were. But he answered me. And his answer was quick, simple, wonderful. He just said that it doesn’t matter to him, that it’s my decision and that my not drinking detracts nothing whatsoever from his life.

Needless to say, I went to sleep after our party thinking about all of this, imagining scenarios, feeling proud of myself that I made it through all these months and this big, beautiful party without that thing I once clung to so tightly. My sister Ceara slept over that night with her kids and in the morning, she and I were up, gulping coffee as the babes played. I asked her what she thought about my not going back and she said that it was up to me and I could go either way, but that she’s noticed a real change in me, and a positive one, over the past several months.

And now. Here I am on a Monday morning at 4:56am (I went to sleep at 8pm last night!) thinking about all of this, and what’s to come. I am sipping my coffee from my beloved cat mug that the girls gave me, through a bendy straw so as not to ruin the teeth-whitening mission upon which I’ve recently embarked. Ah, vanity. But I am here, awake, clear, listening to Handel and oddly missing Dad (I think because Mom and the sisters and I we were talking about how he would be so impossibly proud of my cello-playing nephew)… and deep in thought (as Dad so often found himself) about self and life.

I will make my own decision next month. But until then, I will process my thoughts here. My thoughts on why I gave up wine in the first place, what my life without it has been like, why I might or might not let it back into my life in any shape or form. The truth is that I made the decision last spring to tell you all about this project, to involve you, so it is about me but it is also about you. And I care what you think and want to hear your ideas, and your questions. Yes, even if this will ultimately be my call to make.

If I am being honest, I will say that I do feel the pressure (as always) to get this right. To make the right existential decision for myself, for my family, even for all of you. But I also know that there is often no right decision in life, that the best we can do is to dream big and try hard and do our best.

And that’s what I’m doing. Dreaming big. Trying hard. Doing my best.

Yes, for me. Yes, for them. And yes, for you.

{Thank you to my friend, and to all of you, for making me think so deeply and carefully about all of this.}

If you are new here and want to learn more about my Year Without Wine, click here.

If you want to read all of my Year Without Wine posts to date, click here.

Any thoughts or reactions? Do you think I am foolish to even consider going back to drinking – even in a super-moderate way – when this year has been so purely good? Have you ever given up something for an extended period of time and then gone back to it? How did that go? Are you willing to hear a lot more about my thoughts on all of this? Hope so because I want to take this final month and really think through it as much as I can…

Oh, and...

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47 Comments for: "I Might Not Go Back to Drinking"
  1. JHL

    I don’t have anything very insightful to say, but thank you for writing this.. This is honest and powerful and you have me thinking.

    • Aidan Donnelley Rowley

      Thank you. This was an important post for me to write, and to feel. I am realizing that my year is almost over and these are important questions to think about.

  2. Rachel

    I recently found your blog, and love it, of course! Since, you are looking for honest opinions, keep up the superior work without wine. =) xo
    Your honesty is to be commended.

    • Aidan Donnelley Rowley

      Thanks, Rachel. So happy you found your way here! I appreciate your honest opinion and must say that I am seriously considering extending this experiment beyond January… Never thought my experiment might turn into a permanent shift in lifestyle, but I am certainly considering that as a possibility. We shall see!

      • Rachel

        I, thank you, too for taking the time to respond. I would say that you are the real deal, and that is not something I can say about everyone. xo

        p.s. I was at a meeting this evening, and guess what? There was one person drinking their coffee out of a straw. Ha’. I told you I enjoy your blog, and like to read all the posts. Oh, that person was not me.

  3. Friend

    I worried that I had perhaps overstepped my bounds as your decision is a personal one and it’s one for you to make.It really wasn’t my place to challenge you as I did, but thanks for being open to hearing it and being so gracious about the two of us double teaming you. It is truly because we care and glad you see it that way. Your post is, as usual, thoughtful and insightful. It’s clear that you’re not taking your next move lightly.

    • Aidan Donnelley Rowley

      I think that if I hadn’t made this project so public/open, it might have been overstepping. But I chose to embark on this experiment with you, and all of you, and so it only makes sense to have these conversations even if they are not ultimately easy. The thing that amazed me most about our exchange on Saturday night was my own reaction to it. Historically, and yes with probably a few drinks in me, it would have shaken and upset me. I would have felt deeply defensive. Obviously, we wouldn’t have been having this exact conversation in the first place if I were indeed drinking, but this TYPE of conversation would have rattled me.

