I rang in this New Year sober and happy. Not a single drop of alcohol. It wasn’t that I planned to go through New Years without drinking anything, but since turning forty in August it seems wise to do this year differently than other years. I’ve written a couple of times about my long and twisting relationship with red wine. Here and Here. There was a time several years ago, when red wine seemed to be my constant and most faithful companion. Red wine waited faithfully every evening and tucked me into bed each night.
When the kids were little, I’d stay awake after putting them to bed and pen my novels over a glass of red wine. Later, over time, one glass turned to two glasses. And as years went by, the evening came much earlier and earlier. When I was making dinner, or right before dinner I’d pour my first glass, and I’d spent most of the night sipping my favorite drink.
For the better part of my thirties, I drank nearly every day. I wrote novels, enjoyed my friends, and felt in control. Eventually, I said farewell to a life I loved and moved countries, moved house five times in three years, and that incredible control I thought I wielded, crumbled under the weight of too much change, and eventually I began to feel powerless and out of control in pretty much every area of my life. For a season, alcohol felt far more in control of me than the other way around.
I would have denied that. I would have assured everyone around me that my love for wine was not a problem. I had my limits and I held the line. But lines slip and limits increase and what was once-in-a-while became a crutch I couldn’t imagine living without. At one point, I worried about whether there’d be enough wine at a gathering I was going to, or if there’d be enough wine in my house to get me through an evening.
I’ll spare you all the details, but I want to give you enough details so that if you are where I was, you’ll know you’re not alone. You’ll know there are ways to make changes that will bring life and hope.
Sometimes you have to quit and put yourself in rehab. My dad did that. He self-admitted when I was seven years old and has gone to AA meetings ever since. There was no middle ground for him. He had to quit. For good. Never go back. One day at a time.
Sometimes it’s right to try a month dry and see how you feel at the end of it. I did that. It was hard. A couple days right in the middle of the month I wondered why I’d do something so silly. What’s one glass of wine? I stayed the course and it ended up being one of the best months ever. I was clear-minded and present for my children and myself in ways I hadn’t been for far too long.
Sometimes you have to ask someone to pray for you and for help. I did that, too. I asked John to do the dry month with me. He did, and it helped to have a companion in it.
Maybe you only drink on weekends, but lately the only thing you live for are the weekends and so every week day is a day that looks forward to Friday and Saturday night and you end up in a stupor every Saturday morning with a bad stomach ache and a headache that doesn’t quit. Not to mention, the shame. That’s not a very fun way to live. There is a better way.
Sometimes you have to try 40 days dry. Maybe give up alcohol for Lent. Half the battle is the sugar addiction most of us struggle with. They go hand in hand. I did Lent last year without alcohol and loved it. I never regret seasons of sobriety. Let me say that again. I never regret seasons of sobriety.
Listening to NPR this morning, I learned that the Opioid epidemic is so severe in some places in the U.S. that parents are trafficking their children for their drug problem. Goodness gracious.
We are a people who love to numb our pain, suppress our anger, hide our fears, and run from our troubles.
Many of us are afraid of tomorrow, are financially overwhelmed, frustrated with all the expectations everyone seems to have, and we hate the idea of simply feeling all the feels, so we drink or we use, maybe we smoke pot. We cope, we get by. But that’s not really living, is it? It’s certainly not anything close to an abundant life.
There are whole clubs on Instagram dedicated to living the dry life. If you’re questioning what a life without alcohol or marijuana or prescription drugs is like, go to Instagram and search “The dry life,” and start following people.
Since the first post I wrote about alcohol well over a year ago, my relationship with wine has altered drastically. Everything is different. But I’m still trying to figure it out. How much is too much? And what would a long season of dryness do for me?
One thing I know. If you keep doing what you’ve always done, you’ll keep getting what you’ve always gotten. I’m ready for this entire decade of my life to be different, which means I need to do what I’ve never done.
I’ll keep you posted.