Saying I Do to a Life Without Alcohol

Posted On: 08.03.16

i do

I posted an Augusten Burroughs quote on Instagram yesterday, from his latest memoir Lust & WonderThe quote was, is, a question:

“How many of the things I fear or dread are actually things that I want?”

Wow. To say that this question got under my skin is an understatement. I began thinking about my life and my choices and my resistance in a wholly different way, looking at them through a different lens.

One thing I’ve been afraid of, dreading: Committing to live a life without alcohol. I’ve been happy to dabble thoughtfully and devotedly in dry-ness (the word sobriety is not for me; topic for another post). I’ve been inspired to write about life without booze for periods of time. But the idea of a life without my beloved (is it truly beloved?) Pinot Grigio has scared the daylights out of me. But what if this is what I want? What if the thought of a life clear of this one thing that has dogged me for so many years excites me more than almost anything? What if exploring this topic revs me – personally, professionally, philosophically – more than any other topic? I’m beginning to see that Augusten is on to something; maybe we should pay attention to fear and dread because our deepest desires might be right there, hiding out.

Please note that it scares me, and fills me with thumping dread, even to write these words. Do not box yourself in, Aidan! Come on! You have no idea how you will feel in a month, a year, ten years! Admonitions from my safe, prudent, watch-yourself-girl self. From people I know and love, who know and love me. These sentiments, imagined and actual, carry weight, but less weight than they used to. Because now there are new ideas, arguments pushing me in the other direction, the direction of commitment.

You have played around with this thing for half your life and it brings you, on balance, more angst than joy.

By numbing, you are by definition not feeling, and feeling is one of life’s greatest pleasures. (Feeling the hard stuff is meaningful and instructive too and actually makes the hard stuff less hard.)

Life is composed of infinite colors, but you see a mere fraction of these hues when you are drinking even a little.

The energy you spend deciding what to do is energy you could put toward your life and your love and your writing. 

Your kids are amazing and they love you and they are watching you; let it be the best You.

In a world of shaky marriages, yours is gorgeous and strong. Protect it; don’t pickle it with wine or self-doubt.

You are not an addict. You are not an alcoholic. These labels are not yours (though they sure could have been), but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t make a different choice.

Writing about this stuff is important, vital. It clarifies that which is not clear for you and to you, but it also starts a conversation that so many people are craving. Not about blacks and whites, but about grays.

Forever is scary, but it is also amazing. Remember: you said “I do” once, in a beautiful church at Christmastime almost 12 years ago, and it was the best decision of your life. 

Some people will not like that you are not drinking, but most will not care. And you will find others who are in your boat, who are making this choice.

Choosing not to drink is not the same as saying alcohol is evil; you do not believe that it is. It is just not good for you.

Choosing not to drink is not the same as saying other people shouldn’t drink. Everyone must decide for herself; not everyone has these questions, these concerns, this tussle, this overwhelming desire to live a different kind of life. (But remember that they do struggle with something. Everyone does.)

Once you do the brave work of knowing something, you cannot un-know it.

Words and stories are deeply powerful things. Use them thoughtfully, with love and care. But do not bury them when need to be spoken and written.

Trust your instinct. Your instinct told you to walk into that bar that magical December night and talk all night with that boy. Your instinct told you to leave the law and become a writer. Your instinct has always led you in the right direction. Do not ignore it now.

Oh, so much to say, guys. And I will. But there’s time for that. I’m so happy I wrote this post on Monday. I’m so happy I shared it. I was buoyed and inspired by the responses, online and off. There is an appetite for this discussion; that much is clear.

But there are also questions, confusions. Common ones: If I know that life is better without alcohol, why don’t I just give it up? Why don’t I just walk away? Why do I waste precious energy belaboring all of this?

These are fair questions, worth addressing. What I can say: None of this is simple. For me. For anyone. For most of us who are questioning drinking, drinking has at times played important and positive roles in our lives. For me, alcohol has many happy (or seemingly happy) associations. For me, and for better or worse, alcohol has been a tremendous part of my core identity, my life story, my writing fictional and non, my friend/family culture/world. Walking away from wine and all that it means is not simple. It is complicated. But, for me, I see that it is right.

I have debated and danced for four-plus years now with this question. If I’m being honest, for longer. And what I’ve learned is that all of this is layered, murky, and so exquisitely personal. I will never ask someone why they don’t just give it up. I respect how tangled this thing can be, and how the unraveling – if that’s what happens – needs and takes time. I get it.