      Yes, I walked away from our chat feeling extra-thoughtful and a little riled up. But I also felt genuinely challenged and intrigued and all of this underscored how important – and in many ways universal – this thing I am doing is. Prior to this conversation with you guys, very few people have forced me to consider continuing my dry ways past January. I am still not sure what I will do, but if this post is any indication, I am thinking carefully about all of this.

      So, again, thank you. For making me think and consider and realize, most importantly, that this is really not just about me. At all.

      xox

      • Friend

        And to your point, I most definitely wouldn’t have discussed it had you not made this public. It definitely was not a discussion to have at a party and went further than it should have. One of us probably should have shut it down sooner than have a waiter do it for us. Thanks for giving me a pass on this one…

  4. “But I also know that there is often no right decision in life, that the best we can do is to dream big and try hard and do our best”

    For me. That is the key. The key to your decision – the right decision for you. And the key to all of my decisions (and, in my mind, everyone else’s decisions as well). There is so much in this post that is great.

    Good luck with your decision – and it sounds like you will have support in whatever your decision turns out to be.

    • Aidan Donnelley Rowley

      Thank you, Elise. I can honestly say that I have no real sense of what I will do when January 16 arrives, but I am beginning to trust that whatever choice I make will be the right one and – as many have said here – will not be irreversible. I can always change my mind and approach. Clearly, I’ve proven that to myself this year.

  5. Friend 2

    Your post is great.

    I feel badly about being considered “belligerent” and “heated” because in my (basically alcoholic) family that was just how we discussed everything- politics, people, issues of the day etc. 
    but of course since I had been drinking i couldn’t calibrate the whole thing, and your reaction, accurately. 

    I remember reading that drinking emulates ADHD in that it limits blood flow to the frontal lobe, and that when someone is in that state they seek conflict because it stimulates blood flow and feels good. The article cited George w bush as an example of someone who was likely adhd caused by heavy drinking and needed conflict, and hence wanted war. I think that explains a lot of the tone of conversation my [sibling] and i got used to and as our mutual friend knows, we kind of discuss everything we are passionate about in that way.

    All that said, I hope I didn’t make you uncomfortable… I value the opportunity to discuss the whole subject with you. 

    When the two of us left you and our friend was like, “that was intense” I was like, no that’s an ongoing conversation that i think Aidan welcomes. Shows you how much I know – clearly it was intense.

    If I overstepped, please accept my heartfelt apology. And please convey that to Husband as well, as I’m sure at 2am while Mopping floors he was like “thanks a lot to [that guy] for hassling my wife on this very personal subject.” 

    Just last week [we decided that] by jan 1 [we] really want to find a plan that works for us around alcohol, for many reasons. So the conversation with you was timely and fraught with my own baggage, clearly.  And like you posted, not just about you. 

    What I didn’t say that night was that i understand your desire to work back in some social drinking, because often total deprivation boomerangs in unexpected ways. Just know whatever you decide you will have my full support and friendship- and a promise not to hassle you! 

    If you ever want me to zip it… We just need a safe word:)

    • Aidan Donnelley Rowley

      You… You who got me thinking about all of this and writing about all of this. Thank you. Thank you for being “belligerent” and “heated” because otherwise, I might not have paused the way I did. I am sorry to use those words, particularly if they stir something difficult in you, but this is all about being real and being honest and those are the words that came to me.

      What you made me realize is that my issues are not just my issues but so many of our issues. We do not all come from the same mold, or the same family, but we all struggle with things, and suffer. We all have things about ourselves that we would like to examine, and change. We all have dreams of being, and feeling, different.

      I think that because this year has been so overwhelmingly positive and because abstaining has proven so easy for me, I was feeling kind of casual about all of this. Which is okay but I need to remember why I embarked upon this year in the first place. In full disclosure, part of my motivation and not an insubstantial part of it came from a writerly curiosity to see myself and the world in a clearer, and new, way. But it was, and is, about much more than that and I need to remember this.

