Good & Messy & True

Posted On: 06.05.13


Disclaimer: This post is longer than my typical posts. But it is also more honest. Up to you.

At around 4:30pm yesterday afternoon, I came home. The kids were out with our nanny and the house was quiet. I slipped my bag from my shoulder to the floor. I paced around the kitchen, checking my phone. My mind rumbled with things.

My mind rumbled with good things like seeing writer friends later today and attending a Huffington Post Women’s Conference tomorrow and reuniting with law school classmates this weekend. Good things like going on a field trip to an amusement park today with Middle Girl and watching Big Girl perform Annie next week. Good things like the news of my sister passing her driver’s test and an old friend just learning she is pregnant with her first child. Good things like the last scene for my book which came to me recently and I think will work beautifully.

My mind rumbled with bad things, too. Bad things like this morning’s news that a three-year-old girl was killed by a speeding SUV across the street from my daughter’s school. Bad things like someone I know finding a growth that could be cancer and like the fact that a father at my daughter’s school lost his wife to cancer exactly two years ago. Bad things like friends’ marriages crumbling and people I know being pretty sad in life.

My mind also rumbled with neutral, everyday things. Everyday things like the fact that I must remember to send Big Girl with $4 to school for a Kindergarten Farmer’s Market and must remember to take yogurt tubes to Middle Girl’s school for a forthcoming end-of-the-year picnic party. Everyday things like sending in those camp health forms and buying swim suits that fit, and replacing the carton of milk that’s almost empty. Everyday things like figuring what we will do this August once camp is done and what I will write for Middle Girl’s Kindergarten application essay.

The point is that my mind was full. And it’s often this way, particularly at the end of the day. I wasn’t feeling particularly anxious or stressed, just full. And I didn’t really know what to do, how to spend the hour-plus I had left with my sitter around. With so many things buzzing on the brain, how to pick one and go? That’s a struggle for me sometimes.

And so. My thoughts went to wine. They did. I didn’t think to pour a glass at that moment because in my mind it was too early. But I did think about wine and that it would be nice to have some soon. I thought about how it would soften things, quiet my achieving and articulating mind, how it would help me unwind a bit. I knew that all of these things would be true; I know how that first glass makes me feel, how it soothes me, how it makes the day suddenly better. I knew how the second glass would make me feel, too. How it would actually take me one step further, how I’d feel a bit of glee, how I’d feel more like me.

But I didn’t pour a glass. I resisted. Instead, I went to my writing room and wrote words and sent emails and got a couple of things done. Instead, I came downstairs and played with my girls and asked them about their days. Instead, I wrangled them toward bed and put toothbrushes in their little hands and laughed as they stood on their beds naked and did a hilarious dance that for me evinced all that is good and happy in life. Instead, I sunk into the reality of my life, my very busy and good and often stressful life, the very life that makes my mind rumble with so many things.

I am not writing this to give myself a pat on the back that I didn’t drink last night. Then again, maybe that’s exactly what I’m doing. As many of you know, I took a full calendar year off from drinking and it was a brilliant and beguiling year and I went back to drinking this past January once my year was complete. The truth is that the last several months have had their ups and downs. Some days, I feel like I have really changed, like my year brought a clarity and a control that has informed a new sensibility and moderation when it comes to drinking. Other days, if I am being honest, I feel like I am right back where I was before I did my year; struggling, shaming, blaming, numbing, escaping.

And so. I guess the point is that it has not been easy. I have gone in and out of drinking nothing at all and absolutely too much. Mostly though, I’ve been measured and moderate. When I’ve confessed this to friends and family, I’ve often gotten a standard-issue smile and some words, words like: Yes, well that’s the way it is with most people, isn’t it? And, I suppose, it is. Of course I know people who are A+ at moderating their alcohol intake, who really don’t like drinking, for whom it’s no biggie. But most people I know? They struggle with it, more or less, less or more, depending on the day or where they are in their lives.

And so. I’m kind of at this odd point where I don’t know what to do. One thing that’s clear to me and an amazing thing? I know with every bit of my being that I have the ability to control whether I drink or not. I know people for whom this is not the case and I feel grateful that it is the case for me. One thing I’m less sure of? Whether I am good at moderation when it comes to drinking, or whether I really want to be.

Does that sound strange? That I might not be totally enamored with the idea of drinking moderately all the time? Perhaps. It feels kind of strange to write it. But I think there’s something here. Maybe it’s all about everything in moderation, even moderation itself? I think that when I drink, and drink what even I know is too much, I feel lighter and less-controlled and more alive somehow. I think when I feel tipsy, or a bit beyond tipsy, I feel young and vibrant and full of ideas. I also think that when I drink too much I feel messy. And there is a part of me that craves messiness in myself and others. Who wants to read about characters who have it all together and lead square, strict, linear lives? Who wants to be these characters?

