A Year Without Wine: I Did It!

Posted On: 01.16.13

A year ago, I started something. An experiment. An experiment that scared me and excited me. What would life be like without alcohol for a whole year? I didn’t know. But I was about to find out. Or was I? From the beginning, I had my doubts. Doubts about whether I could follow through with this ambitious goal, whether I would want to. What if I really had a problem and I couldn’t just give it up? What if a few weeks passed, or a few months, and I lost motivation and momentum and just wanted to stop?

I am honestly shocked that I did this, that I was able to, that my desire to see this through never waned. It all feels a bit surreal and otherworldly that I am here, on this day one year later, celebrating, looking back. And the truth of the matter is that I have so much to say, words to write, pages to fill. And I will do these things. I will indulge in the saying, the writing, the page-filling. In time.

But, for now, two important words: Thank you.

Thank you for being here, for witnessing my imperfections and my evolution, for reminding me again and again and again that my experiences, experiences which often feel impossibly lonely and raw, are in fact universal and, seen from just the right angle, beautiful even. Beautiful. There is an abiding beauty in telling the truth about self and world. That’s what this year has been about: Seeing the truth, and telling it.

And there’s so much more to tell. Again, I will.

Over the past year, and particularly in recent weeks, I’ve heard from so many of you. You say that something in my story – ultimately, a pretty standard story with a pretty standard plot –  person struggles with thing – has spoken to you. You have said you can relate. Some of you have vowed to give up alcohol or other things for a month, a year. You have said that there are times when you want to run away, blur edges, escape. Yes. This is part of what it means to be human. And that, human, we all are.

But in this business of being human, we have choices to make. We can choose to be clear, to confront, to finger the sharp edges of existence instead of fleeing them. We can choose to be here in the maddening and magical present moment of reality, a reality that is, and will always be, laced with difficulty, uncertainty, loss of some kind.

These are the choices I have made – for one man, for three little girls, for me – over the past year. And it has been hard at times to see so clearly, to feel so deeply, to be so sober all the time. But it has been amazing, too.

Here’s the truth: This is really about me. Even from this new vantage point, I do not judge people for drinking, for drinking sensibly or recklessly or somewhere in between. I know many people for whom drinking is a take-it-or-leave-it proposition, a tiny little footnote, not a big deal. I also know many people who have more complicated relationships with alcohol. Clearly, I was, and still am, one of those people.

At the end of the day, I think, for the most part, we are all doing the best we can, managing in ways that feel familiar and safe somehow. But. To the extent that we are intrigued by ideas of self-improvement and change, to the extent that it is truly within our control and within our interest to ponder and live these things, as, thankfully it was within mine last January, I would be remiss not to underscore how absolutely world-changing it can be to press pause on life, to switch something up, to do things differently, to feel the invigorating pulse of progress, change, and with these things, happiness.

I do not know what I will do going forward. Even though I am here, at the one-year-mark, I do not know. What I do know is that I will be careful and I will not go back. I will not go back to what I was doing. And if I do for some reason, if I slip back into patterns that had come to feel unhealthy and incommensurate with the kind of life I want, I will come here and write about it. I promise you that. I promise me that.

So. I am off to re-read my wine-free posts from this past year (listed chronologically below) and to try to process this day, this big day. But before I go, something important: If you are there, wherever you are, immersed in the pages of your own story, and you’ve been pondering a change, a big change, a small change, a change permanent or temporary, I have something to say:

Go for it. Life is short. And you are worth it.

In closing, those two words again, those two little and not-so-little words I feel with every bit of my being on this day:

thank you.

Here are all the posts I have written about giving up wine. It’s very possible that the first 32 will be unfamiliar to you as I originally posted them on an anonymous blog before deciding to announce my project here at ADR.

