This is not the type of post I typically write. Why? Because it’s hard to be vulnerable, and I’d prefer everyone believe I’m a tower of strength and perfection. Alas, not true. But I’ll take a chance you can relate, and share my experience of the past few (alcohol-free) weeks. And since I’m not perfect, I will place blame: This is ALL Norma’s fault! If she hadn’t called to say she’d stopped drinking, I would still be cradling a wine glass and happy as a clam in my Merlot-tinted world.
I will NOT claim the word “drinker.” Not in the “heavy” sense, anyway. Let’s just say as my to-do list grew longer, I grew more attached to quaffing a glass or two at the end of the day. The truth is, I’d been considering my relationship to wine for months. I wondered if it was a source of relaxation, or an escape? Was I using it to numb, to avoid having to worry, think or make decisions? Was alcohol a way through, or a way out? Whatever. I thought it worked well.
That is, until my beloved life-long friend had to share she’d come to the conclusion a drink didn’t actually help. It just lulled her into the belief it smoothed things over. Over the years she’d become convinced all the people who annoyed her were at fault, and alcohol reinforced her certainty. She was right, they were wrong. Now, in her non-drinking state, she knew.
“It’s not them,” she said. “It’s me.”
Even she has to laugh about how her life has changed. Every nerve is raw without the buffer of wine. She wears earplugs at the dinner table so she can’t hear anyone smack their lips. But she can hear them when they speak to her now.
And she can feel.
We put a lot of pressure on the people in our world to be who we want them to be. We establish rules. We try to control others by insisting that they do, say and be what will make us happy. We are sure to let them know when they fall short. But they can’t make our worlds right for us, only we can. We forget that these expectations are ours, not theirs. “Do you have a pencil?” Norma asked me. “Write this down: Nobody cares.” I laughed. It’s true! Our loved ones are busy handling their own stuff. What does this have to do with alcohol? False friend, it always insists we’re right.
Norma didn’t ask me to join her in her non-drinking state, I just figured that conversation was a sign. So on March 5, 2012, I started my experiment and downed my last sip. (Except for that one shot of scotch, one evening after a particularly harrowing work day. Just the one slip. So far.) The first week was a snap. I was full of adrenaline, getting things done, cleaning the kitchen – wow! This was going to be so easy! But then life settled back in around me. I was tired at night. I wanted my glass of wine. I miss the comfort of my old friend Mondavi.
Full report: First, cons. I am not sleeping better, as I expected. I do not have boundless energy, as I hoped. (After all, if drinking is so bad for the body, shouldn’t one feel immediately better when one stops imbibing?) Now for the pros – this was a complete surprise: The drama has decreased by about 90%. Things still go wonky at the same rate as before, but when plans blow up, I don’t get quite so out of kilter. And – amazing! – my shoulders have dropped into place, and no longer hug my ears from constant tension. My posture is better, my stomach is flatter (yaaay!) and I’m more calm. I’m breathing. Really breathing! More oxygen to the brain!
I have the time and inclination to read in the evening. My grocery bill is lower. I no longer plan trips to the store around my bottle count. Do I miss the taste of good red wine? Damn skippy. I’m not saying I’ll never have a drink again. But I decided last December that 2012 would be my year to shake up the routine, to get out and have a bigger life. I suspect that my former companion 2-Buck Chuck may have misled me. Let’s see where this road leads.
I will leave you where I began, and with this unrelated-to-alcohol video. It’s about being vulnerable, and it might just change your life. If you don’t watch, I’ll just share an important concept from social worker/researcher Brene Brown: “Lean into the discomfort.” She teaches that vulnerability is one of the most accurate measurements of courage. Vulnerability is the birthplace of creativity, innovation and change. And as a writer, you know how I feel about that. Cheers!
Link here to watch Brene Brown speak about the power of vulnerability.