And so. This is where I am on this fine Wednesday morning in July. Last night, we saw my oldest daughter (she is 9 now!) perform in her musical at camp and I can’t explain how incredible the experience was. She was so great and so poised and so happy and I sat there in the second row with the man I love and my other little girls and tears filled my eyes and pride overtook me. I was clear. Awake. I saw all that I could, felt it profoundly. I sat there and I had this tremendous sense of light and knowing.

Scary, yes. 100% But maybe the things we want most deeply, the things that will bring us the most love and joy, are just this way.

Another ramble. For me. For you.

*

Are you at a point where you are living – or curious about living – a dry life? If so, please email me at aidandonnelleyrowley [at] gmail [dot] com. Trying to find my cohorts 🙂

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53 Comments for: "Saying I Do to a Life Without Alcohol"
  1. Amen to this. Nothing need be forever, but I think this feels like the right thing for now, at least based on our conversations. Bravo. xox

    • Aidan Donnelley Rowley

      You, my friend, have been so instrumental in this decision and path for me because you have listened and prodded so gently. Thank you. And now I have the title of my next post: Between For Now and Forever. I agree that we should shy away from such extremes, but I feel compelled to truly commit, to announce (to myself and those in my life) that this is a big deal. Does that make sense? xx

      • Adele

        To fully decide, to commit wholeheartedly means you will have lots of psychic energy available that was formerly tied up in daily deciding, yes, no, yes, no alcohol. It is a commitment to NOT drink, and it is a commitment TO live.

        • Aidan Donnelley Rowley

          Thank you, Adele. I agree with this. For me, this feels as much about as a commitment to live the life I want as it does a commitment not to drink… Thank you!

  2. Mia

    I keep blaming my husbands job, my lack of self esteem and my family history for my inertia in this life, but deep down I know it is my love of a glass or three of wine every night that is responsible. I can’t finish my degree, I can’t have intimate relationships with my family and I can’t fully feel this life until I choose a dry life. But can we have a different phrase, one that doesn’t imply barrenness, lack of abundance?

    • Aidan Donnelley Rowley

      A dry life. Maybe we do need a better phrase. Will brainstorm, but I also don’t mind it because on some level, the opposite of dry in my mind is weather – stormy, unpredictable – and I’m choosing to move away from this. Must ponder the terminology though and I like the idea of naming things in ways that work for us. Thank you for reading and for commenting. I truly believe that SO many of us are secretly dealing with the more subtle struggle that is still struggle, with the knowing we must change or want to change but not knowing how or not knowing if we are ready. Such fertile ground here.

      • Arienne

        A life of clarity, perhaps? Was hiking on my local mountain this morning which at this time of year is super dry and dusty–no trees, just sagebrush. The sky was amazingly clear and open. I think of my days without alcohol (four months now) as having more clarity and being more open (thinking Outrageous Openness by Tosha Silver). No more wondering what I said, no more hating the me who drinks, now being fully present for every moment and really seeing each moment clearly, instead of through a wine glass fuzz.

        • Aidan Donnelley Rowley

          A life of clarity. Yes. This is just how I feel. A while back, after taking a year off alcohol, I wrote about clarity and how it can be electrifying and almost intoxicating in its own right. This is precisely how I feel when I remove the “fuzzy” (love that word) lens of alcohol… like the world becomes clear. Thank you, Arienne!

  3. What do you guys think about “spirited” to describe our lives without alcohol? This always comes to mind for me. My full, vivacious spirit…

    Also, a cohort sounds nice.

    Bethany

    • Aidan Donnelley Rowley

      I love ‘spirited’ and the idea of turning the word ‘spirits’ on its head. I do feel more full and energetic and lively when I’m not drinking so it fits… And I truly am beginning to believe that making this choice will be more interesting and sustainable and fun if I have a crew of cohorts. 🙂

      • Adele

        I thought up “engaged” for sobriety, and disengaged for drinking, but that’s maybe just my own version of reality. 🙂

        • Aidan Donnelley Rowley

          I definitely feel more engaged in my life when I’m not drinking… And love the connotations this word has, particularly with respect to the metaphor of commitment I use in this post!