  1. Wine Is My Weakness
  2. I’m Really Going to Do This
  3. Lunch
  4. Why I Know I Can Do This
  5. A Clog to the Pen?
  6. On Secrecy
  7. On Friendship
  8. So Many Words
  9. He Is So Happy
  10. Reason Enough
  11. Yesterday and Now Today
  12. Optimistic
  13. On Feeling More
  14. Sick
  15. Misery & Family
  16. Pajamas. Presence. Peace.
  17. Floating
  18. The Dead Dads Club
  19. Happy & Healthy
  20. Words & Workouts
  21. Super Bowl Sunday
  22. Valentine’s
  23. One Month In
  24. White Balloons
  25. Anxious
  26. Nervous Nibbling
  27. Seminar
  28. Burning with Inspiration
  29. Like I Was Drunk
  30. Fridays Are Really Hard
  31. Labor
  32. She Is Here. And She Is Gorgeous.
  33. I Sit Here Shaking. And Smiling.
  34. I Did It
  35. Can I Hold Your Hand?
  36. This Is Major
  37. Fun Without Drinking
  38. The Wine Store
  39. Feeling Quiet
  40. Complicated (a.k.a. Three Months Without Wine)
  41. The Day I Changed
  42. Drinking Words
  43. I Miss It (a.k.a. Four Months Without Wine)
  44. A Note from a Stranger
  45. I Cried Myself to Sleep
  46. Five Reasons @ Five Months
  47. Should I Quit? (The 6 Month Question)
  48. Yesterday Morning @ 8:06am
  49. Eight Things @ Eight Months
  50. Nine Months Without Wine
  51. Tell a Truth
  52. Ten Questions @ Ten Months
  53. Thanksgiving Without Wine
  54. The Sober Hostess
  55. I Might Not Go Back to Drinking
  56. Harsh Words I Needed to Hear?
  57. You Don’t Need to Feel This Way
  58. Birthday Words for Husband
  59. Eleven Secrets @ Eleven Months
  60. A Year Without Wine: I Did It!
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36 Comments for: "A Year Without Wine: I Did It!"
  1. Rachel

    Congratulations, Aidan,

    You did it…. so extraordinary. I, personally, would like to thank you for being so honest and courageous to share your story. Thank you for giving us this space to share, too.

    “Life is short” and you’re right…each and everyone of us is worth it.

    You see, … I am a relatively new member to the Al-Anon Program. I am finding the right steps to make my life better because I am worth it, so worth it. While I knew that, I just needed to find a way to change my thinking, I realized, I have to because my thinking had been so cloudy. So, with the help of the program, and my therapist, and a lot of reading various types of literature, I decided to forgive husband, “go for it,” but prepared to know the expectations for myself, and my family.

    If you got this far, thank you for reading, and for creating this blog. I do not have a blog, but have contemplated creating one…anyway…

    Much love, peace, and happiness, on your one year anniversary,


  2. Lisa

    Congrats! What a big day!

  3. JHL

    Thank you for bringing us all on this ride. Because yours is not really an extreme story, not a story of desperation and addiction, I know so many of us can relate. I love how you make this not about alcohol per se, but about change. Enjoy this day!

  4. A big day ! Congratulations, you did it !

  5. Congratulations!! I am one of those people you have inspired. This is amazing and I am so happy for you and thankful that you were brave and honest enough to share here.

  6. Congrats, Aidan! Great doing this for you, for your family for a full year. Keep being what is best for your life.

  7. Congratulations! And thank you for sharing this story.

  8. Bravo, my friend. I’m impressed and proud and happy. xoxoxox

  9. B

    Congratulations, Aidan!

  10. Congratulations Aidan! It is always amazing to watch people transform with just one change… that always leads to more change in possibly more subtle ways than the first change… 🙂
    Bask in the glow of a job well done!

  11. Paige

    Congrats! I love reading all your posts. Wine and otherwise! Wonder if you will still like the taste as you once did? Enjoy your milestone day!

  12. Oh wow, you.

    So, so inspiring.

    *Anything* can be done, learned, visualized, and achieved.

    Go. You!!

  13. Feeling sosososososo happy, impressed and just plain awesome for you. Truly, truly amazing year… xoxoxoxoxoxo

  14. tara

    so proud of you! it was an admiral endeavor that really gave me insight to relationships in my own life. so really, “thank you”!

  15. Amy

    Brava! And how true that we are all just doing the best we can. Thank you for sharing your experience during the year with us. I am sure whatever choice you make is the right one for you.

  16. Congratulations on achieving your goal and reaching this milestone. Quite impressive! I have very much appreciated the rawness with which you’ve written about this experiment and look forward to seeing how it will impact the rest of your life, now that you’re no longer under the constraints of that year.

  17. Congratulations for setting a goal that meant a lot to you on so many levels. But more importantly for following through for a WHOLE year. Kudos! Clarity is unreal!

  18. Aidan Donnelley Rowley

    Just wanted to pop in here and say thanks to all of you for these comments today. It’s funny because I remember the day my book came out (feels like an eternity ago) and I had these super high and shiny expectations and then the day came and it was so drizzly and gross and I remember deciding that this was exactly as it should be. Life is life. And today? Another gross, drizzly day of running around, tending to sick kids, etc etc. Real life. But, again, that seems just right and perfect. Anyway, so happy to be here on this day and to have all of your support. Yay!

