2012 — The year of living soberly

I mean this literally, not metaphorically. The last alcoholic drink I had was a straight shot of Scotch in the early morning hours of 1 January 2012.…so I have one more day left to make it a year. I started not drinking in solidarity with my husband Ron who was not drinking because of a pancreatitis attack in December, caused by a gall bladder that would soon be removed.

 

Other reasons for my self-imposed abstinence included a long term dieting goal, which had only been about halfway met by that time  — plus a vague feeling that maybe I should see what it was like not to drink. I wouldn’t have said drinking was problematic for me; I usually had a daily beer or a glass of wine, but only one. Except maybe on the weekends, which started on Friday evening. Because of my diet (begun May 2011) I had cut back on weekdays, though perhaps had more than one a day on weekends and holidays. This vague feeling that maybe I should see what not drinking was like was related to feeling that perhaps sometimes I wasn’t my best self when I had had more than one glass of wine – and that when I drank at dinner it made me unproductive the rest of the night or perhaps just tired and sluggish.

 

The idea of giving up beer and wine was painful in some ways. I love microbrew beers– especially Belgian type beers – and bold red wines – and smooth Scotch (not all at one time of course). I love the social aspect of drinking…sitting around a pleasant afternoon or evening with friends and passing the time over a bottle of wine. Unwinding with colleagues on a business trip.

 

With my favorite drinking buddy on the wagon, though, I thought it might be a good time to see what it would be like not to drink for a while. A year sounded seemed like a reasonable amount of time…going through all the seasons and holidays. I had possible milestones throughout the year to rationalize starting again if a year started seeming too long – when I reached my goal weight (I’m close but didn’t quite get there yet) – when we went to the Kentucky Derby (but didn’t drink a mint julep because I was too grossed out watching everyone else drink so ferociously) or maybe sometime during the summer, at the beach. Once I was into it though, I decided to stay with it for the year, of which I only have only about 24 hours left.

 

This is what I learned in these past 12 months of sobriety.

  • Not drinking clears out the cobwebs in your brain. I’m not sure how to explain it, but I feel much clearer mentally and I like that feeling more than drinking. This more than anything has kept me from having a drink.
  • It is possible to go to parties and not drink. I get a bottle of Perrier and nobody really bothers me about it.
  • Other social interactions can be more problematic; people want you to go out drinking so that you are on an even footing in how you are allowed to “let yourself go” in a conversation.  Paradoxically, many people decide also not to drink when they are dining with us –even though we urge them to enjoy themselves. Sometimes it almost seems that they are relieved not to drink.
  • It is somewhat boring to be the only one not drinking around people who are having more than one drink – if you have one non-drinking companion it is ok because you can talk about the others – but if you are alone it is good to have dissociative skills or a smart phone to entertain yourself.
  • It is pointless to get into an argument with someone who has been drinking if you have not; you probably are trying to use logic – they are not, and you will never win.
  • I did not realize the extent to which I was drinking in the evening to take the edge off and when I stopped drinking, my edge did not go away.

 

This last point deserves more discussion, though I will try not to belabor it. Not drinking hooked me into some self-discipline that I already had begun to experience through my diet, but charged it up a bit. I am much better with routine and goals and limits, but there is little social sanction for self-discipline these days. In fact, I would argue that people are suspicious of it and begin to use phrases like “obsessive, compulsive.” Dieting and not drinking, however, validated my need for routine and self-discipline that influenced some other parts of my life. Ron and I began an early morning walk every weekday morning. After many years of reading and saying I wanted to start meditating, in February I began a sustained daily meditation practice. (My previous attempts had been a few days in a row, at most.) Meditation is also a very mind clearing activity that allowed me to make some major decisions about life priorities. I began to see that many things I was dissatisfied with I can address myself and therefore have no one else to blame. I also became more productive at work – completing some lingering projects. Completion actually became a major theme as I decided to improve my skills in two areas that I enjoyed but had only made half-assed attempts to learn: French and tennis. I’m halfway to French proficiency (thank you Pimsleur) and am planning to take tennis lessons this spring.

 

I’ve also realized the value of staying in touch with some negative feelings that I might have otherwise tried to smooth over with a glass of wine. Sometimes they need to be dealt with directly – often in discussion with others. This is not a comfortable place for me most of the time, but it certainly is better in the long run.

 

I am planning to have a glass of champagne very early on January 1st 2013 and see how it feel and think carefully about my alcohol consumption in the future. I imagine I will be an infrequent drinker, but then possibly I will let it go altogether. It’s all a work in progress.

 

Happy New Year!

Advertisements

One Response to “2012 — The year of living soberly”

  1. Extraordinary little meditation on not-drinking. Glad I read it. Thanks.

Leave a Reply

Please log in using one of these methods to post your comment:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: