“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 🙂