  4. Kim

    “Between Now and Forever” – I look forward to reading it (no pressure) :). I couldn’t agree more with this: “I truly believe that SO many of us are secretly dealing with the more subtle struggle that is still struggle, with the knowing we must change or want to change but not knowing how or not knowing if we are ready.” And your open discussion and exploration of it makes such a difference. I know that as someone who has quit several times in the last year (and has been preparing myself for a lot longer), I am personally hungry for it.

    I tell myself: It doesn’t have to be forever, but I’m going to try this thing — living an alcohol free life – for now. I’m finally trusting that my life will be better for it.

    • Aidan Donnelley Rowley

      Thank you, Kim. For a long time now, I’ve thought: “Who am I really to talk about this topic when I’m still feeling my way, when my story is not stark or extreme, when I might not have anything truly original or insightful to say?” Suddenly though, I see it all differently… that I should talk about this BECAUSE I’m in it, BECAUSE I’m still feeling my way, because what I’m experiencing is likely reflective of so many people’s… The For Now versus Forever thing is interesting and fraught, in my mind. For Now is good, wonderful, so much better than not stopping at all – and this is where I have been on and off for years, but after lots of experimenting and thought, I’m realizing that I WANT to be more committed to this, to living and exploring and cherishing, a life without alcohol. But never say never… I know. I cannot say where I will be in 10 years, 20, 30 and so on. I know better than to predict and plan that far ahead. What I know now, today, is that I’m all in, that I want to give this a real go.

      • Kim

        Hi Aidan,
        Yes, For Now versus Forever IS fraught, and I’m completely with you: committed to giving it a real go. I tell myself “for now” sometimes, really only when my drinker’s voice starts chirping up with reasons why I might want to drink in the future, or that I’m just over-reacting with this whole ‘never drinking again thing.’ It’s basically my way of saying to that voice, “Shh shh, yeah yeah, I hear you. Maybe someday, but for NOW I’m doing this.”

        I have tried so so many things to really stop drinking, and what I find is that it’s my resolve that wavers. I’m never white-knuckling it or “neeeeeeding” a drink to get through something… Nah, usually when I have decided to drink again it’s because I was bored or lonely, or just wanted to be “included” in something or with someone. So, I’ve finally found an in-person support group that I go to three times a week for eight weeks (I’m 2.5 weeks in now), and I’m finding that it is making a real difference for me. As much as I’ve relied on and grown from my online community, which is strong, the in-person component has made a difference so far. I tried a couple of AA meetings a while back, but the whole “I’m and alcoholic” thing and “surrendering to a higher power” just didn’t work for me.

        So again, I really appreciate your voice out there, representing so many of us who live this struggle of sometimes ambivalence about really quitting for good. It’s a process that often isn’t reflected with bloggers who seem to have quit and stayed quit. So thanks again and keep it coming. 🙂

        • Aidan Donnelley Rowley

          Thank you for these words, Kim. I’m intrigued by your in-person experience and wonder what that might be like. I do think online connections and support are wonderful, but wonder if they are truly enough or if I could be missing out on something really special in-person. I’ve never been to an AA meeting precisely because I don’y identify with the label of alcoholic or feel compelled to surrender to anything… I do know many people who go meetings and have had great success, so I will never knock the program (particularly because I have no knowledge about it!)

          I do think there’s a voice of positivity missing from this conversation, a sense of choosing clarity over the confusion drinking can cause for many of us.

          Thank you!

          • Adele

            I’ve attended AA in three separate spans of time in my life, mainly because it’s the only option for F2F, at least in my locale. I always really enjoyed the people, the comraderie, the option to go to a meeting when I couldn’t think of anything else to do…But, despite the oft heard phrase of, “Take what you like and leave the rest,” there is a relentless push towards conformity of thought. It is frequently stated that AA is THE ONLY WAY to get sober and to stay sober. Those who are sober without AA are called “dry drunks'” and considered foolish in the extreme.
            Thinking, itself, is disparaged, Your best thinking got you here!,” and, “Keep it simple, stupid!”, and the only viable option for someone in AA is to follow the Steps, and to shave off any idiosyncratic corners to fit in the proscribed round hole.
            I don’t consider AA a cult, but there is a cult-like adoration of Bill Wilson and of the Big Book, with some saying words like “divinely inspired.” This, despite the not well known fact that Bill Wilson himself was still searching for more than the 12 Steps due to his long-standing depression, and was all too human, being a womanizer and unfaithful to his wife.
            All of which is to say that there are benefits to group work regarding sobriety (to being engaged!) but that AA’s price is steep. Other, AA alternative, F2F groups are an option, if you have them nearby.