      Anyway, I could go on and on and hopefully will have the chance to in person, but I thank you for Saturday night’s words and for these, for making me take this as seriously as it once was, and in many ways continues to be.

      And I love the idea of a safe word even if I do not plan to use it. I am tougher than you think, and I realized :)

      xox

  6. I don’t like to give myself rules. I think your exercise has been a great one, but there is nothing wrong with drinking in moderation that does not disrupt your life or your relationships. So in your shoes I would probably go back, but in a much smaller way that didn’t affect me so much (I know you didn’t have a problem, but the hangovers, and the buzzes, etc.).

    My family has a story with alcohol and though I enjoy drinking — sometimes a LOT — I drink very minimally at home. I have a beer maybe once a month? I just do not enjoy drinking around my kids or while “on duty,” and I also hate to waste my calories on it. So drinking isn’t an issue for me, but Diet Coke is — and it is DANG hard to give up. Every time I say “Never again!” it makes me miserable. I would rather say, “Never in that amount again!”

    • Aidan Donnelley Rowley

      I can’t tell you how much I appreciate these words, Allison. I’ve been thinking about them all day and to me, your comment here smacks of reasonableness which is certainly something I strive for in my life and in my decisions. I think that your approach – to drink on occasion, but rarely at home and rarely around the kiddos is a really compelling one and one I could really see adopting. I am still unpacking my baggage (and suspect I always will be), but I think, for me, a lot of this has to do with motherhood and being present and alert and aware for my girls. I do not want to be taken away from them, literally or figuratively, and I know that alcohol can do that, and has done that to me. So. I could definitely see having a glass when out on a date with my man or at a party or wedding, etc.

      And I have always hated rules too. Interestingly, I’ve always rebelled – and almost immediately – against the rules I’ve set, but this has been a true exception. Part of me wonders whether I’ve been so disciplined and diligent because I chose to hold myself accountable to all of you? Not sure.

      Anyway, thank you. So much. xox

      PS – Love the to: Ben from: Ben pic you posted on FB today!

  7. Dara

    What a wonderful honest exchange.

  8. So interesting, as usual. I’ve read this post a few times now…and we’ve discussed this often. First, let me say I agree with Sister C. 100%. I won’t say you should drink and I won’t say you shouldn’t.

    What strikes me, as this year is coming to an end, is that, yes, at the beginning, it was focused a lot on the not drinking part. But, as you have mentioned here so many times, it isn’t the drinking or not drinking per se that has made the most impact. The empty wine glass was a catalyst to swerve off of where you had been walking for so long onto a new road.

    And on this road, you have changed, morphed, switched up focus, perhaps reconnected with some important elements of your life. This year, you’ve used a metaphorical highlighter and circled what is vital to your happiness, to your world, all that comes along with that.

    Will those changes still be there even if you take a sip of wine at dinner every once and a while? Will what you have learned still be a part of you? Will you still see those highlighted parts of your life?

    I would think yes…because it is more than just stopping drinking that you have done this year. You’ve recalibrated your core and strengthened it.

    If this year has given you anything, it should be the fantastic knowledge that you have a strength in you. That strength and what you have learned this year will never go away, no matter if you wine glass is filled with champagne bubbles or Coke Zero bubbles. That is what this year has given you (among so many other things) — and witnessing you with your metaphorical highlighter is what inspires those watching this journey and walking along with you, what readers here have noticed and pondered and brought into their owns lives.

    BUT, and this is a big but, it is your decision and no matter what you chose, it will come along with other decisions to be made, really. It possibly won’t be the end, final choice. There will always be more messy things to deal with. And no matter what you choose, everyone will support you (which is a pretty cool thing).

    You have time to decide…and, you know what, you can change your mind. You can, A. It isn’t the plan, I know, but you can choose not to drink come January 16. And then, March 3, decide to have a sip of wine. And then, June 13, decide not to have anything to drink for five years.