Not me.

And yet.

And so.

A dilemma of sorts. Do I stay away from that glass of wine that might become two or on occasion four because in the aftermath I feel icky and tired and insecure? Do I play it safe and find other ways, quintessentially better ways, to deal with the rumbling of my mind and the odd hankering for some existential messiness, like reading or writing or meditating or running a few miles? Or, maybe just maybe, do I just accept that when it comes to this thing, this one thing, I might never be perfect at it, and might not ultimately want to be? Do I allow myself the hangover here and there, the sprinkling of self-loathing moments when they come, and realize that in the grand scheme I am really doing just fine?

I don’t know. What I do know is that this story, this story about alcohol and me, is far from over. It will continue to be a question. An important one. And an interesting one. Yesterday, as I was walking to pick up my daughter at school, I emailed my beloved agent Brettne. In a quick note, I told her that after I finish my novel, I want to write a book about this, about modern life and drinking. Because I do. This topic fascinates me personally and professionally. I want to do research. I want to talk to real people. I want to talk to you. I want to discover themes of drinking, sinister and sublime, in literature and in life.

So. This is a ramble. But a whoa-this-is-honest one. I trust that some of you will see bits of yourself in these words. Or maybe not. I’ve said it before, but I will say it again. This is not just, or maybe even mostly, about alcohol. It is about life, real life, and the things we do and don’t do and reach for and avoid to cope and to control and to convince. It is about the messy parts of life and the messy parts of who we are, parts of life and ourselves that we might, for some crazy or genius reason, be hesitant to eliminate full-stop.

Ultimately, this, whatever this is, is about all the things I find most interesting – the big, bad philosophical conundrums we can choose to ignore, but we’d be better off facing: life, love, identity, insecurity, choice, fear, mortality, control, creativity, expectation, anxiety, happiness. I could go on. And on. But I’ve done enough of that.

Now it’s your turn. Please tell me that something here makes sense to you. That, at the end of that very long proverbial day, your mind too rumbles with things good and bad and everyday, that there are parts of you that are far less than tidy, that you sometimes want that glass or two of wine at the end of the day or that big, fat piece of cake in the fridge. Tell me that you like reading about the honest, vulnerable stuff. Tell me that you will read my book when and if I write it because I think it could be good and messy and true.

Good and messy and true.

Just like life, right?

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37 Comments for: "Good & Messy & True"
  1. Yes. I relate to every part of this. And yes, I will read your book – I can’t WAIT to read your book. Good and messy and true. Is there a better way of describing this life? I don’t think so.

    • Aidan Donnelley Rowley

      Lindsey, Thank you. I wrote this last night in a bit of a flurry and it just poured from me and every word of it is true, even if it is messy. I’ve been wanting to write about the messiness for a while; I worry sometimes that I’ve sent the message that after my year, I have it all figured out. And I don’t. I’ve evolved, yes, and I think writing posts like this is keen evidence of my evolution, but I by no stretch have this all squared away. And that is okay. I am glad you can relate and, yes, I think this trio of words is a good way to describe life. xxo

  2. Whitney

    “I think that when I drink, and drink what even I know is too much, I feel lighter and less-controlled and more alive somehow. I think when I feel tipsy, or a bit beyond tipsy, I feel young and vibrant and full of ideas.”

    I thought about this very thing this past weekend. I thought about it a lot, in fact. I’ve been having quite a hard time lately with family issues and frustrations with work and more family issues and wanting to have kids but wanting to wait, and all in all, it just makes me feel very burnened. Very…heavy. All the time. And so, after finding out Thursday evening that my dad’s miracle drug was not such a miracle afterall and he’d have to go back on chemo, I wasn’t really feeling much like going through with our plans for a dinner with our Kazakh friends at a Kazakh restaurant. I knew the drinking would be all but completely out of control. I knew people would be expecting me to be light and fun and I wasn’t really feeling like it. I told husband before we went, “I don’t want to stay out that late and I don’t want us to get sloppy drunk.” And he agreed. But then, after a little shopping in London and a big glass of sav blanc and a walk through a less than ideal neighborhood to get to this crazy ethnic restaurant, it seemed like not such a bad idea. And then, after who knows how many glasses of wine (they just kept refilling my glass), watching a belly dancer, having a (somewhat scary) Russian man tell my husband he has the most beautiful wife, I found myself up and dancing with my friends. Clapping along to the Russian music and doing a Beyonce booty shake when it seemed right. And then, to close it out, there I was doing a galloping Gangnam Style across our group of friends. I can still remember all of this and quite clearly, so that’s proof that I was not “wasted.” Just having fun. For once. And when we got home after a long train ride, I was still smiling, thinking how I caught a glimpse of my old self. Laughing and making my friends laugh and just being there in the moment, when the only thing that really seemed to matter was the song and the smiles. I so desperately needed that…not the alcohol, but the laughter and the fun and the reminder that that part of me still exists, even if it’s buried under all the mess of everyday life, and if a few drinks helps me with that? So what.