  5. Kate

    I think it’s useful to read Gretchen Rubin’s take on abstinence vs. moderation. One of the things she said that has really struck me is that most people think they are moderators, but abstinence ends up being the easier choice.

    It sounds to me like one of the big things that makes giving it up difficult for you is a lack of support in your circle. Not that people are trying to actively sabotage you but just because they don’t understand the choices or aren’t actively trying to build social interactions that don’t involve alcohol. Maybe because you’re rejecting the labels, which is a totally valid choice. I will say this – my husband has been a problem drinker. And he has “given it up” many times. And it has only stuck when he started finding a group of people who embrace not drinking as a lifestyle, including members of our extended family and friends. I still drink, but very rarely, and almost never with him. It’s just not a thing anymore, and that has helped.

    • Aidan Donnelley Rowley

      Kate,

      Thank you. Love Gretchen and love her writing on abstinence versus moderation. I think it’s useful to think of all of this in those terms, but I do think that we can be different things – or WANT to be different things – when it comes to different things. For me, I know that I can be moderate with food, with sweets and I’m not interested in a life without indulgences like these, but I’m more concerned about alcohol and its effects – or potential effects – on me. Also, and I’m not sure if this makes sense, but I’m choosing not to drink not because I’m by nature an Abstainer or because it’s easier to abstain, but because I actively WANT the clarity and type of life that comes when I don’t drink… So interesting to think about though!

  6. Jen

    All I can say to your thoughts from this and the previous post is: yes, yes, yes, yes,yes, yes, yes, yes….

    I don’t know how you do it, but you describe how I feel about drinking! Thank you Aidan. It’s so complicated and confusing for me to come to terms with and that makes it especially hard to try to get my husband and my friends to understand. You get it! Thank you.

    • Aidan Donnelley Rowley

      Thank you, Jen!! I do think it’s hard to communicate the more middle place I’m in… A lot of people don’t seem to get it. That’s fine. But many of us out there DO understand what it means to grapple with this thing – or with other things in this ineffable way. I’m craving the conversation about all of this and it heartens me to think that this post right here is part of that conversation.

  7. CC

    Hi, Aidan,

    First, thanks for your italicized sentences. Really thoughtful. You’re doing hard, good work, and it’s helping me in my own inquiries.

    I don’t struggle with alcohol. We don’t have it at home, and it’s okay for me to have (or not!) one glass of wine every 1-2-3 months if I’m somewhere else and want to consciously include it as an adjunct to a pleasure with others. I’ve never been bleary or drunk from drinking. But I know that sugar holds too big a place in my life. I’ve struggled with cutting out sugar, and forever has seemed too long, so I haven’t yet begun. “Why don’t you just give it up?” So, so, so difficult. Too many capable, smart people know we could be doing better but haven’t yet made changes. It’s not just a matter of will or desire. These things are woven very deep and wide.

    All the best to you.

    • Aidan Donnelley Rowley

      CC – Thank you! So happy you commented and wrote what you did because for me this is about alcohol but it can about so many different things… The question of why we often don’t act in our self-interest is age-old and fascinating to me. It is not all about intelligence or will or desire, as you say. It is far more complicated than that, but in my mind so worth exploring.

  8. An

    Hi Aidan, do you know Brooke Castillo? She’s got this amazing podcast called The Life Coach School podcast. She is amazing, breaking down complex things in simple components + sharing so much helpful stuff in her podcast. (Full disclosure, I studied at her school a few years ago + love her, so yes, I am a bit biased 😉 but I think you’d really like her energy + what she explains in her podcast.)

    She recently did a 3-part series on how to stop over drinking. She explains so beautifully how are brains are working + how part of our brain is just being efficient at what it does, without wondering if the thing it helps us do, is actually what we really want. And then there’s that other part of our brain, that can help us shift that behavior. If you wanna check it out, you can find part 1 here: https://thelifecoachschool.com/116/ It definitely holds some answers to the questions you mentioned in your post!

    Also, I love the manifesto-style words you’ve written down here – so powerful!

    • Aidan Donnelley Rowley

      Thank you, An! I’m not familiar with Brooke, but will certainly check her work out. Definitely intrigued and always happy to encounter kindred souls in the ether who are asking some of the same questions and working toward forging a better life or determining what that might mean and look like. Thank you so much!