    Maybe, just maybe, your next year-long experiment is to allow yourself to figure out how to be okay with NOT getting this (or other decisions) right….hmmmm…

    Okay, whew. That was a crapton of rambling on a gray Monday morning :)

    • Aidan Donnelley Rowley

      Oh how I love, and appreciate, your gray Monday morning ramblings. Thanks, you. And I think you might know as much as anyone about my thoughts on this year, about the reasons I did this in the first place, and why I am very thoughtful/scared about the year ending. Here’s the thing: I do not think that having a sip here and there will necessarily undo the work I have done and the clarity I have found. I guess I am beginning to wonder why I would mess with something that has proven to be SO good. My life in the last eleven months has been tremendous and I feel happier and more in control of things than I have in a long, long time. Why would I even play around with this, particularly if I am not really missing the wine? These are the questions I find to be echoing in my head…

      On the flip side, I am not in love with extremes and am not in love with the idea of a lifetime of abstention. I am also not in love with the idea of never having that glass of champagne with my good friend at the end of a long week…

      So much to chew on, but I thank you, and all of you, for chewing on it with me. I am so so lucky.

      xox

  9. P.S. — I also think you are very lucky that you have friends who so obviously care about you a lot, and read your writing, and respond to you so passionately. That is a gift!

  10. Whitney

    Is it completely crazy for me to think that you don’t really NEED to have a plan on this? I feel like if you have this plan one way or the other, it will be even more difficult either way. For instance, if you say now that you will return to drinking after your year is up, then it’s possible that on your first day back, you’ll grab that glass of wine just to prove (to yourself, I think) and maybe even just to get it over with. If you decide you’re never going back, if one day you do decide you’d like to have a glass, you may feel like you’ve failed (even though it wasn’t actually a mission to be passed or failed at that point).

    Instead, if I were in your position, I think I’d wait until the occasion arose. You may find that at that particular time, you don’t really want it. But on the next occasion you might. To me, this is the road to moderation. A conscious decision on each occasion to drink if you actually want it and not to if you’re not feeling it, rather than just doing it because it’s…just what you do. I really think that your year without wine was a phenomenal way to break a habit, and just because you might return to drinking doesn’t mean you have to return to the habit.

    • G

      Whitney’s comment made me think about your recent approach to blogging and the enthusiasm with which you’ve embraced the idea that you can post whenever you want, and you don’t have to keep yourself tied to a particular schedule or set of expectations. I wonder if there is some useful information in there for you in thinking about your relationship with wine? (Not to oversimplify – of course, wine and blogging are two very different things!)

      In any case, I admire the level of care and attention you’ve given to this experiment over the past year. I think your capacity for self-reflection will continue to guide your decision-making in directions that feel “right” and “true” for you.

    • Aidan Donnelley Rowley

      Whitney – Thank you. This comment has stayed with me throughout the day and I have read it again and again and I think you are hitting on something so so important. I agree that it’s probably my best bet to go into January 16 without a plan per se, but the tricky thing is that alcohol is something which has been hard for me to control in the past. I have the utmost faith that this year away from it has armed me with the consciousness and tools to approach it all differently, but still, there is a little part of me that is anxious and in need of some kind of armor. A plan would be that armor.

      But the reality is that I want to choose moderation over abstention. I am not sure this will be a simple thing for me to figure out right away, but I know 100% I can do it if I want to. I guess I am left wondering if it would just be easier to keep it off the table entirely, you know? Then I wouldn’t have to think about it so much.

      Anyway, I am rambling but I want you to know how grateful I am that you took moments from your day to write these words because they have really helped.

  11. I have been fascinated to hear about this test, exploration and adventure you’ve experienced over the past 11 months. I don’t know anyone who has cut out drinking for an entire year (maybe for Lent only) who wasn’t an alcoholic (and seeking professional help to achieve sobriety). Personally, other than my festive years of college, I have never been a big drinker (no more than 1-2 drinks per week, on heavy weeks of drinking), so I like to think I understand that you can lead a full, fun and sometimes even crazy life without alcohol. But, I think this decision has to be yours. All yours. Only you know what’s best for you, your family, your life. And I’ll continue to be fascinated to hear about your choices and how those choices affect your life, that is, if you’ll keep sharing in this space.