    So moderation in moderation? So very necessary. Sometimes you just have to cut loose. (Foot Loose?…sorry, I had to)

    • Aidan Donnelley Rowley

      Wow, Whitney. Thank you for this. This breathless and beautiful and very real comment on why, sometimes, we just choose the table dancing in life. We want to feel vibrant and lively and like our old selves before all the real life stuff became so much. I often think about how I was pregnant when Dad died and how, on some odd level, I was thankful for this because it protected me (hormonally apparently) and I just couldn’t drink. But you know what? If I weren’t carrying Middle Girl, you can bet I would have had a sprinkling of nights like you describe. And I certainly had my fair share after the fact.

      Moderation in moderation? That might be it.


      PS – I am sorry to hear about your dad. I remember getting news like that and it’s just slicing.

  3. Drinking has always been fascinating to me as well. I never drank in high school (like some of my siblings did and some of my friends did). I drank in college, but not as much as others – and even in my “heavy” drinking phase, it was not heavy for a college student.

    I understand your need to want to let loose and relax (which alcohol definitely helps with), but I think there is still a big part of me that becomes extremely apprehensive with alcohol – especially when cars and driving and getting back home are involved. And while a part of me wants to let loose and drink and have fun, another part of me wants to make sure that everyone else is okay and safe and good, which makes me worry even more when I’m drinking sometimes.

    I’ve found that, for me, not drinking is just the better option sometimes.

    Your thoughts make sense, for sure. I’m not sure that mine do.

    • Aidan Donnelley Rowley

      Elise, I think your thoughts make perfect sense. Husband and I were just talking about this post a few minutes ago and he said this really isn’t about alcohol or only about it. It is, I think, about the areas of our lives where we have less clarity and are more or less willing to let go of control. Your attitude about drinking – particularly when it comes to cars and driving and getting home – makes endless sense to me. What’s kind of interesting is that I have never worried too much about these things because I have always lived in urban settings where there is walking and cabs… I know that I would worry about the things you worry about if I were somewhere where everyone drives.

      Ultimately, I think this is about the choices we make. To do things. To not do them. And how do these choices affect who it is we are and the lives we end up leading? So so interesting to me.

      Thanks for your pre-8am words, Elise. Means a lot!!

  4. The fact that you can control whether you drink or not, know that I find that enviable! Because obviously that’s something that’s not in my brain… hence the need to completely cut it out on my end. That being said, I thought for the longest time that I was so much more loose and fun and free when I drank. The hardest thing for me post drinking has been to see that the ability to be messy is still in there, it just takes a bit of a different way to draw it out. I still have trouble with it, and I’ve been sober for over three years. Finding the nooks and crannies that I thought I lost access to as I gave up drinking has been a really incredible experience.

    And yes, of course I will read your next book 🙂 So looking forward to that!

    • Aidan Donnelley Rowley

      Corinne, I want you to know that I distinctly remember your very first posts on giving up alcohol and they were so beautiful and powerful and I am so inspired that you have kept it up because I know that it’s an accomplishment.

      I love this comment because even over my year of abstaining, I was pleased to see the bits of messiness emerge, bits of who I am whether I am drinking or not and I found this kind of fascinating. There are parts of us that are less circumscribed and controlled and, ultimately, I do think these are often the things that make us most interesting and interested in relationships and in life… But, you are 100% right. These specks of messiness are there whether we drink or not. So important to remember. Thank you.

  5. Anne

    I love the honesty of this post.

    I have struggled with alcohol in the past — mostly in college and way before kids. Drinking will always be complicated for me; I am always conscious of how many drinks I have. As I get older and drink less, one drink has the same effect that two had in the past. So I need to adjust and consider my choices even more carefully. It seems much more complicated than I want it to be.

    Your desire to embrace the messiness of life really resonates with me. I think, for me, it’s also a desire to embrace and cultivate and encourage those parts of me that are hard to bring to the surface without alcohol. Your post hit on one way that works for me too — hanging out with my kids, really being there for them, and getting caught up in their messy, silly, dramatic, wild moments.

