So it's been five months. Five months without a lick of booze. And I feel good about this experiment even though it's really really brutal and annoying at times. Something I've realized, and genuinely come to appreciate, is how personal this decision is. As I approach the halfway mark of my year-long experiment, I feel more than ever that this was a good thing for me to do. That said, I've heard from many of you who relate to my story and my struggle, and so I feel a continued motivation to share what I've learned so far. One thing? The reasons I'm doing this are both elusive and endless. But I thought I'd honor the five-month mark with a little list of some of these reasons. Today, I revisit the main question people asked when I first announced my plan to dry out for four seasons. That (understandable) question: Why?
Why did I walk away from wine for one year?
1. I was curious to see if I could actually do it. And if I would want to. I'm not going to lie. There have been periods in my life when I've wondered whether I could last for an extended (non-pregnant) period of time without drinking -- or whether I would want to. This is one of the reasons I waited for two months to tell people about my dip into the dry life; I wanted to know whether I could do it, and continue with it. Five months in, I realize something wonderful and eye-opening: I do not need wine and life can be really great without it. Except for when it's decidedly not great and I sorely miss that glass (or two or five) of wine.
2. I wanted to be, and feel, healthier and less anxious. I had fallen into the habit of drinking almost every night. Not a ton, but enough to affect my sleep and make me feel sluggish and puffy many mornings. I wanted to change this. Also, after having a very difficult time after giving birth to my third daughter last spring, I went into fix-it mode and found a therapist. She told me I was suffering from anxiety. She also explained that drinking only exacerbated my anxious feelings. This was a light bulb moment as I always thought my anxiety was caused by my drinking. That the reverse could be true was a genuine game-changer. Five months in, I am definitely feeling healthier and generally less anxious. (That I have at times over the last five months turned to caffeine and sugar with a problematic vengeance is its own legitimate issue. Alas.)
3. I wanted to see how non-drinking would affect my writing and my relationships. I had a hunch that drinking was making me less productive in my writing efforts and was distracting me on some level from certain important relationships -- most notably those with my husband and daughters. I was interested to see whether removing alcohol from my day-to-day would unblock my creative clogs and make me more present in my moments with my creatures. Five months in, I am feeling pretty optimistic productivity-wise and things are really good with my man and my girls. Win-win-win. (Except for those times when my kids are being kids and life is being life I am this close to losing it and all I want is a gigantic old school glass of Pinot Grigio.)
4. I wanted to feel the things I wasn't letting myself feel. Although I wasn't psyched to admit it, I knew there were things I was escaping by drinking. The grief that gripped me -- and continues to grip me -- after losing my dad to cancer. The unfortunate anxiety of being an incurable perfectionist. The inescapable stress that comes with trying to simultaneously write a book and maintain a blog and raise small children and be a perfectly present wife and hot human being and thoughtful friend and daughter and sister... You get the picture. Five months in, I am still getting used to the feeling everything bit. This has been the hardest thing by far. There are still moments when I feel impossibly overwhelmed and would love more than anything to blur the edges of existence. (Gummy raspberries don't work quite as well as vino did, but the Haribo hangover is far more palatable.)
5. I was spending far too much time and energy thinking about my drinking. At the end of the day, the biggest reason I decided to give up alcohol for one year is that, rightly or not, this "issue" was occupying far too much emotional and existential real estate. Looking back, I realized I had wasted hours (even days) pondering the role of alcohol in my life -- and making my husband ponder it with me. The irony is that I am now spending a good chunk of time thinking and talking about my non-drinking and how it is affecting my life and identity and is this really any better? I don't know, but I imagine it has to be?
Maybe my problem was never over-drinking, but over-thinking? Could very well be.
This post was originally published here. To read all of Aidan's A Year Without Wine posts since January 16, 2012, click here.