    • Aidan Donnelley Rowley

      Thank you, Nilsa. I do plan to keep sharing in this space even when my year is up. I am not sure what that sharing will look like or feel like, but it will happen as I know that no matter what I decide there will be questions to ask and ideas to think through well beyond January. Many people are a bit baffled by my experiment because, like you, they don’t know of many people who have given up alcohol for an extended period of time without having that true capital-P problem. Believe me, there have been times when I have asked myself why I am doing this at all… But here I am, nearing the finish line, so happy that I have.

      I guess the fact that all of this truly is a choice makes it trickier. I know that I can and will lead a good and fulfilling life whether I add wine back to the mix or not. But I guess the eye-opening thing is that I have now glimpsed life without it and that life is pretty clear and wonderful. Can I have this exact existence when I add back in the drinks, the occasional guilt and hangover that would periodically crop up? I don’t know.

      A big part of me is tempted to just stay away. But another part of me does not want to be dogmatic or extreme about anything in my life as this has never been my way… So, we shall see.

  12. Jess

    I can’t offer advice since I haven’t been around firsthand to observe your change this year. But at first, I would have said welcome it back slowly and just see how it goes. And part of me still feels that way. But the fact that your year has been so amazing and positive for you makes me wonder whether you might be better closing the door for good, or at least for longer? Tough decision. I am so impressed by your honesty and bravery and strength in dealing with these personal issues so openly.

    • Aidan Donnelley Rowley

      Thanks, Jess. My gut is that I will ultimately choose your Option A, and open the door slowly and carefully. But, yes, there is the temptation to continue what I am doing since it has been so pure and good. A tough call indeed. And as for sharing so openly? It has been hard at times, but when I get these comments and emails from people whom my words have helped? So beyond worth it.

      xox

  13. C

    At that way too early hour Sunday morning – and lacking the clarity your sobriety the night before afforded you! – I meant to say what Whitney above wrote. I have noticed a major change in you this year, and there is no question that it has been a wonderful one, but I don’t think it is quite so simple as something that starts and ends with your sobriety. I think it’s because of the self-awareness and reflection that this experiment has thrust upon you, or that you have thrust upon yourself, if that makes sense. I agree that this kind of self-awareness is deeper and more lasting than the duration of one year without wine; it won’t disappear with a glass of pinot here and there, if you find that to be the right way forward. I say see how it goes; see how much you want that glass of pinot come January 16th (is that the day?). Learning how to moderate, how to read your body, mind and mood when deciding whether to order that glass may be just as interesting and enlightening (for all of us) as this year without wine has been. Whatever you decide, though, I’m 100% behind it, and looking forward to many more sleepovers :)

    • Aidan Donnelley Rowley

      Thanks, C. And I think I oversimplified what you had to say and, yes, we were both tired and in no shape to have a serious life conversation… I guess that part of me knows this slippery-slope all too well. How many of us go on diets and then reintroduce things only to find ourselves eating Pinkberry every night? How many of us hatch plans and then revise and revise those plans because we don’t have the fortitude to follow them in their original iteration? I guess my wavering has positive and negative elements… The positive: I have seen how absolutely gorgeous and real life can be without the gray lining of booze and I might want to hang on to this. The negative: I am afraid that it won’t be a glass here and there, that my clarity will elude me over time, that life will get back to what it was – which wasn’t ever bad, but also wasn’t this.

      Am I making any sense? Hope so :)

      PS – So so amazing to see you this weekend. Having you and your sweet Santa-PJed babes was a true highlight. I am giddy at the thought of more fun sleepovers and big talks.

  14. AG

    I don’t think you have to come to a definitive answer right now. I also think it is easier to say I am giving up alcohol for a year instead of for the rest of my life. It’s easier to grasp and makes the timeline more manageable. I am curious if it would seem more daunting if you had given it up forever as opposed to a year?

    I also believe in you and like what someone mentioned earlier as approaching it as choosing to drink at a certain time as someone mentioned earlier as opposed to a completely all or nothing. I hate to see anyone make a decision out of fear of what could happen…don’t fear that all your positive changes will be gone if you go back to enjoying pinot!