    Thanks for this post and keep us posted on the book idea. I think it would be fascinating!

    • Aidan Donnelley Rowley

      Thank you, Anne. I relate so much to what you say about how drinking will always be complicated. This is certainly the way I feel and sometimes I resent this. What’s interesting is that I know that spending an entire year pondering the question of life with out alcohol has brought it even more to the forefront of my mind. Point is, this doesn’t make the issue any simpler. There is part of me that wishes it was all more easy-breezy, but it just isn’t and I need to accept and explore this.

      And, yes, there are parts of us, and important parts, that are under the surface and are difficult to tease out of ourselves. I could not agree more with what you say about hanging with your kids and how this taps into that deep well of something important… I feel this so often. There is nothing better than witnessing their youth and silliness and abandon. It is an elixir.

      As for the book? I know 100% it will happen because this is all too important and interesting to me not to write it. The real question is when. I have decided not to fixate on this question and to just continue asking questions and doing this “research.”

      Have a good day!

  6. K

    I never really thought about this — until now. My mind is always going, like yours. I think I like wine because it pushes aside all the stuff going through my head all the time. Thoughts about my career and what I did or didn’t do that day, the enormity of sending my oldest off to college in a few months (how did that little girl grow up so fast?, applying to go back for my master’s degree (gotta fill up that free time I’ll have this fall with something I’ve wanted to do for a long time so I don’t sit and stare at the empty room and miss my daughter), approaching my mid-40’s (what? I still feel 25), worrying about my aging parents, do I have time to fit in a run today?, what chores do I need to do around the house?, those tuition payments coming up, did I sign my son’s homework?, did I sign him up for camp?.. the thoughts are there and I am constantly on the go and striving to do better and more. It’s a curse and a blessing!

    What makes me stop and relax and chill out and quiet down all the thoughts and just be able to stop worrying and doing? A few glasses of wine. Maybe that’s bad and I should find something else. But I have other things TOO – I run almost every day. I take walks, I ride bikes with my son, I shoot baskets with my son. I read. I write. I pick up consulting work to keep busy (ha!). I laugh with my man and my friends. I have a full life. But yup… I enjoy a few glasses of wine to take the edge off and stop all the outside stuff. Maybe that’s a bad thing or maybe its OK.

    • Aidan Donnelley Rowley

      K – Thanks so much for this thoughtful comments. I’m not sure the glass or two is bad. That’s my question. Is it bad? Are there objectively bad and good things or is it really how we feel about the things we choose to do that matters? Patently, there is blatant overdoing it and there is also total abstention on the end of the spectrum, but what about the in-between? And I love how you say you do other things, too. Because I do as well and these are good and important things. All really interesting to think about, no?

  7. I, like K, had never really thought of this much until following your year without wine. In college I was most definitely life-of-the-party-long-island-Thursdays party girl. 90% of the time it was under control, the other 10% of the time I came away with some hysterical stories I could always justify with “being young and alive”. Now in my late 20s, with a career, responsibilities, and far more real life worries, I turn to wine when my mind won’t stop running. I am with you, Aidan. Sometimes just a glass…sometimes four seems sufficient. The mornings after four, my anxiety heightens, my head pounds, and I really wonder why I foun that necessary. I’m an ADULT now, I have a hard time brushing it off…forgiving myself. It seems silly. Funnily enough, my man is changing things for me in such a good way. He’s not a huge drinker. When we jump in the hot tub, I’m more likely to grab a water than a glass of Malbec. Without saying a word, it’s effecting me. And I am loving it. But there are times when I sure as heck with cheers his iced tea with a Bloody Mary at a special brunch. I find it fascinating how the most important people in our life can effect these decisions on alcohol. I can’t wait for your second book… And your third. 🙂

  8. Growing up with alcoholism and addiction as the family disease has left me with a very complicated relationship with alcohol. Luckily, I don’t think addiction is a problem for me, but especially post college I have never felt free to have more than a couple of glasses of wine without either succumbing to guilt, or wondering whether maybe I am not free of this family disease. Like your post, my mind often spins with thoughts, good and bad, and I have struggled with anxiety. I enjoy a daily glass of wine in the evening, but often worry if even that dependency is unhealthy. Anyway, my relationship with wine is complicated to say the least and I find it sooo fascinating when people talk about their use of alcohol honestly because I truly think it is one of those behind closed door aspects of our lives (similar to parenthood) that no one really ever knows how much other people are drinking or what is normal really is. One of my close friends recently confided that she too has a beer most evenings and I felt released from a guilt, maybe I am not the only one who enjoys an evening glass of alcohol. Great topic for a book.