  9. Amy

    Aiden,
    Thank you for your honesty. It’s so difficult to be completely transparent. You are an inspiration to others to live their best life. I admire your strength and know that it will encourage others. Thank you!

  10. Dear Aiden,
    Thank you for your words. Thank you your bravery, honesty, and clarity. As I’m reading your post I was saying, “Yes, yes, yes!!! It felt like you were reading my mind. I too have been wondering what my life would be like without alcohol. I have found that it’s ‘normal’ to have a glass or 2 and sometimes 3 (per night) over the weekend, and during the week it could easily be a glass a night. The thing is, I find myself lethargic, uninterested in anything around me, and sad. It’s definitely not the picture you see in commercials where everyone is having great fun!
    So then, why do it?
    It doesn’t bring me joy, it depletes me. I don’t pursue my interests, I sit and wish I was someone, some place else.
    So, again, why do it?
    I am looking forward to this conversation. As women we need a place for our voices to discuss and share some of the scary stuff we deal with in our hearts and minds.
    Thank you.
    Linda

    • Aidan Donnelley Rowley

      Thank you, Linda. I think MANY of us are in a similar spot (with respect to alcohol or other things) where we do things, out of habit often, that are not good for us. The question of Why is very interesting to me and I think the answer is complicated and can be very idiosyncratic. I think this is a conversation that many of us are craving and am happy to do my part in creating and sustaining the discussion. It feels like meaningful work to me.

  11. Jill VT

    I don’t quite understand all this introspection. I’ve been reading your blog for quite a while, and read your first book. Wine is biblically sanctioned in moderation. Have a glass of wine here and there! It is God’s way of telling us to relax and enjoy life. I know you have a deeper attachment that shouldn’t be oversimplified (so do I), but to never drink again? So very sad!

    • Adele

      I don’t know who first said it, but, “Alcohol is the only drug that we have to justify NOT doing.”

      Can you imagine if people responded the same way to other drugs?:
      Cigs: “Quit smoking? That’s extreme. Why don’t you just have one or two a day?”
      Cocaine: “Well, why don’t you just snort it, instead of smoke it? Quitting it completely seems crazy!”
      Heroin: “Can’t you just cut back– not do it everyday?”

      • Aidan Donnelley Rowley

        You make a very strong point, Adele. I do wonder why there has to be so much justification of the choice not to drink. I imagine that this will change over time, but it is very curious to me!

    • Aidan Donnelley Rowley

      Jill – Thank you. I must say that your comment stopped me in my tracks and made me think and wonder whether I’m being extreme. I don’t think so. What it comes down to is this: I prefer my life without any alcohol. I feel better, I’m more productive and optimistic, a better writer and mom and the list goes on… So, for me and many people I’ve been hearing from, it just makes sense to eliminate it, not just for the negative reasons of avoidance of, and protection from, something essentially bad, but because this amounts to a positive choice of something good (a certain kind of life). This is so deeply personal and I think we all must respect each other and the choices we make… For me, giving up alcohol is not sad, but continuing to drink is. This will be different for each of us.

      As for the forever thing, I acknowledge that forever is a big word and that we never know what the future will bring, but what I am getting at in this post is more a sense of commitment to a long-term choice and lifestyle.

      I appreciate your comment though as I think it likely represents what a lot of people are thinking even if they are not saying it. But again: the thought of not drinking is the farthest thing from sad for me.

  12. I think you know that nothing needs to be forever. All I want to say is it’s not an easy struggle but thankfully you have love all around you which will help. Hugs.

  13. Rachel C

    Just wanted to let you know I’m here, reading, listening and supporting you whichever direction you take. Nothing has to be forever-just do what feels right for now.

    • Aidan Donnelley Rowley

      Thanks, Rach. Your support means the world to me – now and always. Miss you tons and excited for your bundle to arrive this fall! xx

  14. Sarah

    Thank you Aiden for this.
    It’s my first time reading your blog and I’ve bookmarked this already. As someone who has struggled in the realm of “problem drinking” for many years, it’s the romance that has constantly drawn me back – how to pass up that glass of wine on a warm summer evening or sit on the sidelines during a friend’s wedding. Selective memory for me though I know as for me this is all accompanied by taking it too far and the blackest depression and self loathing. In recent times though I’ve started to challenge the stigma around words like “alcoholic” or “addict” – what is really wrong with any of these labels if they do indeed fit aspects of my behaviour, for me embracing them in a way has been more helpful to living without alcohol…. I do understand from your piece that yours is more about choosing a different approach to your life and these words don’t fit for everyone,we all have different stories, thanks again for a great post.