    • Aidan Donnelley Rowley

      Thank you, AG. I know you are right that I don’t have to come to any final conclusions now, and also that my hard work will not be unraveled by a few glasses of wine in the future… But I guess now that my year is coming to a close, I am getting really thoughtful about this, revisiting why I made this big decision in the first place, wondering whether it would be simply more prudent to just extend this experiment well beyond a year. Ultimately, I have a lot of confidence now. Confidence that I can live without wine, that I genuinely don’t need it to cope or to enjoy my days, but I fear slipping back into anything remotely like what I was doing before. I don’t really think this would happen, but I suppose there is always a chance.

      I think part of my fear has to with the culture in which I live and am so entrenched. Everyone around me drinks and many people around me drink a lot. It is just woven into the fabric of my life and my city and there are just endless opportunities to partake and sometimes those opportunities feel pressured. Part of me thinks it would be easier to just avoid it than continually make the game-time call whether to drink or not.

      Anyway, I will figure this out. I know I will and I am so thankful to all of you for helping me do so.

  15. Sue

    It’s only been recently that I found your site. But I jave so appreciated and enjoyed your openness about drinking. I fret about my drinking often as I really enjoy my wine. During the year following a move across the country my drinking became daily. Although I have gone back to more celebratory drinking I still ponder why I do it all.
    I will follow your journey with interest.

    • Aidan Donnelley Rowley

      Thanks so much, Sue. If I’ve learned anything in the past eleven months, it is that SO many of us have questions and concerns about alcohol. And if it’s not alcohol it’s something else. It means a lot that you are reading and I so appreciate that you took the time to leave these words.

  16. Sam

    I have a sneaking suspicion that, 11 months into your experiment, it isn’t so much about the alcohol than it is about clarity and self-awareness. The clarity that not drinking gives you, and the self-awareness that you have experienced while completely clear-headed for almost a year. And I also think that it is possible to achieve both clarity and self-awareness while returning to drinking. You have grown as a woman, as a mother, and as a wife, and that growth doesn’t just disappear because your cup will contain wine again. You have done a remarkable thing, and these kinds of changes are ones that stay with you forever. I think that if you do decide to go back, you go back stronger, more aware, and more thoughtful. I doubt your experience with wine will ever be the same again – in a very good way – whether you return to drinking or not. Ultimately the decision is yours, and yours alone, but I do hope that you write about it, whatever decision you make.

    • Aidan Donnelley Rowley

      Sam, you are right. There is no way that my relationship with wine will ever be what it was a year ago – whether I go back to enjoying my Pinot or no. I guess I am at this odd crossroads where I am left wondering if I want to risk messing with any of this clarity I have gained. Whatever I decide, trust me I will write about it! Thanks for your support today and always. xo

  17. Jessica

    I think you only need to be accountable to yourself. If you want to indulge in a coctail or two every now and then– feel free! You’ve proven that you can go without, and maybe now you will drink less often.

    • Aidan Donnelley Rowley

      Thanks for this, Jessica. You are right that what really matters is what I think, and what I choose. I do think that if I go back it will be in a markedly different, and more minimalist way.

  18. Kristen

    Do you wonder if having just one glass will propel you into your old habit? Or do you think, after being sober for a year, that could limit your drinking to a glass (maybe two) every once in awhile?

    • Aidan Donnelley Rowley

      I know that I could limit myself as you say and do not have fears that one glass will dramatically reinstate old patterns. My concerns are more nuances than this… I worry that by drinking again, it will re-introduce an aspect of angst and anxiety I have worked so hard to eliminate. I am confident that this doesn’t need to be the case, but I guess I am just a bit scared. This year has been so fantastic and part of me is hesitant to go back in any shape or form. That said, I want to be able to go to dinner with my husband and have a nice glass of wine or toast to a friend’s marriage or good news, etc… All of this is tricky, no?

  19. Jacqueline

    What an incredible conversation this has been and, I imagine, will continue to be these next weeks. Thank you more than anything for being so open with it and sharing your experiment! While I have not vowed not to drink for a year, I have certainly reevaluated my relationship with wine and asked myself important questions that I would not have done otherwise. Whatever you choose to do in January, please know that your year without wine has helped me in more ways than I even realize. I hope you find the answer that works best for you!

    • Aidan Donnelley Rowley

      Thanks so much, Jacqueline. Would love to write more but I am beyond exhausted and must put myself to bed. Just wanted to pop on and say a big thanks. So appreciate your words.