  9. Susan

    It sounds to me like you are very hard on yourself, Aidan. I think that the idea of “moderation in moderation” is key for you. There is actual data that shows that the more moderation we exercise in one area of our life, the less willpower we have in other areas. So, for example, if we stop drinking or go on a diet, we’ll likely start spending more money on shoes. 😉 It’s like we have a limited amount of willpower to go around.

    One enormous pet peeve of mine is how everyone seems to judge you and put pressure on you for not living up to their standards in their particular area of expertise. One doctor wants you on a ton of vitamins, while another scoffs because people don’t need to take that many vitamins and he thinks you should be on antidepressants. Your trainer wants you to work out for two more hours a week, and tells you it would be SO easy just to get up an hour earlier two days a week – whereas you know that if you could drag yourself out of bed an hour earlier, that time would really need to be spent in the office because no matter what you do, you never seem to be working hard enough to please your boss. Your hairstylist insists that you only wash your hair twice a week and take biotin supplements that turn your stomach. Your eye doctor wants you taking one antihistamine, and your dermatologist wants you on another. It just goes ON and ON and ON. Frankly, I have trouble living up to the expectations of even one of these people, let alone all of them at the same time.

    As a matter of principle, I LOVE messiness. I am a true decadent. I think that art and ideas come from messiness, rebellion, decay, bad behavior, and yes, even self-destruction. Obviously, most of us can’t (and probably shouldn’t) live our lives that way, but to a certain extent, I am always in that mental place.

    That being said, I struggle with my weight and some disordered eating that I haven’t been able to seek treatment for because frankly, I don’t want to give it up. (This is the first place I’ve ever said this to anyone other than myself, so thanks for that.) Additionally, much of my “messiness” revolves around my choices not to get married (yet) or have a family, and how people perceive me as I get older because of those choices. Last night, I posted this on Facebook:

    “So, here’s something that makes me sad. I used to LOVE doing things by myself… travel, cultural events, going out to dinner, plays, live shows, whatever. I’ve been all over the world by myself, and I never missed out on an experience just because there was no one to go with me. Sometime in the past couple of years, this ceased to be the case. I’d now rather stay home like a sad sack recluse than face the inevitable misery that comes with doing things alone. I used to hate people like this, and now I hate myself for the same reason. I don’t want to spend the rest of my life not doing things, but that’s the direction in which I’m heading. So how do I get that sense of adventure back? Or is it just gone forever?”

    And then followed up with this comment:

    “It’s like an essential part of my character just died. Seriously, that’s how it feels. It’s so sad.”

    We put so much pressure on ourselves to fit a certain vision we had of ourselves when we were younger – whether it’s the perfectly fit mom who doesn’t drink and always has time for her kids, or the free-wheeling single woman who is fearless and fiercely independent. In reality, none of us can live up to the (probably somewhat delusional and uninformed) mental image that we once concocted for ourselves. Even if that image still dominates our persona, there is so much more to all of us.

    Anyway, I’m not sure what any of this means beyond the fact that your post resonated for me. Probably for completely different reasons than for most of your readers, but know that I hear where you’re coming from.

    • LED

      Susan, I so admire you for sharing for the first time what you just did about your disordered eating and not wanting to fix it. I simply was compelled to respond and support and applaud you for saying that. You have a sister in arms on the subject and you are not alone in feeling conflicted about not wanting to give it up.

      And I actually think the topic of food directly ties in to what Aidan is saying that this topic isn’t just about alcohol, rather,

      “this is about life, real life, and the things we do and don’t do and reach for and avoid to cope and to control and to convince. It is about the messy parts of life and the messy parts of who we are, parts of life and ourselves that we might, for some crazy or genius reason, be hesitant to eliminate full-stop.”

      I think this ties in- whether it is alcohol (or food) both can become a slippery slope when it comes to moderation and/or self-restraint. We crave routine as humans and want to control our environment and we are programmed to dislike/protect ourselves from pain and harm. Yet in the exact same time we want (and do) rebel against that routine, restraint, and moderation.

      And..I think to some extent that is ok. We aren’t perfect – wouldn’t that be boring? I have food issues too. And, I’m working on them. And, after two miscarriages, I had some (ok, more than some) wine (every night for a month or so). But, then I worked on that and pulled back. So, yes, I’m messy – but I’m good too – and that is true.

