I’m not telling you not to drink.
Now that that’s out of the way, relax. Maybe with a glass of wine, if that’s your bag. But can we have an honest talk about alcohol for a sec?
I started drinking at thirteen when I got dangerously drunk at a party and subsequently got violently ill. You’d think that banana and beer flavored vomit would’ve purged the desire to drink right out of me, but no.
I snuck wine coolers into school dances in 9th grade. I had a fake ID at sixteen and regularly went to clubs, bars, and purchased alcohol at stores. When out partying with friends, I soon learned that (unaware of my true introvert nature) I was more “fun” and less inhibited when I drank. In the workforce, drinking at office parties was expected. Socially, there wasn’t a birthday, holiday, or BBQ where I didn’t have a drink in hand.
I remember the first time I went wine tasting in Paso Robles, CA. I was 22. My boyfriend was ten years my senior and also my boss (but that’s another post.) Wine tasting was like leveling up, an escalator from basement drinking to elegant candlelit rooftop drinking. It was classy. It made me—the girl from the trailer park—classy.
Wine tasting (or wine-swallowing, as you’d never see me spitting) was an all-day smorgasbord of pseudo-elegant imbibing. It was “refined” and the mark of the “good life” to know an excellent bottle when I tasted it and to always have good wine on hand to share with others.
I’ve taken courses on wine. I still have a bucket-list item to become a sommelier and a Pinterest board devoted to images of wine like an altar. I play games when tasting to see how accurately I can detect the subtle notes and flavors. I’m uncannily good at it. That’s probably because my sense of smell is so strong that I could have a side job in Search & Rescue. Is that berries or stone fruits? Fresh or baked? Is that vanilla I detect? Knowledge of wine is cool and sophisticated. Oh so hoity-toity and fun.
My enjoyment of wine grew to an oenophile level, relishing the varieties and complexities of it.
Of course, wine is not so complex when you’re on your fourth glass.
So, I think I’ve sufficiently laid the groundwork to convince you that I’ve had a long and passionate and loyal affair with wine. Eventually, though, my relationship with it became love/hate. I loved every drop. I hated that I had no true control over it.
Aside from my pregnancies, I could count on one hand the number of times I abstained for more than three weeks at a time. I had so much resistance to any thought of giving it up, even for a while.
Given these conflicted feelings, why did I keep drinking?
I continued because the allure was stronger than the repercussions. It’s only by some divine vein of inner-strength, stubbornness, or some genetic ability to be a bottomless sponge, that I never became the flask-toting, curb-sleeping, toe-up all day drinker that I should have become.
I lived as the kind of alcohol abuser who drank at night (Night pretty much started not a second past 5pm) to “take the edge off” or unwind, celebrate, have fun, be happy, be sad, be sexy, or be numb.
Numb. Comfortably numb.
Alcohol blotted out my uncomfortable feelings of inadequacy, unworthiness, boredom, and awkwardness while clinging to a notion of reward. Pain grows in the marvelous fertilizer that is self-doubt and alcohol relieved my pain. Temporarily.
With time, I began to secretly wonder if my drinking was out of hand? (Note: if you’re wondering, it probably is.) I bought self-help books on ‘how to know if you’re an alcoholic’, ‘how to have a healthier relationship with alcohol’, and memoirs from people who’d slain the dragon and proclaimed the joys and the freedom of an alcohol-free life. I’d be lying if I said that I didn’t feel a bit of hope in their promises.
I’m not a girl who likes chains, even ones of her own making.
I secretly read and re-read books on how to abstain. I anonymously signed up on support sites. Why ‘secretly’? Because I didn’t want to announce my worries to friends or family, most of whom I presumed would be an unsupportive band of drinkers who would judge or downplay my concerns because maybe they didn’t want to face their own.
I didn’t want to be the friend who wasn’t “fun.” I didn’t want people to gossip about how I quit because I had a “problem.” I didn’t want judgey side-eyes if I did drink. I didn’t want people to turn into the wine-police. I didn’t want to deal with the scary change.
I didn’t want life to be less fun. But how much fun was I having, really?
More truthfully, I really didn’t want to be held accountable to changing if I let anyone know that I suspected I was struggling to control it.
So why did I recently force myself to stop drinking for 90 days?
For one thing, to prove I could. I was sick of breaking promises to myself. I was sick of the struggle. I was on a mission to be, as my wise friend, Caren, says, “…bigger than the voices in my head.”
I’d known for a while that I was in a tug-o-war with a powerful drug. It was time to drop the rope.
Ultimately, I think the worst pain is the separation from our highest selves. Isolation and disconnection are painful but they’re most painful when the separation is from our most authentic, most conscious, best self.
It’s important to listen to that inner voice that’s nudging you to do something, especially if it’s specific. For me, that was giving up alcohol for a while—if only to prove that I could.
The nightly crutch of wine had become a physical, monetary, and emotional hammer in my well-being. It brought down my clarity and quality of life. It derailed me from my best expression of myself.
It dulled my freakin’ shine.
During my recent Total Life Course when I went alcohol-free for 90 days, I realized that I also used wine to give myself the feelings of buoyancy, cheerfulness, and fun that I—someone who struggles with anxiety and depression—naturally lack.
Please know, I’m not advocating an alcohol-free lifestyle for everyone. This was something I had to address on my personal reset in order to course correct my life. You may not have the issues I did. But I’m sure that many of you can relate.
Want a list of the benefits I noticed over those three months? Better sleep. Waking more rested and ready to tackle a new day. I exercised more consistently (because I was better rested) and had more energy throughout the day. I was more present in my interactions with the people I love, especially in the evenings. I didn’t mindlessly snack late at night. I lost weight. My skin looked better. Eyes clearer. I was more motivated in all areas of my life.
My Total Life Course experiment had many facets and all the changes together probably account for some of the above benefits. I believe it all works in concert. That’s the power of whole-life change and why I’m committed to starting a Radical Reset movement!
After the 90 days was done, it felt like I’d given my body a real break from the toxins. Think about it; if I started drinking at 13, that’s 34 years of relentless toxicity. If you look at it like that, it would probably take much longer to truly repair my body and mind. But 90 days was a start…
My experiment convinced me that a clean body moves you through life much more efficiently, energetically, and joyously. That’s a fact. Maybe it was a fact I didn’t want to admit, but it’s a damn fact.
You want to know: Did I allow alcohol back into my life after my break? Yes. But I’d be lying if I said that my relationship to it isn’t a slippery slope. As of the writing of this, I can tell you that it’s escalated pretty quickly. I may just be one of those people who will have to someday admit that I’m not built to be a moderate drinker. I will grieve about this. But I’ll probably feel damn good after I get over it.
So hey, I’m not telling you not to drink. Who am I to do to that?
I’m asking you to look at why you do. I’m asking you if you’re telling you not to drink? Are you ignoring the urgings of your Highest Self? Listen. Then, ask yourself if your current level of consumption dulls your shine.
It’s your job to freakin’ shine.