    • Aidan Donnelley Rowley

      Thank you, Sarah. I so relate to the idea of romance and how we find ourselves in situations where the lure of a drink is almost cinematic in its seduction. Selective memory is a problem indeed and I think for me I just need to realize that there will be these moments of longing – to participate, to experience something – but that they will pass, that they always do. I agree that the stigma around the labels must be challenged. I don’t happen to identify with these labels, but I think the stigma that surrounds all of this stuff must be looked at and reconsidered. I really believe that so many of us are struggling with things and that lifting the stigma on even the idea of struggle itself would be such a good thing.

  15. Pamela

    I so love your commitment to happiness and freedom and this beautiful community you are creating. Would you consider a Facebook group where we could share our experiences and truths with each other? I also love that you are writing about it while you are IN it. It’s such a fragile and vulnerable place to be, and yet most of us are here much of the time. I agree – it doesn’t have to be alcohol. We all have our “thing.”

    Xoxo

    • Aidan Donnelley Rowley

      Thanks, Pamela! I love the idea of a Facebook group and think that could be a fantastic thing. If I were to do it, I would want to make sure that I wasn’t being duplicative… I imagine there are many such groups and resources out there. And, yes, I believe in writing about this stuff while we are IN it and not just after… More truth to be found this way, I believe.

  16. Another wonderful and thoughtful ramble. I can tell from the previous comments – and how I’m feeling – that you definitely have support in this. I have always tried to not let others define what I’m doing and try to define it for myself. I drank during college, but when I started getting really rough hangovers, I knew that I needed to stop (those hangovers were coming after 2 drinks as opposed to going on a real binge like some people do). It was the right choice for me. And, my friends know that. And my real friends will let me have a drink when I feel like it (which isn’t very often), but don’t push me to consume when I don’t want to drink. They’re just used to it. And I assume that your group will also get used to it.

    And following your intuition is definitely something that you shouldn’t take lightly at all. If forever is what your intuition is telling you, make it a forever choice. No choice is permanent – even those that we call forever choices (for good and bad).

    Now, I’ve rambled. I can’t wait to continue hearing about your journey.

    xoxo

    • Aidan Donnelley Rowley

      Love what you say about permanence and forever. This strikes me as true, namely that forever choices are not permanent. I do think that I will meet with support with this decision; I already have. For me, it’s a matter of being straightforward and clear about what I want and what I’ve decided and then I trust that people will understand and respect my path. And, yes, intuition is everything. So important to remember. Thank you!

  17. XOXOX – Oh my, I can relate to the constant questioning. The push and the pull. I LOVE these post Aidan. Thank you.

  18. Kate

    Best of luck to you. I made this decision 20 years ago for virtually all the same reasons (and also being a poor grad student who had to choose between food and wine). I actually found that life got a lot easier when I started saying, “No thanks, I don’t drink.” Up to that point, friends would pester me to drink when I wasn’t in the mood, but once I made the decision, no one cared. I don’t miss the alcohol. I get much better feelings from going for a hike, swim, or sail. I do miss the camaraderie of a girls’ night out – it’s just not quite the same when you’re the only one not drinking, even if your friends are supportive. But making new friends is the hardest bit. How do you convey to new acquaintances that being dry is in no way a condemnation of their choice to drink? I still struggle with this.

    • Aidan Donnelley Rowley

      Thank you, Kate! 20 years. Wow! That’s really incredible. How to convey that being dry is a personal/existential choice and in no way a condemnation of others’ choice to drink? I don’t know, but this is something I wonder about and struggle with. I worry sometimes that I’m putting distance between myself and people I care about by making this choice (and so publicly) but know in my heart that this won’t be true, that the people who really love me will support my choice to do what I feel is best for me. So tricky though!

  19. Jeanne

    I am so damn happy you’re writing about this. I’ve been back and forth on this issue for the past 3-4 years, have done dry stints here and there (the longest being 100 days last fall), and started abstaining again about a month ago. I think you hit the nail on the head with “this overwhelming desire to live a different kind of life.” At a certain point the scale tips and the desire for a better life outweighs the desire to drink. That’s how I feel right now, and I sincerely hope it stays that way. So looking forward to reading more from you on this topic.