      • Susan

        Thank you so much for your response to my post. It means more than you can imagine. As someone who generally doesn’t keep many secrets, the food thing is something I’ve kept hidden for around 15 years. It seems crazy that I finally managed to share it in a blog comment, but the fact is that you are the first person ever to have the opportunity to say anything to me about it. For that reason alone, I am so grateful for your kind response. Knowing that there’s someone else who understands my conflict is amazing. I guess I knew in theory that many women felt this way, but having someone say it directly puts it in an entirely new light. I think it’ll be a long time before I can verbalize any deeper thoughts on this problem, other than the fact of it. But I’m working on it, and I hope that eventually there will be someone in my life who can help me find the strength to address it.

        • LED

          Oh, Susan, I so want to wrap you up in a big hug. I hope that doesn’t sound weird since I don’t know you – but please know you really aren’t the only person who feels this conflict about knowing you “should” but maybe not wanting to. I wish I had some magic words of healing and grace to deliver but the truth is I don’t have any answers any more than anyone else. And, as with anything painful words just aren’t enough and can feel trite. All I know is that every time you share your truth around this that doing so releases its hold you on a little bit more…saying it out loud (or typing it) rather than just hearing it/knowing it in your head takes away some of the power away and is freeing for you. And I believe, as a wise friend once told me, that when you sharing your pain and truth with those that care and support and love you, that you lighten your load – because each time they help absorb tiny little bits of your pain even if just a little, which can be so healing. I am most definitely very much in progress on this topic of disordered eating, but this has helped me…in all my messiness…. to endure. Please, please be gentle and good to yourself. You deserve it even if you don’t (yet) believe it.

  10. Stacy

    Yes. All of This. “Whether you succeed or not is irrelevant, there is no such thing. Making your unknown known is the important thing.” ― Georgia O’Keeffe

    Also, not sure if you saw Glennon’s Ted talk yet but I thought you would appreciate her “mess.” It’s also where I stole the fab quotation. 🙂

  11. Sam

    I’m not much of a drinker, but I have loved following along with you in your journey to figure out your relationship with alcohol. I really enjoyed reading about your year without wine, but my favorite posts of yours – and the ones I think are the most important – have been the ones since your year has ended. In a way, it’s so much easier to give up something completely than it is to moderate, but so much more illuminating to try to moderate and see what happens.

    But like you say, I think that even moderation needs moderation. Because sometimes we need to have a night where we drink as much as we want, or eat the entire pint of ice cream for dinner, or buy the ridiculously expensive bag just because. Because that kind of excess can be good and right and fun, and because, well, doing anything in moderation 100% of the time is just plain boring. And a boring life is certainly not one that I am at all interested in having. I would much rather have the lively layers of life that comes with some excess from time to time.

  12. Allison

    Your 11th paragraph (the one starting with “Does this sound strange”?). Absolutely. I vaguely remember a quote or saying that goes something like “You can’t know what is enough until you know what is more than enough.” What you said about craving messiness, about that strange appeal of lives that aren’t perfect, of craving that looseness sometimes, wrestling with control (sometimes holding it tight, sometimes giving it up). We all say we seek balance, we seek happiness, we seek contentment…and then we reach it and promptly turn around and screw it all up. Maybe that’s what makes us human?

    I’m sure I’m not making any sense, but at any rate, thank you for writing this, Aidan. I’m itching to grab a notebook and scribble more of my own thoughts now. Also, your book about drinking and modern life? I want to read it. I’m already looking forward to you sharing that journey with us.

  13. Michelle

    Oh, how I live and breathe this. You write for me, really. Some details vary, of course, but the full mind, the three girls, the desire for a bit of assistance in the surrender to messiness… I love it.

    I’ve mentioned my alcohol sabbatical before (coming up on nine months now) and I often wonder what I will do about drinking… will I ever decide to go back? Lately I’ve been thinking no, that I might very well just release it from my life. Not like a restriction, but more like a letting go. A way of opening. Because drinking makes me smaller, ultimately – not in the moment of three glasses of wine and dancing. In all of the moments surrounding that short window.

    One thing I’ve become more and more sure of as I get older is that I want to know the edges of my most beautiful life. I want to see what I’m capable of – in relationship, in mothering, in my work. To do that, I need to be cleaner in body and spirit. Numbing is the antithesis of that.

    So, the sabbatical remains. And still my favorite part is that I never, ever, ever wake up hating myself for what I did last night anymore (which in most cases was simply drink more than I planned, every night). I can’t describe how blissful that is.

    I hope this doesn’t sound like an attempt to convince you, or anyone, to stop drinking. I really do think the whole alcohol thing lives on a spectrum and that spectrum overlays a bunch of other spectrums of who we are and what right living looks like for us. This just happens to be the way my own layered spectrum is playing out for me on the alcohol sabbatical thing. I am a happier, more peaceful person when I don’t drink – simple as that.

