Wednesday, June 26, 2019

Big Boozy Blog Post

Cape Cod, October-ish
A couple of years ago in a previous iteration of this blog I wrote a long post about my complicated relationship with alcohol and called it "The Story of My Last Drink." Quitting drinking was pretty fantastic. I lost a few pounds, I saved money, I enjoyed socializing more, I was slightly less anxious, all good. After I dramatically declared my sobriety, it felt REALLY good to talk about it. I loved talking about how extensive my alcohol use (abuse) had been. I loved telling stories about all the terrible life choices I'd made while drinking. How sad I was. How angry. How much danger I'd put myself in. It felt so so good to no longer hide all of that and no longer feel a constant hum of shame. Free at last. I loved it.

I stopped drinking on my own. I had a lot of support from my friends and family and social media pals, but I didn't do any sort of program or take any medication or get hypnotized or anything. I went to two AA meetings and tried to talk myself into liking them, but they just bugged me. As an event planner and a former restaurant worker, the sloppy logistics were irritating (sorry, I am who I am) and I didn't feel like I fit in. I was a drunk, make no mistake, I wasn't denying that, but I didn't feel a sense of connection to the AA process. Still, it was fun to celebrate my sobriety milestones - 100 days, 6 months, 200 days, one year. I felt really proud of myself. But after I hit the one year mark, I got this feeling of, "Okay. Now what? Wait around and celebrate the two year mark?" It wasn't all that challenging or exciting anymore and I got kind of bored with it. I know that sounds terrible, but it's true. I got tired of the sober community on Instagram, tired of the books, tired of the podcasts and the motivational quotes and I started to wonder if I might be able to drink in moderation.

Around my 13-month mark (September-ish) I decided to try a glass of wine. Oh boy. Yep. Cat's out of the bag. I went to the Four Seasons and had one glass of Pinot Noir. It was okay. I left and went to Pho Pasteur with Doug (where I had water) and went home. I woke up the next day and didn't feel any shame. I wasn't foaming at the mouth and counting down the minutes until I could have more wine, I was neutral. I did feel funny because I'd made this giant declaration to the world that I was never drinking again. Was I letting people down? Would people worry about me? Would people be disappointed in me or angry with me? Should I stay sober because I told everyone I was going to and now I'll have to go back and tell them I changed my mind? No. I want to make decisions for myself, not for other people. Hmmmm. What to do....

I had wine in moderation over the next few months. Admittedly, there were a handful of times where I had too much just like the majority of the wine-drinking world, but NOTHING compared to the stuff I used to do. I never blacked out. I woke up groggy a few times but never had a full blown horrific hangover. Still, over time I started to feel the churn of confusion and I wasn't sure if it was the best idea for me to drink in moderation. I was a little worried where it could lead and I wasn't sure I loved wine as much as I once thought I did.

To test myself I took chunks of time "off" from drinking. I did this with no problem. I took a month off here, I took three weeks off there, another month there. Wasn't hard. But honestly, each time it felt like a great big relief. I loved not drinking. I'd even say that out loud to Doug. "I love not drinking." But if I could drink in moderation, I guess I probably should? I wasn't sure. I also tested myself in one-off social situations. I took a friend out to dinner for her 40th birthday. She had wine. I didn't. I got myself a liter of Pellegrino. Just to see how it felt. It felt fine. Bachelorette premiere night. Had another friend over for dinner. Didn't pour any wine. Didn't mention it. Just didn't do it. Made some lime-y salty non-alcoholic drinks and a pork stir fry. Didn't miss the booze. Indy 500. Surrounded by thousands of people drinking beer. Zero desire for a drink. None. Lemon Spindrift all day long.

So, I mean, I guess was doing it. I was drinking in moderation like a "normal" person. I didn't need alcohol, I just had it when it felt like I could or should. Therefore, I should not bother with this sobriety thing anymore because that would be pointless, right? I couldn't call myself an alcoholic if I could take weeks off at a time with no problem or sit in a restaurant where I used to really enjoy red wine with my steak and not care if I had it or not. It would be shitty of me to be a member of the sober community if I didn't need to be there. I felt like a fraud. I might as well just join the other kids on the drinking side of the fence and wave goodbye to the sober kids.

Still something wasn't right. I felt really unsettled about all of it. I didn't feel like I fit in anywhere. Then I started to ask myself pretty regularly, "what if I just don't want to drink alcohol?" Can I not drink just because I don't want to drink or is it only okay to not drink if it's A PROBLEM? And who decides that? And why do I need to have a drinking label? Who is in charge here?

Before my 13 months of sobriety I absolutely had a problem. Not gonna deny that. I used alcohol to deal with stress, sadness, anxiety, and anger and I was completely out of control in terms of how much I was drinking. Looking back I'm not sure if I had a drinking problem or if I had a shit ton of trauma that I used drinking to cope with. During my moderate drinking phase I couldn't get anywhere close to the level of intoxication I'd achieved previously and I really had no interest in getting there, but I also never found myself sitting there sipping something with alcohol in it and feeling really terrific about it. It made me feel tired. Kind of sneezy. A little bummed out, snappish, moody, stressed, and my jeans felt tighter. It was like I broke up with a man who was really bad for me, then a year went by and he got his act together, so we started dating again, but I just wasn't into him anymore.

So where did I land? I landed on not drinking and it feels just right. It's the right-est I've felt in a while. I'm not referring to myself as "sober" or "in recovery." I'm hesitant to make any sort of declaration or put myself in a category. I'm just a person who doesn't drink alcohol because she just doesn't care for how it makes her feel. She just doesn't wanna. THAT feels right to me.

I'm not mad at myself for giving moderate drinking a try for a little while. If you're reading this and you're mad at me, I'm happy to talk to you about it. I don't feel like I broke my streak or that my initial 13 months of sobriety don't count and aren't an accomplishment. I will always be really proud of myself for pulling the plug on a nasty habit and trying to make sense of all of the things swirling around it. Most of all I'm glad to know in my bones that not only do I not need alcohol, I also don't want it.

As I've said in the past, if you're curious about your own feelings on alcohol or being a person who chooses to drink or not drink and you want to chat with a non-judgmental person about any of it, feel free to give me a shout.