I started out this morning planning on writing about something other than drinking, but it feels important to share the events of the weekend given that I was so nervous about them on Friday. The whole reason for this blog is to share my truth, so I’ll be honest – I had a drink yesterday. But let me step back and tell you everything else, and the reasons why I think this might have been a good thing.
Friday night brought some apprehension with it. My husband travels all week for work and when he comes home on Friday nights the routine has involved mixing up cocktails and catching up on some of our favorite shows to watch together. (Lately it’s Top Chef, The Chi, and Shameless.) He knew I wasn’t drinking and opted not to have anything either. He said he could take it or leave it, either way. I’ll admit I felt a slight twinge of envy because I was in that zone of really wanting to crack open a cold bottle of chardonnay. There is this period of time each night that seems to run between 6-8 that the cravings hit me the most and we were smack dab in the middle of it, but I settled in with my sparkling water instead. Then, just as I was starting to feel pretty okay with this new me a text message came across my phone and I felt my body tighten. Our friends that we hadn’t seen in weeks reached out to invite us for dinner on Saturday. Now, I knew that this was likely happen, but when the message arrived, the reality set in. There would be much alcohol served, and while I’m surrounded by it in our home, being in this other environment raised my level of anxiety. My husband, E, reassured me that I wouldn’t need to drink and that they would be fine with it, but I was still very worried about their reaction. They pride themselves on being gracious hosts, and along with that comes the offer of cocktails and wine. I could already envision the disappointment and surprise on their faces when I would tell them that I was going to pass, but more than anything, I was worried about how I would be able to maintain the willpower to abstain.
Then something incredible happened. One Saturday morning, E and I woke up early and spent hours sharing in great conversation. I mean serious, heartfelt, deep conversation. I opened up and told him about all of the feelings that I’d been having about my relationship with alcohol, and about some of what I had been discovering about myself through therapy, things that we hadn’t yet discussed. We shared so much with each other over coffee and then both wanted to keep the dialogue going and headed out for a long walk around the neighborhood – even in the chilly drizzle. It was perfection. I realized that most mornings I was a little ‘off’ after a night of drinks, which usually meant we sat on the sofa and zoned out with our laptops or TV instead of connecting. This day was different. We talked, we worked out together, we handled house projects and just enjoyed each other’s company. I felt lighter, I felt more in tune with him and us.
As we headed off to our friend’s home for dinner packed up with a bag full of club soda, juice and limes, I didn’t feel quite so anxious anymore. E even offered to reach out to them in advance to let them know that I wasn’t currently drinking just to help ease the situation for me. I told him that I’d take on that task, but the fact that he was willing to do anything to support me was incredibly comforting. The disappointment that I expected to see did immediately come through on our host’s face because he had some new cocktails all set up and ready to test out. But I was determined not to let it rattle me. I knew that it came from a place of him wanting to share in this experience as he always had, and he was worried that I wouldn’t enjoy myself. I simply explained that I have taken a little time off from drinking, that I wasn’t sure for how long, but for now it had been a week and I intended to just keep it going. Surprisingly, his wife even said “I wish I could do that”. That was it. There was no other conversation about it or any questions.
It was a good night. We had a great dinner and when they poured drinks, I made myself a club soda instead. The thing that I found the most interesting is that I didn’t even feel like I wanted any alcohol. There sat the chardonnay, cab and a beautiful whiskey cocktail right in front of me and at no point during the evening did I feel even the slightest urge to partake. It was a little odd to be the only sober person in the room, however. I watched behaviors change as more drinks were consumed and I found that I didn’t have much to contribute to the conversations that were taking place. I tried and I wanted to, but frankly, there wasn’t anything being discussed that I could really take hold of. When I did try to talk, I was quickly interrupted, as has been typical in these scenarios, but looking at it from the sober perspective was much more enlightening – and a little strange. I found myself just observing for the most part, and I wondered if I only ever found a feeling of inclusion previously just because of the alcohol. It was hard to tell because we’ve never really been together much where alcohol wasn’t involved. As I sat just on the edge of their conversations, as much I love these people, in this moment there was little in the way of connection for me here.
E was amazing the entire night. He was always in touch with me and making sure that I was doing alright. Despite feeling a missing connection, I really was pretty damn good. I was proud of myself for not feeling the need to drink and it gave me a bit of hope for my future with alcohol. So what about this drink I had on Sunday? I woke up to another early morning, feeling refreshed and rested. E had taken it relatively easy the prior night, so he was also in a pretty good place. He usually was, he is what I consider to ‘normal’ when he drinks. Without going into more of the blow by blow, it was another solid morning together. The weather was rainy but warm, and by the afternoon we decided to sit on our back porch and enjoy a cigar. I’ve been known to enjoy this vice on rare occasions, and E had ordered a new box that he wanted to crack into. I didn’t feel the need for a drink at all, but I did choose to have a small glass of a rich, dark beer with the cigar. I took some time to think about it and I told myself that I would only have one. I also announced that if I had the desire to pour another, then I probably need to rethink this path even more. What happened is that I slowly sipped the beer over the course of the next 90+ minutes and I didn’t even finish it. I also didn’t want another, or anything else in that moment.
A number of hours later, however, as evening approached, I did consider making that martini I had been dreaming of all week. I started to justify it to myself by saying that I’d already had one drink today, so why not just enjoy it and then stop again on Monday? I even stood up and walked into the kitchen with the idea of grabbing the bottle of vodka in the freezer, but instead I went for the bottle of Pellegrino. If I had that next drink, it was exactly what would start me back on the usual habit because on Monday night I would tell myself that I had just had one the day before, so why not have another today? I know I would start the cycle all over again, when all I really wanted to do was enjoy the beer that I had and be done with it.
Maybe drinking that beer wasn’t what some would call the right thing to do, but for me, it doesn’t seem all that bad right now. I don’t regret it, and maybe it was even a little test of myself. I could say that I failed because I had the urge to drink again a bit after that beer, but I didn’t have that next drink. I paid attention to the voice in my head and saw all of the reasons why this was a dangerous road I might be headed back down, and for me that is a success. While I can’t very well call this Day 8 without a drink now, it is still my Day 8 of this new path.