    Thank you for this gorgeous share, Aidan. It gave me the opportunity to really look in on where I am on this for myself, too.

  14. Every part. I really hope we get to talk more about this and more– As soon as you mentioned the horrific UWS vehicular homicide of that little girl — which I read about while in a taxi — I felt like you were in my mind.
    I poured a glass glass night–that turned into two–because of everyday stress (and some elevated stressful situations). I am fine with it. But it’s always in my head. And I talk and write about that. Because.

    Great thoughts here.

  15. I love your honesty. I too love getting a good buzz on. So many people are never honest about that side of drinking. It’s fun to loosen up & relax. I often try to write about not being perfect. You will take some heat for it though. There are a lot of Polly Prudes and Debbie Downers with sticks up their asses who get high and mighty. But do it, because so many of us would love to read this book you want to write.

    I have been trying to walk every day and blogging about it but today I worked a temp job and got a little low thinking I’d rather be writing. My Amazon book promo did really well, I “sold” (gave away) 28,000 for free, am getting reviews and a lot of positive feedback-I am glad to say more positive ones than negative, but the first few negative ones were tough to take. So personal and so mean.

    But anyway, I was back in at my nemesis today, a temporary accounting job, and I didn’t walk today. It’s not the first time I had to admit this on my blog. I am far from a perfect person and my willpower is nothing to write home about. But it’s better honest than lie and say I walked, because I think that’s what people really want to hear. Honesty. We are weak and we are human and there is nothing wrong with that. And yes, I am also having a glass of wine as I sit down to write my “Not walking” blog this evening. I needed the wine to relax and reflect, where my life is going next and how I continue my writing career. And I also needed it because I love a good cabernet and there’s nothing wrong with that. Thank you for the motivation and the good vibes.

  16. Anja

    Hi Aidan,
    I am writing from Germany – this said I hope that I don’t create any misunderstandings because of some kind of language barrier. It is always hard to express oneself when you don’t speak your mother tongue.
    I found your blog just a few days ago by coincidence and read your blog posts regarding your alcohol free year very interested. I can relate to many things you wrote and I as well have already thought many times about staying away from alcohol. I, too, like to have a glass of wine, especially when I am very tired in the evening – overwhelmed by all the tasks I have to fullfill being a mother, wife, a working mother, dog owner, house owner and so one. And I always have the feeling that I don’t fullfill my tasks perfectly and I should do better. Be a better mother, have a cleaner household and so on. The glass of wine makes me forget about all my inadequacies.

    But I think, when I finally make it to stop drinking wine it would be for good. I think this possibility of drinking every once in a while would bother me more than just leaving it. Then I would not have to think about it anymore. It wouldn’t be an option any more and this topic would not take any space in my life anymore. Wouldn’t soak all this energiy. Does this make any sense?
    Thank you for writing your honest words – they are quite touching.


  17. As usual I am behind but i wanted to wait to read this post when I had some time. Which I don’t – but here I am anyway and so glad I am:)

    I too have struggled with drinking and now, at 40 I am pretty moderate. A lot for me now is 2 glasses of wine, and I regret that the next morning. For a while, I needed the messiness and I needed parts of myself that I could just escape into – too much wine, too much TV, too much chocolate, shopping etc.

    What I am finding lately is that I don’t want the messiness anymore because the messiness means that there is something I am not addressing. Now, there is usually a reason I am messy – there is something I am avoiding or not being honest about or not allowing myself to be vulnerable about. Now, rather than going to wine or food or TV or shopping, I am trying to soften into what scares me.

    Let me also say that I can’t always do this. That yes, sometimes it’s 2 glasses of wine or a big bowl of ice cream a trip to the mall. But I am no longer fulfilled by this. I am more fulfilled by diving into the messiness itself and staying sane with regards to my behavior.

    I guess what I am saying is that your post gave me so much to think about and it helped me get so clear on what I want right now so thank you!!! It also made me clear that there were times I needed to be messy and that I needed to drink too much and that was ok too. Thank you for helping me to forgive myself:) Thank you for writing so beautifully and compassionately and honestly. xoxo

  18. I worry that what I wrote was judgey and I didn’t mean it to be. It’s totally about me and the way I judge myself. Frederick Buechner wrote about the “holy and hidden heart of life,” and I can’t get there when I drink too much. It’s totally about me though and no one else. My husband can have 3 glasses of wine and he’s still so much himself.

