Our Drinking Stories

Posted On: 04.06.16

telling you my story

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.

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9 Comments for: "Our Drinking Stories"
  1. I so feel you on this and agree with you on this.

    I don’t have many drinking stories – I recently even told my sister that I thought I might be allergic to alcohol – but I do have some. And I have drinking stories that involve my family, which I’m sure has shaped my drinking. Plus, drinking stories of friends – that I’m sure have also shaped my drinking.

    But the falling into old habits – that is so true of me. My biggest vice is probably junk food and unhealthy habits – things that I have to remember seem like a good idea and may make me feel good for a moment, but usually make me feeling yucky and gross (as it seems drinking usually get to for you).

    All interesting questions. I will continue to think about this. I may share more later – an email to you about things. All things that have shaped me into who I am, drinking and not.

    And, I know that you have said that you will continue to write about this, but I enjoy your stories – even the hard ones. Keep writing. Keep questioning. Keep connecting. That is the good in this social media world we live in.

  2. Jill

    I would love to share. I feel like my story is similar to yours. I’ll work on this. Thanks for reaching out.:-)

  3. Katie Crane

    You are so NOT a broken record on this, and I never tire of your musings about drinking. I have gone three and one-half years without drinking, yet I still think about it and wonder if I will ever feel comfortable enough with the idea of drinking to return to it. Like you, I gave it up not because I needed to in any conventional sense, i.e., I only drank on weekends and never thought I was an alcoholic, but I felt that it had become too important to me in a certain sense, too much my weekend “refuge” to attain that feeling of freedom I craved. Yet as a very good friend advised me (based on the wisdom of the author Tara Brach), it is a false refuge. That feeling of freedom can’t be attained through wine (also my drink of choice) or anything else; it has to come from an internal place with deeper roots. I know this, yet I still fantasize about how great I will feel sitting on the couch with my husband enjoying a big old glass of excellent red wine. How to explain? For now, I don’t question the thought; I merely try to watch it pass by, like a storm cloud, knowing that the thought/urge will move on and I will be free to think other thoughts, more life-sustaining thoughts. I often have wished I could be free of the baggage surrounding alcohol and my relationship to it, but unfortunately, I don’t think that’s possible for me, as my mother was an alcoholic and several of my relatives have substance abuse issues. So perhaps the best I can do is notice my thoughts about it, including my longing for “the good old days” when alcohol was just fun and not loaded with drama, and then move on, knowing that more times than not, drinking led me toward feeling poorly about myself, the last thing I need in this world.

  4. I am right there with you! I enjoy wine but when j take time off I realize how good I feel!

  5. Had I not read this post today, I would have opened a bottle of wine this evening, mentally exhausted after work, looking for a few sips to take the edge off. But I’ve been challenging myself to really look at why I reach for the glass…or the baguette and cheese…before I do. What am I feeling? What are other ways I can deal with those feelings?
    I know alcohol is a depressant; it will only make me more tired. What I needed this evening was a long walk with the dog while the 12 year old worked on homework, a cup of herbal tea and the clarity to sit down to write. My creative writing comes at very early hours or after long days and this book of mine will never see the light of day if I’m giving in to a glass of wine (or two) every evening. So thank you for being a broken record today and reminding me of what I give up when I give in to the vino. Lovely as it can be, it takes a toll on my energy and dedication.
    Anyway, I’m rambling as you say…keep rambling on yourself…those thoughts and struggles are shared and appreciated!

  6. Julia

    I don’t know; I’ve also gone back and forth over the alcohol question–specifically the wine question–over the years, but am coming to a different conclusion. I’ve kind of decided that a glass of wine–or two–with dinner is one of the beautiful aspects of life, and that the sensual taste and feel of a glass of red wine, esp when it’s with delicious food and people whose company I madly enjoy, is like a reflection of why we even live and what we’re doing here on this crazy earth.

  7. Hope

    I have been thinking about this on and off since you posted this on ig.

    For me I never think of or consider having alcohol except in social situations. Sometimes I wonder why? I never open wine or have a drink at home unless we are having a party. When I go out I usually go along with the group. Yet I hate that. One thing I have never felt like I am is a follower or one of the herd. But with drinking I am. I think it goes back to college days. The days of what was my alcohol experimentation and usually binge drinking. I have backed off for sure and I think being a parent is the main reason. I want to feel fresh and not fuzzy. I hate feeling tired and knowing it was the few drinks that caused it. I do think since alcoholic is a depressant it does not help my mood. I am not greatly affected but I can tell especially if I am facing more challenging issues in life.

    I do feel one of the people closest to me in this world has always had an issue with alcohol. And I do not think it is acutely alcoholism from all of my reading. This person will go long periods of time without any. It is situational for sure. And I think for a period of their life was an escape and coping mechanism. Yet what has always struck me is how much it impacts this person, I see it for days. It clouds this persons mood. Each day after drinking seems hard. A shortness about every interaction is evident and an obvious depressive state is present. For many years I have talked about it openly and this person did not deny but did not change. And I do not think it is possible for any one person to change someone else. I started choosing myself to drink less hoping that it would impact this person and maybe inspire Chang. This person has started to change and has a new awareness. It is refreshing to see this person get it for themselves. I think alcohol is powerful and so present especially socially in our current time so it can be hard. I am so proud of this person for their growing awareness and choices. No one is perfect at all but I am glad for this person.

  8. Anne

    This is a great post – and something I’ve been thinking a lot about as well. Why do I reach for the wine at night? Why can I not unwind without it? I almost feel like I could write more, be more during the day if I didn’t have the wine in the evening, yet it continues to lure me with it’s promise of being so overly controlling, of striving toward things each and every day. It allows me to forget my worries. I love that you talk about it, and I will continue to read your blog to see how you’re fairing! Thank you!

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