  20. Karin

    I am on day 36 of zero alcohol. I originally drew the line in the sand as a 30-day zero. It was similar reasoning as the first triathlon I did – to push me out of my comfort zone.

    As quick as I declared 30 days I realized it would include Thanksgiving. OK… guess it includes Thanksgiving. And I was surprised it wasn’t harder then it was. I reached the 30 without thinking, “Oh goodie – day 31 I can drink!” Instead, because I have observed and given this thoughtful consideration I came to realize how much I hid behind alcohol and that in dulling pain, I also dulled joy.

    So I drew another line in the sand saying zero until we leave town for Christmas – which will include attending the company Christmas party without the aid of alcohol. And then I’m thinking about doing our week-long Christmas vacation sans alcohol. And then… I’m not deciding yet.

    I like being more engaged rather than less so. Much to my surprise I like a lot of things about choosing to not drink. I wonder how much stronger the case will become as I continue this journey. I’m just not sure alcohol enhanced my life the way I thought it did and I know there were times it took away from me. Isn’t this what you found as well?

    Absolutely your call but I’m sort of rooting for you to choose to continue with zero.

    • Aidan Donnelley Rowley

      Karin – Thank you. So much of what you say here resonates, and strongly, too. I think the biggest takeaway is perhaps continuing to set smaller milestones and then seeing how I feel when I reach each one. Maybe it will be a year without wine, or 13 months or two years. Who knowa? But, yes, I have realizing that alcohol did not make my life better in most instances and in many instances it detracted from things… So much to chew on. But thanks!

  21. A friend

    As your friend, I have seen, more often than not, how you used to get drunker than the rest of us. I think you handle your wine a little differently. I don’t think you were ever a heavy drinker, it’s not like you needed to drink a bottle or more to get tipsy – you used to get drunk from just a couple of glasses, where most of us in the group could drink a little more… I hope everyone here knows you were never the “hanging from the chandelier with a vodka bottle and terribly belligerent kind”
    I remember the 1st time you told me you were quitting. I think we all looked at you as if you were insane. I think I may have even asked you if I was allowed to continue drinking around u!!! I was like – yeah right, I give her 2 months tops. But you have proven all of us wrong and probably to a certain extent even surprised yourself. I am incredibly proud of you, but it’s not because you didn’t drink for a year. it’s because u stuck to it all this time. And I know there were many occasions where a class of Pinot would have been great.
    You did an experiment to break a habit and I think it allowed you to see with a complete different perspective how parties, cocktails, bday dinners and nights out… Maybe you get to laugh at the rest of us making a fool of ourselves at times. There is no right or wrong about going back. After this experiment, I am almost positive that you will always be aware of the drunkenness and when the moment of too much approaches. I don’t see you hugging a toilet bowl anytime soon. You will be an aware drinker, more in control of the consumption as well as the moment – what could be better than that.
    Well done Aidan. What a year. it’s always fun to be with you… with or without the pinot!!
    Great party
    xo

    • Aidan Donnelley Rowley

      Thanks, you. I’m not going to lie; Reading this comment makes me cringe a bit because you know me now and you knew me then and I hate the idea that I was getting drunker than all of you guys though I’m realizing that it was often true. I think there are many reasons for this, reasons I plan to explore in its own post. I thank you for taking the time to be so plain with me because a lot of people have been pretty gentle about all of this, I think. Anyway, thank you. For being a friend, for being truthful, for being here reading and there for me in real life too. Because at the end of the day this is really about real life, right?

      Good to see you on Saturday night!!
      xox

  22. Your post and this discussion is insightful and revealing. First, I admire your capacity to commit to such a goal and then talk about it so publicly. I know this was more than just an experiment to give up drinking, but to really learn more about yourself and your internal drive to challenge yoruself. I’ve never been much of a drinker, but I wonder, how did you make it a habit to not drink? I am fascinated about the discipline it takes to undertake any kind of change and what makes some of us continue, while others get tired and give up. Would love your thoughts on discipline, habit and what you say to yourself to keep going…

    Thank you Aidan.

  23. Iri

    If it’s not right for you and you can resist, then resist. :)

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