    • Aidan Donnelley Rowley

      Thank you, Jeanne. It is really good and heartening to know that there are others out there asking these questions and weighing these choices. Happy you made your way here.

  20. Tessa

    Here’s something that has worked for me. Try to focus on the outcome of not drinking i.e. I will feel so good, always, if I don’t drink alcohol and this is the way I want to feel.

    Try not to focus on the fear of the other consequences of not drinking alcohol , such as….. people will expect me to have wine, people will think that I’m strange, I fear not having a glass of alcohol in my hand at a social gathering, I feel awkward being the ‘outsider’……

    It will take time to socialise your family and friends and others into the ‘new you’ who doesn’t drink alcohol – and it will probably take time to socialise yourself into this new way of being too…. it does help to be proactive and always first think about how you will handle a particular alcohol-related situation i.e. what drinks to order or ask for etc. – and also how to respond to ‘challenge’ – for me, I say “Other people have given up sugar”.

    I stopped drinking alcohol, kind of by mistake, about 10 years ago, when I decided to quit smoking for a year, because I really, really wanted/needed to quit cigarettes. I also quit drinking at the same time, as I couldn’t see myself drinking alcohol without having a cigarette in the other hand. So quitting alcohol too was a bit of a sacrifice and I had EVERY intention of going back to it when the year was up – for ALL the reasons that we all like to drink alcohol……. however, at the end of that year, after having lived a life of such clarity, such physical cleanliness i.e. a hugely reduced toxin load etc. etc., I never did go back to alcohol. It was a shock and a huge surprise to discover how much better life was without alcohol. It was something I NEVER expected.

    Yes, it is difficult. Especially at the beginning. One needs to form new ways of social drinking, or relaxing, or whatever you use alcohol for. But, for me, I always focus on the positive outcome I want to achieve, the way I want to feel, the way I choose to feel.

    Yesterday evening I went to dinner at the home of an old high school friend – we’ve known each other for 45+ years – and, just after I arrived, her husband did not ask me “What would you like to drink?”, he said “Would you like a cup of tea?”, as I’d just come in from the cold (it is winter now where I live). And I sat and drank my tea, as others enjoyed their wine and beer and soft drinks…… It shouldn’t matter. We should be allowed to make these choices. We should live the best lives that we choose.

    • Mia

      To everyone here, thankyou thankyou thankyou for all the wisdom! And Tessa, I found a great deal of comfort and reasons for optimism in your comment this morning.

  21. Julia

    Hi Aidan,

    I waver between wanting not to care too much about this topic, and then realizing that I’m not caring about it enough.

    It’s definitely the stuff of life, of wanting to live a full and clear life, and of not wanting to give into the path of least resistance, which is social and unthinking drinking. I think I had an important epiphany with my family this summer, on the final day at our summer house for my side of the family, just watching everyone become inebriated as we were trying to get our stuff into the car to get to the airport. It was like watching slow molasses drip over the crowd, the children just innocently eating their dinners as the adults sipped their cocktails, which were sending them into that blurred space of un-reality, in which good byes and final words drift into the air. I realize with clear eyes now that drink is an escape, and that often we are simply relaxing into a void that gives us a time and a spot to NOT think about the hard stuff. Except that if we would actually do the work and think about the hard stuff, maybe we wouldn’t need the drink to begin with, because the unsolved hard stuff wouldn’t be depressing us. Which is why I think we drink to begin with. That, plus, the drinks actually DO taste good. See, that’s where the quandary begins though, right?

  22. AJ

    Just visited your blog for the first time in awhile after giving up alcohol for good four months ago. So moved by your post! I’m a decade older than you, and had a cancer scare that triggered huge amounts of severe anxiety and really reshaped how I approached life. Like you, drinking was definitely bringing “more angst than joy,” and even though I didn’t have cancer, I did have compelling health reasons to stop drinking completely. It hasn’t always been easy, but it has been hugely rewarding. I am infinitely happier, healthier, and dealing with my anxiety much more successfully now. My husband and partner of 30 years still drinks, so there have been a lot of intense conversations about that, but we’ve navigated those discussions well and even found these talks to be rewarding. As an urban professional, I face a lot of peers who question my decision, but it’s pretty easy to shrug them off at this point because I am living a much more productive life with less anxiety. Best of luck with the journey!

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