  19. you are an inspiration~ wow. Wine is my weakness too. I have plans to give it up–and I have had years of not drinking (while recovering from eating disorders) as well. I am so happy I found you through Tracey!

  20. oh how odd. I meant “no plans to give it up.” Hmmmm…. 🙂

  21. AG

    Congrats to you! and thank you for sharing your journey with us…I plan to memorize this mantra when faced with my own vices: “Go for it. Life is short. And you are worth it.”

  22. Wow! Good for you. I love how you phrased that everyone has a different relationship with alcohol; it’s true. And we all have to figure that relationship out ourselves.

  23. Sam

    Congratulations! You have really done an extraordinary thing, and it has been so interesting reading about your journey. Looking forward to reading all about what comes next 🙂

  24. I hope you won’t be insulted by this, but FINALLY, with this post, your Year Without Wine has resonated with me. I’m one of those take-it-or-leave-it people. I might drink two glasses of wine in a month. I basically never drink during the week, and only on weekends if we’re out to dinner. So while I fully respected your decision to explore whatever level of dependence on the vino you might have had, I didn’t get it. Not really.

    But all of a sudden, with this sentence, I did: “We can choose to be clear, to confront, to finger the sharp edges of existence instead of fleeing them. We can choose to be here in the maddening and magical present moment of reality, a reality that is, and will always be, laced with difficulty, uncertainty, loss of some kind.”

    This whole experiment was about facing something hard. For you that thing was your relationship to alcohol. For me that something is different. (I know what it is, but it’s not for a public forum.) I am beginning to face my something hard. I’ve been forced to face it in the past few weeks and while it’s been miserable, it’s been liberating at the same time. I wish I’d faced it myself, without having my hand forced, but I’m taking control of things now and that feels good.

    Anyway, you’ve published some 60 posts (60!) on this topic and I’ve read along politely all the while thinking it had nothing to do with me. And now I’ve finally figured out that it does. So I thank you for not giving up on yourself, because in the process, in some way, you didn’t give up on me. So here I now sit, with your message finally sinking in, and feeling so grateful that you kept with it long enough for me to understand your larger point.

    I’m happy for you and proud of you and mightily impressed with all the people whom you’ve touched and lifted up with your honest vulnerability about this project. Congrats on a hard-earned anniversary. And whether you celebrate it by swirling a glass of something white, ripping open a bag of Gummi Savers, or tipping back a Starbucks, you’ve earned a celebration of some kind. Well done, my friend!

  25. I am impressed and you’ve made me curious. Off on my own experiment….. Congrats – I know this was a challenge and you managed it well.

  26. Congrats, Aidan. Thank you for having the courage to share such an intimate part of you. I am certain it will inspire so many of us.

  27. Jacqueline

    What a day- what a year. Congrats! I have loved sharing this journey through your posts. Thank you, thank you!

  28. Congrats, Aidan! So looking forward to your future writing on this, and other, discoveries. xo

  29. Meg

    Huge, huge congrats — so happy and proud for you!

  30. Jess

    Amazing!! On our first week away from the kids ever, in the Bahamas, but had to take the time to say congratulations :)! Xoxo

  31. Happy Anniversary, Aidan! I’m not only happy for you, but inspired and more than a little impressed. Mazel tov!

  32. Pingback: of the weekies [16]

  33. Anonymous

    Self-medicating. I hear that all the time–that it’s a reflex for the mentally ill. Anxiety is mental illness that afflicts so many.

    Wine quiets the thrumming; sedates the hummingbird that flits in my chest. I’ve cut back. Maybe I should go further.

  34. So glad for you! “At the end of the day, I think, for the most part, we are all doing the best we can, managing in ways that feel familiar and safe somehow.” This is the truest statement. So human and aware that we all have shadow, and that a gorgeous canyon – like The Grand Canyon – is best viewed when light is mixed with shadow.

  35. Please write a blog post about any and all of the health and beauty benefits of giving up wine for the year. Reaching a goal always offers some plesant surprises, what did this dry year bring? Weight loss? Firmer skin? Or just the satisfaction of self-discipline?

  36. Christen

    I know this is a really old post, but I just wanted to say that this inspired me a lot. A couple weeks ago I realized I was starting down a dangerous path. I had read this a while back and remembered a lot of what you’d talked about in this series. My feelings and thoughts towards drinking were starting to scare me a bit so I made the decision to go cold turkey. I’m so glad I did too. I have never felt more clarity towards being a mother, a wife and myself than I have in the last few weeks.
    So thank you 🙂 From a longtime reader and someone who looks forward to your posts.

    Merry Christmas.

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