I told a story on Instagram on Monday. A true one. It went like this:
On the night of my book launch almost 2 months ago, I had a single glass of white wine after an extended period of drinking nothing. It was after my reading, at the tail end of the wonderful party. I told myself I deserved it, that it was no big deal, that it didn’t mean I would necessarily start drinking again. And I didn’t. That single glass stayed that; a single glass. Until it didn’t. Until, on my book tour, away from home, exhausted and nerves frayed, I rationalized another glass. And then another. And before I knew it, I was back to drinking. Moderately, but habitually. No hangovers, no episodes, nothing dramatic whatsoever, but I let it back into my life and returned to a well-worn script, reassuring myself that all was good, that most everyone I know drinks some, that it can be nice to take the edge off after a long day. But time passed and I felt that familiar dampening, a subtle loss of energy and optimism, a layer of melancholy and confusion. And so I stopped again. A week ago. I feel far better without it. I’m happier. More at peace. More creative and silly and stoked about the future. It bothers me that I forget this, that I get cavalier and allow myself to slip back to old, well-grooved patterns of thinking, but I know that I’m not alone. And I feel zero shame about the inefficient – yes, rambling – progress I’m making on this particular question. I know my story is mine, beautifully mine, but it also contains universal bits. Maybe you are reading these words and nodding? Maybe you are unsure about your own drinking? Or maybe it’s something else for you? We all have stuff, and stuff has us, and all we can do is open our eyes and work and try. What’s becoming more and more clear to me is how important it is that I continue writing about drinking, wrestling with it and what it has meant to me, because this is when I’m most clear. And I tell myself that my words will land where they should; even if they stir something in one person who scrolls through my feed, that is something. And maybe some people will be annoyed or think I’m a broken-record or preachy and that’s okay too. Stories matter so so much and it can be powerful to tell them.
It felt good to post this. Not entirely sure why. It wasn’t a simple matter of catharsis. No. It was more about telling the truth, and most importantly, to myself. It was also about accountability. Saying these things aloud – or in the ether in this case – gives them weight, somehow makes them more real. For me at least.
And the response. That was, and continues to be, the most magical thing. It is evident to me that so many of us are asking questions about drinking, about what role it plays in our lives, about whether it is truly adding value to our days. There is an appetite for this discussion, for these stories. Stories that are not necessarily very dramatic at all, but are important nonetheless.
I haven’t had a sip for a bit more than a week. This is not a big deal and it is. I’ve been in this spot many times. Call it a broken record, this tale of starting and stopping. I see it more as a dance, a dance with something I once loved, or believed I loved. Something I’m deeply curious about, something I’m excited to write about. And so I will.
Whatever your relationship with alcohol, you have a story about it. About your first drink. Or your last. Beautiful stories. Or hard ones. Maybe wine is just a tiny piece of your life, a little wispy flourish that causes you zero angst. Or maybe it’s more central and this worries you – or doesn’t. Whatever the story, I’m wondering if you’d be willing to tell it? As I rethink my own drinking, I find myself eager for anecdotes, for universals, for bits and pieces of a bigger truth. If you are open to telling your story, please do so in the comments or reach out to me at aidandonnelleyrowley [at] gmail [dot] com or if you’ve written it somewhere online, feel free to link us all there. Thanks, guys.