    I would LOVE to read your book about drinking because it’s something I have struggled with. Have you read Caroline Knapp’s book “Drinking, A Love Story?” It’s pretty intense but I loved it. She wrote about drinking excessively – she had a serious problem. I think there is a market for a book like yours, about someone who doesn’t have a problem but has struggled with it because I think you are right – most of us struggle with it. What I am most excited about reading is what is under the desire to drink – because that is the real messiness and the real struggle and it’s what you write so amazingly about and what I love most about your writing.

  19. Karin

    I will SO read your book when you write it. My mind does the rumble between good, bad & every day thoughts. I get everything you wrote.

    For me it takes conscious intention to skip the alcohol because it is just easier to deal with the bad/sad from a numbed area or believe something good will be momentarily enhanced with alcohol cheer. It would be possible for me to find a reason to drink every single day so none remains the easier choice for me (she says on day 220). It doesn’t come down to anything moral, it’s about not having to remake the decision again and again and again.

    • I love the way you’ve phrased it here: “It doesn’t come down to anything moral, it’s about not having to remake the decision again and again and again.” Exactly. That’s the crux of the matter, and it perfectly captures why eliminating a problem area from your life is often the most freeing route.

  20. I am new follower of your blog, having found you on a Google search for Laura Munson. I attended one of Laura’s Haven writing retreats in June. As I live on the Upper West Side, she mentioned that she recently had been in NYC and had attended some sort of salon and book reading at the apartment of a woman who lives on the UWS; I am guessing that person was you! I originally found out about Laura’s writing retreats from Head Butler, a.k.a. Jesse Kornbluth, who I recently have had the good fortune of meeting. In any event, your writing speaks to me, in that I too am going through a year of not drinking for a variety of reasons. My main vice is over-exercise, which I discuss in my most recent blog post (, but I also have wondered about the wine issue, given my family’s history of alcoholism. Like you, I don’t believe I have a real Problem with alcohol, but I am aware of my own propensity to rely on it too much at times, in the same way but not to the same extent that I over-rely on running. In any event, your writings are a delight to read, and I’d love to meet you for coffee sometime if you are interested. I am guessing we live pretty close to one another on the UWS, so we could probably find a suitable coffee venue somewhere convenient. All the best, Katie Crane

  21. Jo

    Hello! I have just come across your blog after some googling last night. I was up breaking my head after two days of drinking with my gf’s. I’m 34, unmarried, but have a live in partner. I’ve been drinking too much for too long. I come from a family where alcoholism runs very heavily. I’m trying to catch up with all your entries. Just from reading this last one it has really made me decide that giving up alcohol for a year needs to be done. Because of preferring to have too much fun,I have slacked in other areas in my life. One, finishing school.Two,relationships with family and friends.Three,having a good job I’ve been lucky to have kept for 12 years. I’m excited to find out what can be accomplished in a year without any booze.
    I have a lot of hobbies that have been on the back burner for soo long because of this. Feels good to say this out loud.
    Thank you for being soo honest. Look forward to reading some more. 🙂

  22. Love this real life depiction of what goes through so many of our minds at the same time on the same levels. We as women and mothers and just women are thriving, balancing and living also loving and learning how to accept our new found power and authenticity while still feeling alive, and youthful and somewhat messy (in a good way). I will read your book! I am so happy to have found your website today! Great material!!!! XOXOXO 🙂 Keep shining!

  23. Catherine

    Absolutely I will read your book and I think A LOT of other people will too. I found your blog a few days before New Years Eve this year by Googling “Best reasons to quit drinking” or something to that effect. I read every post you’ve written regarding giving up alcohol and then I also found the Hip Sobriety website via your blog and read all of her posts as well. Needless to say, I was inspired! I gave up alcohol on New Years Day (for the second time– I quit drinking for 9 months a couple of years ago)and I am so grateful to you for your honesty on this subject. The simple truth is I am happier when I don’t drink. It doesn’t need to be any more complicated than that for me– yes, I can moderate my drinking for the most part but inevitably I had nights were I intended to have 2 glasses of wine but end up having 4 or 5 and was filled with regret the next morning. I think many, many women in our country are in the same boat. We live in a culture that promotes alcohol consumption endlessly and makes it difficult for someone to say, “I just prefer not drinking– I’m not an alcoholic or a prude or a ‘Debbie Downer’ as someone above described it. I just feel happier in general without alcohol in my life.” In any case, I want to THANK YOU from the bottom of my heart for your honesty and for sharing your journey. You’ve inspired me and many others I am sure. (And also, man you’re impressive in general!!– 3 kids and getting up at 4:30 to write?!?– You go lady! I’ll read anything you write, but I am especially looking forward to your book on your dance with alcohol. CHEERS (I’m raising my glass filled with sparkling water to YOU:)

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